Endpoint Security: A Practical Guide
What is Endpoint Security?
With the growth of cloud computing, the prevalence of remote working, and the proliferation of IoT, protecting endpoint devices has become vital to securing company data. Endpoint devices may include mobile and desktop computers, point of sale terminals (POS), cellular phones, industrial devices, and even connected household appliances.
The typical strategy to secure endpoints is to deploy endpoint security software on the devices themselves. This software aims to protect endpoints from malware and risky user behavior, identify anomalous patterns on the endpoint, detect intrusions, and assist security teams in identifying and stopping attacks targeted at endpoints.
Why Is Endpoint Security Important?
Endpoint security is vital in an expanding threat landscape. The primary security goals of an endpoint security system are:
- Protecting all endpoints—the number and types of devices accessing an enterprise’s IT environment are growing rapidly. The data on those devices must be secure against loss or theft, no matter the type of device, its operating system, or location.
- Securing remote working—many employers now either provide employees with mobile devices and even let them bring their own personal devices to work (bring your own device—BYOD). This increases productivity and contributes to employee satisfaction. However, it also increases network vulnerability, which hackers may exploit. Here, endpoint security becomes crucial.
- Sophisticated threat protection—hacking methods have grown in their sophistication. New types of malware have evolved, which can easily evade traditional antivirus. Attackers use advanced social engineering techniques which can fool users into divulging information or performing actions that undermine security. Endpoint security aims to protect against these threats, but, recognizing that breaches will happen, must also provide tools to mitigate and contain security incidents.
- Protecting identity—traditional approaches to protecting an IT perimeter are no longer applicable, now that the perimeter extends far beyond an organization’s network. Security means must be applied to all devices belonging to all employees and third-parties, regardless of time or place the moment a device gains access to corporate systems and data.
Endpoint Security Solutions
Let’s review the three most common technology solutions used for endpoint protection—endpoint protection platforms (EPP), endpoint detection and response (EDR), and eXtended detection and response (XDR).
Endpoint Protection Platform (EPP)
Endpoint protection platforms are deployed on endpoint devices to protect against file-based malware attacks, and identify potentially malicious activity. They investigate, alert, and provide remedial responses to security threats.
Advanced solutions employ multiple detection techniques—ranging from static indicators of compromise (IoCs) to behavioral analysis. Most EPPs are cloud-managed, covering endpoints within the corporate network and those outside the company environment. They are also cloud-data assisted so that the endpoint agent can cross-reference findings against a cloud database of all known IoCs, rather than maintaining a local threat database.
An additional advantage of cloud monitoring is that data collection and remediation are immediate, thanks to continuous monitoring.
Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)
Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) tools, often bundled together with EPP platforms, monitor and record endpoint activity, seeking security risks, such as suspicious behavior, and responding to threats. They work alongside antivirus tools and firewalls, but do not replace them.
Whereas antivirus and firewalls are passive—they protect the end-user device and prevent threats—EDR tools are active. They give security teams the tools to detect and act to mitigate security incidents, as they happen.
EDR solutions track, monitor, and analyze activities and the data passing through endpoints, aggregating it across the enterprise. They can help detect and prevent advanced persistent threats (APTs), in which attackers gain access to an endpoint and use it to perform lateral movement to additional systems, or privilege escalation to gain access to sensitive systems and data.
Extended Detection and Response (XDR)
XDR addresses the problem of highly complex network environments, and the difficulty of correlating and investigating signals from multiple security tools. XDR enhances traditional EDR by extending protection throughout all network layers and application stacks, including cloud infrastructure, SaaS applications, and any network addressable resource.
XDR employs machine learning to combine data from multiple layers of the security stack and identify attacks that span multiple systems in the IT environment. It leverages advanced analysis to filter out the noise that is typical to most organizational networks and identify real security incidents.
XDR transforms event data with contextual information, making it much faster and easier for security teams to investigate incidents. Instead of having to pull and correlate data from multiple security tools, they can see all the pertinent data on one pane of glass. It automates forensic analysis, integrating multiple signals into a ‘big picture’, enabling prompt investigation and increased confidence regarding indicators of compromise (IoC).
4 Key Considerations for Endpoint Security Management
The best tools remain underutilized unless properly configured and comprehensively deployed. To properly protect your endpoints, the following considerations are important:
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
Company policies should restrict the manner in which personal devices serve for business activities. This should include restrictions on storing business data on personal devices and access only through encrypted channels. At a minimum, use virtual private networks (VPNs) to shield traffic and prevent man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks. Preferably, adopt a zero trust approach, as described below.
If you deploy endpoint security agents on BYOD devices, you will need to assume liability for conflicts with personal software installed on the device, and deal with pushback from users. Endpoint security systems may restrict functionality on the device and hurt productivity, or interfere with non-work operations.
Leverage Zero Trust
Zero trust is a new security paradigm rapidly being adopted by security-conscious organizations. A zero trust architecture enables access only to identified users and devices, and even then—only to the level of permissions required to perform a specific task.
With the proliferation of organizational endpoints, zero trust is a highly effective way to minimize the threat surface, while providing employees with the required access to company assets.
Zero trust network access (ZTNA) solutions, commonly used to deploy zero trust, provide centralized policy control. This enables constant assessment of endpoints against access rights, user identities and device configuration, enables easy revocation of privileges, and prevents privilege escalation. ZTNA works with identity and access management (IAM) solutions to automate this process, requiring human intervention only to respond to anomalies.
Keep Systems Updated
According to Data Prot, the number of malware variants has grown to over a billion, with nearly 600,000 new types of malware detected each day. Zero day threats are constantly emerging, making it critical to immediately deploy updates across all enterprise devices and endpoints, applications, firmware, and network environments.
Automated tools can help by pushing updates automatically to endpoints. Zero trust networks can check basic device health/compliance, and prevent users from connecting to corporate resources if their device is not updated.
Shared Security Responsibility in the Cloud
Cloud providers and other third-party providers commonly employ a shared responsibility model for security management. This will usually place responsibility for company data and applications in the hands of the company; in other cases, you will be responsible for everything above the network layer.
Ensure you are aware of this division of responsibilities and employ your service provider’s best practices and tools to secure endpoints. You may employ third-party endpoint security tools, in which case you must ensure that the tools provided integrate with all your systems—both on-premises and in the cloud.
Endpoint Security with Perception Point
Perception Point Advanced Browser Security adds enterprise-grade security to native Chrome and Edge browsers. The managed solution fuses patented web isolation technology with multi-layer advanced threat detection engines which delivers the unprecedented ability to isolate, detect and remediate all malicious threats from the web, including phishing, ransomware, malware, APTs, and more. Untrusted, risky websites and applications are automatically opened and used in the secured browser which is isolated from corporate data and applications. Multi-layered static and dynamic detection capabilities instantly detect and block access to malicious/phishing websites and prevent malicious file downloads of ransomware, malware, and APTs.
The behavior of the secured browser is managed in the cloud, while all of the computing resources run locally on user endpoints. This eliminates the need to invest in a large and costly infrastructure, and provides a better local user experience in terms of speed, along with offline availability.
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