What is Endpoint Security?

By Kasey Hewitt

Posted on Apr 1, 2021

There’s an old saying that “knowledge is power.” As companies look to enhance their security posture, knowledge is one of the most potent weapons to thwart cybercriminals. No organization can erase risk, but any organization can work towards minimizing it. To reduce risk, you need to understand weaknesses that attackers use to gain access to systems, networks, and software. As you work to mature your cybersecurity posture, learning about endpoint security can help you better protect information.

What is considered an endpoint?

An endpoint is any device connected to a network that is the last location, or ending point, for a data transfer. While this might sound simple, the rise of internet-connected devices created an explosion of endpoints.

Some examples of endpoints include:

  • Workstations
  • Laptops
  • Smartphones
  • Tablets
  • Internet of Things (IoT) devices/sensors
  • Wearables, like smartwatches
  • On-premise servers
  • Cloud-based servers
  • Smart systems, like smart home devices and smart cars
  • Point-of-Sale (PoS) devices
  • Printers
  • Network devices like routers
  • Cloud-based applications

What does endpoint security do?

Historically, endpoint security solutions protected devices from being infected with a virus, like malware or ransomware. However, as malicious attackers evolved their attack methodologies, endpoint security protection needed to keep up.

In today’s hyper-connected IT ecosystem, endpoint security needs to be more than virus/malware protection. Organizations need to consider all the ways that a malicious actor can use a device to compromise data.

For example, endpoint security protections include:

  • Anti-virus
  • Mobile device management tools
  • Pop-up blockers
  • Data access controls

Why do organizations need endpoint security?

Even before the workforce went remote, endpoints were potential security weak spots. Gone are the days where corporate devices were limited by local area network (LAN) connections plugged into their workstations. Wireless networking now makes anything connected to the corporate network an endpoint risk.

Employees started bringing their own devices to work with them in the form of smartphones and tablets. These employee-owned devices often lacked the security protections on company-supplied devices, and companies can’t control them. Moving to a remote or hybrid workforce only exacerbates these security concerns.

Every device connected to a network is now a security risk. Today, if malicious actors gain access to a device, they can move to the network. This ultimately gives them access to any Software-as-a-Solution (SaaS) web-based applications.

Why do companies struggle with endpoint security?

Endpoint security is more challenging to manage than ever before. The explosion of devices connected to a corporate network makes it difficult to control every single one of them. Companies may not be able to identify all endpoints. Additionally, with so many devices connected to a network, maintaining endpoint security protections becomes difficult.

The “2020: The State of Endpoint Resilience Report” found that while many organizations installed security controls, failure to ensure that the applications stayed compliant increased risk:

  • 92% of endpoints had installed endpoint protections, like anti-virus/anti-malware, but only 59% were updated within 45 days.
  • 96% of endpoints had encryption installed, but only 74% had fully-activated encryption volume.
  • 93% of endpoints had Virtual Public Networks (VPN) installed, but only 61% had current versions with installed and functioning key components.
  • 92% of endpoint devices had software for remote control/patch management/operating system deployment/network protection installed, but 68% had missing data, data pending, reboot pending, or a health check failure.

What are endpoint security tools?

Endpoint security tools need to secure devices and their connection to the corporate network. This overlap between endpoint and network security protections creates overlap. For example, a printer connected to the corporate network can be a risky endpoint. Malicious actors might want to access data scanned to the device or use the printer’s port connection to gain access to the network.

Endpoint security protections include:

  • Anti-virus: software that contains and maintains a library of malicious code signals
  • Mobile device management: software downloaded to devices that IT administrators use to control, secure, and enforce policies
  • Security patch updates: software updates that fix security weaknesses in downloaded applications and operating systems
  • Data encryption: algorithms that scramble data stored on a device so outsiders can’t read it
  • Allow all/deny all application and network access controls: preventing a device from connecting to an application or network
  • Endpoint detection and response (EDR): tools that monitor files and applications entering endpoints
  • URL filtering: controls that prevent devices from accessing risky websites
  • Browser isolation: software that separates browsing activity from the device’s hardware
  • System hardening: the process of removing non-essential software and utilities from a device to limit cybercriminals’ ability to gain access to it
  • Secure email gateways: tools that prevent suspicious emails from being delivered to a device

What should an organization look for in endpoint protection?

As you look to mature your cybersecurity program, placing more robust endpoint security protections in place can mitigate risk. Today’s endpoint security platforms offer more than antivirus protection.

While antivirus remains critical to preventing malware and ransomware attacks, organizations need to incorporate additional security controls. Anti-virus and anti-malware tools keep libraries of known signatures, but cybercriminals continuously update the code so that they can find a way around these tools. To mitigate risk, you need to make sure you have a holistic solution that helps mitigate the plethora of endpoint risks.

When evaluating an endpoint security platform, you want to look for the following functionalities:

  • Real-time prevention: blocks malware in real-time at the point-of-entry
  • Continuous monitoring: reviews for threats that were not blocked
  • Integrations: shares data with other security tools, like SIEMs or eGRC solutions
  • Centralized management: provides a single location for managing all endpoints, including security and compliance visibility

How SecurityScorecard can help with endpoint security

SecurityScorecard’s security ratings platform enables organizations to see the bigger picture. Endpoint security risk is one of many threats to your IT stack. However, since endpoint security protections overlap with network security controls, you need holistic visibility into risk. Our security ratings platform provides visibility into your company’s cybersecurity posture and your supply stream’s security for a holistic understanding of risk.

Our platform uses an easy-to-read A-F rating system across ten categories of risk, including endpoint security, network security, and patching cadence. SecurityScorecard monitors metadata related to operating systems, web browsers, and related active plugins that help you identify outdated versions that can increase data breach risk. Our network security monitoring includes looking for evidence of high-risk or insecure ports that cybercriminals can use to gain access to your internal network. Finally, when we monitor for patching cadence, we can help you identify devices, software, and operating without outdated software that can lead to a data breach.

SecurityScorecard helps customers identify risks in real-time so that they can take a proactive approach to securing data. Just like endpoint security has evolved beyond anti-virus protections, organizations need to make sure that they mature their cybersecurity programs and take a holistic approach to mitigating risk.

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