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Why Lateral Movement Protection is Critical for Best Cybersecurity Practices

Why Lateral Movement Protection is Critical for Best Cybersecurity Practices

Blog Article Published: 05/22/2023

Originally published by TrueFort.

A fortress of protection

A castle has many layers of protection. A moat, a vallum, drawbridges, portcullises, gatehouses, barbicans, gates, towers, baileys, and layers of inner and outer walls. All designed to impede the progress of invaders and to prevent them from making their way to what’s valuable.

Just as this protection stops the invaders’ progress and forces them to consider other ways through the castle, taking up valuable time and raising alarms as they go, lateral movement protection forces attackers to find a way through the security controls that have been put in place around a network. In both cases, the goal is to limit the attackers’ access and make it more difficult for them to achieve their objectives. The more granular the layers of protection, the better.

Preventing lateral movement minimalizes impact

Lateral movement protection is a critical aspect of cybersecurity for organizations of all sizes. It refers to the ability to detect and prevent the spread of malicious activity within a network once an attacker has gained initial access. Without proper lateral movement protection, an attacker can easily move from one compromised system to another, potentially gaining access to sensitive information and causing significant damage to an organization’s infrastructure.

Furthermore, lateral movement protection helps limit the scope and impact of a cyberattack. If an attacker is able to move laterally within a network, they may be able to access sensitive data or systems that they otherwise would not have been able to reach. This can lead to a much more serious security incident than if the attacker had been stopped at the initial entry point with lateral movement controls.

As it shortens the duration of a security incident, lateral movement protection can be crucial to stopping bad actors from maintaining persistence and remaining undetected – sneaking around the fortress halls and chambers, learning more about stronghold operations – for a more extended period. Prolonged exposure to an internal breach can make it more difficult to detect (and respond) to a security incident, leading to increased damage and recovery costs.

Summon the guard!

To effectively protect against lateral movement, organizations must have a comprehensive security strategy in place that includes both preventive and detective controls. One key aspect of this strategy is to limit the level of access that users have to sensitive data and systems. This can be achieved through the use of role-based access controls (RBAC) and least privilege principles, which limit the level of access that users have to systems and data based on their job function and level of clearance.

In establishing lateral movement protection best practices, it is recommended that organizations go beyond traditional network segmentation, which involves dividing a network into smaller, isolated segments, each with its own set of security controls. For best lateral protection practices, microsegmentation is recommended – especially in the application environment where security is notoriously lacking. General network segmentation security rules do not suit all circumstances, and granular network segmentation as far as the individual workload level is always preferable for the best possible lateral movement protection. This will help to limit the spread of malicious activity within a network, be it locally or in the cloud, and make it more difficult for attackers to move laterally than using older and more general network segmentation practices.

Organizations must have incident response and management plans in place to quickly detect, respond to and contain security incidents. They must have clear and actionable alerts to respond quickly and with purpose – not being bogged down in a shower of false reports and alarms. This includes incident response teams trained and equipped to handle security incidents and incident management software to help automate incident response tasks.

Basic defense. Superior protection

It is essential for organizations to have a comprehensive lateral movement protection security strategy in place that includes preventive and detective controls such as role-based access controls, least privilege principles, microsegmentation, intrusion detection and prevention systems, endpoint protection solutions, incident response and incident management plans.

Only by implementing lateral movement controls and Zero Trust best practices can organizations effectively detect and prevent the spread of malicious activity within a network, thus limiting the scope and impact of a cyber attack and protecting their valuables from invaders.

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