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You don’t have to be mature in order to be more secure – cloud, maturity, and micro-segmentation

Whether you’ve transitioned to the cloud, are still using on-prem servers, or are operating on a hybrid system, you need security services that are up to the task of protecting all your assets. Naturally, you want the best protection for your business assets. In the cybersecurity world, it’s generally agreed that micro-segmentation is the foundation for truly powerful, flexible, and complete cloud network security. The trouble is that conventional wisdom might tell you that you aren’t yet ready for it.

If you are using a public cloud or VMware NSX-V, you already have a limited set of basic micro-segmentation capabilities built-in with your cloud infrastructure, using security groups and DFW (NSX-V). But security requirements, the way that you have built your network, or your use of multiple vendors require more than a limited set of basic capabilities.

The greatest security benefits can be accessed by enterprises that can unleash the full potential of micro-segmentation beyond layers 3 and 4 of the OSI model, and use application-aware micro-segmentation. Generally, your cloud security choices will be based on the cloud maturity level of your organization. It’s assumed that enterprises that aren’t yet fully mature, according to typical cloud maturity models, won’t have the resources to implement the most advanced cloud security solutions.

But what if that’s not the case? Perhaps a different way of thinking about organizational maturity would show that you can enjoy at least some of the benefits of advanced cloud security systems. Take a closer look at a different way to assess your enterprise’s maturity.

A different way to think about your organizational maturity

Larger organizations already have a solid understanding of their maturity. They constantly monitor and reevaluate their maturity profile, so as to make the best decisions about cloud services and cloud security options. We like to compare an organization learning about the best cloud security services to people who are learning to ski.

When an adult learns how to ski, they’ll begin by buying ski equipment and signing up for ski lessons. Then they’ll spend some time learning how to use their skis and getting used to the feeling of wearing them, before they’re taught to actually ski. It could take a few lessons until an adult skis downhill. If they don’t have strong core muscles and a good sense of balance, they are likely to be sent away to improve their general fitness before trying something new. But when a child learns how to ski, they usually learn much faster than an adult, without taking as long to adjust to the new movements.

Just like an adult needs to be strong enough to learn to ski, an organization needs to be strong enough to implement cloud security services. While adults check their fitness with exercises and tests, organizations check their fitness using cloud maturity models. But typical cloud maturity models might not give an accurate picture of your maturity profile. They usually use 4, 5, or 6 levels of maturity to evaluate your organization in a number of different areas. If your enterprise hasn’t reached a particular level in enough areas, you’ll have to build up your maturity before you can implement an advanced cloud security solution.

At Guardicore, we take a different approach. We developed a solution that yields high security dividends, even if the security capabilities of your organization are not fully mature.

Assessing the maturity of ‘immature’ organizations

Most cloud security providers assume that a newer enterprise doesn’t have the maturity to use advanced cloud security systems. But we view newer enterprises like children who learn to ski. Children have less fear and more flexibility than an adult. They don’t worry about falling, and when they do fall, they simply get up and carry on. The consequences of falling can be a lot more serious for adults. In the same way, newer enterprises can be more agile, less risk-averse, and more able to try something new than an older enterprise that appears to be more mature.

Newer organizations often have these advantages:

  • Fewer silos between departments
  • Better visibility into a less complex environment
  • A much higher tolerance for risk that enables them to test new cloud services and structures, due to a lower investment in existing architecture and processes
  • A more agile and streamlined environment
  • A lighter burden of inherited infrastructure
  • A more unified environment that isn’t weakened by a patchwork of legacy items

While a newer enterprise might not be ready to run a full package of advanced cloud security solutions, it could be agile enough to implement many or most of the security features while it continues to mature. Guardicore allows young organizations to leapfrog the functions that they aren’t yet ready for, while still taking advantage of the superior protection offered by micro-segmentation. Like a child learning to ski, we’ll help you enjoy the blue runs sooner, even if you can’t yet head off-piste.

Organizational maturity in ‘mature’ organizations

Although an older, longer-established organization might seem more cloud mature, it may not be ready for advanced cloud security systems. Many older enterprises aren’t even sure what is within their own ecosystem. They face data silos, duplicate workflows, and cumbersome business processes. Factors holding them back can include:

  • Inefficient workflows
  • Long-winded work processes
  • Strange and divisive infrastructure
  • Awkward legacy environments
  • Business information that is siloed in various departments
  • Complex architectures

Here, Guardicore Centra will be instrumental in bridging the immaturity gap: It provides deep visibility through clear visualization of the entire environment, even those parts that are siloed. Guardicore Centra delivers benefits for multiple teams, and its policy engine supports (almost) any kind of organizational security policy.

