A Compromised Network Gives All IT Professionals Nightmares

Using Aruba Dynamic Segmentation will help keep the Boogeyman away


boogeyman - closeout the problemOne reality terrifying most business owners is the thought of someone compromising their network and their data.  Companies spend gratuitous amounts of money and time to protect themselves from cyber threats. They configure edge firewalls and multi-factor authentication mechanisms to protect their most sensitive data in the cloud. The thing that is often left untouched and overlooked are the data ports which are physically accessible to the public.


If the business operates in a public or shared office space, the risk of intrusion from an unprotected or unmanaged port is astounding.  Aruba Networks have developed a technology that can now extend the same role-based firewall policies that are applied to the enterprise wireless to the wired ports.  By enforcing the same role-based policies, administrators can simplify the deployment and management while also staying consistent across the network.


Is this a new threat?


In truth, the threat has always existed.  The difference is that now more than ever, IOT devices require a hard-wired connection to function. This is because many of them do not support the same security and encryption standards we enforce on the wireless network.  Some devices simply require the low voltage power supplied from the switch port to function.  These devices include security cameras, lighting controllers, intelligent HVAC devices and some printers or scanners.


Another common scenario is when there is a need for a wired port for a special event. The port is configured for one purpose but then it is forgotten about. Then, anyone who plugs into that port has whatever access it was originally configured for.  The reality is that these devices and circumstances are not going away any time soon. The best way to protect the network and the switch ports is to secure and isolate the clients and the devices from your sensitive networks and services.


What have engineers and administrators done about this attack vector?


From a management perspective, port security has always been the bane of network engineers and administrators. It has never been very practical or scalable to deploy.  One must define clear attributes to distinguish each device from another. Then, you tell the switch port to change the network the device it is connected to or to simply block the port all together.


Often the unique attributes used to distinguish these devices are easy to counterfeit. Deploying the configuration on only the public facing ports takes planning and insight. This often falls through the cracks after the initial deployment. Furthermore, the deployment of these settings must be done on each switch in the environment that may be connected to from a public facing port.  Aruba’s Dynamic Segmentation takes a different approach.  It unifies policy enforcement and delivers the same seamless experience that people come to expect of wireless connectivity.


How does it work?


The technology leverages many of the same security and profiling mechanisms that exists in the Aruba wireless world. It applies them to the switch port adding a scalable security solution without the complexities of deploying another costly security product.  It works by treating an Aruba network switch like an access point.  The switch tunnels the switch port traffic to the Aruba mobility controllers. It profiles the connected devices in the same manner it would a wireless client.


If the device passes certain authentication criteria, then it is granted the same access as if it were on the wireless network.  If the device has certain attributes but does not pass specific authentication criteria, than it is treated differently. It will be assigned the same role and given the same privileges as it would on the wireless network.  In isolating these devices or unknown users, we can better protect the environment at large while not limiting the connectivity some users may need.



What else can Aruba Dynamic Segmentation do?


By tunneling the traffic to the mobility controllers, Dynamic Segmentation provides greater visibility of the traffic from IOT devices and guests users on your network.  You can enforce a captive portal with email registration for guest users. This can add some accountability to a visiting contractor or guest speaker.


If an employee brings in a consumer device from home and plugs it in, you can distinguish what the device is, where it is plugged in and what it is communicating with.  The most valuable use-case for this technology lies in the constant struggle of BYOD and onboarding of employee devices.  If an employee chooses to use their own computing device and company policy allows it, you can check the security posture of the device before granting it access to any resources on your network.  Ideally those users would have a policy enforced that would allow them to reach only the least sensitive resources and the internet.



Why should network/security engineers and administrators be excited about Dynamic Segmentation?


Unlike traditional port security which normally rely on 802.1x and radius authentication to authorize access on a single VLAN, Dynamic Segmentation does not require unique network segments to be defined to physically separate users.  Aruba uses the term VLAN sprawl to describe the never-ending creation of new VLANs and subnets to create new layer 2 boundaries to physically segment user and device traffic.


With this solution, all the unknown devices and users could reside on the same network segment. Because the traffic is tunneled, all the traffic is subject to deep packet inspection, stateful firewall policies, layer 7 application visibility including web content filtering.   Most IT professionals usually wouldn’t believe that their wireless controllers are capable firewalls.  They would be wrong where Aruba is concerned.


What Aruba components are necessary to make it all work?


If you are already an Aruba wireless customer, you may already have what it takes to start leveraging this technology today.  Listed below are the solution ingredients directly from the Aruba Solution Overview.


  • Aruba wireless access points
  • Aruba network switches
    • Models 2930F/M, 3810M, 5400zl2
  • Aruba Gateways or Mobility Controllers
    • Running AOS 8.1 or later
  • Aruba Clearpass Policy Manager with profiling


Overall, the solution will simplify your efforts at securing the network edge and unifying security into one manageable platform.   Why spend time configuring and deploying a solution that you would have to duplicate with the wireless infrastructure?  Save yourself from that spooky nightmare.


To learn more, contact your local Zunesis sales representative.


Additional Resources

Dynamic Segmentation Solution Brief

Aruba Learning Video

Technical Whitepaper



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