The evolving complexity of information systems is not looking to slow down anytime soon. It is almost impossible to conduct any kind of business without the use of a network device.
While these technological advancements in network devices have revolutionized the way business is conducted, it has also brought profound security implications.
The introduction of IoT further compounds this complexity. It is becoming more apparent that businesses are now reliant on endpoints for their operation, but they need not compromise their security.
This article will discuss managed endpoint security and the tools you can begin to use today to protect your information system better.
What is Managed Endpoint Security?
Even people with limited knowledge of cybersecurity will be familiar with antivirus software. It is almost as if antivirus software was the progenitor of cybersecurity. If we can frame the argument this way, then endpoint protection is the spiritual successor of antivirus software.
Antivirus remains an invaluable tool in endpoint security (as we will see later on). Still, endpoint security as a whole encompasses a wide array of both technical and organizational safeguards.
Before we jump into endpoint security, we must first understand what we mean when referring to endpoints.
Endpoints, as the name suggests, are the “ends” of your information system. Information systems are like spider webs, and each connection point within the web is the endpoint. Below you will find some examples of endpoints.
- Desktop computers
- Mobile Phones/Smart Phones
- IP phones
- Wireless Access Points
- Badge Readers
- IP Locks
- Network Attached Storage Devices
- USB drives
- Virtual Environments
- Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as active WiFi sensors, etc
Due to the diversity of the device ecosystem, endpoint security is vital to enterprises because each endpoint represents potential points of entry for hackers.
“Managed endpoint security” simply means that a security partner, team, or provider actively manages this aspect of security. Some might think that installing antivirus software on their devices is all that is needed to ensure endpoint security.
However, this is no longer the case. Like other elements of cybersecurity, the increasingly complex information environments lend to an increasingly tricky threat landscape. These factors equate to a necessity for more actively managed security.
How Does Endpoint Security Work?
Endpoint security is a mixture of technical and organizational safeguards. It involves protecting network devices with the appropriate software while also encouraging the proper use of the instruments from staff.
Later on, we will explore what tools you can employ to help you manage endpoint security.
The Difference Between Network Security and Endpoint Security
There may be some confusion between network security and endpoint security. The confusion arises since endpoints operate on a network. However, while endpoints use a network, the actual defense of the network involves different strategies and tools.
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For example, in network security, the primary goal is perimeter protection, ensuring that no unwanted internet traffic makes its way into the corporate network. With endpoint protection, the goal is to protect the device itself.
This device-level protection is more micro-intensive than network security (which you could consider macro-intensive). However, you might still see some similarities with the tools that each discipline employs, like firewalls.
Corporate firewalls are an excellent example of network security, but each device, namely laptops and computers, will also have its firewall. The corporate firewall will ensure outside traffic doesn’t make its way into the information system, while the firewall on the endpoint protects at the device level.
What Does Endpoint Security Look Like?
Generally, management of endpoint security is performed by a team (either in-house or outsourced) through a centralized platform.
The kind of things you can expect to see in endpoint security are:
- Endpoint firewalls
- Kernel-level event analysis
- Endpoint detection and response
- Virtual private networks (VPN)
- Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions
- Email Filtering
- Web Filtering
Consumer endpoint security is usually configured by the user for each endpoint, while an enterprise solution will generally offer endpoint security administration from a centralized dashboard.
This centralized dashboard then controls endpoint security on all devices connected to the organizational network.
Considering all this, you will still need to find the right tool for the job, and endpoint security tools should match your organization’s needs.
Endpoint security in Action
Endpoint security, like many other disciplines in cybersecurity, requires a strategy for implementation and maintenance.
Implementing endpoint security is relatively straightforward once you understand your information system and all its moving parts.
We have broken down endpoint security implementation into two categories, technical and organizational measures.
Technical Tools For Endpoint Security
Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR): EDR is an emerging technology synonymous with Security Information and Events Management (SIEM) software. It works similarly to SIEM in so far as detecting threats but on an endpoint level.
Unlike an antivirus that protects the endpoint, EDR is used to detect threats that could affect all endpoints connected to your information system.
Antivirus and malware: antivirus has historically been the go-to endpoint security tool. Virtually any computer bought today will come with some form of antivirus preinstalled. While a great endpoint security tool, attackers are still breaching antivirus, and it doesn’t seem to slow them down, at least not the creative ones.
The reason for this is because antivirus generally operates on a signature-based approach, meaning it will defend your system against known threats. Once registered by the system, a security threat triggers the anti-virus to create a signature for the threat and stop it when it has noticed it in the device.
For personal devices, this works well enough, but enterprise solutions require something a bit more proactive, and endpoint protection platforms might fill that gap.
However, before jumping into endpoint protection platforms, we should stress that antivirus software is still a much-needed solution and requires implementation at the device level as an extra layer of security.
Endpoint Protection Platforms (EPP): this is more suited to an enterprise environment and incorporates the tools mentioned above into one elegant solution.
EPPs don’t stray too far from traditional endpoint protection software, but they can help in the incident response aspect of endpoint security. By employing machine learning, many of these platforms improve with use.
Below you will see a list of recommended EPPs; not all are created equal, and some might fit your business needs better, so do your due diligence when choosing an EPP.
- Malwarebytes Endpoint Protection
- Symantec Endpoint Protection
- Kaspersky Endpoint Security Cloud
You don’t have to have an EPP for your endpoint security, but many businesses that are not technical savvy may benefit from an all-in-one solution.
