Endpoint Protection: The Basics and 4 Key Technologies
What Is Endpoint Protection?
Endpoint protection is a set of tools and practices that allow organizations to defend endpoints against cyber attacks. Any device connected to a network is considered an endpoint. Workplace devices such as servers and printers are endpoints, as well as bring-your-own-device (BYOD) items like laptops, mobile devices, and tablets. Cloud servers, Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as smart watches, medical devices, and ATM machines are also endpoints.
Today, many endpoints are laptops or mobile devices, which can connect to a variety of different networks. When an end-user’s endpoint connects to unsecured networks, it exposes the endpoint to threats.
More than ever, endpoints can be exploited to serve as entry points for malware and other threats. Endpoint security helps to address these risks to ensure the protection of the network and any connected devices.
In this article:
8 Phases of Cyber Attacks Against Endpoints
Endpoint attacks typically involve some of the following phases:
- Reconnaissance—threat actors observe to assess the situation, usually from the outside-in. During this stage, the threat actor identifies targets and chooses tactics for the attack.
- Intrusion—using the information gleaned during the reconnaissance stage, the threat actor gets into the system. Typically, it involves exploiting security vulnerabilities or using malware.
- Exploitation—the threat actor exploits security vulnerabilities. This phase often involves delivering malicious code into the system, which helps the actor get a better foothold.
- Privilege escalation—threat actors usually need higher levels of system privileges in order to get access to more permissions and data. They do this by escalating their privileges to an Admin.
- Lateral movement—after intruding, threat actors can try moving laterally to other accounts and systems. Their goal is to gain more leverage, which may be higher permissions, greater access to systems, or more data.
- Obfuscation / anti-forensics—threat actors often need to cover their tracks in order to ensure the attack is successful. During this stage, the threat actor tries to slow down or confuse the forensics team by creating false trails, clearing logs, or compromising data.
- Denial of Service (DoS)—this phase involves disrupting normal user and system access in order to prevent attempts to monitor, track, or block the attack.
- Exfiltration—during this phase, threat actors extract information by getting data out of compromised systems.
How Does Endpoint Protection Help?
Endpoint protection helps enterprises manage software deployment and enforce security policies. It can protect networks from malware, monitor operational functions, and assist in implementing data backup strategies.
Here are several types of defense that endpoint protection products cover:
- Email protection—scans all email attachments in order to protect organizations from email attacks like phishing scams.
- Malicious web download protection—performing analysis of all outgoing and incoming traffic in order to protect browsers and block malicious web downloads before they get executed on endpoints.
- Exploitation protection—protects against memory-based attacks and zero-day vulnerabilities.
Here are key features of endpoint protection products:
- Data loss prevention (DLP)—prevents access violations that are caused by insiders, such as employees, as well as unintentional or intentional data loss during a breach. DLP technology can block files uploaded to the internet and files transmitted through email or other team collaboration tools.
- Application and device control—enables organizations to define which devices are allowed to download or upload data, access a registry, or access hardware. Typically, this is done using application blocklists and allowlists, which ensure only pre-approved applications and software can be installed on your endpoints. This can help minimize the occurrence of shadow IT and mitigate other risks.
- Reports and alerts—provide prioritized alerts containing information about vulnerabilities. Reports are provided on dashboards which offer visibility into aspects of your endpoint security.
- Incident investigation and remediation—offer centralized tools that automate incident response processes as well as step-by-step workflows for investigating incidents.
- Rapid detection—threats that stay longer in an environment can spread across more targets and inflict more damage. Endpoint security tools offer real-time detection.
- Advanced machine learning—analyzes huge amounts of bad and good files and then blocks any new malware variants before they can get executed on other endpoint devices.
- Behavioral monitoring—uses machine learning to monitor behavior-based security in order to identify and block risks.
What Is an Endpoint Protection Platform (EPP)?
Endpoint protection platforms (EPPs) deploy sensors or agents on managed endpoints. EPPs are designed to protect against known and unknown threats and malware. EPPs often provide capabilities that facilitate the investigation and remediation of incidents that evade the protection controls set by the enterprise.
