Network Segmentation in Industrial Networks: Process & Examples

Instructor: Prashant Mishra

Prashant is currently pursuing his bachelors in Computer Science and Engineering.

In this lesson, we will learn about network segmentation and the need for it. We will also describe how industrial networks can be segmented in order to provide security and access control.

Whenever you study a book, you never study it in one go or as a whole. You break it into fragments. The book you read is divided into a number of chapters to make it easy for you to study and search conveniently if the need arises. This is exactly what we mean by segmentation, except that we do a lot more than just studying.

What Is Network Segmentation?

Network segmentation is the process of segmenting or breaking a network into many smaller networks, each acting as an individual network known as a subnet. We can then control the subnets accordingly. Traffic control, communication, blocking, etc. can be done between subnets. One important thing to note here is that whatever we are doing to one subnet will not affect the other subnets, as they are all different entities now. This is the power of segmentation.

Uses of Network Segmentation

Following are some of the important uses of segmentation:

  • Network segmentation can help boost network performance by limiting network traffic to only those subnets which need it the most.
  • Segmentation can prevent unauthorized network attacks by securing those subnets which require the most control and are more prone to attacks.
  • Segmentation separates subnets from each other, and each subnet acts as an individual network. So if any issue arises with one subnet, it does not affect the others.

How Can Industrial Networks Be Segmented?

We know the role that hubs, routers, switches, etc. play in network formation. They also enable us to segment the network when required.

The following steps are implemented to segment a network:

  • Identify the part of the network that needs to be segmented.
  • Identify the layer at which it has to be segmented, i.e., physical layer or data link layer, etc.
  • Break the connection of those computers with other computers.
  • Connect a router/hub/repeater/switch/bridge in between the broken part and the rest of the network.
  • Continue doing so to form more subnets.

Clearly, the process of segmenting seems simple. It is cheap, easy to implement and maintain, and has a wide range of uses and applications.

One important point to note here is that the use of hubs can cause packet sniffing (checking on packets passing through data transfer). The replacement of hubs with switches can minimize this effect. This helps in creating more efficient and secure networks.

Because they are connected via some hub or switch, each subnet has its own IP address. Also, each subnet has a predetermined bandwidth which allows us to control a subnet accordingly.

Examples of industrial segmented networks include Physical Layer Segmentation, Data Link Layer Segmentation, etc.

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