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What is Endpoint Security?

Endpoint security involves protecting endpoints or devices from potential cybersecurity threats. Possible threats include malware, unauthorized access, and data breaches. They can be caused by external actors or those within the organization. The practice of endpoint security involves tools, processes, and policies. Endpoint security incorporates threat detection, prevention, and response if a breach occurs.

What is an endpoint in cybersecurity?

What is an endpoint in cybersecurity varies but includes laptops, desktops, servers, and mobile devices. It’s important to also note in the age of the IoT the answer to the question “What is an endpoint in cybersecurity?” involves many other devices like security cameras, point-of-sales terminals, and business assets. In a hospital setting, for example this could include medical equipment. However, every business segment and governmental organization is using IoT and other similar devices.

What is the endpoint security threat exposure?

We hear it all the time but given the gravity it merits repeating: cybersecurity threats and malicious actors seeking to utilize them are everywhere and the risks are growing. The never-ending stream of major cybersecurity breaches—often within some of the largest, strongest cybersecurity protected organizations in the world—are grim reminders. Of course, entities of all sizes are vulnerable with the threat increasing all the time for small and medium size businesses. Beyond these costs, there are also—depending on the jurisdiction—potential regulatory fines. As we’ll discuss more below, regardless of organization’s size endpoint security must be a front and center aspect of their cybersecurity threat initiatives.

$4.45 Million
The global average cost of a data breach in 2023 was USD 4.45 million, a 15% increase over 3 years.

Ponemon Institute’s “Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023” 1 (Commissioned by IBM)

Why is endpoint security important?

With such a bleak threat landscape, aggressive, proactive cybersecurity counter measures should be obvious. But why is endpoint security so critical? Because these devices are frequently, specifically targeted by malicious actors, serving as entry points into the greater organization’s network, being viewed as the “weakest link” in the larger security defense efforts for many reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Loss of/tampered device – By their nature, many of these devices which frequently hold sensitive data can go easily “missing” and/or be compromised by malicious individuals.
  • Phishing – A version of social engineering, there are many different variations, but all trick users into sharing information and/or clicking on a link that enables entry into the environment.
  • Malware – Any software or program that is intentionally harmful to IT resources such as computers or the network (e.g., viruses, worms, spyware, adware, keyloggers).
  • Out of date patches – This can expose the device in question to known vulnerabilities that can be exploited.

The mobility of today’s workforce and the expectations of users with portable devices to have constant connectivity—often WiFi—exacerbates and multiples the already large attack surface for an organizations’ network. In addition, because the list of “What is an endpoint in cybersecurity” continues to grow, the urgency to act to protect these devices further accelerates. Once compromised, the bad guys can move laterally or vertically within the network, expanding their footprint and increasing their exploitation opportunities and potential damage.

“…we have compared and contrasted small and medium businesses (SMBs) against large organizations to determine whether the attack surface differed significantly between them. Increasingly both SMBs and large companies are using similar services and infrastructure, and that means that their attack surfaces share more in common than ever before.”

Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report 2023 2

10 Tips to improve endpoint security

Here are ten things an organization can do to improve endpoint security. The list is extensive and their implementation driven by many inputs including resources such as time, money, and IT staff bandwidth:

  1. Implement Endpoint Protection Platforms (EPPs): Deploy advanced endpoint protection solutions that include antivirus, anti-malware, firewall, intrusion detection/prevention, and other security features to defend against a wide range of threats.
  2. Patch Management: Regularly update operating systems, applications, and firmware on endpoints to address vulnerabilities and minimize the risk of exploitation by attackers.
  3. Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) – Deploy EDR solutions to continuously monitor endpoint activities, detect suspicious behavior, and respond to security incidents in real-time to prevent or minimize damage.
  4. User Education and Awareness – Conduct regular cybersecurity training sessions to educate employees about common threats such as phishing attacks, social engineering, and the importance of following security best practices.
  5. Implement Strong Access Controls – Enforce the principle of least privilege by granting users access only to the resources and applications necessary for their roles. Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) to add an extra layer of security.
  6. Data Encryption: Encrypt sensitive data both at rest and in transit to protect it from unauthorized access, even if endpoints are compromised.
  7. Endpoint Hardening – Configure endpoints securely by disabling unnecessary services, ports, and protocols, and implementing security configurations recommended by industry standards such as CIS benchmarks.
  8. Application Whitelisting/Blacklisting – Use application control mechanisms to allow only approved applications to run on endpoints, reducing the risk of unauthorized software and malware execution.
  9. Mobile Device Management (MDM) – Implement MDM solutions to manage and secure mobile devices used within the organization, enforcing security policies such as device encryption, remote wipe, and app management.
  10. Continuous Monitoring and Incident Response – Establish a robust incident response plan that includes procedures for detecting, analyzing, and responding to security incidents on endpoints. Continuously monitor endpoint activities for signs of compromise and take prompt action to mitigate threats.

The “low hanging fruit” (tied to what is often the weakest link, people) in the above list is “user education and awareness”. For every sophisticated, successful attack that exploits some arcane back door vulnerability, there are many more that simply take advantage of human nature. This could be spear phishing directed at an individual or a carefully orchestrated phony call into the help desk to reset a forgotten password by an attacker. Everyone must remain vigilant to exploitation.

Other endpoint security measures listed above must be carefully considered, prioritized, and implemented to maximize defenses. This begins with proactively inventorying the endpoints deployed and then assessing the possible vulnerabilities and their severity. It also requires implementing processes and procedures to limit the potential inadvertent introduction of security vulnerabilities by, for example network misconfiguration or the introduction of unauthorized devices by employees to the network (e.g., an unsecured printer).

In summary

Endpoint security is a crucial aspect of an organization’s overall cybersecurity posture. This is driven by the worsening threat landscape and by the broadening list of devices that answer the question “What is an endpoint in cybersecurity”. Because of this, endpoint security must be a priority for security teams. Ideally, efforts to protect endpoint devices will be coordinated and part of the larger entity’s actions to thwart hackers from gaining access to critical IT assets and sensitive data. It’s important that all IT stakeholders work together with executive management to develop the optimal endpoint and greater cybersecurity strategy.

CyberScope can help with endpoint security

CyberScope is designed from the ground-up to address vulnerabilities at the edge network, so it’s perfect for strengthening endpoint security. Whether due to misconfiguration such as unauthorized open ports on a device, a misconfigured VLAN, or outdated patching CyberScope can quickly root out potential areas of exposure. Learn more about CyberScope and how it can help you with endpoint security in this interactive brochure.

Footnotes:

1 Ponemon Institute’s “Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023”
2 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report 2023

Author Bio –
Product Manager – Wired

As a Product Manager at NetAlly, Brad Reinboldt is responsible for wired and cybersecurity solutions. He has more than 30 years’ of experience in the computing, networking, and storage sectors in various development and technical management roles. He holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering as well as an MBA in management.