June 17th, 2021 by admin
Although every endpoint represents a potential target for cybercriminals, those containing sensitive data pose the biggest threat. With more users now working remotely and more information stored on local machines, the threat has increased exponentially. Endpoints are considered to be the most vulnerable part of the network. Without the right kind of protection, hackers can exploit these network-connected devices without raising any suspicion or utilizing too many resources. With that said, organizations should now be including endpoint security as a critical component of their overall cyber security strategy.
What Is Endpoint Security?
Endpoint security is the practice of securing end-user devices against cyberattacks. Devices like computers, laptops, mobile phones and servers are all considered to be endpoints. Each are an entry point of any network. Endpoint security solutions identify system vulnerabilities, protect systems from attacks and ensure that organizations are able to actively mitigate a breach. Over the years, endpoint security has evolved from basic antivirus solutions and firewalls to next-generation solutions that employ artificial intelligence algorithms, advanced automation technologies and predictive analytics software.
Why Endpoint Protection Is Important
End user devices and applications have quickly become a critical security concern for all organizations. Any device with access to your corporate network resources is a potential target for hackers. IT security teams have to deal with the emerging trends of mobile and remote work environments, employees who are bringing their own devices (BYOD) as well as an ever-growing number of networked and internet-connected devices.
According to Ponemon Institute research, almost 60% of all large-scale attacks suffered originated from endpoints. These attacks have continued to grow substantially over the last five years and have expanded significantly in targeting small and medium-sized organizations.
When it comes to securing endpoints, external attacks are most often viewed as the obvious threat, but insider threats are also a big problem. Insider threats can range from employees who disable or intentionally manipulate applications that secure data and devices, to careless or malicious employee behavior. In all cases, these kinds of employee behavior can put critical information at risk and cause malware infection, damaged drivers and registry files, or disabled services.
Given that a single infection on any given laptop can open the door to a full-scale network breach, here are a few key steps that can be taken to better secure endpoints:
Tips to Boost Endpoint Security
- Identify all connected endpoints. All endpoints in the network should be protected. The first step in securing endpoints is identifying and inventorying all devices and assessing their vulnerabilities. Once you have this information, you can restrict network access to only approved devices and prioritize the most risky and sensitive endpoints.
- Develop and enforce a data access policy. There are many organizations that don't have even basic protocols in place for data storage, access, and use. To secure information data classification levels have to be established. For example, data can be classified as public (e.g., press releases), restricted (e.g., customer orders) or critical (e.g., intellectual property, accounting and HR data) in terms of its access. From there an organization should define which employees and departments can access each type of data. This can be done with user authentication procedures. Any breach of the established security protocols established should trigger a real-time alert of an IT manager or administrator.
- IoT Security. Internet-connected devices are everywhere in the workplace and can include printers, smart desks, video conferencing systems and intelligent HVAC systems. All too often these “intelligent systems” have default settings and passwords, which make them an easy target for attackers. To limit this vulnerability, change default passwords, promptly apply software updates, and implement a schedule to maintain the hardware and firmware of all your systems and computers. Windows users, for example, can use automatic deployment rules (ADR) to update or patch their computers.
- Data encryption. Encrypt critical and restricted data stored on premise, on mobile devices or in the cloud. You can encrypt entire hard drives or specific files, depending on your needs. In addition, to secure data in transit, update all web communication to secure HTTPS protocols. Encrypt all emails containing sensitive date and employ Virtual Private Networks (VPN) for providing access to the corporate network for remote users.
- Advanced and automated endpoint protection. Basic solutions for endpoint protection such as antivirus and firewalls have been around for many years. While antivirus is a good foundational way to help catch known threats, most struggle to detect zero-day threats or the most current and sophisticated type of malware. Firewalls are also another important foundational security tool, but also have their own limitations. To augment these systems, it's critical to also employ advanced endpoint detection tools. Advanced endpoint protection solutions use AI-based intelligence and automation to continually adjust to ever-evolving threats like fileless malware and phishing attacks.
- Develop and enforce a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. A BYOD policy establishes the level of support an IT department will provide for employee-owned computers, smartphones and tablets that are used in conjunction with the corporate network. It can include a list of authorized devices and applications, the data they can access, and the websites they can visit. To provide a better level of security, access to sensitive information should only be permitted using a company-owned device equipped with enterprise-quality security solutions, authorized applications and message encryption features.
- Security awareness. The common thread for some of the most dangerous threats today is your employees. Cybercriminals know that people can provide one of the best attack surfaces for their exploits; and their tactics are constantly changing. Implementing security awareness training provides employees information about how to identify information security threats and explains your company's policies and procedures for addressing them. Security awareness training is most impactful when approached as a critical ongoing practice in the context of a bigger security awareness program. The training and the program are integral to building a culture of security in modern, digitally dependent organizations.
Protecting Endpoints is the New Tipping Point
It's been well documented that, with nearly all ransomware, employees and end users are often the easiest way into an organization's internal systems and data. Every organization, large or small, is now in the cross-hairs of cybercriminals and susceptible to attack via phishing schemes or malware infused spam. Getting just one user in an organization to open a malicious attachment on their endpoint can be a weak link in even the most carefully executed security strategy. Using the above-mentioned steps can significantly improve security on network endpoints and, in turn, the entire network. If you're interested in learning more about how to implement any or all of these steps, feel free to reach out to our endpoint solutions team for more information.