What’s more, Guardicore supports phased deployment. It is not an all-or-nothing solution. An organization that can’t yet run a full set of advanced cloud security services still needs the best protection it can get for its business environment. In these situations, Guardicore helps implement only those features that your organization is ready for, while making alternative security arrangements for the rest of your enterprise. By taking it slowly, you can grow into your cloud capabilities and gradually implement the full functionality of micro-segmentation.

Flexible cloud security solutions for every organization

Guardicore’s advanced cloud security solutions provide the highest level of protection for your critical business assets. They are flexible enough to handle legacy infrastructure and complex environments, while allowing for varying levels of cloud maturity.

Whether you are a ‘young’ organization that’s not seen as cloud-mature, or an older enterprise struggling with organizational immaturity, Guardicore can help you to get your skis on. As long as you have a realistic understanding of your organization’s requirements and capabilities, you can apply the right Guardicore security solution to your business and enjoy superior protection without breaking a leg.

Lessons Learned from One of the Largest Bank Heists in Mexico

News report: $20M was stolen from Mexican banks, with the initial intention to steal $150M. Automatically we are drawn to think of a “Casa de Papel” style heist, bank robbers wearing masks hijacking a bank and stealing money from an underground vault. This time, the bank robbers were hackers, the vault is the SPEI application and well, no mask was needed. The hackers were able to figuratively “walk right in” and take the money. Nothing was stopping them from entering the back door and moving laterally until they reached the SPEI application.

Central bank Banco de México, also known as Banxico, has published an official report detailing the attack, the techniques used by the attackers and how they were able to compromise several banks in Mexico to steal $20M. The report clearly emphasizes how easy it was for the attackers to reach their goal, due to insecure network architecture and lack of controls.

The bank heist was directed at the Mexican financial system called SPEI, Mexico’s domestic money transfer platform, managed by Banxico. Once the attackers found their initial entrance into the network, they started moving laterally to find the “crown jewels”, the SPEI application servers. The report states that the lack of network segmentation enabled the intruders to use that initial access to go deeper in the network with little to no interference and reach the SPEI transaction servers easily. Moreover, the SPEI app itself and its different components had bugs and lacked adequate validation checks of communication between the application servers. This meant that within the application the attackers could create an infrastructure of control that eventually enabled them to create bogus transactions and extract the money they were after.

Questions arise: what can be learned from this heist? How do we prevent the next one? Attackers will always find their way in to the network, so how do you prevent them from getting the gold?

Follow Advice to Remain Compliant

When it comes to protecting valuable customer information and achieving regulatory compliance, organizations such as PCI-DSS and SWIFT recommend the following basic steps: system integrity monitoring, vulnerability management, and segmentation and application control. For financial information, PCI-DSS regulations enforce file integrity monitoring on your Cardholder Data Environment itself, to examine the way that files change, establish the origin of such changes, and determine if they are suspicious in nature. SWIFT regulations require customers to “Restrict internet access and protect critical systems from the general IT environment” as well as encourage companies to implement internal segmentation within each secure zone to further reduce the attack surface.

Let’s look at a few guidelines, as detailed by SWIFT while incorporating our general advice on remaining compliant in a hybrid environment.

  • Inbound and outbound connectivity for the secure zone is fully limited.
    Transport layer stateful firewalls are used to create logical separation at the boundary of the secure zone.
  • No “allow any” firewall rules are implemented, and all network flows are explicitly authorized.
    Operators connect from dedicated operator PCs located within the secure zone (that is, PCs located within the secure zone, and used only for secure zone purposes).
  • SWIFT systems within the secure zone restrict administrative access to only expected ports, protocols, and originating IPs.
  • Internal segmentation is implemented between components in the secure zone to further reduce the risk.

SPEI servers, that serve a similar function to SWIFT application servers should adhere to similar regulatory requirements, and as elaborated on by Banxico in the official analysis report, such regulations are forming for this critical application.

Don’t Rely on Traditional Security Controls

The protocols detailed above are recommended by security experts and compliance regulations worldwide, so it’s safe to assume the Mexican bank teams were aware of the benefits of such controls. Many of them have even been open about their attempts to implement these kinds of controls with traditionally available tools such as VLANS and endpoint FWs. This has proven to be a long, costly and tiresome process, sometimes requiring 9 months of work to segment a single SWIFT application! Would you take 9 months to install a metal gate around your vault and between your vault compartments? I didn’t think so…

Guardicore Centra is set on resolving this challenge. Moving away from traditional segmentation methods to use micro-segmentation that provides foundational actionable data center visibility, this technology shows quick time to value, with controls down to the process level. Our customers, including Santander Brasil and BancoDelBajio in Mexico, benefit from early wins like protecting critical assets or achieving regulatory compliance, avoiding the trap of “all or nothing segmentation” that can happen when competitors do not implement a phased approach.

