Cybersecurity is top of mind for IT professionals. Protecting corporate data and other assets requires a robust strategy, and one key component is endpoint security.
But what is endpoint security?
Think of your network as a wheel. The hub represents your core infrastructure – servers, systems, data storage, etc. Radiating out from that hub are spokes, and at the ends of each spoke are the laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other interfaces that allow your users to connect into the central resources in the hub. Those access devices are endpoints.
An effective security posture relies on a number of tools and software platforms designed to protect and monitor the hub of your network wheel, where your most valuable assets often reside. But enterprises also need to ensure that every endpoint that connects to the network is also properly defended. It may sound simple to secure a device like a smartphone, but the state of endpoint security is always changing in response to emerging and evolving threats. Hackers are quick to leverage any vulnerabilities they find inside endpoint devices, and the variety of interfaces able to connect into a business network is always expanding.
Endpoints are typically on the front lines when it comes to cybersecurity. Not only do they offer an array of potential openings for anyone looking to access your network, many endpoint users don’t understand the myriad security threats targeting their computers, smartphones, and tablets. E-mail phishing scams, for instance, often wiggle their way into the network when an employee innocently clicks on a malicious link in a message from an untrusted source. That simple action then launches a malware-laden website or downloads a corrupted file to their device. The result? Their endpoint is compromised and it took only a moment for it to happen.
Making the elements behind endpoint security even more vital is the realization that it isn’t just a single device that’s at risk. Companies need to put the right security measures in place to prevent any one device from being jeopardized by malware, ransomware, or some other intrusion. Then they must also ensure their endpoint security strategy is robust enough to prevent attack vectors from traveling up the wheel spoke from that device to the heart of the infrastructure. If the endpoint doesn’t have sufficient protection, the entire network is at risk of becoming compromised. Stored data and even entire systems may be rendered inoperable and unrecoverable.
Endpoint security considerations in a changing business environment
Along with protecting the usual array of corporate-owned endpoints, many companies have expanded their network perimeter to allow connections from personally-owned devices – those belonging to employees, customers, and visitors – alongside the traditional endpoints distributed and managed by the organization. This bring your own device (BYOD) flexibility can be tricky to oversee, requiring your enterprise to be aware of what’s connecting to the network and what methods of control are available to ensure those endpoints are secure and trusted.
Elements around remote access, including increased business travel and the large-scale shift of employees into work-from-home (WFH) arrangements, are also adding a new layer of complexity to endpoint security efforts. More users now expect to connect to corporate networks not only through their personal smartphone or tablet while onsite, but also offsite via their home network or public Wi-Fi access points. In enterprises where remote access is prevalent, the need to protect against endpoint vulnerabilities is greater than ever.
In addition, the sheer number and type of endpoint devices has grown exponentially in recent years. Alongside more traditional computers and mobile devices, the rise of Internet of Things (IoT) devices has also created new challenges in endpoint security. IoT devices range from building air temperature sensors to smart speakers to intelligent room lighting systems to equipment monitoring devices. Their operating systems are sometimes rudimentary, with little room for defensive applications or other measures. In spite of these potential vulnerabilities, IT teams must develop an endpoint security strategy that enables every endpoint to operate securely within the environment.
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