Over recent years, there have been major changes to the way employees work. Whilst hybrid and remote work is now commonplace, not all businesses have taken appropriate measures to secure their workforce. The changes to the workplace model have also facilitated changes to the ways that cybercriminals target organisations. In order for businesses to protect themselves from these advancements in attack methods, they need to implement layers of security. One of the final layers is endpoint security. In this article, we will discuss the importance of endpoint security, how it works and how it compares to a traditional antivirus solution
An endpoint is any device that is connected to a network or IT system. This includes laptops, mobile phones, desktops, IoT devices, servers and virtual environments. Endpoint security is important as endpoints can be points of entry for cybercriminals. If a hacker gains access to an endpoint and executes malicious code, they can potentially access private data or launch a larger attack. In the past, endpoint security was primarily focused on antivirus solutions, but as the threat landscape has changed, the scope for endpoint security has broadened with an emphasis on user behaviour.
One of the greatest security challenges that businesses face in 2022 is a constantly expanding attack surface. Whilst in the past businesses had to secure their physical location and a handful of devices within, including servers, desktops, network devices and printers. As employees started working from home, this expanded the attack surface to include their home network and home devices that can access company files. These are all potential entry points for cybercriminals, and with employees working from home, the business has less visibility of them, increasing cyber risk.
If one of these endpoints is vulnerable, it can lead to a variety of cyberattacks, including ransomware or a data breach. Cyberattacks such as these can be difficult for businesses to recover from, both in terms of the cost of remediation, as well as the damage to their reputation. For this reason, it is clear that businesses should be investing in endpoint security as one of their layers of security.
There are many endpoint protection solutions, or Endpoint Protection Platforms (EPPs) available on the market, each with its own set of features. However, most solutions aim to manage threats and vulnerabilities, reduce the attack surface, provide endpoint detection and response, and auto investigation and remediation.
For threat and vulnerability management, the EPP checks each endpoint for known software vulnerabilities, as well as aggregating application, operating system, network, account and security control data to view how secure the device is. It will also recommend what actions the IT administrator or IT provider should take to improve security.
Endpoint protection solutions reduce the attack surface through the configuration of rules that target certain software behaviours. Some of these behaviours may include launching executable files and scripts or performing behaviours that apps don’t typically initiate. Reducing the attack surface makes it less likely that the endpoint can be targeted by a cybercriminal.
Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) is one of the key technologies within an endpoint protection solution. It works by detecting attacks based on endpoint behaviour, including process information, network activities, user login activities, file system changes and more. These abnormal behaviours can be detected in near real-time, allowing for either manual or automatic live response capabilities. As EDR uses behavioural-based classification, it is also possible for it to detect zero-day threats, before they cause greater issues.
Many EPPs can also complete automated investigation and remediation. Therefore, once a potential threat is found, the solution can perform automated remediation actions, such as sending a file to quarantine, stopping a service, removing a scheduled task and more. This greatly reduces the chance of a business falling victim to a cyberattack whilst there are no IT administrators actively checking the system.
Whilst traditional antivirus solutions share some similarities with modern Endpoint Protection Platforms, as they both aim to secure endpoints, modern EPPs are substantially more powerful. The key way that the two differ is that traditional antivirus solutions use signature-based detection to find malicious executables and files. This is effective in protecting against known malware, however, it offers no protection against zero-day exploits and is not effective unless the software is regularly updated. Whereas an Endpoint Detection Platform can protect against zero-day exploits with behavioural detection.
Also, EPPs offer stronger protection as they make use of more data points. A traditional anti-virus solution is only checking for files and applications, and if it finds something malicious it will quarantine it. An EPP checks for files and applications, as well as other data points, such as the operating system, the network, account information, and security controls. This enhances visibility over all endpoints within a business and greatly reduces the chance of falling victim to most cyber attacks.
Endpoint security should be a major component of any business’s cybersecurity strategy. However, it should not be the only consideration. In order for a business to reduce their cyber risk as much as possible, they should have a multi-layered security solution. Contact us today to find out more about how we can protect your endpoints and more.