In the modern digital landscape, keeping your network safe and secure is paramount. With cybercrime on the increase, businesses of all sizes need to make sure they aren’t vulnerable to hacks, data breaches, ransomware, and other exploits.  Endpoint devices represent the most vulnerable part of your network.

All of the computers, laptops, cellphones, tablets, IoT devices, and smart tech you use to conduct business are potential weak spots. In fact, over 60% of companies have experienced an endpoint attack at some point, with this number steadily rising.

The good news is you can start reducing your endpoint risk today with some simple, proactive solutions.

What are Endpoints?
First things first, a brief recap of endpoint devices.  Endpoints are simply physical devices that interact with your computer network. They are the devices we use the most and are used to exchange information and interact with data. If a device on your network accepts input from humans, then it is most likely an endpoint.

Examples of endpoint devices include:

  • Desktop computers
  • Laptops
  • Smartphones
  • Tablets
  • Virtual machines
  • Servers
  • IoT devices (smart speakers, refrigerators, lighting, cameras, thermostats, etc.)
  • Security systems

Your Business Needs Endpoint Security
While your network infrastructure may be bulletproof, insecure endpoints can allow intruders in through the front door.  Cybercriminals now focus on endpoint devices because they can be easy entry points into a network. This is because securing endpoints often relies on users to follow security procedures. As with anything, the human element means mistakes and oversights occur, which can leave your network vulnerable.

Endpoint Security involves practices, procedures, and software solutions that keep endpoint devices secure and used safely. These protect endpoint devices from cyberthreats by helping to detect intruders, enforce safe device usage, and encourage users to follow safe practices.  These protect your network from security threats such as:

  • Ransomware (withholding data until a large sum of money is paid)
  • Phishing (manipulating staff into sharing sensitive information)
  • Software exploits
  • Malware, spyware, and viruses
  • Device theft and loss

Endpoint Security Tips
Use safe password practices
Unsafe passwords are one of the easiest ways for your network to be compromised. Armed with a password, cybercriminals can freely access sensitive data and undermine other security measures without alerting defense systems.  Train staff to follow these best password practices to help keep your network endpoints secure:

  • Enforce strong passwords: the most secure passwords are 16 characters or longer and involve a mixture of both upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Don’t reuse passwords: encourage staff to use a unique password for each protocol and service. This way, if a password is guessed correctly, cybercriminals do not have widespread access.
  • Use two-factor authentication (2FA): Two-factor authentication forces are used to confirm access requests using a unique code or clicking a link in an email. Alongside other practices, this can stop cybercriminals in their tracks and deny them access.

Audit your endpoints
Whether you’re running a small business, an SME, or a full-scale corporate enterprise, you need to know what’s connecting to your network.  The best way to do this is to perform a vulnerability scan using one of many software solutions now available. These will scan your entire network, including cloud solutions, remote computers, virtual machines, and previously connected devices.  After performing a vulnerability scan, you will be able to detect possible vulnerabilities in your network and see which devices pose the biggest threat.  With this list, you will be able to take stock of devices and begin the process of identification. Unrecognized devices can be investigated, and you will have hard documentation to demonstrate compliance with security regulations.

Use a zero-trust model
One of the best ways to keep your network safe is to adopt a zero-trust security framework for all users. This means that all users and devices need to be authorized, authenticated, and regularly verified to be granted access to the network, applications, and data.  The central concept is to give users the minimal amount of access necessary to a network and to continuously assess risks. This way, compromised accounts, and devices are less likely to cause widespread disruption to a network.  Your business can apply zero-trust policies in a number of ways, the most important being:

  • Principle of Least Privilege (PoLP)
  • Multi-Factor Authentication
  • Safelist devices
  • Segment your network into zones

The easiest way to apply these measures is to use a cloud-based Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solution. This applies zero-trust strategies and more to your network and is now a key strategy for protecting against cybercrime.

Deploy device security policies
Tracking endpoint devices over their lifecycle is also important.  This allows you to monitor who has access to a device, who currently is in possession, when it was last updated, and more. At each stage of a device’s lifecycle, security policies should be implemented to ensure the endpoint is secure.  For example, if a laptop is reissued to another user, it should be wiped and reconfigured for the new users. This way, the new user only has network privileges and access to the data that they should.  Endpoint Security policies help ensure such procedures are taking place.

The easiest way to implement security policies is by using software such as Microsoft AutoPilot and Microsoft Surface Element Management Mode. These automate and facilitate security practices for endpoint devices at all lifecycle phases.

Keep firmware and software up to date
Old firmware and software versions pose a big threat to your network’s security. A study conducted in 2016 found that over 80% of security breaches could have been prevented simply by keeping software up to date.  It’s vital, therefore, for your business to keep your endpoint device software up to date.

While most software updates are automatic these days, firmware updates often require user intervention. Firmware is the built-in logic that devices use to function and poses a risk if ignored.  For example, modern BIOS firmware has TPM and UEFI security measures that can prevent malicious USB devices from infecting a computer. Assign an IT professional to manage the updating of your company’s device endpoints and implement a procedure to make sure everything’s up to date.

Have a plan for theft and loss
In an age of remote and hybrid work, devices will inevitably be lost or stolen. Whether it’s a laptop that’s been left on the train or a smartphone stolen from a café, these possibilities pose significant security risks.  Your company should outline clear guidelines for endpoint device theft and loss to minimize risk and network exposure. Encourage staff and network users to act swiftly and report device loss immediately.  This also outlines the importance of implementing a regular backup system or using cloud solutions. This way, if a device is stolen, it can be remotely locked, and data is still preserved.

Consider Endpoint Management software
Fortunately, there are now many complete endpoint management tools that can help. These are considered all-in-one solutions that can help enforce safe passwords, implement zero-trust policies, monitor devices accessing a network, and keep everything up to date.

Endpoint management software also makes it easy to onboard users and grant network access temporarily to contractors and third parties without compromising your security. To keep things secure, policies and privileges can be set, adjusted, and revoked instantly, making it easy to implement a zero-trust approach.

These solutions can be installed locally on your network’s servers (Unified Endpoint Management) or used remotely via the cloud (Remote Monitoring and Management). The former is preferred by large enterprises, while remote solutions are ideal for smaller businesses.

Endpoint Security is vital to keeping your network safe and avoiding data breaches. The best way to keep endpoint devices secure is to encourage user awareness regarding password and device use and use readily available software solutions to track user access and device status. Please reach out to our President, Frank Stephens, at [email protected], or our Service Delivery Manager, Simon Jakubzcak, at [email protected] now for an analysis of your Endpoint Security Management.