What Is Endpoint Security and Why Is It Important?
Cybercrime, cyberespionage, and cyberwarfare attacks often target endpoints. Endpoint security safeguards endpoints from attacks.
Endpoint security solutions protect endpoints, including desktop computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets, from cyber threats and unauthorized activity. Endpoint security solutions have evolved from traditional antivirus to provide a broad set of defenses to stop known and unknown malware, fileless attacks, exploits, and post-intrusion attack techniques. Because threat actors may target endpoints as a pathway into an organization’s network, endpoint security solutions are often able to isolate compromised endpoints to prevent attacks from spreading to multiple endpoints.
As remote and mobile workers become more commonplace, the number of exposed endpoints grows, increasing the “protect surface” from a contained corporate campus to endpoints scattered across the globe. Organizations must ensure all endpoints that store or access corporate data, including employee-owned devices, are protected against cyberattacks.
“Endpoint security” is often used interchangeably with “Endpoint Protection Platform,” or EPP, a term coined by Gartner. These software products are installed on endpoint devices and secure them against cyberattacks.
Increasingly, endpoint security has become a component of extended detection and response (XDR) solutions that span across data sources to deliver enterprise-wide threat prevention, detection, and response.
What Is An Endpoint?
An endpoint is a computing device that is connected to a local or wide area network. Examples of endpoints include desktop PCs, laptops, smartphones, servers and even Internet-of-things (IoT) devices.
Adversaries have set their sights on endpoints either as the ultimate target of an attack, such as for ransomware or cryptomining threats, or as the entry point for an advanced, multistage attack. With organizational workforces becoming more mobile and users connecting to internal resources from off-premises endpoints all over the world, endpoints are increasingly susceptible to cyberattacks.
Modern Endpoint Protection vs. Traditional Antivirus
Traditional endpoint security, such as signature-based antivirus, has failed to keep up with fast-evolving threats, leaving companies vulnerable to attacks. Adversaries today have developed an arsenal of attacks that can evade signatures and bypass outdated defenses. Attackers can even avoid the use of malware altogether by using apps already installed on endpoints to carry out attacks, even if the apps have been disabled.
Stopping endpoint attacks requires more than simply blocking known malware. You need a solution that can automatically block known and zero-day attacks, without slowing down your endpoints.
Why Detection and Response
The best endpoint security tools can stop over 99% of all attacks automatically, but they can’t block every attack. The most sophisticated and potentially most damaging attacks require detection and response. These attacks, such as insider threats or advanced persistent threats, often require analysis and manual verification from a security analyst. So, while these attacks constitute a small percentage of all attacks you will receive, they can be extremely destructive.
Oftentimes, the only way to identify these attacks is by analyzing activity over time and across data sources with machine learning. By combining rich data and analytics, you can detect the tactics and techniques used by advanced adversaries. You can also hunt for threats, and get the visibility needed to investigate and respond to incidents.
Key Endpoint Security Capabilities
When evaluating an endpoint security solution, look for the following essential features:
- Rock-solid endpoint threat prevention: The strongest endpoint security products combine multiple security engines to stop every stage of an endpoint attack, from initial reconnaissance and exploitation, to installation and malware behavior. Evaluate whether endpoint security products can:
- Block exploits by technique, rather than by exploit signature
- Block malware files using threat intelligence
- Analyze files with an AI-powered local analysis engine
- Analyze files with a cloud-based malware prevention service
- Block malicious file behavior
- Disrupt ransomware with a dedicated anti-ransomware module
With ironclad protection, you can stop the most evasive attacks, such as the SolarWinds supply-chain attack. Review third-party tests like the AV-Comparatives Endpoint Protection and Response (EPR) Test to validate security efficacy.
- Endpoint protection suite capabilities to reduce your attack surface – You should look for tools that can prevent data loss and unauthorized access with features such as host firewall, device control, and disk encryption. Look for endpoint security solutions that offer granular control over USB access and firewall policies. Also, check out vulnerability assessment, host inventory, and rogue device discovery capabilities when selecting an endpoint security solution.
