Complete Guide to Endpoint Security: Solutions and Best Practices
What is Endpoint Security?
Endpoints, such as employee workstations, servers, or mobile phones, create entry points to networks that cybercriminals can exploit. Endpoint security enables organizations to protect endpoints, preventing attackers from accessing valuable information on the endpoint, and using it to penetrate the corporate network.
Modern endpoint security solutions fill in the security gaps left by traditional, signature-based antivirus software, which only protects against known threats. They provide multiple layers of security, protecting against zero-day threats, sophisticated malware, and advanced persistent threats (APT).
This is part of an extensive series of guides about access management.
Why Is Endpoint Security Important?
As organizations adopt remote work paradigms, cloud services, and mobile applications, they lose grasp of the traditional network. These well-defined networks have been replaced by highly dynamic networks that include numerous connections, creating a larger attack surface.
Cybercriminals do not hesitate to exploit this large attack surface, coming up with increasingly sophisticated ways to breach corporate networks. Endpoints, which offer an entry point into a network, can be exploited in numerous ways.
Cybercriminals steal devices to gain access to enterprise-sensitive data, send phishing emails with ransomware to unsuspecting users, and utilize various social engineering techniques to trick users into divulging information.
Endpoint Security’s Critical Role
Endpoint security solutions monitor and secure all operational endpoints in a network through a centralized management console you install on a network or servers. The goal is to detect advanced security threats and manage them appropriately.
Advanced endpoint security tools leverage machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to provide accurate and rapid threat detection and analysis in near real-time. These technologies ensure endpoint security solutions keep up with the ever-evolving threat landscape.
Common endpoint security features include vulnerable endpoint discovery, multi-factor authentication (MFA), user behavioral analysis, encryption, and real-time monitoring. These features help achieve comprehensive visibility into endpoints and implement security controls.
Endpoint Security vs. Traditional Antivirus
The traditional antivirus and endpoint security solutions belong to two different product categories. Here are key differences between the two products:
Known vs. unknown threats protection—a traditional antivirus protects against known threats because it relies on signature-based detention. Endpoint security solutions employ behavioral analysis to uncover previously unknown risks.
One endpoint or multiple endpoints coverage—antivirus software can protect one endpoint, providing insights related to that endpoint. Endpoint security solutions monitor the entire network to provide centralized visibility of all linked endpoints.
Different workflow—a traditional antivirus requires users to update the database manually or accept updates at predetermined times. Endpoint security vendors leverage the cloud to maintain their solutions automatically.
Endpoint security tools provide linked security and delegate administration to IT or security teams. This product covers a broader range of defenses deployed to prevent cybercriminals from exploiting endpoints. These solutions are more comprehensive than a traditional antivirus tool that primarily scans one endpoint for known signatures.
Types of Endpoint Security Solutions
Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)
EDR solutions monitor endpoint devices continuously to detect and respond to cyber threats. EDR solutions record all activities and events on endpoints and workloads to provide comprehensive visibility. These insights help uncover incidents that otherwise remain undetected.
Gartner’s Anton Chuvakin introduced this security product category, describing EDR as a technology that can record and store endpoint-system-level behaviors. Chuvakin mentioned key capabilities, including:
Data analytics to detect suspicious system behavior and provide contextual information.
Functionality that can respond to threats by blocking malicious activity.
Intelligent insights that offer remediation suggestions to help restore affected systems.
Learn more in our detailed guide to EDR security.
Endpoint Protection Platform (EPP)
EPPs provide a centralized suite of tools for securing endpoint devices. Common EPP features include antivirus protection, intrusion prevention, data encryption, and data loss prevention (DLP). The platform’s centralized interface enables users to monitor and control all features from one location.
An EPP helps detect and block cyber threats at the endpoint level, offering visibility into connected devices. Unlike EDR solutions that focus on threat detection and response, EPPs primarily focus on prevention. Since EPPs cannot block all threats, organizations typically utilize EPP as the first line of defense and EDR solutions to catch threats that get past the EPP. EDR and EPP work together as part of a broader cybersecurity program.
Learn more in our detailed guide to endpoint protection platforms.
Extended Detection and Response (XDR)
Gartner defines XDR as a Software as a Service (SaaS)-based and vendor-specific security tool for threat detection and incident response. An XDR solution natively integrates several security products into one cohesive security operations system that can unify all licensed components.
XDR is generally considered the evolution of EDR solutions into a primary incident response tool. By consolidating multiple tools through one location, XDR provides a holistic and simpler view of cyber threats across the entire technology ecosystem. It provides security operations with real-time actionable threat information they can use to achieve better, faster outcomes.
Managed Detection and Response (MDR)
MDR is a service that performs threat hunting, monitoring, and response using advanced technology and human expertise. It enables organizations to rapidly identify and minimize the impact of threats without hiring additional staff.
MDR services remotely monitor, detect, and respond to threats identified in the organization’s technology landscape. It often involves deploying EDR tools to achieve visibility into the organization’s security events on the endpoint level.
MDR staff receive this information from EDR tools and relevant threat intelligence, forensic data, and advanced analytics. They perform triage on alerts and determine an appropriate response to help reduce the impact and risk of true incidents. Some MDR services may also help remove the threat and restore the affected endpoint to its pre-infected state.
Core Components of an Endpoint Protection Solution
Endpoint security tools require the following components to provide effective continuous breach prevention:
Traditional antivirus solutions detect only known attacks, comparing malicious signatures or code components to a database updated by contributors when new malware signatures are identified. This technology cannot detect unknown malware. This issue is further aggravated by the time gap between the appearance of new malware and its discovery by traditional antiviruses.
