Mastering endpoint security implementation

More devices connecting to the corporate network means more security risks. Here are some of the ways to protect your business

Endpoint protection or endpoint security interlocking gears

One of the beauties of the business world today is the amount of flexibility we have in our working lives. Thanks to mobile devices, from smartphones to tablets to laptops, we can work more or less anywhere with an internet connection and at hours that enable a better work-life balance.

Similarly, the Internet of Things (IoT) is introducing a number of sensors and small devices that can help organisations with everything from productivity monitoring to increased automation and preventative maintenance.

However, each of these endpoints represents a potential security threat to the business.

According to The Cost of Insecure Endpoints report from the Ponemon Institute, 55% of vulnerable endpoints contain sensitive or confidential data. If these endpoints are lost, stolen or otherwise accessed by a malicious actor, for example through spyware, this data is at risk. Not only that, but a compromised endpoint can allow a bad actor access not only to the information stored on it or passed through it, it can also offer an opportunity for such an individual to infiltrate the corporate network itself.

Therefore, IT has had to turn its attention to implementing endpoint and data security solutions in addition to network security to ensure businesses' data remains secure.

What is endpoint security?

Endpoint security refers to the practice of protecting the individual devices that connect to the corporate network and any confidential data they may contain.

Normally this is done through centrally managed software, with client software installed in endpoint devices.

There are various threats that this protects against, such as trojans and ransomware on more traditional endpoints like phones, laptops and PCs, or botnet recruitment on IoT devices.

Different endpoint security software suites will offer different capabilities. At the most basic level, most types of software offer antivirus, antispyware, firewall and host intrusion prevention system (HIPS) services. Data loss prevention, email encryption, application whitelisting, network access control, endpoint detection and response, and privileged user control are also commonly offered, although not necessarily all in a single package.

Endpoint security implementation best practices

Exactly what configuration of endpoint security you will need depends on your business profile - whether you support a bring your own device (BYOD) policy, for example, or have a large number of IoT sensors attached to critical manufacturing robots.

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However, there are some basic principles that most businesses should follow in order to get the most from endpoint security.

Know the risks

When planning this kind of security strategy, it's important to know what your endpoint landscape looks like. This can include a survey of your IT estate (company-issued laptops, PCs and smartphones, for example) as well as an audit of what personal devices access corporate data and which users they belong to.

It's also important to understand what data is passing through your endpoints. This can help establish an access management policy not just by user but by endpoint, which can help catch security threats early through behavioural analysis.

It's also worth keeping in mind any regulations in your industry, such as GDPR, that could dictate who is able to access what data.

Deploy endpoint protection

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Antivirus on the endpoint is not enough nowadays. Endpoint security needs to cover as many threats as possible, so protection software needs to offer malware protection, application whitelisting, access control and so on.

Add layers

Sometimes, one endpoint protection suite isn't enough. You may find that it's better for you to add dedicated antimalware, plus a separate access control or containerisation system, plus a level of artificial intelligence or machine learning to help detect divergence in normal behaviour or unknown devices trying to connect. However, bear in mind you will also need to manage all these setups, so a single solution that fits your needs as closely as possible may be more practical.

Amid all this focus on endpoints, it's also important not to forget the network perimeter. Corporate firewalls, data encryption and segregation are all still vital components of any security strategy.

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