Hello, and welcome once again to Fantastic IT’s “What Is_____” series – our monthly(-ish) blog where we cover some complicated IT concepts in a way non-IT folks can understand.
This week, we’ll be looking at endpoint protection – what it is, how it works, and how you can make sure you’re enacting endpoint protection in your IT plan.
Let’s begin! You – a business owner in 2023 – know how important it is to safeguard every single 1 and 0 of your company’s data. Not only are you handling the sensitive internal data that makes your business run the way it should, but you’re also protecting your customers’ data – and therefore, their trust.
One of the most common ways hackers, scammers, phishers, and other less-than-savory-but-more-than-savvy online types gain access to companies’ data is through the endpoint of your IT infrastructure – which means endpoint protection should be at the top of your list.
A Quick Look At The Financials
The only real reason business owners want endpoint protection is the same reason any business owner invests in anything – they want to make money, save money, or protect themselves from losing money.
Endpoint protection can save you absolute mountains of cash if properly implemented. Here’s just a few quick stats to underline the importance of EPP.
- A study by the Ponemon Institute found that companies that invest in endpoint security save an average of $1.37 million in costs related to cybercrime incidents. Considering EPP will RARELY cost anywhere near that much, it’s a no-brainer of an investment.
- A survey by Sophos showed that over half –a stunning 54%– of organizations were hit by ransomware in just one year alone! This statistic emphasizes the growing threat of ransomware and the critical role of endpoint protection in combating it.
According to a 2022 report by Symantec, endpoint attacks increased by 23% year-over-year – so it’s only going to get worse!
So, What Is Endpoint Protection?
Endpoint protection, sometimes referred to as an Endpoint Protection Platform (EPP), is a comprehensive security solution designed to protect the endpoint of data.
An endpoint refers to end-user devices such as desktops, laptops, and mobile devices – basically anything your employees or yourself are using to interact with the internet. If a human is interacting with a piece of hardware to access data – that is an endpoint and it needs stringent protection.
Endpoint protection is an overarching plan for tightening the security of your endpoints. Usually, this takes the form of endpoint protection hardware installed on all network servers and endpoints, but it also includes software protection, password requirements, and even employee training on how to spot and defend against endpoint attacks.
Why You Need Endpoint Protection
It’s 2023, everyone needs endpoint protection, even non-businesses. Data is one of the most valuable things in the world in our digitally-addicted society, so making sure your endpoints are safe and secure is crucial.
Endpoint protection is more relevant now than it’s ever been. Here’s why:
- More Endpoints Than Ever Before: The rise of remote work and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies has led to an exponential increase in the number of endpoints accessing corporate networks – as well as the variety and scope of places where endpoints can be accessed. More endpoints = more opportunities for hackers to access your data!
- More, Complex Threats: You’ve won an Igloo cooler! Just kidding – even though the email looks like it came right from Igloo. Cyber threats have evolved beyond simple viruses. Today, we face advanced persistent threats (APTs), ransomware, credit card phishing scams, zero-day attacks on infrastructure, and more. As threats become more numerous and complex, more endpoint protection is needed.
- Regulatory Compliance: With data breach after data breach, industries across the world have standardized data compliance for companies in their verticals, requiring more stringent regulations to allow operation. As regulations to protect consumer data have become more strict, so have the punishments for breaches – thereby necessitating more stringent endpoint protection.
The 3 Pillars Of Endpoint Protection
It’s necessary for your endpoint protection to function on multiple levels in order to provide a robust defense against cyber threats. While every business has different needs and resources, these are the three main pillars of endpoint protection that everyone should follow.
Threat Identification: Endpoint protection software continuously monitors network traffic for any possible threats. It identifies potential threats by analyzing patterns and behaviors that deviate from the norm, or by using existing knowledge of bad actors to uncover their common pathways into business’ data. This process involves sophisticated algorithms and machine learning techniques to detect anomalies and flag potential threats – an ever-evolving process.
Threat Prevention: The most important part of endpoint protection is, well, protection. Once a potential threat is identified, your EPP works to prevent any potential intruder from penetrating the network. This is often achieved through a combination of firewalls, intrusion prevention systems (IPS), employee training, and your internal or outsourced IT team’s daily efforts.
Incident Response: In the event of a successful breach, endpoint protection works to minimize the negative impact of outside access. EPP accomplishes this by first isolating affected endpoints from the rest of the network, then removing malicious software from the affected endpoint, and restoring any systems to their pre-attack state. A good endpoint protection program will quickly and ruthlessly quarantine and eliminate threats.
Enhancing Endpoint Protection: A Strategic Approach
While having endpoint protection is a great first step, it’s equally important to ensure that it’s effectively implemented and continuously improved. Here are some strategies businesses can employ to enhance their endpoint protection:
- Regular Updates: Cyber threats are constantly evolving, and so should your endpoint protection. Regularly updating your software and hardware ensures that you’re ready for any threat, now or in the future.
- User Training: Any hacker knows the best way to access data is through human manipulation. Training your users to recognize potential threats is an essential step of the process and will save you thousands or millions over time.
- Network Segmentation: By dividing your network into separate segments, you can limit the spread of a potential breach. By siloing off your network into smaller chunks, the hackers can only go so far in tearing down your data.
- Multi-factor Authentication (MFA): MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide two or more verification factors to gain access to a resource such as an application, online account, or a VPN. You probably do these all the time – they’re annoying for a reason!
Easy Ways You Can Improve Your Endpoint Protection
- Identify All Endpoints: Catalog all devices connected to your network, including IoT and BYOD devices.
- Implement Endpoint Maintenance Process: Good endpoint protection is about constant monitoring and maintenance. For older endpoints, cloud and managed services can help lighten the load, while younger endpoints typically just need a beefing up of their current security standards.
- Enforce BYOD Policy: In 2023 you need a strong and strict BYOD policy to ensure the diverse swath of employee devices are covered and protected.
- Use Network Detection and Response (NDR) Software: Use NDR software to recognize threats and track them down.
- Endpoint Monitoring: Monitor endpoints for unusual activity that could indicate a security breach. Again, this is where a managed services provider can help bear a ton of the financial and logistical burden.
- Regular Updates and User Training: Keep your endpoint protection software updated and train users to recognize potential threats.
- Data Access Policy and Encryption: Implement protocols for data storage, access, and usage. Encrypt critical and restricted data and educate your employees on these processes.
- IoT Security: Regularly change passwords, release software updates, and maintain the hardware and firmware of all IoT devices. Anything connected to the internet is a hackable endpoint – and IoT devices are an easy way in as they’re often forgotten about.
As dependence on and diversity of IT systems only continues to grow and become more complex, it’s more important now than ever to make sure all of the various, disparate endpoints of your systems are accounted for – and protected.
Taking simple steps to lock down your company’s endpoints can be tedious, but it’s always, always worth it in the long run.