Next-generation antivirus (NGAV) technology closes this gap by employing advanced endpoint protection technologies, such as machine learning and AI to identify new malware. It examines more elements, including file hashes, IP addresses, and URLs, to provide prevention coverage against a broader range of threats.
Traditional security tools often fail to detect intrusions, allowing threat actors to remain hidden in the environment for months or weeks. These so-called silent failures can cause serious damage. EDR helps prevent silent failures through comprehensive visibility of endpoint activity in real-time. This visibility, in addition to EDR capabilities like alert triage and malicious activity detection and containment, ensure organizations can take a proactive approach.
Proactive Protection: Managed Threat Hunting
Automated programs cannot detect all attacks. It requires the support of security professionals to cover more ground and detect sophisticated attacks. Managed threat hunting services offer the expertise of elite teams that aggregate crowdsourced data to recommend the most appropriate response to malicious activities.
Integrating Threat Intelligence
Threat intelligence integration solutions incorporate automation to investigate all incidents and provide insights in minutes. This technology generates custom indicators of compromise (IoCs) directly from endpoints to help achieve proactive defense against future attacks.
Threat intelligence typically includes advanced technology alongside expert security researchers, cultural experts, threat analysts, and linguists who can assess emerging threats in various contexts. This service enables organizations to understand threats as they evolve to stay ahead of attackers.
Factors to Consider When Selecting an Endpoint Security Tool
Here are several aspects to consider when choosing an endpoint security tool for your organization:
1. Cloud-based vs. on-premises
Cloud-based security tools provide high scalability and flexibility, while on-premises tools can help you meet strict privacy and security requirements. Organizations in the finance and government sectors typically opt for on-premises deployments or a hybrid cloud solution. Both options provide unique benefits. Your security and compliance policies can help guide you in making this decision.
2. Prevention capabilities
Endpoint security tools should provide a mixture of preventive and defensive capabilities to help ensure the endpoint threat surface is as covered as possible. Common next-gen security capabilities include advanced detection and malware blocking at the entry point. The goal is to block threats before they can cause damage.
3. Sandboxing capability
Sandboxing enables you to remove suspicious files from production environments and quarantine them inside isolated environments to prevent them from affecting your network. You can use sandboxing for static as well as dynamic analysis of unknown files. For ease of use, an endpoint solution should provide built-in sandboxing rather than integration with a third party.
4. 24x7 monitoring and recording
An endpoint security solution requires monitoring and recording capabilities to manage all endpoints. It typically involves monitoring and capturing all activities within the network 24x7. Monitoring is crucial to achieving the visibility needed to continuously detect suspicious activity and initiate timely responses.
5. Quick detection time
Endpoint solutions must detect network issues quickly to ensure your solutions and staff can respond timely to prevent threats from entering the network and initiate the appropriate response during breaches. Quick detection can help prevent the escalation of critical threats.
6. Easy and understandable interface
Network administrators and security personnel typically handle an organization’s endpoint security solutions. While these roles have a high level of technical expertise, it is important to choose solutions that provide an intuitive user interface (UI) to ensure clear and rapid use of the tool.
7. Automation capabilities
Each endpoint security tool offers unique automation capabilities that can vary significantly. However, many offer automated responses and triaging, understanding that security tools can generate too many alerts for human teams to handle. An endpoint security tool that handles false positives can reduce or eliminate alert fatigue and ensure teams handle critical events on time.
8. Agentless detection
Agentless detection helps identify fileless malware threats across your network and keep an eye on devices that do not support agent installation. It also eliminates or reduces the complexity of installing an agent in each endpoint on the network.
9. Integration with the existing security architecture
Endpoint security is one component within an overall security architecture, which means any endpoint protection tool you choose must function within the architecture. If it functions separately, you might encounter network surveillance and infrastructure issues.
Endpoint Security Best Practices
Educate Your Users
Endpoint security requires employee training to ensure they use endpoints that access corporate networks and data according to organizational and regulatory standards. Employee training can help protect against phishing schemes and other social engineering techniques that target employees.
Knowing not to click on suspicious email attachments and how to spot a phishing email is critical to ensure employees can apply their own judgment and become a core part of the organization’s line of defense. To support employees in this aspect, you should create a program that includes regular training and notifications that inform on suspicious emails.
Implement Automated Patching
Automated patching helps ensure all endpoint devices are updated with the latest security patches. Organizations can use various tools to automate the patching process, such as patch management systems (PMS) that automate operating systems and application software patching. PMS solutions usually provide a central console for viewing and deploying patches to endpoint devices.
Employ a Zero Trust Security Approach to User Privileges
A zero trust security approach to user privileges helps prevent unauthorized users from accessing confidential and sensitive data. It also helps prevent malicious users from spreading malware to infect data. It can significantly lower the cost of a data breach when implemented as part of a mature zero trust program.
Here are key principles:
Track the systems that users access from endpoints.
Monitor to ensure each user has the access rights relevant to their role.
Implement least-privilege access by default, allowing access only to the data and business applications needed to perform their job.
Provide only specialized users with administrator privileges.
Combine Endpoint Security with SIEM
Endpoints generate numerous logs, including user data, operating systems, and security application events. This data does not offer much use if it sits idly. Instead, organizations can process these logs into meaningful and actionable events through the help of a security information and event management (SIEM) solution.
SIEM solutions receive events from multiple sources and aggregate this data into meaningful information. SIEM technology correlates events and data to ensure organizations address the most relevant events. It utilizes a ruleset to distinguish between false positives and true incidents.
See Additional Guides on Key Access Management Topics
Together with our content partners, we have authored in-depth guides on several other topics that can also be useful as you explore the world of access management.
Authored by Faddom
Authored by Frontegg
Authored by Frontegg