As cloud computing becomes more widespread, cybersecurity is rapidly becoming the top concern for many businesses—which means it’s also a top concern for managed services providers (MSPs). While cybersecurity encompasses a wide range of defenses against cyberthreats, endpoint security is an essential component of any effective cybersecurity strategy.
Endpoint security refers to the protection of devices belonging to and operated by an end user. End-user devices can include smartphones, laptops, desktop PCs, tablets, and other network access paths such as logins. Endpoints are the points where users access and manipulate data. Because of this, they are also points where networks are particularly vulnerable to attacks and breaches.
In this article, we outline some of the common types of endpoint protection available for organizations and explore best practices for helping ensure endpoint security.
What are the types of endpoint protection?
Now that we’ve answered what endpoint security is, let’s break down the various methods MSPs may consider employing to protect their customers’ endpoints. Many of these solutions can (and should) be used in tandem.
Antivirus solutions are a critical component of any robust endpoint security solution. Antivirus and antimalware software can be installed directly by MSPs or their customers to identify potential threats. They are designed to prevent, detect, and remove viruses and other harmful software such as trojans, adware, and more. Depending on the type of antivirus solution you invest in, they can also detect more sophisticated threats such as new viruses and more subtle malware threats.
Firewalls, which can be deployed either in hardware or software form, monitor network traffic according to a set of predetermined rules and settings. They work by building a barrier between an internal network and the external network. This barrier can then keep unauthorized users from connecting to endpoints and tapping into your secure private network.
3. Application control
Much of keeping endpoints safe involves restricting what end users can and cannot do. Application monitoring and control involves placing restrictions and oversight on what applications your users can install and run. By using whitelisting, blacklisting, and graylisting, application monitoring separates accepted applications from ones that pose a threat. Even when applications are permitted, you should still monitor them closely for potential security incidents.
4. Network access control
Controlling who and what devices have access to your network is essential when warding off attacks. Unknown devices connecting to your network can expose you to malware and other attacks. Consistently enforce limits to access, monitor every attempt to access your network, and ensure that you place oversight on all applications and devices attempting to connect to your network.
5. Cloud perimeter security
Although many endpoints can be located on physical devices, the increasing popularity of cloud computing means endpoints are also distributed throughout your cloud architecture. Generally, cloud providers don’t provide stringent protections. So cloud endpoint security is especially important for organizations that choose a third-party run, cloud-based security system. One way to combat attacks on your cloud architecture is to set up a security perimeter that enforces access privileges and application control.
6. Disk and endpoint encryption
Endpoint encryption strengthens your overall security by adding an extra layer of protection to any data that does happen to be breached. Stolen laptops and physical hardware need not automatically mean costly security breaches if encryption makes it impossible for hackers to utilize your important data. Make sure you enable encryption not only on company laptops but on all peripheral flash drives, disks, and other forms of storage. For safety, you may choose to store your decryption key in a non-digital format to help ensure that hackers cannot access it on your server.
Best practices for improving endpoint security
Investing in endpoint security improvement is about more than just purchasing software and checking security measures off a list. Companies that are serious about cybersecurity—which, in our current era of increased threats, should be all companies—must also consider what solutions and implementations best fit their existing network infrastructure. For instance, companies working in hybrid or cloud environments will require different security solutions when compared to companies working mostly with physical hardware.
In addition to the wide variety of security solutions available, companies should also consider what unique needs arise from their particular model of operations. For instance, companies may ask questions such as: how big is our IT team, how big is our company, and are we looking to scale?
In order to accommodate different business needs, solutions must be flexible, adaptable to different scenarios, compatible with different environments, and easy to manage. Here are some endpoint security best practices that organizations and MSPs can consider when having critical cybersecurity discussions:
1. Invest in and deploy SIEM solutions
Managing endpoint security is an endless task, especially if you’re constantly managing applications and anticipating possible events. Since most businesses deal with hundreds or even thousands of endpoint devices (both physical and virtual) keeping track of them and the risks they present will require a centralized logging system. But logging data from devices isn’t useful unless this information is correlated to the likelihood of a security event occurring.
SIEM solutions not only centralize documentation for monitoring and compliance purposes, they can also help you stay ahead of security events by identifying vulnerabilities, calculating risks based on the likelihood of an event, and automating security responses. SIEM solutions can also centralize your antivirus, access control, and password management capabilities in one place, making endpoint security easier to monitor across the board.
2. Get IT professionals and business users involved
Endpoint security requires more than a one-time investment in new technology. IT, security teams, and business users must continuously collaborate to ensure security. Business users may have input on how security measures are impacting them, which can affect how closely users are adhering to best practices. MSPs or IT professionals should oversee the implementation of security measures, their efficacy, and their impact on end-user productivity. Balancing security and productivity requires not only assembling a top-notch security team, but getting everyone in the organization involved and invested.
3. Ongoing management
Finally, ensure your organization is treating endpoint security as an ongoing responsibility. Installing firewalls and blocking compromised apps alone will not be enough to protect your networks and sensitive data from potential hackers. As modes and methods of attack evolve, so must your security system. Allow your MSP to function as part of a larger team that’s devoted to an organization’s security at all times.