What Is Endpoint Security?

Learn about the importance of endpoint security and why this is a high priority when shielding your business devices from bad actors.

Nikolina Cveticanin Image
Updated:

June 10,2022

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In the digital age, serious offenses don’t require much in the way of physical resources, and most businesses don’t exactly worry about break-ins anymore. Instead, the focus is on securing computing devices, also known as endpoints.

So, what is endpoint security?  Simply put, this is the process of securing the entry points of end-user devices to prevent malicious actors from exploiting them. Let’s take a closer look at the definition, importance, and how endpoint security works.

What Is An Endpoint? 

An endpoint is a computing device that communicates with the network it is connected to. Examples of endpoints include laptops, desktops, smartphones, servers, workstations, and Internet of Things devices. It is estimated that there will be 152,200 IoT devices connecting to the internet each minute by 2025. 

Most employees have a choice between using the company's devices or bringing in their own. This practice is known as bring-your-own-device or BYOD, and a growing number of companies are encouraging it. However, such practices carry certain security risks and further underscore the importance of securing your endpoints. 

Cybercriminals have identified endpoints as more obvious vulnerabilities through which it is easier to penetrate entire networks.

The types of attacks vary, with hackers taking control over the endpoint and then requesting ransom from the company to retrieve the data or even using the employee’s device in a botnet to execute a DoS attack. 

The Definition of Endpoint Security

As the name suggests, endpoint security is a term used to secure the endpoints and prevent any potential network breaches. 

If only one endpoint falls victim to a malicious attack, the entire company is at risk of being immobilized. The primary goal of an endpoint security solution is to keep every device in the network secured. 

Endpoint security is multi-layered, so the businesses are kept safe with a centralized management console, behavioral analysis, vulnerable endpoint detection, real-time monitoring, and multi-factor authentication. We’ll discuss how it all works a little later in this article. 

Why Endpoint Security Is Important

Data is a crucial part of any business. Having sensitive data exposed can result in enormous financial losses or significant damage to hard-earned reputations. That’s why companies are doing everything they can to protect themselves from bad actors. And lately, simply securing the network is not good enough.

There was a time when cybercriminals typically only attacked company networks. However, a rise in endpoint breaches has been recorded, and consequently, more endpoint security products have been introduced. It is sometimes easier to gain control of a single endpoint and then, via that access, affect the entire network to which it is connected. 

Endpoint security platforms offer multiple layers of protection, and unlike legacy antiviruses, they can help identify patient-zero devices and eliminate the threat.

Endpoint Security Components

Essential components that all endpoint security software typically include are: 

  • Encryption for disk, email, and endpoint
  • Integrated endpoint firewall 
  • Email gateway that’s used for blocking phishing attempts and social engineering attacks targeting employees
  • Protection against insider threats such as rogue employees or unintentional and malicious actions
  • Zero-day threat detection enabled by machine learning
  • Advanced antimalware protection against all types of attacks across all devices.

How Does Endpoint Security Work?

Endpoint security platforms allow administrators to examine and protect all workflows and data on devices linked to the corporate network. 

The administrators are provided with a centralized console which is one of the essential features of endpoint security platforms. Software for securing each endpoint can be deployed either remotely or directly.

Despite its very complex functions, the interface of the central console is pretty simple to navigate, and everything is clearly displayed on the dashboard. The administrator will not have to go through everything manually but will instead be presented with all essential parameters in one place. These are usually the key performance indicators, all types of alerts, and the security status of each endpoint

Some add an extra layer of protection with multi-factor authentication. Those who have access to sensitive data usually have to confirm their identity through multiple authentication methods, including a biometric login.

Additionally, to secure endpoints and ensure safe web browsing, administrators can block access to potentially harmful websites. More advanced solutions can even detect zero-day and polymorphic attacks. 

The protection is cloud-based and works on the prevention, detection, and removal of threats. Physical security is also important for keeping server and data backups on-site. Endpoint protection is also centered on analyzing files on the network and keeping them updated.

Different Methods of Securing Your Endpoints

Some of the most common types of  endpoint protection include:

  • Data loss prevention guards users against data theft sometimes called data exfiltration. It can be prevented by teaching employees about different phishing tactics, but it is still necessary to protect each endpoint by an endpoint security platform.

  • URL filtering is a simple method that can spare you a lot of trouble. It is done by blocking potentially harmful websites. This type of security of endpoints typically requires the use of a software firewall.

