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How to Establish your Next-Gen Data Center Security Strategy

In 2019, 46 percent of businesses are expected to use hybrid data centers, and it is therefore critical for these businesses to be prepared to deal with the inherent security challenges. Developing a next gen data center security strategy that takes into account the complexity of hybrid cloud infrastructure can help keep your business operations secure by way of real-time responsiveness, enhanced scalability, and improved uptime.

One of the biggest challenges of securing the next gen data center is accounting for the various silos that develop. Every cloud service provider has its own methods to implement security policies, and those solutions are discrete from one another. These methods are also discrete from on-premises infrastructure and associated security policies. This siloed approach to security adds complexity and increases the likelihood of blind spots in your security plan, and isn’t consistent with the goals of developing a next gen data center. To overcome these challenges, any forward-thinking company with security top of mind requires security tools that enable visibility and policy enforcement across the entirety of a hybrid cloud infrastructure.

In this piece, we’ll review the basics of the next gen data center, dive into some of the details of developing a next gen data center security strategy, and explain how Guardicore Centra fits into a holistic security plan.

What is a next gen data center?

The idea of hybrid cloud has been around for a while now, so what’s the difference between what we’re used to and a next gen data center? In short, next gen data centers are hybrid cloud infrastructures that abstract away complexity, automate as many workflows as possible, and include scalable orchestration tools. Scalable technologies like SDN (software defined networking), virtualization, containerization, and Infrastructure as Code (IaC) are hallmarks of the next gen data center.

Given this definition, the benefits of the next gen data center are clear: agile, scalable, standardized, and automated IT operations that limit costly manual configuration, human error, and oversights. However, when creating a next gen data center security strategy, enterprises must ensure that the policies, tools, and overall strategy they implement are able to account for the inherent challenges of the next gen data center.

Asking the right questions about your next gen data center security strategy

There are a number of questions enterprises must ask themselves as they begin to design a next gen data center and a security strategy to protect it. Here, we’ll review a few of the most important.

  • What standards and compliance regulations must we meet?Regulations such as HIPAA, PCI-DSS, and SOX subject enterprises to strict security and data protection requirements that must be met, regardless of other goals. Failure to account for these requirements in the planning stages can prove costly in the long run should you fail an audit due to a simple oversight.
  • How can we gain granular visibility into our entire infrastructure? One of the challenges of the next gen data center is the myriad of silos that emerge from a security and visibility perspective. With so many different IaaS, SaaS, and on-premises solutions going into a next gen data center, capturing detailed visibility of data flows down to the process level can be a daunting task. However, in order to optimize security, this is a question you’ll need to answer in the planning stages. If you don’t have a baseline of what traffic flows on your network look like at various points in time (e.g. peak hours on a Monday vs midnight Saturday) identifying and reacting to anomalies becomes almost impossible.
  • How can we implement scalable, cross-platform security policies?As mentioned, the variety of solutions that make up a next gen data center can lead to a number of silos and discrete security policies. Managing security discretely for each platform flies in the face of the scalable, DevOps-inspired ideals of the next gen data center. To ensure that your security can keep up with your infrastructure, you’ll need to seek out scalable, intelligent security tools. While security is often viewed as hamstringing DevOps efforts, the right tools and strategy can help bridge the gap between these two teams.

Finding the right solutions

Given what we have reviewed thus far, we can see that the solutions to the security challenges of the next gen data center need to be scalable and compliant, provide granular visibility, and function across the entirety of your infrastructure.

Guardicore Centra is uniquely capable of addressing these challenges and helping secure the next gen data center. For example, not only can micro-segmentation help enable compliance to standards like HIPAA and PCI-DSS, but Centra offers enterprises the level of visibility required in the next gen data center. Centra is capable of contextualizing all application dependencies across all platforms to ensure that your micro-segmentation policies are properly implemented. Regardless of where your apps run, Centra helps you overcome silos and provides visibility down to the process level.

Further, Centra is capable of achieving the scalability that the next gen data center demands. To help conceptualize how scalable micro-segmentation with Guardicore Centra can be, consider that a typical LAN build-out that can last for a few months and require hundreds of IT labor hours. On the other hand, a comparable micro-segmentation deployment takes about a month and significantly fewer IT labor hours.

Finally, Centra can help bridge the gap between DevOps and Security teams by enabling the use of “zero trust” security models. The general idea behind zero trust is, as the name implies, nothing inside or outside of your network should be trusted by default. This shifts focus to determining what is allowed as opposed to being strictly on the hunt for threats, which is much more conducive to a modern DevSecOps approach to the next gen data center.

Guardicore helps enable your next gen data center security strategy

When developing a next gen data center security strategy, you must be able to account for the nuances of the various pieces of on-premises and cloud infrastructure that make up a hybrid data center. A big part of doing so is selecting tools that minimize complexity and can scale across all of your on-premises and cloud platforms. Guardicore Centra does just that and helps implement scalable and granular security policies to establish the robust security required in the next gen data center.

If you’re interested in redefining and adapting the way you secure your hybrid cloud infrastructure, contact us to learn more.

Want to know more about proper data center security? Get our white paper about operationalizing a proper micro-segmentation project.

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Determining security posture, and how micro-segmentation can improve it

As the recent Quora breach that compromised 100 million user accounts demonstrates, the threat of a cyber attack is ever present in the modern IT environment. Cybercrime and data breaches continue to plague small businesses and enterprises alike, and network security teams are constantly working to stay one step ahead of an attack. This is no easy task since intrusion attempts occur daily and are constantly evolving to find the smallest weakness to exploit.

