If you’ve heard of endpoint protection, then it is just a different way of describing endpoint security. What is endpoint security? Well, it consists of security solutions to protect an infrastructure’s endpoints against cyber attacks, exploits, and human error.

Anti-virus software is just a tip of the iceberg concerning protecting systems against persistent threats and targeted attacks. On the other hand, endpoint security offers a comprehensive strategy and implementation for securing data across every associated endpoint. In fact, managed cyber security services often include endpoint protection for desktops, mobile devices, servers, and more.

What is endpoint security and how does it work?

According to Garnter, endpoint security is “a solution that converges endpoint device security functionality into a single product that delivers antivirus, anti-spyware, personal firewall, application control and other styles of host intrusion prevention (for example, behavioral blocking) capabilities into a single and cohesive solution.”

In addition, protecting endpoints adequately requires solutions that can integrate with patch management, vulnerability scanning, and configuration management to take a more proactive approach.

Partnering with the right endpoint security vendor means you’ll get more than protection against malware or ransomware, but you can also rely on device management, data loss mitigation, and encryption.

Is endpoint security really that critical?

Since many companies have a bring your own device (BYOD) policy, or have many employees who work remotely, endpoint security is quite critical for safeguarding desktops, laptops, tablets, and the organization’s networks.

Further, with comprehensive endpoint protection, you can ensure your sensitive data is encrypted or block the transfer of private files based on classification and access permissions.

So, is endpoint security really that critical? In a word, yes. Endpoint security also incorporates protocols and processes to manage unauthorized access to sensitive files and networks. Before allowing access, an effective endpoint solution will evaluate the access request from the operating system or applications to ensure they comply with current standards and defined security rules. Therefore, any unauthorized users who do not meet these rules are prevented access.

Endpoint protection in a standard environment is managed centrally, through a central administration server that manages and monitors the endpoints connected to the enterprise network. In the consumer environment, endpoint protection may be used to describe anti-virus software and other security solutions, which are managed and monitored on individual endpoints, as there is generally no need for central administration.

Define your security perimeter

The rise of BYOD and the use of external storage devices have created an ever-changing security perimeter for modern organizations that’s nearly impossible to define. With a variety of endpoints potentially connected to an enterprise network at any given moment, greater visibility and control is necessary.

Unfortunately, endpoints are the common attack point for malware or ransomware since they provide a gateway to organizational networks and transmitted data.

Without adequate endpoint protection, an enterprise loses control over sensitive data the moment it’s copied to an external device or the moment network access is gained through an unsecured endpoint. Endpoint protection is a crucial component of modern enterprise security, supplementing other security solutions to provide protection for data that can otherwise easily escape a company’s control.

Benefits of protecting your endpoints

Endpoints serve as the gateways into your enterprise network. Everything begins at the endpoint: each login occurs at the endpoint, and users interact with your most valuable and sensitive databases through their endpoints.

Therefore, each device can serve as a stepping stone for hackers into your larger network and to your digital assets. Furthermore, each endpoint can contain valuable data and customer information in its own right. An attack on a single endpoint can constitute a major breach.

Unquestionably, the more endpoints there are linked to your network, the greater the threat surface. It goes without saying that larger organizations are also at a higher risk of an endpoint attack. Nonetheless, endpoint security is vital regardless of your organization’s size.

Loss or unauthorized disclosure of valuable data can be quite costly to an organization. It's the reason data security is quite useful. For instance:

Safeguards all valuable information: Sensitive information is never supposed to leak. Whether we are talking of bank customers’ details or a hospital’s patients’ information; these are crucial pieces of information that are not meant for every prying eye. Data security keeps all this information exactly where it's meant to be.

Creates reputation resilience: Any organization that can keep secrets also helps to build confidence among all stakeholders including customers, who know that their data is both safe and secure.

Retain your competitive edge: Keeping sensitive information from illegal access and disclosure keeps you ahead of your competitors. Preventing any access to your future development or expansion plans is key in maintaining your competitive advantage.

