Online theft is the fastest-growing criminal act in the United States, but only 29 percent of companies report full confidence in their security management practices. If you’re reading this article, it’s probably because you fall in the 71 percent of companies unsure of how to best manage their security. A popular choice for businesses looking to solve this problem is endpoint protection software.
What is Endpoint Protection Software?
Endpoint protection software is a type of solution that businesses employ to safeguard their devices from an assortment of threats, both online and offline, called cyberattacks. Endpoint devices include laptops, tablets, workstations, printers, smartphones, servers and any other device that can connect to the internet. First, let’s talk about online threats, also known as malware.
Endpoint protection software protects your devices from viruses and other malware just like an antivirus software would. These threats include:
This type of malware infects existing files on your device and copies itself each time an infected program is executed. Each time the infected program is executed, so is the virus, enabling it to do damage by deleting or damaging files. Viruses can also shut down your device entirely.
Worms are like viruses that don’t need any existing files or programs to multiply itself within your system. This makes them especially dangerous since they don’t require human intervention to execute and proliferate. Especially savvy technology users might be able to avoid viruses, but it’s much harder to avoid worms.
Bots are used to automate a task online that a user would ordinarily perform. These tasks include clicks, gathering research, indexing and more. This means bots aren’t inherently malicious but are able to do a lot of damage with little effort. Bots can be used to create a botnet, which gives an attacker control over many users’ computers to send spam and steal information.
This type of malware disguises itself as a legitimate program to encourage users to download and open them. Once this is achieved, trojans can damage your device in numerous ways. Trojans can aide in botnet attacks and can create backdoors to your system to give attackers access.
These different types of malware can be used alone or in combination with each other to perform a number of attacks and bring other unwanted traffic to your device. Some of the least harmful involve flooding users with endless pop-up advertisements, which can severely reduce productivity in your office. Some of the worst attacks can lead to your data being held for ransom, or perhaps stolen outright.
How Does Endpoint Protection Work?
Endpoint protection software uses a number of different tactics to remove malware along with preventing it from ever making its way onto your device in the first place.
One of the first lines of defense against malware is endpoint protection web filtering abilities. System administrators can set up filters to deny employees access to websites known to host threats. Admins can block torrenting sites, preventing users from downloading what they think is an album or film but is actually malicious files. Additionally, admins can block websites known to use click bots used to download malicious content without authorization.
Endpoint protection systems can also protect your social media presence. By integrating your endpoint protection platform with your social media accounts, you can detect when attackers may be trying to log into your account. Some endpoint solutions also detect fake accounts meant to look like your business.
Endpoint protection also works to prevent malware attached to emails. This type of software scans emails and attachments for potentially unwanted files. Endpoint protection software can also detect phishing scams, looking out for attackers that may try and impersonate employees using similar email addresses.
Lastly, endpoint protection provides security through patch management. Patch management is a tool admins can utilize to make updating each device in the company much simpler. Many cyberattacks rely on vulnerabilities in a system for which there is already a fix. Many users don’t update their system, leaving them defenseless.
Endpoint protection provides system admins with the tools necessary to schedule and automate the update process from a remote location. This ensures all your devices will be up-to-date without needing to administer patches to each endpoint one at a time.
While endpoint protection does a great job of preventing malware from reaching your device, it wouldn’t be a complete solution without a method of removal. Endpoint protection systems utilize a database of known threats and use it to detect when one has been downloaded. For zero-day attacks, advanced systems use historical data and machine learning to anticipate the threat. Many systems will then automatically remove the threat, typically by removing the infected files or the unexecuted malware itself. Some advanced systems can even provide an audit trail, mapping out how exactly the threat was able to invade the endpoint.
Endpoint Protection From Internal Threats
We’ve talked at length about how endpoint protection platforms work to fight off cyberattacks from outsiders, but it’s just as important to think about internal risks as well. Protection against internal threats is ultimately what separates endpoint protection software from antivirus solutions.
Antivirus is great at protecting your company from outside attacks, as well as mistakes from well-meaning employees that allow such attacks to happen. But antivirus software doesn’t do anything to protect your device from its everyday users who’d benefit from stealing your information. Between disgruntled employees and those looking to make a profit, there’s a lot of good reason to invest in a security system.
This is the first defense against insider attacks. With endpoint protection, your system administrator can set different levels of access to important company information based on the user’s role. This ensures that employees only see as much information as they need to perform their tasks. And in case of a data leak, access levels help you narrow down potential suspects to the group users with access to the leaked data.
If someone needs temporary access to a higher level for a certain project, overrides can be implemented. However, these overrides also come with complete auditing to retrace exactly what information was accessed and by which user for extra protection. Further, system admins can set device-based access levels, ensuring only authorized devices can access your network and information.
Along with configuring levels of access, system admins can also control which devices can be used with the endpoint. This includes USB connected devices, Bluetooth connected devices, cloud storage and others. This prevents employees from downloading large amounts of data onto what the computer sees as trusted devices. System admins can set permissions for which devices are allowed and which aren’t. For instance, an admin might allow a USB mouse but not a smartphone connection.
Data Loss Prevention
If an employee makes it past the previous two hurdles, there are even more tools available to prevent data leaks. Data loss prevention (DLP) tools primarily use encryption to lock stolen information away from unauthorized parties. The only way to access encrypted data is with the encryption key, which only system administrators will have access to.
Data sent by email, downloaded or transmitted another way will be useless to the attacker. Certain files can be encrypted, specific file extensions and even entire endpoint devices can be encrypted depending on the circumstance.
Endpoint protection solutions provide excellent defense against unwanted intruders from both the internet and the office. But in order to get all the functionality your business needs, you’ll have to take great care when choosing a solution.
If endpoint protection software seems like the solution your business is looking for, make sure you check out our Endpoint Protection Buyer’s Guide. It contains all the information a buyer should know before beginning his or her software selection journey. Use it to help you formulate your requirements, implementation goals and questions you’ll eventually ask vendors. This way, you can rest easy knowing your endpoints are protected by the perfect solution for your business.
Do you plan on implementing endpoint protection software in the near future? Let us know by leaving a comment below!