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Last updated December 21st, 2023 by Avigdor Book

Industrial network segmentation is more than a cybersecurity tactic; it’s a strategic necessity for modern control systems. By dividing a network into smaller, manageable subnets, organizations can shield critical infrastructure from cyberattacks, control access, and reduce the risk of disruptions. Whether you’re navigating the complexities of an OT environment or seeking to fortify your IT network against cyber threats, understanding segmentation is key to maintaining a robust security posture.

The Strategic Imperative of Industrial Network Segmentation

Industrial network segmentation isn’t just an option; it’s a critical component in safeguarding industrial control systems (ICS) from the evolving landscape of cyber threats. In an era where operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) converge, the need for robust network security has never been greater.

Defining Network Segmentation in the Industrial Sphere

Network segmentation in an industrial control system is the practice of dividing a larger network into smaller, discrete segments or subnets. This allows for greater control over traffic flow and limits the potential impact of cyberattacks. It’s about creating boundaries within your network that act as barriers to unauthorized access, ensuring that even if one segment is compromised, the contagion won’t spread unchecked.

Real-World Examples of Network Segmentation

Imagine a manufacturing plant where the production network is separate from the corporate IT network. The production side might have its own subnets for assembly robots, quality control systems, and shipping automation. Each subnet is a mini-fortress, safeguarded by firewalls and access control measures to prevent cyberattacks from moving laterally across the network.

The Framework for Effective Segmentation

A well-known framework for industrial network segmentation is the Purdue Model. It categorizes network zones based on functionality and security needs, providing a structured approach to segmenting ICS networks. This model has become a benchmark for understanding how to structure network security in the industrial domain.

Types of Segmentation and How They Work

Segmentation can be physical, like separate cabling and switches for different network zones, or logical, such as virtual LANs (VLANs) and subnetting. Physical segmentation might be more secure, but it’s also more expensive and less flexible than logical segmentation. Logical segmentation uses software to create network boundaries, which can be adjusted as needed without rewiring.

Implementing OT Network Segmentation

To segment an OT network, start by identifying critical assets and their network traffic patterns. Then, define zones based on these patterns and the level of security needed. Use firewalls and access control lists to enforce the boundaries between these zones. Regularly review and update the segmentation strategy to keep pace with changes in the network.

A Closer Look at the Segmentation Approach

The network segmentation approach means applying the principle of least privilege. Users and systems should only have access to the network resources they need to perform their functions. This minimizes the attack surface and reduces the risk of unauthorized access to critical IOT devices.

Overcoming Challenges with Tufin Orchestration Suite

In the quest for effective network segmentation, the Tufin Orchestration Suite can be a game-changer. It provides visibility and control over complex, hybrid networks, ensuring that segmentation policies are consistently applied and maintained. With Tufin, you can automate and orchestrate security policies across your entire network, achieving continuous compliance solutions that meet the stringent demands of regulatory compliance, like IEC 62443 for industrial cybersecurity.

Conclusion: Securing Your Industrial Environment

Embracing network segmentation is a step toward fortifying your cybersecurity posture. It’s about proactively managing the risks in your OT and IT environments, ensuring that cyber threats are kept at bay. Whether you’re concerned about malware in your PLCs or unauthorized access to your SCADA systems, a well-segmented network is your first line of defense.

Achieving this level of security doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With the right tools and strategies, such as those offered by Tufin, you can navigate the complexities of network segmentation and ensure that your industrial networks are resilient against disruptions. 

FAQS on Industrial Network Segmentation

Q: What is the purpose of industrial network segmentation in controlling system security?

A: Industrial network segmentation is an essential cybersecurity strategy that involves dividing a network into smaller, manageable segments or subnets. The primary purpose is to enhance security and reduce the risk of cyberattacks by limiting the attack surface. By segmenting networks, organizations can isolate sensitive areas, minimize the potential impact of a breach, and restrict lateral movement of threats within the IT and OT environments. Segmentation also aids in compliance with standards like IEC 62443 and the Purdue model, ensuring that critical infrastructure receives the appropriate level of protection.

Interested in learning more about how network segmentation can protect against cyber threats? Take a look at our article on firewall security standards.

Q: Can you provide examples of how network segmentation is applied in industrial environments?

A: In industrial environments, network segmentation often takes the form of separating OT systems from IT networks, creating zones for different control systems like PLCs, HMIs, and SCADA systems, or isolating parts of the network that handle sensitive data or critical assets. For example, a segmented network might include VLANs that separate production areas from areas where remote access is required. This not only enhances security posture but also reduces downtime by limiting the scope of potential disruptions.

Discover the enterprise network segmentation best practices to see how you can apply these strategies to your own network.

Q: How does Tufin support organizations in implementing effective OT network segmentation?

A: Tufin simplifies the implementation of OT network segmentation by providing visibility into network traffic and a framework for defining security policies. Their solutions facilitate micro-segmentation, control of IP addresses, and management of access control, which are crucial for maintaining a robust security posture in OT environments. Tufin’s approach helps prevent unauthorized access and ensures that operational technology remains secure against cyber threats.

For insights into the five reasons security teams fail PCI audits and how to avoid them, read our related blog article.

Wrapping Up

To explore how Tufin can help you strengthen your network’s defenses and streamline your security operations, we invite you to sign up for a Tufin demo. Take the first step towards a more secure and compliant industrial environment.

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