Guardicore provides the whole package to secure the data center, including real-time and historical visibility down to the process level, segmentation and micro-segmentation supporting various segmentation use cases, and breach detection and response, to thoroughly strengthen our client’s security posture overall.

Micro-segmentation is more achievable than ever before. Let’s upgrade your company’s security practices to prevent attackers from gaining access to sensitive information and crown jewels in your hybrid data center. Request a demo now or read more about smart segmentation.

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Micro-Segmentation: Getting Done Faster With Machine Learning

Building micro-segmentation policies around workloads to address compliance, reduce attack surfaces and prevent threat propagation between machines is on every organization’s security agenda and made it to the CISO’s 2019 shortlist. Many times, deploying segmentation policies in hybrid data centers proves harder than it looks. At Guardicore, we are very proud of our ability to assist customers segment and micro-segment their clouds and data centers quickly, protecting their workloads across any environment and achieving fast return on security investments.

But, we always think that there is room for improvement. Analyzing the different assignments that are involved with the task of micro-segmentation, we have identified several steps that can be accelerated with more sophisticated code. Using data that was collected from our customers and studied by Guardicore Labs, we added machine learning capabilities that accelerate micro-segmentation.

In order to properly micro-segment a large environment, one should discover all the workloads, create application dependency mappings, classify the workloads and label accordingly. Next, one is required to understand how the application is tiered and its behavior in order to set micro-segmentation policies both for its internal components as well as the other entities it is serving.

This is where our machine learning capabilities can assist.

We are taking advantage of the fact that in Guardicore deployments we collect information about every flow in the network. Discovery is automatic, creating a visualization of all application communications and dependencies. The visualized map shows how workloads are communicating. The algorithms use this data and model the network as an annotated graph and use our customized unsupervised machine learning technique to cluster similar workloads into groups, based on communication patterns. Then, Centra can perform the following tasks:

  • Automatic classification of workloads
  • Automatic label creation for applications and their tiers
  • Automatic rule suggestion for flow level-segmentation and process level micro-segmentation

Here is an example of running classification from Reveal’s data center map:

running classification from Reveal with ML

Below is a visualization of results of automatic workload classification:

results of automatic workload classification with machine learning

 

And this is how this looks in Reveal, at the application tier:

Reveal view with ML

 

Want to learn more about our solution? Contact us.

Guardicore Threat Intelligence Helps Cybersecurity Community Research Attacks and Mitigate Risks

Guardicore Labs Launches Freely Available Public Resource For Investigating Malicious IP Addresses and Domains

 

Boston, Mass. and Tel Aviv, Israel – March 25, 2019 – Guardicore, a leader in internal data center and cloud security, today announced the launch of its Guardicore Threat Intelligence community resource. Developed by the Guardicore Labs research team, Guardicore Threat Intelligence is a freely available public resource for identifying and investigating malicious IP addresses and domains. With an easy to understand dashboard, Guardicore Threat Intelligence rates top attackers, top attacked ports and top malicious domains, giving security teams the insight they need to research and understand attacks and mitigate risks.

“Based on our deployment and technology Guardicore has a unique view of the most recent threats that are targeting servers in the cloud and in data centers. As a company we believe in giving back to the community and contributing where we can to the benefit of all. Thus, the Guardicore Labs research team has made its data and research available for the public,” said Pavel Gurvich, Co-founder and CEO, Guardicore. “With the launch of Guardicore Threat Intelligence, the cyber security community now has the opportunity to benefit from the same insights leveraged by Guardicore to protect its customers. Busy security teams can now benefit from a trusted, freely available resource that allows them to keep track of potential threats and enjoy unique analysis specific to data center attacks.”

 

Guardicore Threat Intelligence Features
Guardicore Threat Intelligence is currently the only publicly available community resource to focus exclusively on data center attacks. Specifically, it includes data not available in other public feeds, including the role of IP addresses in specific attacks and detailed attack flow, providing context for attacks on Internet-facing servers with a single aggregated view. Security analysts, threat hunters, and incident response or forensics teams can leverage Guardicore Threat Intelligence as an aggregated source to verify threats, understand attack patterns, and update IoCs quickly, eliminating the need to check multiple feeds and accelerating the time to response. Ultimately, Guardicore Threat Intelligence can help defenders anticipate future attacks and mitigate risks. Guardicore sources data from its Guardicore Global Sensors Network (GGSN), which streams early threat information to Guardicore Labs’ team for new attack identification and analysis.

 

Availability & Contributions

Guardicore Threat Intelligence is freely available now at https://threatintelligence.guardicore.com. Contributions are welcome. Guardicore Labs invites the cybersecurity community to contribute to its Threat Intelligence knowledge base by submitting data, asking questions and collaborating with Guardicore researchers on additional findings.

