What is Endpoint Security?
Endpoint security is the process of securing endpoints or end-user devices like computers, laptops, and mobile devices against cyberattacks. Endpoint security solutions are used by many enterprises to protect against cyber attacks.
Securing endpoints is critical for keeping an enterprise’s IT system safe because attackers commonly use end-user devices as an entry point to networks. All it takes for a device to be infected with malware is for an employee to click on a malicious email link.
Endpoint security is about securing these devices and shutting down these entry points so they can’t be exploited by attackers. It’s important to note that while endpoint security tools are effective they aren’t a fix-all solution, and should be accompanied by cybersecurity training so that employees know how to protect themselves online.
What Does Endpoint Security Software do?
Next-generation endpoint security tools are based in the cloud and monitor each device in your network for threats like viruses and malware.
Once a threat is detected, they notify the user and implement automated remediation to fix the problem.
When searching for endpoint security solutions, you will find that the capabilities of these platforms differ depending on which vendor you buy from. However, some of the main features you can expect to see include:
- Endpoint management
- Integrated firewall
- Network access control
- Whitelisting tools
- Intrusion detection and response (including zero-day threats)
- Root cause analysis
Endpoint security platforms are usually cloud-based and centralized so that the user can manage multiple devices from one location. Many solutions will not only be able to detect cyber attacks but will also be able to respond with remediation actions automatically to resolve security issues as they emerge.
Automated endpoint security tools are very useful for enterprises because they detect and address threats quickly. Faster remediation means there is a lower time to resolution and decreases the risk of downtime, which lowers the level of cost/disruption of an attack.
Antivirus vs Endpoint Security
It is important to note that endpoint security software offers a far more diverse range of functionality than an antivirus system, which primarily focuses on combating viruses.
Antivirus software and endpoint security solutions have the same goal to protect network infrastructure, but they differ in the way in which they confront these threats.
While an antivirus and endpoint protection solution each aim to protect endpoints, they both serve a different purpose. An antivirus solution is designed to detect and remediate viruses on a single device; whereas an endpoint security tool protects an entire network and detects threats like malware and viruses across multiple devices.
From a security standpoint, endpoint protection tools are superior to antivirus solutions because they enable you to manage a network full of devices from a single location. While antivirus tools are excellent at detecting and removing malware from devices, they often need to be installed on each device, which creates more manual work for an administrator.
Why is Endpoint Security Important?
Endpoint security is vital for modern organizations because endpoints are a key target for cyberattackers. The growth of sophisticated online threats has meant that securing devices requires much more than installing an antivirus.
Keeper and Poneman Institute have found that 82% of SMBS have experienced attacks in which malware evaded their legacy antivirus solutions.
As a result, companies need up-to-date solutions to be able to protect against these emerging attacks that frequently sidestep traditional antivirus solutions.
At the same time, networks as a whole are becoming more decentralized. With an increased number of wireless devices in the workplace and the widespread adoption of IoT devices fast approaching, there is a distinct need for scalable centralized endpoint security solutions to secure devices.
In the future, enterprises will need centralized endpoint security solutions to detect threats on devices and manage security policies remotely. Those enterprises that don’t update are likely to struggle against the next generation of cyberattacks.
Common Threats to Endpoint Security
When securing endpoints throughout your environment, there are many endpoint security threats that you need to be aware of. Some of the most common threats to endpoints include:
- Phishing attempts
- Unpatched software
- Data theft
1. Phishing Attempts
One of the most common threats companies encounter are phishing attempts. Phishing attempts are when a cyberattacker masquerades as someone else to trick the recipient into giving up sensitive information. For example, in an email phishing attempt, an attacker could send you a bogus email from a corporate address to trick you into clicking a link or downloading an attachment.
Many employees receive email from corporate spoofed email addresses with a link requesting that they reset their password. If they click on the link and reset the password the attacker acquires their login information and can use it to gain access to services in the network.
