The New Network Edge - The Server


One of the most damaging aspects of modern cyberattacks is when an attacker achieves persistence – the ability to penetrate a network and dwell for long periods of time, moving from system to system and gathering valuable data. The goal of the security industry must be to deny an attacker from moving freely once inside.

Today cleverly crafted phishing emails and drive-by downloads make it almost trivial for a determined attacker to infect a corporate workstation or laptop. Once a laptop or workstation on the corporate network is compromised, all the classic network defenses, firewalls, IDS, and IPS are rendered useless. These toolkits force us to reconsider the network edge, and that requires a new layer in our strategy – one that enforces a strict set of policies on the boundary layer between the server and the network.

In taekwondo, to win, you watch your opponent's center of gravity. Imagine if you could watch the center of gravity of every server in your data center. That center of gravity might be every data flow in and out of the server. Placing controls at this server to network boundary would be the most effective way to protect the individual workload. So, the new network edge is the server itself. Imagine if you could watch every data flow from every server, set up security policies to govern which flows are permitted, then enforce them across your entire compute footprint over a heterogenous environment of bare-metal servers, virtual machines, and containers running microservices.

Enter micro-segmentation. Micro-segmentation has emerged as the most effective strategy to control the spread of unauthorized lateral movement and contain the blast radius if an asset gets compromised. So, what is micro-segmentation and how does it fit in? Micro-segmentation is a security technique that enables fine-grained security policies to be assigned to data center applications down to the workload level. This approach enables security models to be deployed deep inside a data center using a software-only approach. Because you can assign security policy at the workload level, the security persists no matter how or where the workload is moved. Using micro-segmentation, administrators can decouple policy definition from network constructs like IP address and port numbers to functional attributes like where a workload might be used (geographical location or environment), what kind of function it will be performing (web server, application processing, database), and which application it serves.

Security is best achieved when implemented closest to the subject being protected. In the data center context, on premises or in the cloud, this means implementing controls at the workload. Nothing can be trusted beyond that demarcation point separating the server and the network. This is the new network edge.

For more information on micro-segmentation, please visit and stop by booth 300 at Black Hat Europe.

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