  • Insider threats pose a real danger because you never know if you have rogue employees. A disgruntled employee can access sensitive information, leak, sell, or delete it. Zero-trust network access or ZTNA controls who can access sensitive information and for how long.

  • Endpoint encryption ensures that certain data can only be accessed and read with a decryption key. Only those with the decryption key can unlock the information. 

  • Network access control enables you to manage which users or endpoints are connected to your network and view their activity. This endpoint security system has proven to be highly effective.

  • Secure email gateways analyze the messages going in and out of your system and check if the emails contain any malicious content that could pose a potential risk. If that happens, the users cannot access the content from the flagged email. 

Typical Endpoint Threats 

Endpoint threats have grown more common, and various attacks can be used to penetrate an endpoint and eventually jeopardize your business data.  Below are the more common threats: 

  • Drive-by downloads are especially sneaky because they don’t require victims to click on anything to initiate the download of malicious code. Simply accessing a website can launch the unintentional download and compromise your endpoint network security.

Endpoint security platforms can detect any new software installed on any of the devices, and measures are immediately taken to remove the file and contain the damage. 

  • Phishing attacks target both businesses and individuals. Almost one-third of all data breaches in 2018 involved phishing. Cybercriminals typically perform these attacks via email. They send out emails to a vast number of addresses hoping that some of them will share their sensitive information.

    It is typically done by sending an email impersonating a company or a website that the victim frequents and asking for banking or log-in details. A good endpoint security service works toward preventing these attacks from ever infecting your devices.

  • Ransomware takes hold of the user's information and encrypts it until the ransom is paid. This can seriously undermine endpoint cyber security. Ransomware can enter the system via phishing or downloads. Once the device is infected, the attacker informs the victim that they will not be able to access the information unless they pay the required amount. 

Individuals and businesses alike are advised against paying the ransom because there’s no guarantee that the information will be decrypted after the payment or that the attack won’t be repeated. Instead, if this happens to you, make sure to contact the authorities. 

Just like phishing, they affect both individuals and businesses. Still, the preferred targets are companies since they are more likely to pay the ransom for data critical to their operations. For overall security, each endpoint needs to be protected. 

  • Unpatched vulnerabilities may occur due to laziness or a lack of awareness of cybersecurity. If you decide to leave your systems unattended or if there are a few vulnerable spots you keep ignoring, it might cause extensive damage. 

These vulnerabilities can serve as a gateway for cybercriminals to enter your system, delete your data, blackmail you, or even sell the data to the highest bidder. 

Endpoint Security Platforms or Antivirus Software? 

The information outlined in this article highlights the importance of endpoint security protection. But which tools deliver the best form of protection? 

More traditional antivirus solutions only secure one endpoint, whereas an EPP will take care of the entire network and pay close attention to all endpoints connected to it. Moreover, endpoint platforms can analyze the behavior of the systems and detect any suspicious activity, tackling the issue before the attack occurs. 

Ultimately, most antiviruses will require you to update your systems manually, whereas with endpoint security solutions, everything is done automatically, and typically there is an IT team that acts as a system administrator. 

Bottom Line

As businesses started operating with multiple devices from remote locations, the urgency for securing these endpoints has increased. The information that is stored in these laptops, smartphones, or PCs is invaluable, and if it falls into the wrong hands, the damage could be immeasurable. 

Therefore, if you are a business owner, make sure to take all precautions to secure your devices because that is one of the ways for you to secure your business. Investing in traditional antivirus software will most likely not cover it, so getting proper endpoint protection for the security of all of your devices is highly advisable

Endpoint security platforms typically offer uninterrupted protection that covers your network and all of its devices, employing everything from data loss prevention and URL filtering to endpoint encryption and secure email gateways.

FAQ
What does endpoint security do?

Endpoint security is the practice of shielding mobile phones, tablets, desktops, and laptops from being compromised by malicious actors. These devices are known as endpoints and are connected to networks or clouds that hold an organization's data. 

Is endpoint security an antivirus?

Many online users tend to get confused when trying to answer that basic question, what is endpoint security? Endpoint security software is not an actual antivirus but consists of intrusion detection, anti-malware tools, antivirus, and firewalls. 

What is an example of an endpoint?

Examples of endpoints are desktop computers, smartphones, tablets, laptops, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

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