 

Guardicore Labs

Guardicore Labs is a global research team, consisting of hackers, cybersecurity researchers and industry experts. Its mission is to deliver cutting-edge cyber security research, lead and participate in academic research and provide analysis, insights and response methodologies to the latest cyber threats. Guardicore Labs helps Guardicore customers and the security community to continually enhance their security posture and protect critical business applications and infrastructure.

 

Creators of Infection Monkey, a popular open-source network resiliency test tool, Guardicore Labs’ high-profile threat discoveries include the Hexmen multiple attack campaigns targeting database services, the Bondnet botnet used to mine different cryptocurrencies, Operation Prowli, a traffic manipulation and cryptocurrency mining campaign, and Butter, a brute force SSH attack on Linux machines that leaves a backdoor to deliver a Samba payload. To learn more visit Guardicore Labs.


About Guardicore

Guardicore is a data center and cloud security company that protects your organization’s core assets using flexible, quickly deployed, and easy to understand micro-segmentation controls. Our solutions provide a simpler, faster way to guarantee persistent and consistent security — for any application, in any IT environment. For more information, visit www.guardicore.com.

Understanding and Avoiding Security Misconfiguration

Security Misconfiguration is simply defined as failing to implement all the security controls for a server or web application, or implementing the security controls, but doing so with errors. What a company thought of as a safe environment actually has dangerous gaps or mistakes that leave the organization open to risk. According to the OWASP top 10, this type of misconfiguration is number 6 on the list of critical web application security risks.

How Do I Know if I Have a Security Misconfiguration, and What Could It Be?

The truth is, you probably do have misconfigurations in your security, as this is a widespread problem, and can happen at any level of the application stack. Some of the most common misconfigurations in traditional data centers include default configurations that have never been changed and remain insecure, incomplete configurations that were intended to be temporary, and wrong assumptions about the application expected network behaviour and connectivity requirements.

In today’s hybrid data centers and cloud environments, and with the complexity of applications, operating systems, frameworks and workloads, this challenge is growing. These environments are technologically diverse and rapidly changing, making it difficult to understand and introduce the right controls for secure configuration. Without the right level of visibility, security misconfiguration is opening new risks for heterogeneous environments. These include:

  • Unnecessary administration ports that are open for an application. These expose the application to remote attacks.
  • Outbound connections to various internet services. These could reveal unwanted behavior of the application in a critical environment.
  • Legacy applications that are trying to communicate with applications that do not exist anymore. Attackers could mimic these applications to establish a connection.

The Enhanced Risk of Misconfiguration in a Hybrid-Cloud Environment

While security misconfiguration in traditional data centers put companies at risk of unauthorized access to application resources, data exposure and in-organization threats, the advent of the cloud has increased the threat landscape exponentially. It comes as no surprise that “2017 saw an incredible 424 percent increase in records breached through misconfigurations in cloud servers” according to a recent report by IBM. This kind of cloud security misconfiguration accounted for almost 70% of the overall compromised data records that year.

One element to consider in a hybrid environment is the use of public cloud services, third party services, and applications that are hosted in different infrastructure. Unauthorized application access, both from external sources or internal applications or legacy applications can open a business up to a large amount of risk.

Firewalls can often suffer from misconfiguration, with policies left dangerously loose and permissive, providing a large amount of exposure to the network. In many cases, production environments are not firewalled from development environments, or firewalls are not used to enforce least privilege where it could be most beneficial.

Private servers with third-party vendors or software can lack visibility or an understanding of shared responsibility, often resulting in misconfiguration. One example is the 2018 Exactis breach, where 340 million records were exposed, affecting more than 21 million companies. Exactis were responsible for their data, despite the fact that they use standard and commonly used Elasticsearch infrastructure as their database. Critically, they failed to implement any access control to manage this shared responsibility.

With so much complexity in a heterogeneous environment, and human error often responsible for misconfiguration that may well be outside of your control, how can you demystify errors and keep your business safe?

Learning about Application Behavior to Mitigate the Risk of Misconfiguration

Visibility is your new best friend when it comes to fighting security misconfiguration in a hybrid cloud environment. Your business needs to learn the behavior of its applications, focusing in on each critical asset and its behavior. To do this, you need an accurate, real-time map of your entire ecosystem, which shows you communication and flows across your data center environment, whether that’s on premises, bare metal, hybrid cloud, or using containers and microservices.

This visibility not only helps you learn more about expected application behaviors, it also allows you to identify potential misconfigurations at a glance. An example could be revealing repeated connection failures from one specific application. On exploration, you may uncover that it is attempting to connect to a legacy application that is no longer in use. Without a real-time map into communications and flows, this could well have been the cause of a breach, where malware imitated the abandoned application to extract data or expose application behaviors. With foundational visibility, you can use this information to remove any disused or unnecessary applications or features.

