Often, business leaders ignore security-related information believing that it doesn’t apply to them — and often, they’re right. Startups with five employees simply don’t have the same security concerns as an international corporation with hundreds of thousands of workers. However, businesses big and small have endpoints in common, which means if you don’t know what an endpoint is, your business is probably woefully vulnerable to cyber attack.
An endpoint is any user-facing tool connected to a network. Typical endpoints for businesses include computers and smartphones, but as the Internet of Things grows, more and more business tech qualify as an endpoint. While network security is well and good, because the endpoint is what your employees use to connect —to each other, to your servers, to the internet, to the cloud etc. — you need to go above and beyond to ensure your endpoints are safe.
If you are just now realizing that endpoint security applies to you, read on for a guide to keeping your endpoints properly secure.
What Are the Threats to Endpoints?
Users have been and likely always will be the weakest link in the cyber security chain. This is because humans are easily manipulated, lazy and generally quite fallible. The vast majority of cyber attacks are based on confusing, tricking or influencing users to commit actions that introduce cyber threats. Because endpoints are user-facing, they are the prime target for most cyber criminals looking to infiltrate business networks.
What you might recognize as a common, well-known type of attack is an attack directed on endpoints. Some examples of endpoint threats include:
- Phishing. This social engineering attack sees an attacker masquerading as a trusted entity, like a friend or company customer service. A victim opens a message from the attacker, like an instant message or an email, which leads to a corrupted website or download that grants the attacker access to the endpoint’s data and potentially the entire network.
- Drive-by downloads. Sometimes, it’s easier to use a drive-by download service than it is to download applications or data — but doing so risks acquiring hitchhiking malware that compromises not just the endpoint but any networks it connects to.
- Unpatched vulnerabilities. Over time, vulnerabilities emerge in endpoint software, and software developers must identify them and release updates and patches to close them before hackers take advantage. When endpoint users fail to install released updates, the vulnerabilities become a serious security issue.
What Tools Are Used in Endpoint Security?
As endpoint security gains more prominence in the larger field of cyber security, more and more tools join the fight against endpoint threats. From the beginning, antimalware tools have been prominent components of any endpoint security strategy; because endpoint threats largely concern malware, tools that detect, quarantine and eliminate malware are key. However, recently endpoint security suites have added functionality such as:
- Endpoint monitoring, which allows you or your IT team to observe what employees are doing on their endpoints to ensure they aren’t participating in any dangerous or improper behavior.
- App white- and blacklisting, which allows you to permit and/or block specific apps from being installed on your network’s endpoints.
- Encryption, which translates all data sent and received from endpoints into a code that attackers cannot comprehend.
- Firewalls, which should be more advanced than the firmware firewalls built into most modern endpoints.
Of course, more advanced endpoint protection suites will have more extensive features. You might look into a well-respected security provider, like Trend Micro endpoint security, to learn more.
What Is the Goal of Endpoint Security?
Different endpoint security solutions will have different strengths, which means it is vital that you research and establish your own endpoint security objectives before committing to one security service over another. In general, endpoint security should reduce the risks of cyber attack and data theft, but exactly how you do that might differ depending on your network and endpoint setup. Some questions you might ask yourself, your employees and potential endpoint security vendors include:
- What control do I have over the endpoints on my network? If your company has a BYOD policy, you might need to reconfigure it to ensure your endpoints are sufficiently secure.
- How simple do I need my endpoint solutions to be? If your business is rather small and lacks an IT team, you might not want a full, complex security suite — but you still need some kind of endpoint protection.
- Will endpoint solutions integrate with your existing security strategy? If you already have network security, you need to be sure that your endpoint security tools will fit in well with that established system.
- Can your employees use the endpoint security tools? If your endpoint security is too complex or confusing, your employees won’t use them correctly. You might need to organize endpoint security trainings for your staff.
Endpoint security continues to evolve — which means your endpoint solutions will likely change over the coming years, as well. Still, as long as you are investing in some kind of endpoint protection, your business will benefit from the enhanced security in the right places.