Endpoint Security

Today’s endpoint security must manage the chaos of a never-ending list of endpoint devices, all connecting to your organization’s infrastructure and accessing sensitive data. This is the challenge that the best cyber security companies are working to solve. How do you constantly monitor for any changes in the security posture of connected devices and keep everything secure?

What Is Endpoint Security?

Endpoint security is a form of cybersecurity designed to protect devices, or endpoints, that connect to your systems and infrastructure to do work.

Examples of common endpoints include:

  • Laptops
  • Smartphones/mobile devices
  • Tablets
  • IoT-enabled or connected devices
  • Point-of-Sale (POS) systems

All of these endpoints are potential targets for malicious activity. Viruses, malware, business email compromise, account takeovers--all are possible with unsecured endpoints.

Before the dominance of cloud computing and remote work, security teams were most concerned about security breaches that came in through the enterprise network. However, today’s threats are coming in most often through compromised endpoints. With attacks becoming more sophisticated, it’s clear that the current approach to centralized network protection doesn’t go far enough. The challenge is defining a constantly shifting security perimeter, and then protecting it with layers of security through endpoint protection.

Why Is Endpoint Security important?

Businesses of all sizes are at risk of compromised endpoints. By design, endpoints are easy targets for cyberattacks because these devices don’t have the same level of protection as on-site devices such as desktop computers. And, with the rise of remote working, new endpoints are being added to your organization’s perimeter daily. Mobile devices, particularly in a BYOD scenario, aren’t always under the complete control of your security team. Unless your security admin team has the ability to check each mobile device multiple times a day to ensure its security posture, it can be challenging to know for sure that your data is protected.

Endpoint security is the frontline of cybersecurity and the first place organizations should look to secure their enterprise networks and reduce risk.

What Is Endpoint Management?

Endpoint management is the process of managing and securing all endpoints that access or store data in an organization. In most cases, this is achieved using a unified endpoint management platform. A successful endpoint management strategy is one that works around the clock to ensure the best possible security posture for all endpoints. Endpoint management involves continuously evaluating, assigning, and overseeing access rights to all endpoints across the entire organization.

In many organizations, endpoint management is a shared responsibility of a cross-functional team of network administrators and information security (infosec) professionals. The most effective endpoint management solution must include the ability to:

  • Control access: Ensure that only authenticated, approved devices can connect to the enterprise network
  • Measure security policy compliance: Enforces all related security policies for all approved devices, regardless of location
  • Deliver complete visibility: Via a centralized dashboard or console for your infosec team to view, in real-time, all endpoint devices and manage activity
  • Control, configure and maintain endpoints: Configure endpoint protection on devices remotely, ensure software upgrades are regularly maintained on each device

What are some common Endpoint Security risks?

Data leakage, loss, or theft can happen, whether at the network or endpoint level. However, endpoints are typically more susceptible to attacks or other forms of data loss. For example, intentional or accidental exposure of company data by an employee is more common with an endpoint, such as a lost laptop or compromised smartphone, compared to a stationary device such as a server or desktop computer.

Some common cybersecurity attack vectors include:

  • Unsanctioned access to devices: A device is compromised through stolen account credentials or an account takeover resulting from phishing or social engineering attacks.
  • Malware or ransomware attacks: Targeted cyber-attacks, often email-based, use malicious software to compromise an endpoint--or hold it hostage in exchange for money.
  • Access through vulnerabilities/misconfigurations: If vulnerabilities are the gateway to the network, it's software and security misconfigurations that attackers leverage to worm their way to the intended endpoints.

Sometimes, an endpoint attack can involve one or more of these types of methods. Remember, cyberattacks are increasingly sophisticated, using multiple, coordinated techniques to slip into an organization's applications and systems. Endpoints are frequently the door through which attackers first gain access in search of what they really came for: your organization’s sensitive data.

What is Unified Endpoint Management?

Unified endpoint management (UEM) describes a category of cyber security tools that allow security professionals to manage, secure, and deploy corporate resources and applications on any endpoint, from a single console.

Unified endpoint management goes beyond traditional mobile device management (MD) to include mobile application management. UEM brings all of these aspects together, so administrators can see the state of all endpoints. It provides visibility into what users are doing with corporate data and applications on any connected and managed device.

As more network users move to remote work and enterprises incorporate more IoT technologies, unified endpoint management will continue to evolve to support more types of devices. For IT teams tasked with supporting a remote workforce on short notice, UEM tools and platforms help protect employee devices that access corporate data outside of the firewall.

What is Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)?

Endpoint detection and response is also referred to as EDR or endpoint detection and threat response. It is regarded as the next evolution of endpoint antivirus. A crucial component of a UEM strategy, EDR focuses on continuously monitoring the security posture of endpoint devices, with the goal of detecting and responding to cyber threats quickly. EDR is especially popular as a way to manage endpoint threats such as ransomware and malware.

The best EDR tools can analyze all security events from any type of endpoint, whether inside or outside the corporate firewall, to identify suspicious activity. Ideally, an EDR solution can generate alerts that help security operations analysts uncover, identify, investigate and remediate issues. EDR tools should also gather all relevant telemetry data on a security event. The best EDR solutions can even that data with other contextual information from correlated events.