Once you gain visibility, and you have a thorough understanding of your entire environment, the best way to manage risk is to lock down the most critical infrastructure, allowing only desired behavior, in a similar method to a zero-trust model. Any communication which is not necessary for an application should be blocked. This is what OWASP calls a ‘segmented application architecture’ and is their recommendation for protecting yourself against security misconfiguration.

Micro-segmentation is an effective way to make this happen. Strict policy protects communication to the most sensitive applications and therefore its information, so that even if a breach happens due to security misconfiguration, attackers cannot pivot to the most critical areas.

Visibility and Smart Policy Limit the Risk of Security Misconfiguration

The chances are, your business is already plagued by security misconfiguration. Complex and dynamic data centers are only increasing the risk of human error, as we add third-party services, external vendors, and public cloud management to our business ecosystems.

Guardicore Centra provides an accurate and detailed map of your hybrid-cloud data center as an important first step, enabling you to automatically identify unusual behavior and remove or mitigate unpatched features and applications, as well as identify anomalies in communication.

Once you’ve revealed your critical assets, you can then use micro-segmentation policy to ensure you are protected in case of a breach, limiting the attack surface if misconfigurations go unresolved, or if patch management is delayed on-premises or by external vendors. This all in one solution of visibility, breach detection and response is a powerful tool to protect your hybrid-cloud environment against security misconfiguration, and to amp up your security posture as a whole.

Want to hear more about Guardicore Centra and micro-segmentation? Get in touch

Ready to Give Micro-Segmentation Your Full Attention? Look Out for the Most Common Roadblocks

Security experts continue to promote micro-segmentation as an essential tool for risk reduction in hybrid cloud environments. If you’re ready to make 2019 the year you get your micro-segmentation journey off the ground, make sure you can identify the roadblocks you should be looking to avoid.

The irreversible movement of critical workloads into virtualized, hybrid cloud environments demands new security solutions that go further than traditional firewalls or endpoint controls. Audits and industry compliance requirements make it an imperative. News stories of the continued fallout of data center breaches in which attackers have caused severe brand and monetary damage, such as the Equifax breach, make it even more important to move to the top of your to-do list.

East-west data center traffic now accounts for most enterprise traffic — and has been said to “dwarf traditional client-server traffic which moves north-south.” As a result, traditional network and host-based security, even when virtualized, doesn’t provide the visibility, security controls, or protection capabilities to secure what has become the largest attack surface of today’s enterprise computing environments. Furthermore, point solutions offered by cloud and on-premises vendors come up short and add layers of complexity most enterprises can’t afford.

Attackers know this and are exploiting it. Today’s attacks are smarter and more straightforward, often launched to covertly harness portions of an enterprise’s compute power to commit other crimes. A good example of this is the rise in crypto-jacking, growing faster than ransomware as the means by which attackers attempt a pay-out. Alongside APTs, these types of threats take advantage of zero day vulnerabilities or weaknesses in existing security and launch attacks that are direct against the data center or cloud.

As IT environments continue to grow increasingly dynamic and complex, attackers can accomplish their ends more quickly and efficiently. This is especially true in a hybrid ecosystem, given the lack of native security controls and the average length of dwell time before detection.

The responsibility to ensure that you are protected against these threats lies squarely in your court – it is on you to safeguard your business. Security is ultimately — and contractually — a shared responsibility between the provider and the user. Enterprises must continue to work on securing the workloads and applications themselves, not merely rely on intrusion prevention tools.

The Micro-Segmentation Dilemma

In view of this sense of urgency, micro-segmentation has become a popular solution to address the reality of todays data centers. We’ve had conversations with people at dozens of organizations that have tried to implement micro-segmentation. By identifying some of the more common pitfalls, we can lay out the tips and tricks that will help you make your implementation a success.

Lack of visibility: Without deep visibility into east-west data center traffic, any effort to implement micro-segmentation is thwarted. Even with lengthy analysis meetings, traffic collection, and manual mapping processes, security professionals will be left with blind spots. Despite the strength of automated mapping, too many efforts lack process-level visibility and critical contextual orchestration data. The ability to map out application workflows at a very granular level is necessary to identify logical groupings of applications for segmentation purposes.

All-or-nothing segmentation paralysis: Too often, executives think they need to micro-segment everything decisively, which leads to fears of disruption. The project looks too intimidating, so they never begin. They fail to understand that micro-segmentation must be done gradually, in phases. The right provider will be able to identify use cases that will provide quick time to value for your unique business context.

