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In business cybersecurity, a network endpoint is any electronic asset that is connected to the business’ network and transmits/receives data. Some examples of network endpoints include computers, smartphones, tablets, IoT devices, and point of sale (POS) terminals.
To protect these network endpoints, organizations need strong endpoint security. What is endpoint security? Moreover, how can managed endpoint security help your organization?
What is Endpoint Security?
Endpoint security is a term that can cover many different types of software programs, hardware systems, and other tools designed to secure individual assets on a network.
As noted by a CSO Online article, endpoint security “might sound like a fancy name for putting a firewall and antivirus software on your PC, and indeed in the early days of the category there was some suspicion that it was a marketing buzzphrase to make antivirus offerings sound cutting edge.”
Business endpoint security aims to protect the business’ network by securing these devices as much as possible. This security can take many forms, including:
- Per-Endpoint Firewalls
- Kernel-Level Event Analysis
- Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)
- Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)
- Mobile Device Management (MDM) Solutions
This differs from traditional network security, which tends to focus on perimeter protections.
Most modern business endpoint security vendors provide solutions that have a centralized dashboard to administrate from, rather than making businesses try to manage the security solution from each asset individually. The benefit of administering enterprise endpoint security solutions from a single central server is that organizations can ensure each endpoint has the same level of protection with ease.
This is different from the consumer model of endpoint security, which is generally configured from each individual asset. These “device protection” tools tend to be more limited in capability as well—largely because they’re configured for ease of use on an individual user or asset level rather than providing the best cybersecurity customization and workflow integration.
Strong network endpoint security helps to keep businesses safe against cyberattacks. However, many organizations lack the expertise and resources to effectively protect their endpoint devices.
To better protect their security endpoints, many businesses opt to use managed endpoint security services. How does managed endpoint security help an organization?
What Should My Endpoint Security Solutions Look Like?
Considering how important endpoint security measures can be for blunting cyberattacks against a business’ network, it’s important to verify that any such tools can meet the organization’s needs. Older, more traditional endpoint security tools provide a starting point, but modern cyber threats demand a next-gen response. With this in mind, here are a few things to watch out for when assessing your own organization’s endpoint security:
Does the Organization Use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)?
Endpoint security VPN helps to anonymize traffic from within the organization and to make remote workers’ connections more secure as well. VPNs can vary in capability depending on the endpoint security vendor—some may have a larger impact on connection speed than others; some might have better user experience (UX) customization; and some might have multi-factor authentication built in to enhance security, etc.
How Easy Are the Endpoint Security Measures to Manage?
Having a centralized dashboard for managing the endpoint security measures the business uses is massively important because it impacts the UX for the whole organization and how security updates/patches can be applied to each network security solution. In fact, many organizations now use software-as-a-service (SaaS) endpoint security software because of how easy it makes managing network security.
Has the Organization Accounted for Its IoT Devices?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a term that covers many so-called “smart” devices, such as Wi-Fi refrigerators, smart lights, Wi-Fi speakers, printers—almost anything and everything that can connect to the internet and be controlled remotely without being an input device. These IoT devices can be a blind spot in many organization’s endpoint security strategies—a blind spot that cybercriminals have leveraged to run attacks against business networks in the past. An endpoint security strategy that does not cover the IoT devices on the network is an incomplete strategy.
Does the Endpoint Security Tool Check for File-Less Exploits?
File-less attacks target vulnerabilities in default OS tools (such as Window’s PowerShell) to carry out malicious activity. Because there’s no actual malware involved, there’s no malware data signature to detect. So, many of these file-less attacks go undetected by traditional endpoint security tools. To counter file-less attacks, endpoint security tools need to be able to monitor user behaviors to identify unusual activity on the endpoint. Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) tools often offer a solution for tracking user behaviors to identify activity that falls outside normal patterns.
Is Data or Communications for Each Endpoint Encrypted?
Encryption of data in storage or in transmission might not stop an attack, but it can help keep attackers from being able to put stolen data to use before the organization has a chance to notify any affected parties and take measures to minimize the damage caused by a data breach.