EDR is instrumental in shortening response times for incident response teams, helping them to act faster on better information. It’s the best way to stop threats before they have an opportunity to take hold.

Lack of visibility into attacker behaviors and information about attacker paths are two top barriers to detecting attacks. To improve this lack of visibility and perform an investigation into the source of an attack, IT managers and security analysts are increasingly turning to EDR technology for support. EDR is designed to manage and protect a broad rand of endpoint devices, expose where threats originate, and understand the digital footprints of attackers as they move laterally from a compromised endpoint through a network.

What is the difference between EDR and antivirus?

While both endpoint detection and response and antivirus involve monitoring and protecting managed endpoints, they aren’t interchangeable terms. Antivirus applications are often part of an EDR solution, but it’s important to understand that not all antivirus software offers EDR. The main difference is that EDR solutions operate under the assumption that a managed endpoint will eventually become compromised. While antivirus alone may provide excellent protection against known malware, it does have the potential to fail, especially in the event of a zero-day threat or a more sophisticated phishing attack, such as social engineering.  An organization that relies on antivirus alone, without EDR, runs a significant risk of having limited visibility into what is happening with the targeted endpoint in the event of a breach.

What is next-gen antivirus (NGAV)?

Organizations need enterprise-level antivirus protection that stays ahead of the next threat. With new viruses created constantly with the intent to deliver malware, ransomware, spyware, Trojans, and other malicious software via phishing attacks, enterprise data needs constant defense.

This is where next-gen antivirus can have a significant impact. Also known as NGAV, this modern protection addresses the shortcomings of traditional antivirus software. NGAV utilizes multiple forms of advanced technology to block developing attacks and identify and prevent future ones.

Next-gen antivirus employs advanced monitoring to seek out threats of all kinds. Its defenses even work against zero-day attacks. In short, NGAV does not wait until a network security threat has been detected to start working. It is continually on alert.

Unlike legacy antivirus, next-gen antivirus has the ability to:

  • Hunt threats and proactively solve IT issues
  • Detect viruses and threats faster
  • Reduce risk while filtering out noise from false alerts

While traditional antivirus programs may have been enough to secure endpoint devices ten years ago, it’s no match for today’s threats.

What features should you look for in an Endpoint Security solution?

The best endpoint security solution should be able to demonstrate proven capabilities in the following areas:

  • Threat prevention: Managed threat hunting and support for known and unknown threats. Your endpoint security must be able to detect and respond quickly to different threat classes and types, such as business email compromise.
  • Device management and application control: Continuous monitoring of all endpoints and business applications to ensure best security hygiene at all times. You need to be able to maintain control over all the endpoints and applications across your organization. Otherwise, your employees may be--unintentionally or otherwise--deactivating security protocols or policies or disabling applications that you need active.
  • Automated detection and remediation: It’s not enough to detect threats; they need to be eliminated before they do damage. Your endpoint security tool should also be able to apply automated remediation tactics to low-level threats so your security team has the bandwidth to deal with more complicated problems.
  • Intelligent alerting and reporting: Machine learning-supported contextual information on events and alerts. It’s important to note that while many products claim to use machine learning, not all machine learning is created equally. Deep learning has consistently outperformed other machine learning models for malware detection.

What Is Extended Detection and Response (XDR?)

At the most basic level, extended detection and response (XDR) is a more advanced version of EDR.

Where EDR contains and removes threats on endpoints, XDR is designed to extend those threat-hunting and response capabilities beyond the endpoint. This more advanced form of cyber protection focuses on your entire infrastructure to quickly and accurately identify trends and threats.

Like NGAV, XDR is a considerable improvement on legacy antivirus, which is more reactive than proactive. XDR seeks out threats and then rapidly acts against new and recognized attacks.

XDR can help security professionals answer the following questions:

  • Why is an endpoint or machine running slowly?
  • Which endpoints have known vulnerabilities, unknown services, or unauthorized browser extensions?
  • Are there programs running on the device that are unsanctioned by the organization and should be removed?
  • Are you able to discover any unmanaged or unprotected devices, such as laptops, mobiles, and IoT devices?
  • Which programs are causing office network issues?
  • Can your security team analyze cloud security groups to identify resources exposed to the public internet?
  • Can you detect zero-day or unknown threats?

EDR is a great solution for protecting the endpoint. But each endpoint is only a single facet of the whole framework. If your enterprise network is comprised of multiple systems, you may need XDR to attain maximum protection.

The Bottom Line on Endpoint Security

Time-to-detection is everything when it comes to stopping malware and ransomware attacks on endpoints, especially securing mobile devices beyond the corporate firewall. Legacy endpoint security, such as traditional endpoint management and antivirus, are no longer enough. Today’s sophisticated threats demand constant vigilance against all types of threats, including zero-day attacks.

Sophos leads the way in endpoint security. Our approach to endpoint security delivers robust, modern tools for advanced threat hunting and comprehensive endpoint security hygiene.

Learn more about how next gen endpoint security can help future proof your security ecosystem and sign up for a free trial of Sophos XDR today.

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