Endpoints include all devices connected to a network. Laptops, external hard disks, smartphones, and even temperature sensors qualify as endpoints. All of them require protection against external attackers. That’s where endpoint security enters the picture.
Endpoint security uses many different tools and techniques to minimize cyberattack risks. Companies must protect work devices everywhere and whenever they connect to network assets. This poses a range of challenges. This blog will discuss those challenges and suggest a series of endpoint security best practices to perfect your security setup.
Why is endpoint security so important?
Securing endpoints is not an optional extra. The composition of modern networks and the rise of remote work makes endpoint security essential.
Endpoint security protects traffic at the network edge. Scanning and threat-neutralization tools counter malware or viruses and detect suspicious behavior. With around 68% of companies reporting endpoint attacks in 2019, threat detection is essential.
Remote work is rapidly expanding. According to McKinsey, approximately 58% of American workers now have the option of working from home one day per week. 35% can work from home every day. And when workers leave the office, their devices travel with them. Every remote work device needs proper protection.
With more connected devices, keeping track of endpoints is becoming harder. Mobile devices are now ubiquitous in on-premises and remote work settings. Employees may use two or three devices to access emails of workloads. And they can easily add endpoints without the network manager’s knowledge.
Losing track of connected devices makes threat response more difficult. 58% of companies report that they can identify all their connected devices within 24 hours of an attack. With such poor awareness, tracking or even identifying attackers is problematic.
Endpoint security strengthens data protection. Remote work laptops or storage devices often contain sensitive company data. This data must be protected wherever the device travels.
A robust security setup for endpoints aids application management. Employees may install applications or alter app configurations without consulting security teams. Active endpoint management locks down app code and tracks any additions to the network.
Challenges that endpoint devices present
Should you worry about securing endpoints? When we take every risk into account, the answer is clearly yes. Devices at the network edge pose many challenges, and a thorough endpoint security strategy is the best way to tackle them. For instance, common challenges include:
Malware – endpoints are the first target for external attackers. They can suffer from exploit attacks, man-in-the-middle hijacks, ransomware infections, worms, trojans, cryptojacking agents, keyloggers, and myriad less common threats.
Phishing – phishing involves the use of social engineering to persuade workers to take risky actions. For instance, phishers may pose as colleagues and request data access. Remote workers without direct access to managers may click phishing links without thinking. And when they do, it can expose core assets in a second.
Poor device visibility – how many endpoints connect to your network? Can you be sure you have an accurate tally? The rise of remote work, smartphones, and Internet-of-things sensors make device awareness much harder. For example, about 46 billion IoT devices are in use right now. Any of them could become an attack vector.
Software updates – with many connected devices, updating applications becomes harder. Sometimes, updates lack compatibility with all endpoints. And unpatched software leaves gaps for exploit kits to target.
Application control – shadow IT is a constant concern for corporate network managers. Employees can use insecure software or configure essential apps in unsafe ways. Centralized device control addresses both vulnerabilities. Managers can deliver security policies to all endpoints and scan for vulnerabilities. They can also limit user freedom to change app configurations. But in today’s environment, only 18% of remote work laptops are controlled centrally. Shadow IT still has room to thrive.
Cloud computing poses additional endpoint risks. IAM and encryption must secure the interface between core networks and cloud apps. Cloud partners can also let security standards slip, potentially raising data breach risks.
Physical security – endpoints are natural targets for thieves. Theft is a significant cause of data loss, especially as workers travel the world. Endpoint security teams must find ways to protect data and minimize theft risks.
8 endpoint security best practices
Here are the best practices for securing your endpoints.
1. Carry out an endpoint audit for complete awareness
Endpoint security starts with visibility. Network security teams cannot protect unknown or invisible devices. This makes endpoint auditing and device profiling essential.
Make a record of all devices connected to network assets. This register should include on-premises and remote work devices. It also includes Internet-of-things devices connected to the network alongside mobile phones used by workers.