Does the Organization’s Endpoint Security Leverage Big Data Tools?
In a modern threat environment, endpoint security tools that only look at a single endpoint just aren’t enough. Modern endpoint detection and response solutions look at all activity on every endpoint in the organization to establish “normal” behaviors and detect unusual activity in real time.
How Does the Organization’s Current Endpoint Security Impact Network Performance?
Endpoint security software and solutions such as encryption, VPNs, or even particularly stringent firewalls can all have an impact on the performance of the network. This can lead to slowdowns and disconnects that may be inconvenient or even reduce productivity.
How Many Endpoint Security Vendors Does the Organization Have to Use?
Considering the diverse nature of the cyber threats that organizations face, it isn’t unusual for an organization to end up working with many different endpoint security vendors to enhance their network security architecture. However, having too many vendors can make managing endpoint security software difficult and time-consuming. So, it’s important to periodically review the different endpoint security vendors the organization is using and assess if any of them are redundant, or if there aren’t other solution providers out there who could provide the benefits of multiple tools in one solution.
What Should I Look for in My Endpoint Security Tools?
With countless endpoint security tools being released each year with wildly different technologies, it can be difficult to find the right endpoint security measures for your own network. To help you evaluate your endpoint security tools, here is a list of things that Compuquip looks for:
Kernel-Level Analysis of Events
If you don’t have a background in computer science, you might be wondering what a kernel is. In most operating systems, the kernel is one of the first programs the computer loads on startup. It acts as a kind of intermediary between applications and the CPU/memory/devices on a system to manage resources, memory, and devices.
The issue with kernels is that they are programs that have an incredibly high permissions level on the system—they need to process input/output, make requests of the CPU, and perform other tasks, after all. Normally, the code of the kernel is isolated and protected from being accessed by other programs.
However, if infected with malware, the kernel can pose a serious cybersecurity threat. As noted by SecurityIntelligence.com, “Once in the kernel, very few security technologies have visibility into kernel-mode malware behavior… attackers can essentially take safe refuge in the kernel.”
To counteract these kernel-level attacks, it’s important to have endpoint security tools that can analyze events at the kernel level to alert you to them.
Robust Endpoint Detection and Response Capabilities
Endpoint detection and response, or EDR, is defined by Carbon Black as a way to “collect, record, and store large volumes of data from endpoint activities to provide security professionals with the comprehensive visibility they need to detect, investigate, and mitigate advanced cyber threats.”
That definition may sound similar to what a security information and event management (SIEM) tool does. However, there is a difference in scope and focus between EDR and SIEM tools—EDR focuses on each individual endpoint while SIEM creates a kind of dashboard for checking security information from multiple sources.
Security tools with robust EDR capabilities can provide strong insight into attacks that impact individual endpoints, which can help organizations prepare for future attacks.
Definition-Based AND Machine Learning-Based Detections
Machine learning, or the ability to teach systems to recognize patterns and take actions based on those patterns, is a major driver of modern network security solutions—particularly SIEM solutions that leverage “big data” to analyze network activity. The (incredibly oversimplified) idea is that a machine learning system can, over time, “learn” to recognize patterns in activities that indicate active cyber threats.
Definition-based (i.e. “signature-based”) detection methods use known signatures (such as known malware threat signals) to define malicious activity to detect it and generate an automated response.
Compuquip looks for network and device protection solutions that use both methodologies to detect malware and intrusion attempts. Because, while machine learning is valuable, it can also generate false positives or miss malicious activity until it has been sufficiently “trained” to recognize malicious activity.
Cloud-Based Management for “On-the-Go” Protection
The “cloud” is becoming more ubiquitous in modern network security tools, often being used to deploy security solutions as a service or to deliver the infrastructure needed to host them. Cloud-based management for endpoint security tools can make managing these tools more convenient for users on the go—allowing them to check their security event dashboards and adjust settings from almost anywhere they have an internet connection.
Additionally, being able to manage endpoint security settings from the cloud allows for simplified security device management in general. Instead of having to physically log into each endpoint to make changes, users can create custom settings for entire groups of IT assets and enforce changes from the cloud.
