There are many facets to cybersecurity. Organizations strive to prevent unauthorized access to networks and servers, block unwanted spam and phishing emails, identify and patch vulnerabilities that expose applications and data to potential risk, achieve and maintain compliance with various industry and regulatory frameworks, and more. It’s tough to focus on everything all at once—especially with limited resources—so businesses assess risk and prioritize cybersecurity efforts to protect the proverbial crown jewels. Endpoints—the PCs, laptops, and mobile devices used to connect to the networks, servers, applications, and data—are often considered to be less valuable, but the truth is that endpoint security is one of the most crucial aspects of effective cybersecurity.
Endpoint Security and the Game of Chess
Think of endpoints as the “pawns” of your cybersecurity chess board. To a chess novice, the pawn may seem like a relatively useless piece. It can basically only move one square at a time and generally only in one direction. That hardly seems very impressive compared with pieces like the bishop that can zip diagonally across the entire board in one move, or the queen, which can go anywhere it chooses more or less. The pawns seem expendable.
However, that perception is false. Yes, there are more pawns than other pieces. Yes, pawns can only move one square at a time in one direction. But pawns are actually one of the most important—if not the most important—pieces on the board. The pawns allow you to define the battlefront. How and where you position your pawns plays a crucial role in where your opponent can or cannot go and help you to shape the battle as you see fit.
Of course, cybersecurity is not chess. Your endpoints are certainly not expendable and your goal isn’t necessarily to shape or define the battlefield. Cybersecurity is, however, often a matter of strategy and trying to outwit the adversary, and when it comes to cybersecurity, the endpoints represent the front line of the battle.
Why Is Endpoint Security Important?
It’s easy to think of endpoints as less valuable. It seems obvious that servers running business-critical applications, and cloud instances that store sensitive customer or financial data are higher value assets that deserve more attention and protection. Endpoint security is very important, though, because there are far more endpoints than servers and databases in most organizations, and the endpoints are typically connected in some way to the public internet and provide a gateway attackers can use to access other areas of the network. Ignoring your endpoints and focusing only on higher value assets is like leaving the doors and windows of your home open, and just locking your valuables in a closet.
Attackers are looking for a crack in the armor—any crack. There may not be any valuable data on a random endpoint, but if the endpoint is not properly secured and protected it provides an opportunity for the attacker to gain access to your network. They can set up shop there and capture the credentials of the user. They can poke and scan and find out what systems or applications that endpoint is connected to. They can discover other vulnerable endpoints or servers and move laterally through the network.
Bottom line: your endpoints are the front line for effective cybersecurity and you do not want the adversary to penetrate the front line.
Effective Endpoint Protection
The concept of endpoint security is not new, but the game and the stakes have changed. The strategy of preventing attacks using personal firewalls, host intrusion prevention, and antimalware software is effective—but not impervious. Even if these tools block 99 out of 100 attacks, you need to be aware of and respond to that one successful attack.
Effective endpoint protection goes beyond just building a wall and hoping nothing gets in. Alert Logic Extended Endpoint Protection (EEP) uses machine learning and behavioral analytics to stay one step ahead of attackers by identifying and blocking malicious techniques and ransomware attacks in near real-time. EEP is designed primarily to take automated protective action, blocking something malicious at runtime. If an endpoint is listed as blocking an attack in the Alert Logic console, an administrator can take the steps to isolate the endpoint from the network to restrict its connectivity.
Endpoint security is an essential element of effective cybersecurity. Don’t leave your front line unprotected.