This article outlines the similarities and differences between the COVID-19 travel ban, micro-segmentation, and run-time cloud workload protection. What COVID-19 Teaches us about Micro-Segmentation and run-time Cloud Workload protection.
The Coronavirus has been the top celebrity of the year 2020. The world was and is fighting this pandemic and travel limitations are widely used in order to control the spread of the disease. While some say these restrictions are critical, others claim them to be ineffective and redundant. I am not an epidemiologist and will leave that analysis to the experts. I am, however, a software architect and cannot resist comparing travel restrictions to one of the most common ways of securing network architectures – Micro-segmentation.
In many ways, software malware and biological viruses are similar (that is why they are called computer viruses) - both try to spread in a network and infect as many subjects as they can. If we accept this simple analogy, micro-segmentation can make a lot of sense; it is the equivalent of banning incoming flights from China, and it is aimed at making sure that if some part of the organization is affected, the infection cannot spread to other parts of the organization.
Just like travel restrictions, micro-segmentation has its pros and cons. It can be efficient in avoiding propagation of an attack throughout the network, but it comes at a price – it is hard to maintain and control, it needs to be constantly updated based on changes in the environment, and it reduces the environment flexibility significantly (think about the travel ban economic impact).
Micro-segmentation also has a major difference from travel bans – we cannot deploy it AFTER we know about infection, it is configured on a healthy network to prevent FUTURE infections. Think about it this way – what travel limitation would you put permanently, even if COVID-19 never existed, just to avoid a potential outbreak of a future virus? What ends up happening is that we use micro-segmentation to enforce service behavior, rather than to control proportion, and the question is whether that is the right tool for the task.
As we dig deeper into the analogy and examine some limitations we have in confronting the Coronavirus, we must ask ourselves whether the same limitations apply to cloud workloads and whether we can take better actions in our cloud environments than what is available for our governments in the Coronavirus case.
These are the key reasons governments must resort to travel bans:
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