- Robust, out-of-the-box detection – Detection and response is an essential feature of endpoint security, but capabilities and ease of use vary dramatically. Ideal solutions offer a comprehensive set of machine learning and analytics techniques to detect stealthy cyber threats. Check out independent tests such as the MITRE ATT&CK Evaluation to assess the breadth and accuracy of detection coverage.
- Broad visibility for accelerated investigation and response - Siloed security tools generate endless alerts with limited context. To reduce response times, choose security tools that provide a complete picture of incidents with rich investigative details. They should simplify investigations by automatically revealing the root cause, sequence of events, and threat intelligence details of alerts from any source. Flexible response options such as script execution, direct access to endpoints, host restore, and “search and destroy” let you quickly eliminate threats and recover from attacks.
- Cloud-delivered security – With more and more employees working remotely, you need a solution that lets you easily support all of them. Cloud-based management and deployment not only streamlines operations and eliminates burdensome on-premises servers, it also quickly scales to handle more users and more data.
- A single, lightweight agent – Instead of installing bulky agents that continually scan your endpoints for attack signatures, opt for one agent for endpoint threat prevention as well as detection and response.
Endpoint detection and response, or EDR, solutions enable security teams to find and eliminate endpoint threats. EDR tools typically provide detection, investigation, threat hunting, and response capabilities. Endpoint detection and response has become a critical component of any endpoint security solution because there’s simply no better way to detect an intrusion than by monitoring the target environment being attacked, and the telemetry collected by an EDR platform enables full triage and investigation
EDR solutions analyze events from laptops, desktop PCs, mobile devices, servers, and even IoT and cloud workloads, to identify suspicious activity. They generate alerts to help security operations analysts uncover, investigate and remediate issues. EDR tools also collect telemetry data on suspicious activity and may enrich that data with other contextual information from correlated events. Through these functions, EDR is instrumental in shortening response times for incident response teams, and ideally, eliminating threats before damage is done.
Our approach to endpoint security
You need a solution that can automatically block known and zero-day attacks as well as provide the visibility your analysts require for detection and response. Cortex XDR from Palo Alto Networks gives you all of that and more.
Cortex XDR is the industry’s first extended detection and response platform that integrates network, endpoint, cloud, and third-party data to stop sophisticated attacks. Cortex XDR has been designed from the ground up to protect your whole organization holistically while simplifying operations. It delivers best-in-class endpoint security to stop exploits, malware, ransomware, and fileless attacks. The Cortex XDR agent offers a complete prevention stack, starting with the broadest set of exploit protection modules available to block the exploits that lead to malware infections, as well as Behavioral Threat Protection and AI-driven local analysis.
The Cortex XDR agent stops attacks across the endpoint attack lifecycle.
Cortex XDR leverages behavioral analytics to identify unknown and highly evasive threats targeting your network. Machine learning and AI models uncover threats from any source, including managed and unmanaged devices.
Cortex XDR helps you accelerate investigations by providing a complete picture of each incident. It stitches different types of data together and reveals the root cause and timeline of alerts, allowing your analysts to easily triage alerts. Tight integration with enforcement points lets you contain cyber threats across your entire infrastructure.
With Cortex XDR, you can use your existing Palo Alto Networks network, endpoint, and cloud security as sensors and enforcement points, eliminating the need to deploy new software or hardware. You can avoid provisioning cumbersome log infrastructure on-premises by storing all your data in a scalable and secure cloud-based data lake.
Learn How We Protect Our Endpoints
Join us for a virtual session showcasing a day in the life of the Palo Alto Networks SOC team and see how they’re protecting the world’s largest cybersecurity company every day. We’ll share a unique view of how we built and operate the Palo Alto Networks SOC including a deep dive into our security stack and processes.