Endpoint Security: What Is It?


February 21, 2024

Endpoint security involves safeguarding the entry points of user devices like computers, laptops, and smartphones against malicious attacks and unauthorised access. This security strategy aims to defend these devices on a network or cloud environment from various cyber threats. Over time, endpoint security has advanced beyond basic antivirus software to offer extensive protection against complex malware and newly emerging threats that exploit unknown vulnerabilities.

Businesses and organisations, regardless of size, face potential threats from state-sponsored actors, hacktivists, criminal syndicates, and both deliberate and unintentional insider actions. Endpoint security is crucial in the cyber defence strategy, serving as an initial layer of protection for corporate networks.

With the escalation in both the complexity and frequency of cyber attacks, the demand for sophisticated endpoint security solutions has intensified. Modern endpoint protection platforms are engineered to efficiently identify, investigate, thwart, and mitigate ongoing attacks. These systems must work in concert with other security solutions, enhancing the ability of security teams to monitor advanced threats more effectively, thereby improving the speed of detection and the subsequent response to such incidents.

The Importance of Endpoint Security

Endpoint security plays a crucial role in the cybersecurity strategy of any enterprise for multiple reasons. In the current business environment, data stands as the most critical asset for companies, and losing this data or access to it can jeopardise a company’s survival. Moreover, the challenge of securing endpoints is exacerbated by the increasing quantity and diversity of endpoint devices, a situation further complicated by the trends of remote work and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies. These trends render traditional perimeter-based security measures increasingly obsolete and open up new vulnerabilities.

The landscape of cybersecurity threats is also evolving, with cybercriminals constantly devising new methods to infiltrate systems, exfiltrate data, or trick employees into compromising sensitive information. Furthermore, the implications of cybersecurity incidents extend beyond just the immediate operational disruptions. They encompass the diversion of resources away from business objectives towards mitigating threats, the damage to an organisation’s reputation following a significant breach, and the substantial financial penalties associated with non-compliance with regulatory standards. Given these considerations, it’s clear why endpoint protection platforms are considered essential for the safeguarding of contemporary businesses.

How Does It Work?

Endpoint security involves protecting the data and operations linked to individual devices that connect to a network. Endpoint Protection Platforms (EPP) function by scrutinising files as they come into the network. Leveraging cloud technology, modern EPPs maintain a growing database of threat intelligence, avoiding the need for local storage of this vast information and its ongoing upkeep. Cloud access further enhances the speed and scalability of threat data analysis.

EPPs offer system administrators a centralised management console, typically hosted on a network gateway or server, enabling remote security management for each connected device. Endpoint devices receive client software either through a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, managed off-site, or via direct installation. This setup allows for remote updates, device authentication, and the implementation of company-wide security policies from a single point. EPPs enhance security by controlling application usage—blocking unsafe or unauthorised apps—and by encrypting data to prevent loss.

Upon installation, EPPs are adept at swiftly identifying malware and other cybersecurity threats. Some systems incorporate Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) features for recognising more sophisticated threats, including polymorphic attacks, fileless malware, and exploits of previously unknown vulnerabilities. EDR provides continuous monitoring, improved threat visibility, and diverse response strategies.

EPP solutions are offered as either on-premises or cloud-based models. Cloud-based solutions offer greater scalability and easier integration with existing IT infrastructures. However, compliance with specific regulatory or compliance standards may necessitate the use of on-premises security solutions.

What is an Endpoint?

An endpoint is any device that connects to a network, becoming a potential entry point for security threats and malware. The rise of BYOD (bring your own device) policies and the Internet of Things (IoT) has significantly increased the variety and number of devices connected to organisational networks, potentially numbering in the thousands or even hundreds of thousands.

The array of devices considered as endpoints includes, but is not limited to:

  • Tablets
  • Mobile phones
  • Smartwatches
  • Printers
  • Servers
  • ATM machines
  • Medical devices

These endpoints, particularly those that are mobile or remote, are often prime targets for cyber attackers due to their accessibility. The category of mobile endpoint devices has expanded beyond just smartphones to encompass wearable technology, smart home devices, voice-activated assistants, and other IoT devices. The connectivity now extends to sensors in vehicles, aircraft, healthcare settings, and industrial equipment like oil rig drills. As the nature and scope of endpoints have broadened, the security measures designed to protect them have similarly evolved to address these changing and growing threats.

Endpoint Security Systems

Endpoint security software typically encompasses several critical features:

  • Machine learning algorithms to identify new (zero-day) threats almost instantly
  • Comprehensive malware and antivirus defences to identify, neutralise, and repair malware infections across various devices and operating systems
  • Web security measures to ensure safe internet browsing
  • Data categorization and loss prevention tools to avoid unauthorised data leakage
  • An integrated firewall to fend off network-based attacks
  • An email security gateway to intercept phishing and social engineering attacks aimed at employees
  • Tools for detailed threat analysis to enable quick isolation of threats
  • Protections against insider threats, both accidental and deliberate
  • A centralised management system for endpoints to enhance oversight and streamline management
  • Encryption for endpoints, emails, and disks to prevent unauthorised data access

Endpoint Protection Platforms (EPP) Compared to traditional antivirus

Endpoint Security vs. Network Security: Unlike antivirus programs that protect individual devices with limited visibility, endpoint security solutions view and protect the entire network ecosystem, offering comprehensive visibility from a central point.

Management: Traditional antivirus often requires manual updates by the user, whereas EPPs centralise control to the IT or cybersecurity team, automating updates and management.

Protection Level: While traditional antivirus relies on signature-based detection, potentially leaving gaps for new or updated threats, EPPs utilise cloud technology for continuous updates. They employ behavioural analysis and other advanced technologies to detect and mitigate previously unknown threats based on their actions.

Published on 21-02-2024


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