If you’ve ever been concerned about your business’s digital security, you might be wondering: what is endpoint security? It’s two big words that have huge ramifications for your business, your profits, your digital safety and more.
Endpoint security is a robust group of software that defends your device from malware, viruses, intruders and any assortment of malicious online and offline threats.
Endpoint devices can include laptops, desktops, cell phones, printers, servers and any other device that can connect to the internet. There’s a lot more to endpoint than just protection, though that is one of their major functions. We’ll break down a few of those features.
Protect against malware and other threats
On average, infections cost businesses $2.4 million annually, and costs continue to climb as newer and more sophisticated malware (such as ransomware) spreads. One of the cardinal features of endpoint security is that it proactively defends against a myriad of digital threats.
By utilizing vast libraries of “samples” (think of these as tissue samples carrying diseases), endpoint security is often able to identify a threat before it can infect your infrastructure, and give IT managers time to take precautions. Databases and proactive monitoring are a crucial component of endpoint security that defends against:
Another technique used by endpoint security is to consistently monitor files for discrepancies. File monitoring can prevent timed releases of malware, or illegitimate software installs. This goes hand-in-hand with device management, which we’ll cover further down.
In the event of a zero-day attack (a previously unknown software vulnerability that remains hidden until an attacker uses it to gain access) endpoint systems will often use historical and gathered intelligence to quickly mitigate the threat before significant damage can be done.
Diagnose and treat issues
What is endpoint security if it can’t diagnose issues and then treat them? Removing the threat and ensuring it can’t spread is a technique called “quarantining.” Quarantining involves moving infected files to safe “sandbox” (a clean digital environment that has no access to the rest of the system) and then analyzing them. Or it might be deleting malicious executables before they can be run.
In some cases, such as zero-day scenarios, the software can pull from historical data and previous infection criteria to mitigate (and in some cases prevent) critical exploitations.
Manage your IT infrastructure and roles
Device management and user hierarchies are key features of this software because they can help mitigate a more dangerous threat: intrusion. Cyber attacks aren’t simply just malware and malicious payloads. They’re often the result of an enterprising hacker exploiting the faults in your security and infrastructure (or tricking your users), and then attacking from the inside. High profile cases of infiltration have begun surface, with credit card giant Capital One being the victim of one of these attacks.
Thankfully, good security applications can help mitigate these attacks. How? Through a solution often known as access levels. Valuable data and critical infrastructure should not be available to all users, and this software can help you assign roles and hierarchies to users, resulting in different levels of system access, from the top down.
For example, let’s say one of your interns is tricked into handing over their username and password. Luckily, the hacker won’t get far, as the intern has been given only limited access to the system. They can’t export data, see valuable reports, or even interact with the system’s backend infrastructure, thus limiting the amount of damage they can do.
Devices are the bread and butter of any business these days. Very few organizations are able to scrape by without utilizing a workstation, laptop, or a company-issued cell phone. The trick is to be able to manage these devices because every one of them is a potential point of intrusion.
Endpoint security can help secure your equipment and prevent:
- Unauthorized application or certificate installations
- Data theft
- Device theft
Usually, system administrators, using their endpoint apps, will set a list of software that can be installed on any given system, and then set the app to continually monitor that system if a user tries to install something that doesn’t match with the group policy.
Data and device theft is also a major concern for any organization, but with endpoint security, encryption is usually implemented to make it nearly impossible for hostile actors to steal data. And even if they have access to a device, endpoint security almost always allows for remote management. Devices can be easily wiped remotely or tracked for recovery.
Prevent data loss
Data loss is a very real issue for employees and IT managers. If a drive fails in a work-issued laptop, then that data is gone. Or if the device is stolen, it’s an even bigger liability.
Endpoint apps seek to remedy this by encrypting data from the get-go, and then backing up that data — either offsite or to an encrypted local storage device. They also implement “roll-back” features that allow users to restore the encrypted data up to a certain point — just as long as they have the proper encryption keys.
In the case of data theft, encrypted data is useless to an attacker without encryption keys.
Is Endpoint Security Perfect?
The short answer is: no. With news of major data breaches, crippling malware and more, it’s been proven time and time again that no system is perfect — but you’re much, much better off with endpoint software than you are without it.
These applications do far more than just prevent hackers and malware from compromising your business. They also prevent unauthorized access by your own employees, they help secure and recover devices, and they give you greater control over your owns systems in the event of hardware or software failures.
How Do I Know I’m Ready For Endpoint Security?
There’s plenty of reason to start using an endpoint security product. If you have
- Large numbers of users
- A diverse pool of vulnerable devices
- Have been the target of hacking or social engineering attacks in the past
- Are worried about data loss
Then you are an ideal candidate for endpoint security
How Do I Select the Right Endpoint Security?
Because your business has unique needs, this isn’t always a straightforward question. First off, you should consider your requirements; what you absolutely need to have in your endpoint security software. If you don’t know where to start with this, we have a helpful requirements guide you can read up on.
After you’ve assessed your needs, turn your attention towards your wants. What do you want this software to do for you, that isn’t essential, but would be nice? Unlike your needs, these should be flexible, and you should be willing to budge on features.
Finally, there’s cost, which will be a major determining factor. Obviously, determine a budget and factor that into your final decision.
And once all of that is out of the way, you’re still not out of the woods yet, because now you’ve got to complete a request for purchase (RFP). RFPs are long and involved processes that require weeks, even months, to complete. Though this isn’t specific to endpoint security, we do have a guide on completing an RFP yourself.