Layer 4 complacency: Some organizations believe that traditional network segmentation is sufficient. But ask them, “When was the last time your perimeter firewalls were strictly Layer 4 port forwarding devices?” Attacks over the last 15 years often include port hijacking – taking over an allowed port with a new process for obfuscation and data exfiltration. Attackers can exploit open ports and protocols for lateral movement. Layer 4 approaches, typical of most point solutions, can in some cases be equal to under-segmentation. Of course, effective micro-segmentation must strike a balance between application protection and business agility, delivering strong security without disrupting business-critical applications, so it’s important not to enforce such tight policy that you lose flexibility. However, there are certain examples in dynamic infrastructures where workloads are communicating and often migrating across segments where you will want to enforce more granular policy down to Layer 7.

Lack of multi-cloud convergence: The hybrid cloud data center adds agility through autoscaling and mobility of workloads. However, it is built on a heterogeneous architectural base. Each cloud vendor may offer point solutions and security group methodologies that focus on its own architecture. They have their own best interests at heart, and multiple solutions can result in unnecessary complexity. Successful micro-segmentation requires a solution that works in a converged fashion across the entire architecture. On top of this, a converged approach can be implemented more quickly and easily than one that must account for different cloud providers’ security technologies.

Inflexible policy engines: Point solutions often have poorly thought-out policy engines. Most include “allow-only” rule sets. Most security professionals would prefer to start with a “global-deny” list, which establishes a base policy against unauthorized actions across the entire environment. This lets enterprises demonstrate a security posture directly correlated with the compliance standards they must adhere to, such as HIPAA for health organizations or PCI-DSS for anyone who takes payments.

Moreover, point solutions usually don’t allow policies to be dynamically provisioned or updated when workflows are autoscaled, services expand or contract, or processes spin up or down — a key reason enterprises are moving to hybrid cloud data centers in the first place. Without this capability, micro-segmentation is virtually impossible.

Given these obstacles, it’s understandable that most micro-segmentation projects suffer from lengthy implementation cycles, cost overruns, and excessive demands on scarce security resources, ultimately failing to achieve their goals.

So, how can you increase your chances of success?

Winning Strategies for Successful Micro-Segmentation

When intelligently planned and executed, reducing risk with micro-segmentation is very achievable. It starts with discovery of your applications and a visual map of their communications and dependencies within your network. With granular visibility into your entire environment, including network flows, assets, and orchestration details from various third-party platforms and workloads, you can more easily identify critical assets that can logically be grouped via labels to use in policy creation. Process-level (Layer 7) visibility accelerates your ability to identify and label workflows, and to achieve a more effective level of protection.
Converged micro-segmentation strategies that work seamlessly across your entire heterogeneous environment, from on premises to the cloud, will simplify and accelerate the rollout. When a policy can truly follow the workload, regardless of the underlying platform, it becomes easier to implement and manage, and delivers more effective protection.

Autoscaling is one of the major features of the hybrid cloud terrain. The inherent intelligence to understand and apply policies to workloads as they dynamically appear and disappear is key.

Finally, take a gradual, phased approach to operationalizing micro-segmentation. Start with critical assets, or applications that need to be secured for compliance. What is most likely to be targets of attackers? Which assets contain sensitive customer data or are most vulnerable to compute hijacking? Create policies around those groups first. Over time, you can gradually build out increasingly refined policies, whether this is for increased risk reduction, the principle of least privilege, wider compliance needs, or any other specific end goals for your business needs.

Want to learn more about best practices for micro-segmentation? Read more.

Looking for a Micro-segmentation Technology That Works? Think Overlay Model

Gartner’s Four Models for Micro-Segmentation

Gartner has recently updated the micro-segmentation evaluation factors document (“How to Use Evaluation Factors to Select the Best Micro-Segmentation Model (Refreshed: 5 November 2018).

This report details the four different models for micro-segmentation, but it did not make a clear recommendation on which was best. Understanding the answer to this means looking at the limitations of each model, and recognizing what the future looks like for dynamic hybrid-cloud data centers. I recommend reading this report and evaluating the different capabilities, however for us at Guardicore, it is clear that one solution model stands above the others and it should not be a surprise that vendors that have previously used other models are now changing their technology to use this model: Overlay.

But first, let me explain why other models are not adequate for most enterprise customers.

The Inflexibility of Native-Cloud Controls

The native model uses the tools that are provided with a virtualization platform, hypervisor, or infrastructure. This model is inherently limited and inflexible. Even for businesses only using a single hypervisor provider, this model ties them into one service, as micro-segmentation policy cannot be simply moved when you switch provider. In addition, while businesses might think they are working under one IaaS server or hypervisor, the provider may have servers elsewhere, too, known as Shadow IT. The reality is that vendors that used to support Native controls for micro-segmentation have realized that customers are transforming and had to develop new Overlay-based products.