Light Performance Footprint
One thing that many seekers of endpoint security tools forget (and what some vendors forget to mention) is the performance impact their solutions will have on the assets being detected. Different security devices will have different levels of impact on the performance of the assets they're designed to protect.
Ideally, Compuquip tries to find a set of endpoint security tools that will provide the maximum possible protection while having a minimal impact on the performance of the customer’s network assets. This is important because it is not beneficial to a business to provide absolute data security at the cost of not being able to process any transactions.
If there is an intrusion attempt detected by the security information and event management solution, can the endpoint security tool interface with it to provide a near-instant cybersecurity response? Being able to integrate with SIEM tools can massively improve speed of response—as it creates an automated response that triggers immediately instead of having to wait for a network security team member to manually trigger intrusion countermeasures.
When companies can combine endpoint security measures with an SIEM solution, they can stop, contain, and eliminate security breaches much faster and more reliably.
The Benefits of Managed Endpoint Protection Services
One common question that many of Compuquip’s customers have asked in the past is whether they should use managed endpoint security services or manage their EDR entirely in-house. There are arguments for either setup.
Using in-house staff often means having the greatest control of your endpoint security. However, it can also be difficult and cost-prohibitive to do.
Meanwhile, there are many benefits to using managed endpoint security to protect your business from modern cyber threats, including:
Reducing Labor Spent On Managing Endpoint Security Measures
The first, and most obvious, benefit of using managed endpoint security services is that they reduce the burden of labor needed to manage security. Rather than rationing out limited IT team resources to managing endpoint security (on top of their normal duties), you can rely on the managed security service provider (MSSP) to handle the minutiae of endpoint protection—freeing up your IT team to focus on tasks that will drive your organization’s primary goals.
Getting Instant Access to a Team of Cybersecurity Experts
Using an MSSP’s managed endpoint protection services gives you immediate access to that service provider’s experts. These experts will often have experience in dealing with cybersecurity issues that your own internal IT team has yet to gain. This experience can prove crucial for identifying potential vulnerabilities in your network endpoint protections—which allows these experts to fix security gaps that might otherwise be missed. In fact, because the MSSP works with other companies, they can often apply lessons learned from attacks against other organizations to your own network endpoint security measures.
Simplifying Management of Security Updates
Keeping the software on your network endpoints up to date is a key part of business endpoint security. MSSPs frequently have considerable experience in auditing business networks to identify systems with out-of-date or vulnerable software. When the MSSP is in charge of network endpoint security, they can often easily keep the software on security endpoints up to date with the latest security patches—or alert you if the software has major unpatched vulnerabilities so you can find an alternative solution.
Reducing the Cost of Endpoint Security Management
Hiring extra IT staff with cybersecurity expertise to manage endpoint security internally is cost-prohibitive for many organizations. A single cybersecurity expert’s annual salary can easily reach six figures. With an MSSP, you get access to an entire team of cybersecurity experts for a fraction of the cost of hiring them internally. This helps to provide superior endpoint security management while saving money.
Gaining Access to the MSSP’s Threat Intelligence Feeds
New cyber threats emerge every day. Falling behind on threat intelligence can lead to disastrous consequences. However, with managed endpoint protection services, you get access to the MSSP’s threat intelligence feeds—which helps ensure you’re prepared for the latest cyber threats and attack strategies.
Optimizing Endpoint Security Measures for Both Security and User Experience
Balancing network security and user experience (UX) is one of the oldest challenges in cybersecurity. Strong security is important, but if the UX suffers, then people will either avoid using those assets (which is a major problem for customer-facing apps/APIs) or try to find ways to circumvent the security measures. Experienced MSSPs can help you find network endpoint security systems that maximize your cybersecurity without adversely impacting UX and network performance.
Managed endpoint protection services can be a game-changer for your organization’s network security. Want to learn more about how you can optimize your endpoint security? Reach out to the Compuquip Cybersecurity team now to discover how you can protect your business from modern cyber threats.
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