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts the victim’s files. After the files have been encrypted an attacker will demand a ransom from the victim so that they can have access to their files. The victim will be sent instructions detailing how to pay the fee and obtain a description key. Many attackers demand payments in the form of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
3. Unpatched Software
Unpatched software leads to vulnerabilities. Attackers generate exploits to services every single day, and patching devices is essential for issuing updates that protect against those vulnerabilities. Enterprises that don’t install patches give attackers an opportunity to exploit those vulnerabilities and gain access to the network.
4. Data Theft
Another increasingly common threat is that of data theft. Cyber attackers are targeting businesses and hacking into corporate networks to steal private information. Attackers will break into a network and then copy information from all the resources they can get their hands on. These intrusions usually take place to obtain financial data that can be used for fraudulent activity.
Endpoint Security Challenges
1. Too Many Services
Despite the abundance of endpoint security solutions on the market, many companies struggle to keep internal systems secure. One of the main reasons for the difficulties protecting endpoints is the number of services modern companies use each day.
The sheer diversity of devices, applications, and services used in a network can make it difficult to maintain transparency and to verify that all activity is legitimate. Endpoint security solutions, network monitoring tools, and configuration managers are key to maximizing visibility and detecting malicious activity.
2. Too Much Admin
Another key challenge is the tremendous amount of manual administration required to manage a large network of devices. Many large companies lack automated solutions for managing devices, which makes it difficult for administrators to identify and troubleshoot security issues promptly.
It’s not unusual for network administrators to have to spend countless hours conducting tedious manual tasks like installing security patches and updates to devices. All the time spent on manual administration takes time away that the administrator could be using to respond to threats. This is why automated configuration management tools, network monitors, and endpoint security tools are valuable for saving time.
3. Limited Physical Security Controls
Finally, even if an enterprise has the right solutions to monitor employee endpoints, it often lacks physical security controls. These controls are essential for protecting against data breaches by preventing on-site systems from being breached by unauthorized users.
Physical security controls are one of the most underrated aspects of endpoint security, and many organizations are over-reliant on software to protect against attackers. If an attacker is on-site, then you need to have controls like passwords and locks in place to protect against breaches.
Endpoint Security Best Practices
1. Adhere to the Principle of Least Privilege
Given that your endpoints are an entry point to your network, you need to take steps to limit access where possible. If a malicious entity obtains physical access to your devices then there is a high risk of a data breach and data loss. One of the best ways to mitigate this threat is to embrace the principle of least privilege.
The principle of least privilege is where subjects are only given the privileges necessary to complete a function or task. The idea is that users shouldn’t have the authorization to access services that aren’t essential to their daily tasks.
Adhering to the principle of least privilege will limit the exposure of your IT assets to internal threats. The lower the number of employees who have administrator access to a device, the less chance that the device will become compromised.
2. Real-time Network Monitoring
To increase visibility over your network you need to be using network monitoring tools. Using a network monitoring tool with a real-time dashboard allows you to keep an eye on network performance and to see when devices are performing poorly or acting suspiciously.
Many tools also come with alerts that will notify you when a security event takes place. Types of tools you can use to monitor your network include everything from hardware monitoring tools to system monitoring tools and log analyzers.
Proactively monitoring your network will enable you to catch cyberattacks early, and help you to take action before unwanted downtime. Network monitoring software is very important to endpoint security because it’s impossible to monitor a network full of devices manually.
3. Employee Training
If you want to make your environment more secure then you need to make your employees become more cyber-conscious. Educating employees about the signs of cyberattacks like DDoS attacks or phishing attempts, and how to respond to those effectively is a must for reducing the risk of damage and downtime.
Employees should also be made aware of general cybersecurity best practices such as: selecting strong passwords, changing passwords regularly, using password managers if recording multiple passwords, not clicking on suspicious email links, locking access to computers when they’re away, and reporting suspected attacks to an administrator.
4. Update Devices Regularly
Regularly updating your devices is a must for keeping them secure. Famous threats like the WannaCry Ransomware could have been prevented if companies were up-to-date with device patching. One of the easiest ways to update your devices continuously is to use patch management software.
Patch management tools allow you to automate the deployment of patches and updates throughout your environment so you can keep every device updated without having to spend hours deploying updates manually.
The Best Endpoint Security Providers
As cybersecurity strategies have evolved tons of providers have started to offer endpoint security platforms. There are so many tools to choose from that it can be difficult to pick which is best.
In this section, we’re going to look at some of the top solutions on the market that enterprises you can use to keep your devices protected. Please note that the list is not an exhaustive run-down of all cybersecurity solutions, but a quick look at the top providers in the endpoint security segment of the market.
CrowdStrike Falcon is a Next-Generation Antivirus (NGAV) and endpoint protection solution that can be used to secure endpoints throughout your network. CrowdStrike Falcon uses threat intelligence, machine learning, and AI to detect known/unknown malware, ransomware, and malware-free threats.
The platform helps to increase transparency over threats with a process view of cyberattacks. A process tree includes contextual information you can use during the troubleshooting process to remediate a security issue. Detection details are stored for 90 days so that you can dissect security incidents after the event.
To improve your incident response process, CrowdStrike Falcon’s threat intelligence assesses the severity of threats so that you can choose which issues to prioritize. It also provides you with monitoring alerts to notify you about detected threats.
CrowdStrike Falcon is aimed at enterprises that want to secure online and offline endpoints. Prices start at $8.99 (£7.07) per endpoint per month for Falcon Pro. You can start the free trial.
Bitdefender GravityZone Business Security is a top endpoint security provider that leverages AI and machine learning to detect the latest cyber threats. The solution comes with machine learning that uses the Bitdefender Global Protective Network to process malicious file samples gathered from over 500 million endpoints to detect new malware/ransomware attacks.
The solution also protects employees while they browse online by scanning web traffic in real-time and blocking malware from being downloaded. Web filtering lowers the chance of employees being exposed to bogus web pages. There is also an advanced anti-exploit feature that can detect and block exploit attempts including API caller verification and return-oriented-programming.
In addition, a network defense functionality blocks cyberattacks that target vulnerabilities in your network. The network defense feature can stop brute force attacks, password stealers, network exploits, and more. Shutting down these attempts head-on makes sure that users can carry on working unhindered.
Bitdefender GravityZone Business Security is widely regarded as one of the best endpoint security platforms on the market. The price depends on the number of devices and servers you want to support. Prices start from $77.69 (£61.06) for three devices and one server. You can try the free trial.
Sophos Intercept X is another highly-regarded endpoint security solution with malware detection and response capabilities. Sophos Intercept X uses machine learning to detect known and unknown malware. The platform takes threat data from over 100 million endpoints through SophosLabs.
The platform automatically detects threats with machine learning and prioritizes the most important events with the biggest security risk. There are also anti-exploit and anti-ransomware capabilities to limit exposure to threats.
In terms of threat response, Sophos Intercept X can clean up malware and eliminate any malicious code or registry key changes made by the software. The response helps the user to get back to normal operations ASAP, with minimal disruption.
Sophos Intercept X is designed for enterprises that want an advanced threat detection solution to protect endpoints. Sophos Intercept X has a customizable pricing model so you need to contact the sales team for a quote. You can start the 30-day free trial.
Endpoint Security: A Must for IT-Driven Enterprises
If IT plays an integral role in your company, then having a strategy in place to secure endpoints is a must to protect your network from attackers. While adopting endpoint security tools is a good place to start, it’s just the tip of the iceberg, and should be part of a wider strategy of cybersecurity measures and awareness.
To tighten your defenses, your employees need to be aware of all the latest security threats and best practices. Having employees that understand how to secure endpoints, what suspicious activity/threats to look out for, and how to respond in an emergency will enable them to continue their work safely and productively.