Attackers can employ direct attacks on data centers and clouds, enact crypto-jacking threats to mine cryptocurrency, devise advanced persistent threat (APT) attacks to extract data while remaining hidden within a network, or even add fileless malware to manipulate in-memory vulnerabilities and access sensitive system resources.

For these reasons, it’s more important than ever for IT teams to evaluate their current security posture to ensure the safety of their sensitive information and assets. This is particularly true in hybrid cloud environments where discrete platforms take siloed approaches to security that can make infrastructure-wide visibility and a holistic approach to security policies extremely difficult. In this piece, we’ll dive into the basics of security posture and explain how Guardicore Centra can help you improve yours.

Security posture defined

Security posture is the overall defensive capability a business has over its computing system infrastructure. Also referred to as cybersecurity posture, the term focuses not only on hardware and software resources, but also the people, policies, and processes in place to maintain security. It is then necessary to prioritize what areas require the most protection, managing the greatest risk, identify weaknesses, and have incident response and disaster recovery plans in place in the event a breach does occur. All of these factors determine the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of an organization’s security posture.

Identifying the areas that deserve attention

In order to determine an organization’s security posture, first it’s the responsibility of a security team to have complete and thorough understanding of the risks associated with the operation of their computing systems. Research must be conducted to quantify attack surfaces, determine risk tolerance, and identify areas within the infrastructure that require more focus.

This planning stage is particularly difficult when attempting to account for the complexities that come with a hybrid cloud infrastructure, as the dynamics of a hybrid cloud make it difficult to get a holistic view of enterprise information systems. Often different policies and controls are in place for different endpoints that exist in different clouds or on-premises.

All of this internal assessment and process scrutiny is essential to develop a foundation for a robust security posture. However, the right tools are required to enforce policies that support it. Modern integrated security techniques such as micro-segmentation and process-level visibility, which are enabled by solutions like Guardicore Centra, help enterprises ensure that they are effectively implementing their strategy and capable of meeting the security challenges of the modern hybrid cloud.

The impact of enhanced visibility on security posture

The heterogeneous nature of a hybrid cloud environment makes it difficult to scale security policies, since there usually is not an effective way to account for the entire infrastructure. Further, because you are dealing with multiple platforms and varying security controls, the possibility of blind spots and oversights increases.

The visualization features of Guardicore Centra were created with these challenges in mind. Using Centra, enterprises can drill down and rapidly discover specific applications and flows within a network, regardless of the particular platform a given node may be running on. Since Guardicore can provide visibility to the process level and enable inspection of systems down to the TCP/UDP port level, blind spots that may otherwise become exploit targets can be eliminated. In a hybrid cloud environment this means you are able to automatically and rapidly learn how applications behave within your network to build a baseline of expected behavior, and better understand how to harden your infrastructure.

The value of micro-segmentation

Given that the greater potential for lateral movement an attacker can perform after a breach, the more damage they can do, it is easy to conceptualize the value of micro-segmentation. We’re all familiar with the benefits of network segmentation using techniques such as access control lists, firewalls and VLANs, and micro-segmentation brings these down to the most granular levels and applies them across the entire hybrid cloud infrastructure. For users of Centra, this means least-access policies can be implemented that limit access to specific groups of users (e.g. database admins), restrict access to certain applications (e.g. a MySQL database server), and restrict access to specific ports (e.g. TCP 3306), with the flexibility of process-level context and cross-platform coverage.

As an added benefit, Centra suggests rules based on analysis of historical data, and development of robust policies becomes significantly easier. By removing complexity, enabling micro-segmentation, and providing process-level visibility, Centra reduces blind spots and limits exposed attack surfaces, two key components of improving security posture.

The importance of threat detection and proactive responses

In addition to enhanced visibility and micro-segmentation, identifying unrecognized and malicious intrusions and reducing dwell-time is an important part of improving security posture. A pragmatic, modern organization understands that despite the best laid plans, breaches may occur and if and when they do, they must be rapidly detected, contained, and remediated.

To this end, Centra is uniquely capable of meeting the breach detection and incident response challenges enterprises with hybrid cloud infrastructures face. Centra uses three different detection methods (Dynamic Deception, Reputation Analysis, and Policy-Based Detection) to rapidly identify and react to attacks. By doing so, Centra helps ensure that in the event a security breach does occur, you are able to reduce the damage and minimize dwell time. This proactive approach to threat detection and response rounds out the Centra offering and helps you ensure your hybrid cloud infrastructure is secure and flexible enough to meet the challenges of modern IT security without sacrificing the performance of your infrastructure or adding unnecessary complexity.

Interested in learning more?

Guardicore Centra can help you significantly enhance your security posture, particularly in complex, difficult-to-manage, hybrid cloud environments. The benefits of hybrid cloud infrastructure are clear from a capex and scalability standpoint, but the tech is not without inherent risk. Hybrid cloud suffers with a myriad of siloed approaches to security policies and controls for reducing attack surfaces in an environment.

Adopting a proactive approach to security and leveraging security solutions that enable micro-segmentation are important steps towards enhancing your security posture and protecting your systems from falling victim to the next data breach.

To learn more about how micro-segmentation can benefit your enterprise, check out the micro-segmentation hub, or set up a demo to see Guardicore Centra in action.

Want to learn more about securing your hybrid cloud environment and strengthening your security posture? Get our white paper on best practices for the technical champion.

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