What is an Endpoint?
Almost every electronic device you use—from desktops, laptops, mobile phones, printers, scanners, tablets, routers, modems, and Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices (like remote cameras or smart home devices)—is an endpoint.
These are openings into the system that allows you to interact with the internal data structure. Examples of some of the most common ones are cellular service, WIFI, bluetooth, or a USB port.
Think of endpoints as potential doors or windows a hacker can break to gain access to your digital goods.
What’s the Worst Thing that Could Happen?
You’ve worked hard on making your business successful. Imagine if all of those years of hard work vanished in an instant. Here are just a few possible scenarios if a hacker gains access to your systems.
- Ransomware or Extortion: If a malicious hacker gains entry to your network, they can encrypt your files, not releasing them until you pay their ransom. If you don’t pay, it could all be deleted, or the data could be leaked.
- Data Theft: Having your client list, employee information, or sensitive financial information stolen. Especially if not caught immediately, this could cause not just immediate financial ruin, but ongoing issues that could take years to fully resolve.
- Total System Lockout: Not being able to work because you’ve lost access to your email account or your entire network (workstations, laptops, servers, file shares, etc.)
You might say, “But I have a password on my device/my device is locked in a building when I’m not there/my device is turned off when I’m not using it. I’m safe, right?”
For someone to break into your system, they would first have to gain access to it. While these endpoints are physical, with the Internet hackers and data thieves do not need actual physical access to the system to take advantage of it.
Some possible scenarios that can expose your devices to compromise are personal:
- You log into an unknown network at an airport, coffee shop, or hotel
- You don’t have an antivirus program installed on your device, or your virus protection is out of date
- You click on a suspicious email or open an unexpected attachment
…or, you don’t do any of these, and you can still be compromised! There are many vulnerabilities for every device, and to hackers, it’s a game to see if they can find a new way to gain access to systems.
For business owners, there is even more at stake. Consider the following scenarios:
- An employee writes down their passwords or saves them in a Word document
- An employee forgets to log out of their system
- An employee leaves the company, but had passwords for sensitive systems
- An employee does any of the actions listed in the Personal list, like opening a suspicious email
…and this is not an exhaustive list. Why? Because even smart people do dumb things. Like finding a USB stick on the ground and then deciding to plug it in to see what’s on it.
So, What Is Endpoint Security?
Endpoint security involves securing ALL endpoints, including the human ones.
It’s important to note the distinction between Endpoint Protection Programs (EPP) and Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR). While Endpoint Security encompasses both terms, Endpoint Protection is a proactive approach (attempting to stop attacks before they succeed), whereas Endpoint Detection and Response is reactive (notification and containment after an attack succeeds). A key benefit of EDR over traditional antivirus tools is that it allows centralized monitoring and management of all endpoints.
Some examples are:
Network Access Control: Involving the configuration and use of firewalls, the traffic coming into your network is segregated and routed depending on rules that are set up for the logins. You can also set up Multi-factor authorization for increased security.
Data Loss Prevention/Insider Threat Prevention: These are strategies and policies that are put in place to stop the human element from rendering your software security null and void. This includes anti-malware on end user devices, training for employees against phishing attacks, and proper practices in place to cut off access when an employee is terminated. It also involves a least-access privilege approach when securing your business.
URL Filtering: Filtering out a list of URLs that are suspicious or known to harbor malware.
Sandboxing and Browser Isolation: This involves replicating a user’s environment in a safe, isolated environment. If the environment is compromised, it will be unable to spread to other parts of the network.
Perimeter Security/Cloud Perimeter Security: This is where your internal network meets the world. In the past, an employee had to physically connect to the internal network before being able to access resources. Now with the advent of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and hybrid infrastructure (partly on-premises, partly in the cloud), securing your network perimeter has become much more difficult.
Secure Email Gateways: Viruses, spam and malware can easily be emailed. Using a secure email gateway can ensure that these messages are filtered out. Not all secure email gateways are the same though. Most businesses don’t want to have important customer correspondence delayed or filtered unnecessarily, and an improperly set up gateway can cause ‘good’ mail to be filtered along with ‘bad’ mail.
This is not an exhaustive list. As even more devices come to market, as old devices are no longer patched, and as technology advances, there will always be new threats to your digital safety.
All it takes is one bad actor to ruin years’ worth of work.
The single best thing you can do for your business is hire professionals, like Mission Critical IT, to secure and monitor your network. Contact us today to start a conversation about protecting your business from threats involving endpoint security.