Here are key features of EPPs:
- Prevention and protection against a variety of security threats, such as file-based malware and fileless exploits.
- Features that enable the application of allow/block control to scripts, software, and processes.
- Threat detection and prevention via behavioral analysis of device activity, applications, and user data.
- Incident investigation capabilities.
- Remediation guidance.
Learn more in our detailed guides to:
4 Key Endpoint Protection Technologies
Traditional antivirus technology is incapable of detecting many types of attacks, because it works by comparing bits of code and malicious signatures to a database of known signatures. This means traditional antivirus cannot catch new or unknown malware, or anything outside the scope of the database.
Next-generation antivirus (NGAV) solutions apply advanced endpoint protection technology, which employs machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to identify new types of malware. Typically, it involves examining a variety of elements like file hashes, IP addresses, and URLs.
Endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools monitor and record activity on endpoints. EDR tools are designed to identify suspicious behavior and respond to internal or external threats. EDR solutions can monitor, track, and analyze data on your endpoints, and discover threat actors attempting to gain access to your network via endpoints.
Learn more in our detailed guide to EDR tools
Incident response is a time-sensitive process that heavily relies on quick threat identification and incident response process (IRP) initiation. However, the majority of teams cannot investigate all generated alerts in real time to determine whether the alert indicates an actual security incident. As a result, teams may miss incidents entirely or catch them only after significant damage has already occurred.
To ensure quick and effective incident response, teams can automate certain parts of the incident response process. Response automation processes can quickly triage alerts and identify incidents, as well as perform incident response tasks such as blocking IP addresses. Automated response can also centralize and compile all data needed for incident investigations.
Gartner defines eXtended Detection and Response (XDR) as a security platform that automatically collects and correlates security events from multiple security products. Its goal is to enable faster and more effective detection and response, improving productivity for security teams.
XDR integrates security events from endpoints with other data sources, such as internal network traffic, network ingress/egress traffic, cloud systems, and deception systems (decoys). XDR can piece together multiple events to identify an attack. For example, if an attacker performs a seemingly innocent action on an endpoint, but the same account performs a suspicious action on a network or cloud system, security teams are alerted.
Most importantly, XDR constructs an entire “attack story” that shows attacker movements, both on endpoints and in other parts of the IT environment. This enables proactive threat hunting, and makes it easier to identify evasive or persistent threats.
Learn more in our detailed guide to XDR
Endpoint Protection With Cynet 360
Cynet 360 is a holistic security solution that protects against threats to endpoint security and across your network.
Cynet’s intelligent technologies can help you detect attacks by correlating information from endpoints, network analytics and behavioral analytics with almost no false positives.
With Cynet, you can proactively monitor entire internal environments, including endpoints, network, files, and hosts. This can help you reduce attack surfaces and the likelihood of multiple attacks.
Cynet 360 provides cutting edge EDR capabilities:
- Advanced endpoint threat detection—full visibility and predicts how an attacker might operate, based on continuous monitoring of endpoints and behavioral analysis.
- Investigation and validation—search and review historic or current incident data on endpoints, investigate threats, and validate alerts. This allows you to confirm the threat before responding to it, reducing dwell-time and performing faster remediation.
- Rapid deployment and response—deploy across thousands of endpoints within two hours. You can then use it to perform automatic or manual remediation of threats on the endpoints, disrupt malicious activity and minimize damage caused by attacks.
Learn more about our EDR security capabilities.
In addition, Cynet 360 provides the following endpoint protection capabilities:
- NGAV—providing automated prevention and termination of malware, exploits, Macros, LOLBins, and malicious scripts with machine learning based analysis.
- User Behavior Rules—detecting and preventing attacks using compromised credentials through the use of behavioral baselines and signatures.
- Deception technology—planting fake credentials, files and connections to lure and trap attackers, mitigating damage and providing the opportunity to learn from attacker activity.
- Monitoring and control—providing asset management, vulnerability assessments and application control with continuous monitoring and log collection.
- Response orchestration—providing manual and automated remediation for files, users, hosts and networks customized with user-created scripts.
Learn more about the Cynet 360 security platform.