Endpoint Security: Defending the New Front Door of Corporate Networks
Endpoint attacks are one of the primary reasons for data loss, exfiltration, or theft. You can foil these attacks with the help of endpoint security practices and tools, which leverage technologies like next-generation antivirus, endpoint detection and response (EDR), and threat intelligence.
This article covers everything you need to know about endpoint security—what it is, what types of endpoint threats can be protected with endpoint security tools, and what technologies you need to secure your endpoints.
Endpoint security is a strategy designed to protect your network perimeter and the endpoints located on that perimeter. An endpoint is any device that connects your network to a wider network, such as the Internet. For example, laptops, workstations, smartphones, servers, or Internet of things (IoT) sensors, are all endpoints connected to networks.
Endpoints are effectively gateways into your system. This makes endpoints useful targets for attacks and cybercriminals. Endpoint security aims to stop these attackers from breaching your perimeter and gaining access to your systems and data. When the exterior of your network is protected, you significantly reduce the harms that can be caused by an attack.
Types of Endpoint Threats
There are many types of endpoint threats that you need to be aware of and protect yourself from.
Data is a highly valuable asset to modern business and its loss is a significant threat. Endpoints are a risk for data loss in two ways. One, attackers can use endpoints to access data stores within your system. Any data stolen can be passed through this same compromised endpoint. Two, endpoint devices often contain local data that can be valuable. For example, a payment terminal might contain a cache of the most recent transactions.
Phishing is a tactic criminals use to gain sensitive information, such as financial information, ID information, or credentials. This is typically done in the form of emails that appear to come from legitimate sources. In these emails, criminals ask users to log in to seemingly real user portals, to confirm details, or to click on tampered links.
Many users are familiar with these tactics but many still fall for phishing. This is especially true since criminals have started using social engineering to appear more believable. Social engineering uses information gained from social media and other Internet sources to appear more realistic. To learn more, check out our guide about social engineering prevention.
Unpatched vulnerabilities provide an opportunity for attackers to exploit weaknesses in your system. This is particularly true if the vulnerability is publicly known and older. Most of these vulnerabilities you should be able to patch immediately or at least soon after a patch is made available.
One exception to this is vulnerabilities on user devices. Many organizations have implemented a bring your own device (BYOD) policy. These devices can be difficult for security teams to monitor and are likely to contain out-of-date components. Attackers can use these components to attack devices and gain access to sensitive data or to your systems via saved credentials.
Malware infection is a method commonly used by attackers. To infect a system, attackers may manually inject malware, send infected files through email, or embed files in ‘legitimate’ downloads. Frequently, users unknowingly download malware and install it for attackers.
To prevent malware infections, you need to be filtering user access and permissions. For example, you can set administrative controls restricting downloads. If you do not limit your chance for malware infection, you open your systems up to data mining, resource abuse, and ransomware.
The Evolution of Endpoint Security
Endpoint security has evolved as systems have become larger and more complex. Below are some highlights of the evolution of endpoint security.
1971, computer worms and hunters—worms, originating with Creeper, were developed by computer researchers Bob Thomas and Ray Tomlinson. Tomlinson then created a program, called Reaper, to catch and delete this worm. Reaper thus became a prototype for antivirus (AV) software.
1980s, beginning of the AV industry—after the first worm was developed, many developers began experimenting with malware and AV programs. These programs were developed to help organizations protect their networks from hackers. Programs were largely effective until Internet connectivity began to increase. Before the Internet, networks were largely self-contained, with limited attack opportunities.
2000, legacy AV is no longer enough—by this time, most organizations had some level of Internet connectivity in their systems. This created many new opportunities and potential gateways for attackers, particularly since many older employees were unfamiliar with Internet security practices. The need for advanced AV was further highlighted as cloud computing was developed and began to be publicly available.
2010s, rise of EPPs and EDR—by 2010, an increasing number of organizations were adopting cloud services, causing networks to rapidly expand. This created a demand for security solutions that could protect and monitor expansive networks in a dynamic way. Added to this, cybercriminals continued to modify their attack strategies, continually developing new methods. EPPs and EDR solutions (more about this below) were developed to adapt to these changes and implement proactive security measures.
2017, increasing vulnerabilities and lateral movement—from 2017 on, with the exposure of malware such as EternalBlue, threats have expanded significantly. Both security teams and attackers are using tools supported by machine learning and AI to dynamically adapt to new threats or barriers. Additionally, the importance of endpoints and endpoint security has drastically increased as organizations work to implement big data programs, which typically rely on cloud resources.
What Are Endpoint Protection Platforms (EPPs)?
Endpoint protection platforms are tools designed to protect systems from threats. These platforms incorporate a variety of security tooling into centralized controls. EPPs can be used to protect against both traditional malware threats and modern threats such as zero-day vulnerabilities or fileless attacks.
