What Is Endpoint Protection? Solutions and Best Practices
What Is Endpoint Protection?
Endpoint protection is a term often used interchangeably with endpoint security. It describes security solutions that protect endpoints such as workstations, mobile devices, servers, and cloud resources, from data breaches caused by zero-day exploits, attacks, or human error.
Legacy antivirus solutions alone cannot stop targeted attacks and advanced persistent threats (APTs). Endpoint protection builds on legacy antivirus, adding multiple additional defensive layers, including next-generation antivirus (NGFW). Endpoint security solutions are typically deployed on endpoint devices as agents.
Endpoint protection solutions provide dashboards and administration functionality to allow central control of endpoints across the organization. They employ policy-based rules to block suspicious endpoint device activity - most solutions come with built-in preset rules and allow organizations to create custom rules according to their unique needs.
This is part of a series of articles about endpoint security.
What Are the Benefits of Endpoint Protection?
Endpoint protection technology replaces traditional, siloed security tools that manage endpoints separately. These traditional tools are time-consuming and create security gaps that evade identification.
Gain visibility into all endpoints
A modern endpoint security solution enables administrators to manage many endpoints using one interface. It provides greater visibility into endpoints, ensuring admins can quickly identify and address security weaknesses.
Identify attack vectors
Cybercriminals use many attack vectors to deliver malicious payloads into systems, such as compromised credentials, inadequate encryption mechanisms, and phishing emails. An endpoint protection solution helps identify and neutralize many attack vectors.
Leverage automation to improve security
Endpoint protection solutions leverage automation to perform security tasks without human intervention. Admins can register, provision, manage, update, and retire numerous endpoints at the click of a button. It makes the entire security process more efficient and frees IT experts to focus on business-critical tasks.
Types of Endpoint Protection Solutions
Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)
Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) is an endpoint security solution that continuously monitors end-user devices, detecting and enabling rapid response to cyber threats such as ransomware and malware.
EDR uses a variety of data analysis techniques to detect suspicious system behavior, identify malicious activity, provide contextual information, and provide remediation recommendations for security teams. Another key function is to record and store endpoint system-level actions to enable investigation of security incidents.
EDR security solutions log activity and events that occur on endpoints and across all workloads, giving security teams the visibility they need to uncover hidden events. An EDR solution provides continuous, comprehensive visibility into what is happening at the endpoint in real time.
Endpoint Protection Platform (EPP)
An Endpoint Protection Platform (EPP) is a suite of tools for protecting endpoint devices. EPP technologies include antivirus protection, data encryption, intrusion prevention, data loss prevention (DLP), and more. These tools enable businesses to detect and block a variety of threats on endpoints.
An EPP gives security teams broad visibility over connected devices and how they are being protected and updated. EPP allows multiple security technologies to be controlled and monitored from a centralized source, making it easy for analysts and IT staff to manage each device's level of protection.
Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) focuses on threat detection and response, while EPP focuses on prevention. Because no EPP can block 100% of threats, EPPs and EDRs are commonly used together. If something crosses the first line of defense provided by the EPP, EDR can help security analysts identify the breach and react to it as quickly as possible.
Learn more in our detailed guide to endpoint protection platform
Extended Detection and Response (XDR)
Extended Detection and Response (XDR) is a new type of security platform, delivered as a service, which integrates multiple security products into a cohesive suite that supports security operations across the entire IT environment.
XDR enables businesses to go beyond traditional detection controls by providing a holistic, simplified view of threats across the technology landscape. XDR provides actionable, real-time threat intelligence for security operations for faster, better results. It combines event data from networks, email systems, cloud systems, and other parts of the IT environment, which were previously considered separate silos.
Managed Detection and Response (MDR)
Managed Detection and Response (MDR) is a cybersecurity service that combines technology and human expertise to find, monitor, and respond to threats. A key benefit of MDR is that it can quickly identify and limit the impact of threats without the need for additional personnel.
MDR remotely monitors, detects and responds to threats within your organization. Endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools often provide the necessary visibility into endpoint security events, and form the basis of an MDR service.
The MDR process works as follows:
Relevant threat intelligence, advanced analytics, and forensic data are delivered to analysts in a remote security operations center (SOC).
Analysts perform alert classification and determine the appropriate response to mitigate the impact and risk of a positive event.
The MDR platform combines human and machine capabilities to neutralize threats and restore affected endpoints to pre-infection state.
Endpoint Protection Best Practices
Monitor and Observe Process Executions
Teams need to know details about all activity on an endpoint, such as running processes, where they're running, which files are being accessed, which sockets are open, and more. Process execution and related details - such as the full command line executed, process ancestors, and process hashes - are important in identifying malicious or potentially malicious activity.
By monitoring this activity, security analysts get a complete picture of the security environment. This is the foundation for effective endpoint detection and response. By additional leveraging threat intelligence, teams can identify known threats and respond in a timely manner.
Monitor User Authentications
User authentication on the endpoint is a critical component in identifying attackers or unauthorized users. Security analysts should take a closer look here to differentiate between real users and attackers. For example, knowing whether a user typically authenticates against a particular server helps to investigate later authentication attempts.
Limit Local Administrator Rights with a Least Privilege Policy
This is a proactive endpoint security technique - if implemented and maintained carefully over time, it can help protect and limit access to an organization’s most important assets. With a least-privilege policy, cybercriminals cannot obtain and abuse administrator credentials to access sensitive resources, even if individual endpoints are compromised.
Implementing a least-privilege model ensures that each user and each endpoint has only the minimum level of access needed to complete a task. This is an important part of building a zero trust environment. It limits the activities of attackers who have already penetrated your network - hackers cannot gain access to sensitive systems simply because they have compromised some other, unrelated system.
Privilege escalation can be prevented through policy-based management using whitelists, restrictions, and blacklists, to ensure that users continue to work without interruption. This allows you to remove local administrator privileges without affecting productivity.
Patch Systems Quickly
When a technology vendor releases a security update for an application, it is likely that the vulnerability they are trying to fix has already been exposed to the hacker community. Attackers are likely to focus their time, resources, and energy on targets with the highest chance of success and least resistance.
Applying security updates as soon as they become available can significantly limit the chances of a successful cyberattack. Updates should be applied to all systems, including network systems, central software systems, and end device firmware. The average company runs at least dozens of systems and hundreds of devices, so manually checking and updating each system is impractical.
Security updates are most effective when the verification and enforcement process is automated, and many endpoint security solutions provide features that can provide this automation.