More commonly, enterprises know that they are working with multiple cloud providers and services, and need a micro-segmentation strategy that can work seamlessly across this heterogeneous environment.

The Inconsistency of Third-Party Firewalls

This model is based on virtual firewalls offered by third-party vendors. Enterprises using this model are often subject to network layer design limitations, and therefore forced to change their networking topology. They can be prevented from gaining visibility due to proprietary applications, encryption, or invisible and uncontrolled traffic on the same VLAN.

A known issue with this approach is the creation of bottlenecks due to reliance on additional third-party infrastructure. Essentially, this model is not a consistent solution across different architectures, and can’t be used to control the container layer.

The Complexity of a Hybrid Model

A combination of the above two models, enterprises using a hybrid model for micro-segmentation are attempting to limit some of the downsides of both models alone. To allow them more flexibility than native controls, they usually utilize third-party firewalls for north-south traffic. Inside the data center where you don’t have to worry about multi-cloud support, native controls can be used for east-west traffic.

However, as discussed, both of these solutions, even in tandem, are limited at best. With a hybrid approach, you are also going to add the extra problems of a complex and arduous set up and maintenance strategy. Visibility and control of a hybrid choice is unsustainable in a future-focused IT ecosystem where workloads and applications are spun up, automated, auto-scaled and migrated across multiple environments. Enterprises need one solution that works well, not two that are sub-par individually and limited together.

Understanding the Overlay Model – the Only Solution Built for Future Focused Micro-Segmentation

Rather than a patched-together hybrid solution from imperfect models, Overlay is built to be a more robust and future-proof solution from the ground up. Gartner describes the Overlay model as a solution where a host agent or software is enforced on the workload itself. Agent-to-agent communication is utilized rather than network zoning.

One of the negative sides to third-party firewalls is that they are inherently unscalable. In contrast, agents have no choke points to be constrained by, making them infinitely scalable for your needs.

With Overlay, your business has the best possible visibility across a complex and dynamic environment, with insight and control down to the process layer, including for future-focused architecture like container technology. The only solution that can address infrastructure differences, Overlay is agnostic to any operational or infrastructure environments, which means an enterprise has support for anything from bare metal and cloud to virtual or micro-services, or whatever technology comes next. Without an Overlay model – your business can’t be sure of supporting future use cases and remaining competitive against the opposition.

Not all Overlay Models are Created Equal

It’s clear that Overlay is the strongest technology model, and the only future-focused solution for micro-segmentation. This is true for traditional access-list style micro-segmentation as well as for implementing deeper security capabilities that include support for layer 7 and application-level controls.

Unfortunately, not every vendor will provide the best version of Overlay, meeting the functionality that its capable of. Utilizing the inherent benefits of an Overlay solution means you can put agents in the right places, setting communication policy that works in a granular way. With the right vendor, you can make intelligent choices for where to place agents, using context and process level visibility all the way to Layer 7. Your vendor should also be able to provide extra functionality such as enforcement by account, user, or hash, all within the same agent.

Remember that protecting the infrastructure requires more than micro-segmentation and you will have to deploy additional solutions that will allow you to reduce risk and meet security and compliance requirements.

Micro-segmentation has moved from being an exciting new buzzword in cyber-security to an essential risk reduction strategy for any forward-thinking enterprise. If it’s on your to-do list for 2019, make sure you do it right, and don’t fall victim to the limitations of an agentless model. Guardicore Centra provides an all in one solution for risk reduction, with a powerful Overlay model that supports a deep and flexible approach to workload security in any environment.

Want to learn more about the differences between agent and agentless micro-segmentation? Check out our recent white paper.

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Operationalizing Micro-Segmentation to Get You Started

Micro-segmentation is the way forward in protecting networks. But a successful micro-segmentation deployment cannot be slapped together – it requires deliberate and detailed forethought in order to get it all right — the first time around.

Banco Del Bajio, S.A., Selects Guardicore Centra Security Platform to Protect Data Center

Guardicore Chosen for Bank’s Data Center Security for Superior Micro-segmentation and Visibility Capabilities

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A Deep Dive into Point of Sale Security

Many businesses think of their Point of Sale (POS) systems as an extension of a cashier behind a sales desk. But with multiple risk factors to consider, such as network connectivity, open ports, internet access and communication with the most sensitive data a company handles, POS solutions are more accurately an extension of a company’s data center, a remote branch of their critical applications. This being considered, they should be seen as a high-threat environment, which means that they need a targeted security strategy.