Security tooling that is commonly included with EPPs includes:
AV and next-generation antivirus (NGAV)
Firewalls and other access controls
Data encryption and authentication mechanisms
Intrusion prevention systems (IPS)
Data loss prevention (DLP) solutions
When protecting systems, EPPs typically apply the following methods and technologies:
Signature matching—identifies malware or threats based on known identifiers, such as file hashes or origin IP addresses.
Machine learning-based static analysis—identifies malicious scripts and programs by analyzing contained code. This can be done before programs or scripts are run, preventing systems from being infected.
Sandboxing—isolates files or programs in a secure environment. This enables platforms to execute code or programs and inspect the resulting behavior. This can help security teams identify malware and refine identification methods.
Blacklisting and whitelisting—blocks access to data, applications, or ports based on predefined lists. Blacklists block known threats while whitelists block anything that isn’t approved for access.
Behavioral analysis—compares endpoint activity to known behavior baselines to identify suspicious events. This enables EPPs to identify novel or dynamic threats.
EPP vs Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)
EPP and EDR are two solutions that are often confused. This is especially true since EDR solutions are now being added to EPPs to create a unified product.
The primary difference between these two solutions is the focus of each. EPP focuses on preventing attacks and hardening systems against threats. EDR focuses on detecting attacks and blocking or responding to threats. EPP is intended as a defensive layer for your systems while EDR is an offensive layer.
You can learn more about the connection between EDR and EPP in our comprehensive guide to EDR security.
Key Capabilities of Endpoint Security Solutions
To fully understand how endpoint security tools can protect your devices, systems, and networks, you need to understand what capabilities are possible.
Pre-attack capabilities focus on proactive measures and include the following:
Endpoint hardening—includes patching vulnerabilities, eliminating unnecessary access points, and applying policies to control user permissions.
App and device inventory—collects information about the various resources in your system. Inventories help you ensure that all devices are monitored, protected, and up-to-date.
Content filtering—blocks access to unsafe sites and stops site redirections. This reduces the chance that users download malware or are tricked into sharing data or credentials.
Vulnerability assessment—scans endpoints for vulnerabilities due to misconfigurations, lack of updates, or insecure code. Typically, vulnerability assessment tools can also provide recommendations for remediating vulnerabilities.
Attack detection capabilities focus on early and accurate threat identification and include the following:
File integrity monitoring—tracks actions performed by users and identifies when suspicious actions are taken, such as modifying or deleting files. Monitoring logs can also be audited to track a threat once identified.
Threat intelligence—information about threats, attack methods, and attack technologies that is applied to the investigation of and response against threats. Most platforms can ingest threat intelligence from outside sources and apply this intelligence to detection algorithms and tooling.
Behavioral analysis—applies machine learning to aggregated network data to determine normal baselines of activity. These baselines are then used as a comparison against possible threats to identify if an activity is suspicious or not. This method is often employed through user and event behavior analytics (UEBA), which evaluates both user and system or process behavior.
Attack Prevention With Next-Gen AV
Although NGAV can be considered a part of both detection and response capabilities, its importance to protecting systems makes it stand out. Many attacks are started or aided by malware and NGAV capabilities specialize in neutralizing these threats. In particular, NGAV helps protect your network with:
Ransomware protection—ransomware is used to encrypt your data or systems and prevent access or recovery until a ransom is paid. Frequently, ransomware infections result in significant revenue damages or data loss. Protection from ransomware is accomplished by blocking the remote execution of code and the installation and execution of unknown programs. It is also supported by ensuring that data is backed up and recoverable.
Device firewalls—enable you to filter incoming and outgoing traffic on your network. When applied effectively, you can set restrictions based on users, content, or locations. This helps ensure that only legitimate users are accessing data and that only approved data is being taken out of your network.
Network analytics—provide visibility into traffic within your network, enabling you to spot bottlenecks or vulnerabilities. You can use network analytics to track potential attackers and to uncover threats hidden in encrypted traffic. You can learn more in our guide about network attacks and network security threats.
Response and Remediation
Response and remediation capabilities focus on applying detection data, alerting security teams to threats, and automating responses. These capabilities include the following:
EDR—enables security teams to monitor and respond to threats across a network from a central dashboard. These solutions are scalable, enabling teams to adapt to dynamically changing endpoints, such as IoT sensors or smart devices, which are frequently added and removed. These solutions are also useful for automating basic response procedures based on predefined thresholds or event types.
Deception technologies—deception technologies act as traps for attackers by appearing to hold valuable data. When triggered, security teams can isolate attackers and monitor their behavior. This helps teams improve their knowledge of attack methods, tools, and strategies. It also significantly slows attackers, giving security teams more time to respond.
Threat hunting—involves proactively seeking out threats that have bypassed security measures. Threat hunting is typically performed by a security expert with the assistance of big data analytics, threat intelligence, and centralized visibility created by security tooling. It is one of the most effective ways to uncover advanced persistent threats.
Incident response services—many endpoint security platforms come with an option for managed response services. These services can be used to supplement in-house security expertise and availability. For example, by providing endpoint monitoring and response during off-hours or by providing recommendations for remediation of specific threats.
