Today’s enterprises must keep pace with technology to protect their assets—especially any confidential data—from cyberthreats. But this is becoming increasingly difficult due to the number of devices that connect to an organization’s network. This raises notable concerns over endpoint protection.
Endpoint protection—also known as endpoint security—refers to the security measures taken to address threats faced by network endpoints, which are devices such as servers, workstations, laptops, and mobile devices.
Why is it called endpoint protection?
Enterprises implement several security measures to protect their central servers, which are crucial to the operation and sustainability of the company. At the same time, endpoint devices that connect to the central server are the prime targets for cybercriminals; once compromised, an endpoint can allow a hacker to gain access to your network.
Endpoints pose a significant security risk because they have access to both the central server and the outside world. Thus, any flaw or gap in their security can lead to loss of crucial data from the server.
To reduce the likelihood of such data loss, enterprises have to undertake several measures to protect their endpoints as well as the overall network.
Why is endpoint security important?
A typical workplace is very dynamic; corporations are increasingly integrating practices that make data access easier, such as bring-your-own-device policies or remote access.
While these measures are necessary for a modern, optimized workforce, they can lead to potential security threats that can take down your entire system.
The inclusion of personal smart phones and laptops, coupled with the connection to insecure public and home Wi-Fi networks, means that a typical enterprise network security perimeter is prone to more threats than ever.
Despite this, research into endpoint security reveals that the corporate world has still not adopted policies to effectively combat this issue. The Ponemon Institute conducted a study on the topic titled The Cost Of Insecure Endpoints, which revealed:
- Out of all the organizations surveyed, only 48% were dissatisfied or disappointed with their endpoint security measures in place.
- Despite this, inspections revealed that up to 55% of the organizations are vulnerable to a data breach that could result in the loss of sensitive information.
- Ineffective endpoint protection is costing companies more than $6 million a year on average in breach detection, response and wasted time.
Another study revealed how cyber attacks grew by 328% over the course of 2017—in other words, the average computer faced more than three attacks per month. When considered from an organizational perspective, this could translate to multiple attacks per day across hundreds of endpoints.
What constitutes a good endpoint protection plan?
With 60% of cyber attacks originating from devices inside your organization, your current infrastructure should provide advanced endpoint protection to ensure the safety of data.
With multiple endpoint security options available, it is important to remember that comprehensive protection involves much more than just installing anti-virus software.
Here are four features that are crucial to a good security plan:
1. Policy management
Effective endpoint protection allows organizations to define a set of rules regarding who gets to access the company server, the permissions for each user, and exceptions for overriding these protocols. Additionally, it should also provide you with the option to customize policies for every device and set guidelines for special cases requiring greater access.
In case of a protocol override, the ideal endpoint solution should have several measures in place, such as alarms and alerts. Moreover, it should provide an audit trail that allows administrators to trace unauthorized access to the compromised endpoint.
To round it off, a good endpoint solution should have a policy management component comprising:
- The option to customize device policies.
- The option to customize user policies.
- Policies in place for protocol overrides.
2. Patch management
Patches are used to fix potential system vulnerabilities that, if exploited, could pave the way for unauthorized access and potential loss of data.
The ideal endpoint solution should include a patch management component that resolves such weak areas in your network, allowing you to repair each vulnerability as it’s detected.
Here are the components of comprehensive patch management:
- Support for the discovery of vulnerabilities in various endpoint operating systems and apps
- Guidelines for creating and deploying patches to remote devices
- Patch deployment process
- The ability to schedule and prioritize patches
3. Centralized management and configuration system
The key aspect of managing every network endpoint is to have centralized control over every connected device. This comes in very handy, particularly in the case of an emergency in case you may need to lock down or shut off a device.
With a single security management dashboard, administrators can create and edit policies, get timely alerts about suspicious activity, schedule mass updates, and analyze the usage history for each endpoint. Other features include:
- Management for exceptions
- Control over applications
- Live security updates
- Remote installation and updating of security software
- Controls to manage scalability
4. Advanced device control
Once you’ve admitted an endpoint device to the system, your work is half done. Securing the endpoint already entails tracking it—but what about external devices connected to the endpoint?
Advanced device control allows organizations to monitor external devices, such as those connected through USB ports. Some systems may also provide the capability to monitor local disks, CD drives, Bluetooth connections, and cloud storage.
This means that you can grant system access to certain types of devices, such as a USB-connected mouse but not a USB-connected hard drive.
Also, such control supports the encryption of data that is exported outside trusted devices. Without the encryption key, hackers can’t actually access the data they stole, essentially rendering it useless. Advanced device control includes:
- Support and monitoring of multiple devices.
- Enforcing access control over USB-mounted devices.
- Enforcing company policies across all workstations and endpoints.
- Allowing for the transfer of encrypted data outside the network.
- Support for logging endpoint device activity, even when a device is offline.
Endpoint security in a nutshell
For MSPs, protecting their client’s endpoints is key to keeping their data secure. As hackers continue to target confidential company data, it is important to secure every device connected to the central network to avoid data breaches.
A good MSP security offering should include endpoint protection alongside other solutions, such as a backup and disaster recovery program. Not only does this fortify the network against unauthorized access, but it also ensures that you have a secure backup that can minimize losses in the event that a data breach occurs.
Not sure where to get started? Our Security Foundation Assessment can help you take stock of your (or your clients’!) current security posture and provide recommendations for what you can do to improve it.