Expanding cybersecurity horizons with micro segmentation: a vital reprieve amid patching challenges.

Trent Owens, Managing Director - Matrium Technologies

In the constantly evolving sphere of cybersecurity, organisations face the intricate task of upholding a robust defence system to safeguard their vital systems and sensitive data. The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) has outlined a set of vital strategies known as the "Essential Eight" to fortify an organisation's cybersecurity defences. Among these strategies, patching applications and operating systems is paramount, as it reduces vulnerabilities and mitigates risks. These strategies also consist of more demanding maturity levels. However, strict adherence to patching timelines can be challenging, and in some instances, it's simply not feasible due to end-of-life software or platforms. This is where micro segmentation emerges as a lifeline, granting organisations the valuable gift of time.


The Time-Bound Challenge

Patching applications and operating systems is an integral component of an organisation's cybersecurity strategy. It ensures that vulnerabilities and weaknesses are addressed promptly, thereby reducing the exposure to potential threats. Nevertheless, the timeframe for patching can vary widely, contingent upon an organisation's unique requirements, priorities, and risk tolerance.

In environments that demand a higher maturity level, a 48-hour patching cycle might be mandated, while others may opt for a more lenient schedule, extending up to 1 month. Deviating from these timelines can lead to non-compliance, resulting in potential consequences such as regulatory fines, damage to an organisation's reputation, and an increased risk to security. This balancing act between maintaining a secure environment and avoiding operational disruptions is a challenge many organisations face.

The Role of Compensating Controls

Compensating controls offer an alternative route to achieving security objectives when conventional controls cannot be implemented within the stipulated timeframe. These controls serve as a bridge between stringent security requirements and the pragmatic constraints of daily operations. In the context of the Essential Eight, compensating controls play a pivotal role.

One compensating control deserves special attention: micro segmentation.

Micro segmentation: A Compensating Control Saviour

Micro segmentation is a network security technique that fragments an organisation's network into isolated segments, each equipped with its unique access controls and security policies. This approach amplifies network security by restricting lateral movement and containing potential breaches, even when immediate patching is not an option.

Micro segmentation’s pivotal role in the Essential Eight can be summarised as follows:

  • Reduced Attack Surface: Network segmentation makes lateral movement for attackers a daunting challenge, thereby minimising the potential impact of security breaches, even when patches cannot be applied instantly.
  • Granular Access Control: Micro segmentation empowers organisations to define highly specific access policies, limiting users and systems to the resources they genuinely require. This fine-grained control mitigates the risk of unauthorised access or lateral movement by cyber adversaries.
  • Isolation of Vulnerable Systems: Even in instances where some systems cannot be patched in a timely manner, micro segmentation effectively isolates these vulnerable systems, reducing the likelihood of exploitation. Critical assets remain safeguarded.
  • Adaptive Response: Micro segmentation can dynamically adjust access controls based on real-time threat intelligence, enabling swift responses to emerging threats. This adaptive capability becomes an invaluable asset in maintaining security in a rapidly changing digital environment.


In today's cybersecurity landscape, organisations face the formidable challenge of striking a balance between maintaining a secure environment and navigating the constraints of operational realities. The Essential Eight lays the foundation for robust cybersecurity, but strict adherence to patching timelines isn't always feasible, especially with end-of-life software and platforms.

Compensating controls, with micro segmentation at the forefront, emerge as the allies’ organisations need. They provide a practical approach to fortifying security, even when patching encounters challenges. By curtailing the attack surface, enhancing access control, isolating vulnerable systems, and responding to threats in real-time, micro segmentation seamlessly aligns with the Essential Eight. It allows organisations to achieve their security objectives while gracefully confronting the intricacies of the modern digital landscape, offering a respite that extends the boundaries of cybersecurity horizons.

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