Reduces development expenditures: The earlier you plug security features into your application, the less costs you may incur from any future support and development costs in terms of code modifications.

Possible risks of vulnerable endpoints

The more technologically advanced businesses become, the more susceptible their systems become to attacks. Poor data security can subject your company to the following risks:

Expensive litigation and fines: Data breaches are usually serious offenses which can lead to legal actions from the customer against an organization. Failure to comply with any applicable state or federal data protection regulations can result in fines exceeding hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the severity of the breach, the number of individuals affected, and the company’s attempts (or lack thereof) to notify consumers and mitigate risks.

Reputational tailspin: Privacy and security of data are important, especially to your customers. If you don’t meet your end of this bargain – keeping your customers’ data secure in exchange for their business – your reputation as an organization can go up in flames. Customers tend to lose faith and confidence in a company that cannot keep their private information well-protected. Loss of business and a damaged reputation can often be even more costly over time than the hefty regulatory fines you also might be facing.

Loss of customers: Cyber criminals have the potential to not only access and exploit sensitive information; they can also delete the same information. They can even introduce a highly destructive virus which infects the whole system, such as ransomware, requiring the payment of a ransom fee in order to regain access to your networks and sensitive data.

Poor data security could also lead to an event which negatively impacts your business. Even the ability to conduct normal business may be changed. Again, it is a trickle-down effect, in which you may not be able to render the required services, leading to legal action and probable loss of revenue.

How do cyber criminals target endpoints?

Now that you know the importance of protecting your endpoints, you need to understand what threats they face every day. After all, you cannot protect against what you can’t anticipate.

We can’t begin to cover all of the possible digital threats your business might face in the daily digital world; we’d never be able to stop. Instead, we present a few of the most common and most pressing forms.

Phishing: The prime method through which employees interact with other endpoints and with other actors (both normal and malicious) is through their email account. Therefore, hackers work to weaponize emails through business email compromises (BECs) or phishing. The former often deliver malicious payloads which can contain any number of disparate threats.

However, phishing, in particular, proves a serious peril. These emails present themselves as legitimate messages from enterprise supervisors and administrators, third-party communications, or urgent financial institution warnings. Without proper training, employees may never second these messages and hand over their credentials to them—exactly as intended.

Zero-Day attacks: Once in a while, hackers find a security vulnerability vendors or manufacturers have not yet detected or patched. These become zero-day exploits, as hackers essentially catch their opponents off-guard.

Ransomware: Hackers can, through malware called ransomware, hold entire endpoints or network hostage for payment (often in some kind of cryptocurrency). They can also hold sensitive files hostage, allowing the victims to use the rest of their endpoint but depriving them of the ability to complete their jobs.

Ransomware can prove difficult to remove, as hackers can trigger file destruction for nonpayment or removal attempts. But paying the ransom doesn’t guarantee your safety; hackers can always leave themselves a backdoor to do it again at a later day.

Cryptocurrency mining malware: A new player in the hacking world, cryptocurrency mining malware (sometimes also called cryptojacking) subtly exploits where ransomware blatantly attacks. It uses endpoints’ natural processes to mine (a kind of calculation-for-pay) cryptocurrency for hackers’ benefits; this can significantly reduce your endpoints’ processing power and cost you a significant amount in electricity consumption.

Are your endpoints secure?

Many enterprises believe their current antivirus program protects them adequately against modern threats. However, this is not the case.

If you’ve had the same kind of antivirus program for a while, it may no longer offer the same levels of protections it did previously. These solutions, called legacy antivirus, often have a lot of perks. Most likely, your enterprise is familiar with them, and most if not all of your endpoints already carry it.

Final thought

Nonetheless, legacy antivirus solutions just can’t keep up with contemporary cyber attacks. Often, they can’t detect fileless malware, a new kind of attack which evades traditional detection methods. Many antivirus solutions don’t receive the same level of updates they once did, so they may have security vulnerabilities. Manage your endpoints with SSI’s advanced endpoint security solution that secure your networks and help your organization to get closer to cyber threat resilience.