However, a Managed Security Service Provider might help you even more if you find yourself in this situation.
You get a complete security package with a tailored approach that compliments your security needs for the extra cost.
Firewalls: although firewalls were mentioned previously as a network security tool, it still is an effective tool to implement at the device level. While a next-gen firewall is excellent at blocking unwanted traffic at a corporate network level, devices such as laptops and workstations benefit immensely from device-level firewalls.
They act as an extra layer of protection when malware slips through the network firewall. Most personal computers you buy nowadays have a preinstalled firewall provided by the operating system maker (i.e., Windows defender or Macintosh security and privacy settings).
Virtual Private Networks (VPN): many consumers already employ VPNs for private browsing on their devices. Some might use it for reasons of privacy, others so they can watch Netflix from another country.
A VPN is usually a service provided by a company that encapsulates and transmits network data. It allows you to mask, among other things, your Internet Protocol (IP) address from onlookers. They are also used to hide your browsing from your internet service provider or bad actors that might want to see what website you are visiting.
However, an important thing to note is that some VPN providers can still see everything you are doing. Unless you have set up the VPN on your servers, there is no way to truly guarantee its security or privacy.
For example, one of the more prominent VPN providers, Nord VPN, which offers both consumer, and business VPNs, suffered a data breach in October 2019 (that is when Nord made the breach announcement. The actual breach may have occurred in March 2018).
Fortunately for the service users, NordVPN is a “no logs” VPN provider, and their server, located in Finland, did not contain activity logs, usernames, or passwords.
However, this is still a reason for concern as they are a security provider, and suffering a data breach is a severe issue for any business looking to protect their endpoints.
Like any other security provider, it is your responsibility to ensure that the company you choose applies best-practice security; otherwise, you put your business and possibly your clients at risk.
Security Incident and Events Management (SIEM): while not directly linked to endpoint protection, you should integrate your SIEM with all endpoints on the information system. While EDR, mentioned above, is still in a nascent development phase, a SIEM is traditionally used for threat detection and prevention.
Essentially, it will be calibrated to the “behavior” of your information system and alert you of any suspicious activity.
We have a wealth of information on our blog about SIEM, where we detail how a SIEM works and how to use one effectively.
Organizational Tools For Endpoint Security
While in most cases, endpoint protection involves the application of technical safeguards; ; it is just as essential to protect the users from themselves. We mean that even with the most sophisticated security solutions, a user can still jeopardize the organization’s security through a lack of security awareness.
Suppose you have implemented all the technical tools mentioned above.
You have a great threat detection system, a centralized security dashboard, and a way to protect your systems from the latest malware threats. Still, if one of your staff’s administrative account passwords is “qwerty123”, all your sophisticated software will not protect you from a brute force attack that will crack the password in nanoseconds.
This example of simplistic password use is what we mean by protecting the users from themselves. Not all staff have security experience and generally do things that afford the most convenience, without thinking about the implications.
Businesses will have to implement organizational safeguards, usually in policies, to combat this problem.
Below you will find some examples of organizational policies that can help inform your endpoint protection strategy:
- Password Management Policy: This policy ensures that no weak passwords are used to access endpoint devices.
- Physical Security Policy: your organization should clearly outline areas within the building suitable for public visitation and those restricted areas accessible only for authorized personnel. Simple solutions such as these should limit the access attackers have to endpoints such as servers and workstations.
- Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Security Policy. With the increase in remote-working and a slow change in the office environment post-covid-19, we will likely see more employees using their own devices to carry out business operations. There are some pros and cons that come with BYOD, but a security-savvy organization will anticipate this and plan accordingly.
- Acceptable Use Policy (AUP): an AUP is a policy document that dictates how network users can interact with the network. Organizations, like universities, will often implement them to stop students and other users from downloading unauthorized third-party apps on workstations. The AUP can include many requirements, such as what is unacceptable (like transmission of offensive material). But within the scope of endpoint protection, you will want to have things like what type of software can be installed and what kind of apps are prohibited.
Benefits To Managed Endpoint Security
With the tools listed in this article, developing and maintaining an endpoint security strategy is possible.
But without the proper assets, in-house security can be a costly, resource-intensive endeavor. However, with an MSSP, you curb the costs while still getting the top-shelf security that your organization needs.
Managed endpoint security is the practice of endpoint security that is maintained and implemented by a security provider. There are some critical benefits to managed endpoint security that you should consider.
Leveraging Industry Knowledge and Experience
A good MSSP will live and breathe security. By keeping up to date on all the latest threats, security technology, and industry best-practice standards, they can distill that experience into a clean and straightforward implementation that will fit your business needs.
A reliable and effective MSSP will ultimately save you time and increase your long-term security resilience, especially when done through partnership.
The Right Craftsman for the Right Tool
Some organizations will give the responsibility of security to their IT departments. While IT professionals are highly competent people who surely know their field, security is a specialty where the tools available are much more effective when wielded by an MSSP.
The technical and organizational tools for endpoint security can be more thoroughly managed and implemented by an MSSP. They will know how to maximize the potential of the instrument, giving you the best possible security.
Make RSI Security Your MSSP
The security environment is dynamic, and with dynamic environments, you need a navigator. RSI Security is the nation’s premier cybersecurity provider. We have the experience to chart a course to security success.
Leverage our network and skills so that you can sleep a little easier at night; enlisting us as your managed endpoint security provider, schedule a consultation here.