Understanding a Unique Attack Surface

Distributed geographically, POS systems can be found in varied locations at multiple branches, making it difficult to keep track of each device individually and to monitor their connections as a group. They cover in-store terminals, as well as public kiosks and self-service stations in places like shopping malls, airports, and hospitals. Multiple factors, from a lack of resources to logistical difficulties, can make it near impossible to secure these devices at the source or react quickly enough in case of a vulnerability or a breach. Remote IT teams will often have a lack of visibility when it comes to being able to accurately see data and communication flows. This creates blind spots which prevent a full understanding of the open risks across a spread-out network. Threats are exacerbated further by the vulnerabilities of old operating systems used by many POS solutions.

Underestimating the extent of this risk could be a devastating oversight. POS solutions are connected to many of a business’s main assets, from customer databases to credit card information and internal payment systems, to name a few. The devices themselves are very exposed, as they are accessible to anyone, from a waiter in a restaurant to a passer-by in a department store. This makes them high-risk for physical attacks such as downloading a malicious application through USB, as well as remote attacks like exploiting the terminal through exposed interfaces, Recently, innate vulnerabilities have been found in mobile POS solutions from vendors that include PayPal, Square and iZettle, because of their use of Bluetooth and third-party mobile apps. According to the security researchers who uncovered the vulnerabilities, these “could allow unscrupulous merchants to raid the accounts of customers or attackers to steal credit card data.”

In order to allow system administrators remote access for support and maintenance, POS are often connected to the internet, leaving them exposed to remote attacks, too. In fact, 62% of attacks on POS environments are completed through remote access. For business decision makers, ensuring that staff are comfortable using the system needs to be a priority, which can make security a balancing act. A straightforward on-boarding process, a simple UI, and flexibility for non-technical staff are all important factors, yet can often open up new attack vectors while leaving security considerations behind.

One example of a remote attack is the POSeidon malware which includes a memory scraper and keylogger, so that credit card details and other credentials can be gathered on the infected machine and sent to the hackers. POSeidon gains access through third party remote support tools such as LogMeIn. From this easy access point, attackers then have room to move across a business network by escalating user privileges or making lateral moves.

High risk yet hard to secure, for many businesses POS are a serious security blind spot.

Safeguarding this Complex Environment and Getting Ahead of the Threat Landscape

Firstly, assume your POS environment is compromised. You need to ensure that your data is safe, and the attacker is unable to make movements across your network to access critical assets and core servers. At the top of your list should be preventing an attacker from gaining access to your payment systems, protecting customer cardholder information and sensitive data.

The first step is visibility. While some businesses will wait for operational slowdown or clear evidence of a breach before they look for any anomalies, a complex environment needs full contextual visibility of the ecosystem and all application communication within. Security teams will then be able to accurately identify suspicious activity and where it’s taking place, such as which executables are communicating with the internet where they shouldn’t be. A system that generates reports on high severity incidents can show you what needs to be analyzed further.

Now that you have detail on the communication among the critical applications, you can identify the expected behavior and create tight segmentation policy. Block rules,with application process context, can be used to contain any potential threat, ensuring that any future attackers in the data center would be completely isolated without disrupting business process or having any effect on performance.

The risk goes in both directions. Next, let’s imagine your POS is secure, but it’s your data center that is under attack. Your POS is an obvious target, with links to sensitive data and customer information. Micro-segmentation can protect this valuable environment, and stop an attack getting any further once it’s already in progress, without limiting the communication that your payment system needs to keep business running as usual.

With visibility and clarity, you can create and enforce the right policies, crafted around the strict boundaries that your POS application needs to communicate, and no further. Some examples of policy include:

    • Limiting outgoing internet connections to only the relevant servers and applications
    • Limiting incoming internet connections to only specific machines or labels
    • Building default block rules for ports that are not in use
    • Creating block rules that detail known malicious processes for network connectivity
    • Whitelisting rules to prevent unauthorized apps from running on the POS
    • Create strict allow rules to enable only the processes that should communicate, and block all other potential traffic

Tight policy means that your business can detect any attempt to connect to other services or communicate with an external application, reducing risk and potential damage. With a flexible policy engine, these policies will be automatically copied to any new terminal that is deployed within the network, allowing you to adapt and scale automatically, with no manual moves, changes, or adds slowing down business processes.

Don’t Risk Leaving this Essential Touchpoint Unsecured

Point of Sale solutions are a high-risk open door for attackers to access some of your most critical infrastructure and assets. Without adequate protection, a breach could grind your business to a halt and cost you dearly in both financial damage and brand reputation.

Intelligent micro-segmentation policy can isolate an attacker quickly to stop them doing any further damage, and set up strong rules that keep your network proactively safe against any potential risk. Combined with integrated breach detection capabilities, this technology allows for quick response and isolation of an attacker before the threat is able to spread and create more damage.

Want to learn more about how micro-segmentation can protect your endpoints while hardening the overall security for your data center?

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