Profile every device. Make a record of connections between devices and resources. Log the type and quantity of data collected by each endpoint and assess core risks associated with the device. Log and update any software used to secure the endpoint.
2. Control access for endpoint users
Managing access is vital to securing network endpoints. Only allow authorized users access to network assets, and apply Zero Trust controls to limit their movement across assets after signing on.
Identity Access Management (IAM) tools are the best way to secure endpoints against unauthorized users. Ensure every remote worker has the correct access privileges and can easily access core applications anywhere.
Users on the network should have sufficient freedom to carry out their duties and nothing more. However, companies must protect application code against changes by individual users. Ensure that only managers or users with sufficient privileges can add or modify network apps.
3. Scan endpoints for vulnerabilities and attacks
Threat awareness is a crucial part of endpoint security. Network managers need security controls that scan every endpoint for vulnerabilities and threats.
Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) systems are a good option here. They use continuous monitoring to scan endpoints, track user behavior, and deliver alerts. Agent-based EDR can also apply to remote work devices, extending threat surveillance to the entire network perimeter.
Companies also need the right tools to neutralize attacks. Control measures to secure endpoints include antivirus and anti-malware scanners. Content Disarm and Reconstruction (CDR) tools can remove malicious code from emails. Anti-phishing tools also provide an extra defense against social engineering attacks.
4. Patch all critical apps regularly
Out-of-date patches are a crucial endpoint security risk. Assign update management to a security team member and build a list of applications and operating systems that require updates. Create a schedule to check for newer versions, and take advantage of automated updates if available.
5. Apply strong encryption when possible
Encryption protects data in the event of external hacks and physical theft. Enable encryption on all remote work devices to safeguard confidential data in the event of theft. Check this regularly and provide encryption tools to employees if they do not have access to them already.
It’s also important to encrypt data flowing into and out of endpoints. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) conceal and encrypt network traffic as it passes from remote devices to on-premises networks. Combine VPN coverage with IAM and network segmentation to protect every single packet.
6. Back up critical data regularly
Create a robust disaster recovery plan that includes backups of sensitive data. Make copies of resources used in everyday business operations, and store this data on secure devices. Apply the strongest available encryption to protect backups against cyberattacks. With regular backups, incident response will become much easier to manage.
7. Implement Zero Trust Network Architecture (ZTNA)
The Zero Trust security framework applies the principle “never trust, always verify.” Security systems distrust users at every stage. Security systems authenticate all access requests and data transfers. Users can only move between resources according to strict privileges.
Implementing Zero Trust requires robust security policy management. Security policies apply to every user and endpoint. Controls assess users according to these policies, which must change to reflect changing employee roles.
Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) also contribute to Zero Trust endpoint security. SIEM systems receive data from endpoint monitoring software. They collect and interpret that data, turning it into useful information about potential and actual threats. A good SIEM setup is the foundation for accurate threat reporting and understanding endpoint vulnerabilities.
8. Create endpoint security teams across departments
Endpoint security is important enough to deserve a dedicated security sub-team. This team should bring together individuals from every department. Each member can provide input regarding device communities, app requirements, policy management, and potential security risks. It should meet regularly and provide timely reports to security managers.
The endpoint security team should also handle employee training. Every member of a company workforce should be security aware. Each worker needs to know about access management, VPNs, and anti-phishing behavior. And periodically testing their level of awareness is vital.
How NordLayer can help you secure endpoint devices
Endpoint devices are the front line in the war against cybercriminals. Unsecured laptops can be the source of devastating data breaches. Entire networks can become unusable due to activity on a single IoT sensor. This makes it vital to integrate endpoint protection into your security posture.
Applying these endpoint security best practices is a solid first step. However, more in-depth solutions may be required, and NordLayer is here to help. Our business VPN solutions are ideally suited to securing remote work devices and cloud services. Get in touch today and discover user-friendly security measures for today’s ever-changing networks.