Endpoint Security 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.
There’s a lot more to learn about EDR. To continue your research, take a look at the rest of our blogs on this topic:
Cloud Endpoint Protection: Protecting Your Weakest Link
It may look like there is less of a need for endpoint security, as organizations move their workloads to the cloud. However, the opposite is true. As workloads move to the cloud, endpoints change more frequently, the number of endpoints grows exponentially, and you have less central control and visibility. Each cloud endpoint is a potential entry point for attackers, and should be protected with a consistent layer of endpoint protection.
Trend Micro Endpoint Security: Solutions at a Glance
Trend Micro provides a wide range of endpoint security solutions, offered as part of a package, or as individual products. You can use Trend Micro endpoint security solutions on-premises or as Software as a Service (SaaS). Popular modules include endpoint encryption, endpoint security, web security, and mobile security. This article explains how Trend Micro Endpoint Security packages are structured and the key features provided by each product.
Endpoint Protection for Mac: Why it’s Critical to Secure Your Macs
Although Macs are not subject to all of the same issues as Windows devices, built-in Mac security cannot protect from everything. To cover the remaining gaps, you need to apply best practices such as layered security and endpoint protection. For the corporate network, this means retaining as much visibility and control and possible through the implementation of endpoint security.
Top 6 Endpoint Protection Platforms and How to Choose
Endpoint Protection Platforms (EPP) are necessary to defend your organization’s workstations, mobile devices, servers and containers. Modern EPP solutions include advanced preventative measures, such as Next-Generation Antivirus which can block both known and unknown malware, and active defensive measures known as Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR). This article reviews the key capabilities of EPP, presents the top 5 EPP solutions, and explains how to actively test and evaluate EPP before you buy.
EndPoint Security McAfee: Products, Capabilities and Features
The McAfee MVISION Endpoint Security Platform includes protection for desktops running Linux, Windows, or Mac, mobile devices, EDR capabilities, and a central management console called ePO. The McAfee Endpoint Security suite includes several products that protect desktop devices, cloud-native endpoints, and mobile devices. The suite provides capabilities like advanced threat protection, broad endpoint support, and an integrated solution.
ESET Endpoint Security is a platform that protects endpoints running Android, Linux, Windows, and Mac. ESER endpoint platform has a comprehensive feature set, but does not include EDR. ESET offers EDR as a separate product and prices separately. This article explains how ESET endpoint security solutions are structured and the key features they provide.
Symantec Endpoint Protection: Platform at a Glance
The Symantec Endpoint Security Suite provides attack prevention, detection and response for endpoints. It provides a broad set of features including traditional and machine-learning based prevention, EDR, application control, and deception technology. Additional features of Symantec Endpoint Security include firewall and intrusion prevention, application and device control, mobile roaming user protection, network integrity protection, and more.
EPP Security: Prevention, Detection and Response at Your Fingertips
Endpoint Protection Platforms (EPP) are solutions deployed on endpoint devices to detect malicious activity, prevent file-based malware attacks, and provide the required investigation and remediation capabilities. EPP includes both the preventive aspects and also EDR components that allow security teams to respond if a security breach has also occurred. This article explains what are EPP platforms, compares between the preventive features of EPP vs. EDR, and explains how to evaluate and select EPP solutions.
Kaspersky Endpoint Security Suite: Editions Structure, Pricing and Features
Kaspersky offers a robust set of endpoint security solutions, suitable for small, medium and large organizations. These solutions provide preventive protection against malware and advanced threats, EDR that helps respond to endpoint attacks, and security awareness training. The Kaspersky Endpoint Security solution helps companies secure endpoint devices like servers, workstations, and mobile devices. Main capabilities include adaptive endpoint security, security awareness, endpoint detection and response.
We have authored in-depth guides on several other security topics that can also be useful as you explore the world of endpoint security.
EDR is a set of tools and practices that you can use to detect and respond to security attacks on your network. EDR defends endpoint devices, including workstations, smart devices, routers, and open ports.
A network attack is an attempt to gain unauthorized access to an organization’s network, with the objective of stealing data or perform other malicious activity. Once inside, hackers will combine other types of attacks, for instance compromising an endpoint, spreading malware or exploiting a vulnerability in a system within the network.
Advanced threat protection (ATP) is a set of solutions and practices you can use to detect and prevent advanced attacks or malware. Typically, ATP solutions include a combination of malware protection systems, network devices, endpoint agents, email gateways, and a centralized management dashboard.
See top articles in our advanced threat protection guide:
Incident response is a growing priority at organizations. Technology platforms are essential for making incident response efficient and effective. Incident response platforms help security teams quickly identify and investigate incidents, manage their work on a case until closure, and automate incident response tasks to provide a faster response.
Incident response services can help you detect and respond to cyber-attacks. These services generally operate based on an incident response retainer that specifies a fixed monthly cost and a certain scope of security services.
See top articles in our incident response services guide: