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Endpoint Management and Monitoring Overview

Over the past decade, the rise of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies has led to a proliferation of mobile devices like laptops, smartphones, and tablets being used for business purposes. As a managed services provider (MSP), you’ll know these devices are referred to as endpoints, but you may not have a plan in place to deal with endpoint security. Because these mobile devices pose a particular risk to business networks, it’s more necessary now than ever for MSPs to make endpoint management and monitoring an essential part of network strategy.

As hardware devices that work over the TCP/IP network, endpoints come with all of the security risks of typical workstations plus their own unique vulnerabilities. Whether the endpoints are personal devices or provided by the business, they rarely meet the security standards established by MSPs. When employees and authorized outsiders (like partners, consultants, and clients) use such devices to connect to the network, it can open the door to the loss of sensitive data. To counter this, experts recommend a robust approach to endpoint security on business networks.

What is an endpoint in cybersecurity? 

Endpoints are a major consideration in cybersecurity for today’s businesses because they tend to be poorly managed and almost always pose security risks. Endpoints are a unique challenge, but MSPs tasked with an organization’s cybersecurity should be prepared to help their customers implement more effective strategies to protect their data.

To put it simply, endpoint security management is an issue because laptops and other wireless devices serve as potential entry points to the network, but are typically not equipped with adequate security measures. They tend to be exposed to more risks than a regular workstation, but face lower IT standards due to their nature as mobile, temporarily connected devices.

This makes endpoints appealing to hackers as easy targets for many types of malware. If these devices have full access to the internal network, it’s all too easy for threats to spread throughout the business. In addition, because they are mobile, it’s possible that the devices—and the data they have access to—could easily fall into the wrong hands.

MSPs need to implement tools that provide comprehensive management solutions for these endpoints. Helping ensure endpoint security and adequate network protection includes:

  • Patches and updates: It can be difficult to enforce software updates across the network, let alone enforce updates on endpoints. There must be a process in place to ensure that endpoint users aren’t using insecure or out-of-date versions of applications. You can also consider whitelisting certain applications and not others.
  • Device policies: Policies are coded rules that allow you to specify and control how endpoints connect to the network. These policies will ideally be standard for mobile devices across the network, and endpoints must prove compliance before they are granted network access.
  • Access and control: Network access control is a crucial method for protecting your network and helping ensure no unauthorized devices are given access. This can mean that users must enter a username and password to gain entry. You can also restrict access to network data, control user behavior (by blocking USB use or file access, for instance), and implement specific anti-threat initiatives like antivirus software. This is especially important for managing guest devices.
  • Threat detection: There are a number of reasons to check endpoints for threats. Most importantly, you want to make sure threats don’t spread from these devices to your internal network. But endpoints are also rich sources of threat data you can use to improve network protection more generally.

What is endpoint detection?

The term endpoint detection was coined by Anton Chuvakin of Gartner, who in 2013 decided that “endpoint threat detection and response,” otherwise known as endpoint detection and response or EDR, was an appropriate name for the emerging problem of detecting suspicious activities on endpoints. Since then, EDR has become a popular concept for professionals seeking to protect networks and minimize the risk that endpoints continue to pose.

The purpose of EDR is to gain insights into the threats that could occur or have already occurred. That means MSPs detect potential or existing threats and take appropriate measures to prevent attacks or mitigate harm. Of course, this requires high-quality monitoring of endpoint systems and how they are used. But to effectively protect a customer’s network, simply looking for endpoint threats is not enough. The additional capabilities that MSPs need for effective endpoint detection include:

  • Preventative measures: Because endpoints are so vulnerable, it isn’t advisable to simply wait until a threat occurs. With endpoints, it’s important to implement as many proactive measures as possible.
  • Mobile compatibility: Mobile devices spend more time offline. This means you’ll need to consider how to deal with threat detection or manage the device even when you don’t currently have direct access to the device.
  • Automatic protection: With the right policies in place, endpoint systems should be able to automatically neutralize many threats without MSP intervention.
  • Alerting: Of course, MSPs can’t be expected to manually scan through their entire endpoint inventory. Automatic alerts are a necessity if you hope to stay on top of potential threats for the dozens of endpoints your customers may use.
  • Recovery and quarantine: If a threat is detected on an endpoint, your first round of defense may simply be to disconnect the device. You’ll then need to dig into the device itself and figure out what happened, but this “quarantining” allows you to minimize the extent of the threat.

What is endpoint visibility? 

Endpoint visibility means having meaningful insight into all managed devices. MSPs are already tasked with collecting data across challenging environments like cloud platforms and virtual machines, but it’s also important to collect data from endpoints like mobile phones and laptops. By gathering and centralizing the right kind of data about individual endpoints, MSPs can quickly answer key visibility questions that help ensure overall network security. Potential questions about endpoints include the following:

  • Are these all authorized devices?
  • Which employees or guests are using these devices?
  • Are all relevant applications updated or patched?
  • Is a user attempting to access sensitive data or share files?
  • Is there currently malware on any user’s system?
  • What is the threat history of each device?
  • Is any user attempting to use a USB drive?
  • Is any device attempting to share or push a suspicious file?
  • Is traffic normal across all endpoints?

What is endpoint monitoring?

Essentially, endpoint monitoring is about tracking activity and risks on all the mobile devices that join your network. The term describes the ongoing, continuous process of managing a dynamic array of endpoints on a business network. For that, you need endpoint visibility and access, as well as the ability to detect (and automatically address) threats. Information can be gathered in a central database to help ensure further analysis, comparison, reporting, and alerting.

In order to effectively monitor endpoint agents, MSPs typically need automated software. It’s difficult for MSPs to manually enforce policies and security standards across even a small number of mobile devices. To truly protect customer networks, it’s smart to consider using endpoint management tools.

One good example of endpoint monitoring software is SolarWinds® RMM. While RMM offers an array of features to help you manage your customers as a remote MSP, a new feature focuses specifically on monitoring endpoints and managing their associated risks. Using an automated tool like RMM is an effective way to protect the network and any sensitive data from the many risks that endpoints pose.

As an MSP, your customers expect that you’ll be able to keep them protected from the rising number of security threats in today’s digital era. With RMM, the endpoint detection and response feature  allows even the busiest MSPs to stay ahead of potential threats to offer customers effective endpoint protection. The tool lets you create custom policies to manage endpoint agents and constantly analyzes files to detect threats. Behavioral AI engines power data point analysis, meaning RMM is well-equipped to help protect against ransomware, zero-day attacks, and the evolving threat landscape. And when threats do occur, you don’t have to be online to take care of them—the tool responds with automatic rollbacks (and sends an instant alert to keep you informed).

With the right software tools for endpoint management and monitoring, protecting customer networks doesn’t have to be a headache.

Help ensure you’re protected from breaches by Visiting our Security Resource Center for other common IT threats.

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