By |Published On: December 19th, 2023|9 min read|Categories: Breach|

Why Your Business Needs Advanced Endpoint Protection

When it comes to cyberattacks, the biggest risk to companies today is often not any direct downtime it may cause, but the longer-term impact when sensitive information is stolen. Today’s ransomware efforts frequently look to exfiltrate data in addition to targeting systems for use in further extortion attempts or to sell on to other criminals.

Some of the large organizations to fall victim to this type of threat in 2023 included MGM Resorts, which saw 36 hours of downtime and 6TB of data exfiltrated as a result of the attack, and the British Library, which warned that customer data stolen from its servers was being offered for sale on the dark web for almost £600,000 ($757,000).

As such, its vital firms have specific defenses in places to protect against data exfiltration. This means focusing on the parts of the network where this occurs – the endpoints.

Why Should you Implement Advanced Endpoint Protection?

Dedicated endpoint protection solutions are therefore an essential part of any comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. This acts as a critical line of defense if other tools such as firewalls and antimalware software fail to prevent network infiltrations, as well as offering protection against insider threats.

The consequences of having data exfiltrated via your endpoints can be huge. As well as direct costs, such as ransom payments, recovery processes and the potential for fines or lawsuits, losing sensitive data can be highly damaging to your reputation, leading to lost business for the long term.

What are Endpoints in Cybersecurity?

The first step is to understand where endpoint protection sits in your security. Essentially, an endpoint is any device that is able to connect externally to a business’ network. Traditionally, this has primarily been user equipment, network hardware and specialized connected devices.

However, with improved wireless technology and hybrid working, mobile devices are now also among the most common endpoints firms have to contend with – and this often includes personally-owned items as well as company-controlled assets. In addition, many businesses now use Internet of Things (IoT) technology that must also be factored in.

Hardware that therefore needs to be protected includes:

  • Desktop and laptop PCs
  • Smartphones
  • Tablets
  • Servers
  • Switches
  • Virtual machines
  • Cloud-based resources
  • Point-of-sale machines
  • Printers
  • IoT sensors

Any of these might be a starting point for an attack, or an avenue that hackers can use to exfiltrate data. According to research by the Ponemon Institute, the average large enterprise manages around 135,000 endpoints, almost half of which are outdated or undetected by IT departments.

What are the Types of Endpoint Security?

Endpoint security is a fairly broad term that covers a range of different technologies, which will have their own capabilities and limitations. Some of the most common types of security solutions that fall into this category include the following:

  • Endpoint Protection Platform (EPP) – A first line of defense for endpoints, these solutions aim to spot cyberthreats and prevent them gaining access to a device.
  • Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) – These solutions provide continuous monitoring and analytics to respond to incidents in real-time.
  • Extended Detection and Response (XDR) – XDR tools offer greater automation than EDR alternatives and also provide advanced threat intelligence and management tools to increase visibility and consolidate data from multiple sources.
  • Anti Data Exfiltration (ADX) – These tools actively monitor traffic through an endpoint looking for suspicious behavior, automatically blocking any attempts to remove sensitive information from a network.

What are the Benefits of Endpoint Security?

Endpoint security offers a range of benefits. While some forms of this technology can be used alongside either perimeter security such as firewalls to prevent malware entering a network, they can also be used as a last line of defense in the event hackers are able to infiltrate a business, by preventing them from stealing data.

What Types of Risks Does Endpoint Security Minimize?

A major risk that advanced endpoint protection can counter is double extortion ransomware. This occurs when hackers exfiltrate data as part of the attack and then demand further payments in order not to release or sell the information. 

Once data is in the hands of cybercriminals, there is little firms can do to mitigate their risks, so being able to block such exfiltrations before that occurs is the best form of defense against this threat. As almost 90 percent of ransomware attacks in 2022 included data exfiltration, solutions to prevent this are a must-have for any organization, no matter how large or small.

Can Endpoint Protection Address Insider Threats?

As well as external threats, this can also be used to protect against insider threats, including both accidental and malicious activity. For instance, it can detect if a user is sending sensitive documents outside of the network, whether this is the result of falling for a social engineering attack or being done deliberately by a disgruntled worker, such as someone who is looking to take company secrets to a new employer. 

In such cases, an advanced endpoint security solution can block the attempt automatically and alert the security team so appropriate steps can be taken, whether educational or disciplinary.

Fortify Mobile Devices That Connect to Your Network

Endpoint security solutions are particularly important in network environments where there are a large number of mobile devices. The use of personally-owned smartphones and tablets is becoming more common as people spend an increased amount of time working from outside the office, and these endpoints can be among the most difficult to manage. Tools that can be easily added to these devices without disrupting performance or inconveniencing the user will therefore be a must-have.

Keep Endpoints Safe From Known and Unknown Threat Signatures

Another benefit of advanced endpoint protection is the ability to move away from legacy attack detection methods. Older systems may rely on signature matching as their primary way of identifying attacks, but this requires the threat to be familiar to the tool, and hackers are constantly searching for new vulnerabilities that will evade these solutions.

An effective platform will also use behavioral analytics to stop suspicious activity, which looks for anomalies in usage patterns rather than specific signatures. This helps guard against issues such as zero-day vulnerabilities and fileless attacks that would otherwise escape detection.

Selecting an Advanced Endpoint Protection Solution

Choosing the right solution can be a difficult process, as some may only offer a basic level of protection that is not able to keep up with the fast-evolving techniques used by cybercriminals. However, by ensuring you focus on key modern features, you can rest assured you have the highest level of protection.

Key Features of Advanced Endpoint Protection

Some of the features businesses should be looking for in a potential endpoint security solution include:

  • Machine learning
  • Behavioral monitoring
  • Threat hunting
  • Patch management
  • Data loss protection
  • Real-time alerts and reporting
  • Automated protection

The ability to scale up will be another critical factor when assessing potential solutions. Firms must have the ability to easily add capabilities to new devices as their business expands.

Does the Solution Impact Endpoint or Network Performance?

One other factor to take into account is the direct impact your chosen endpoint security solution will have on your devices and network. For example, some legacy technologies may require traffic to be routed via a central solution, adding time and inconvenience to the process. If data has to be decrypted in order to be analyzed, this breaks the security chain and could even open up businesses to some types of attack.

There is also the potential of legitimate traffic being incorrectly flagged as suspicious. Such false positives can be highly disruptive to users and require IT personnel to step in to resolve issues, taking time away from more valuable activities. 

Therefore, firms should look for technologies that use solutions like machine learning to build a better picture of what normal activity looks like. This helps cut down on these issues and ensure operations are as streamlined as possible.

Ultimately, businesses need a lightweight solution that is able to sit directly on every endpoint and operate unobtrusively without taking up network resources or space on a device. Advanced ADX tools that monitor data flow in the background will therefore be the key to spotting and acting on potential threats without interfering with legitimate activity.

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