What is Endpoint Protection?
Endpoint protection, also known as endpoint security, is a solution or process that secures and protects various endpoints (servers, workstations, mobile devices) from getting infected and prevents infections from spreading throughout a network. Endpoint protection is an integral component of a multi-layered security solution because it aims to secure every endpoint connected to a specific network, block malicious activity and provide protection against unauthorized access to sensitive data.
Today, endpoint protection can consist of multiple types of solutions and typically includes antivirus, anti-malware, encryption, firewall and other security measures such as patching and configuration management.
Key Terms & Definitions
Adware – A form of software that downloads or displays unwanted advertising banners or pop-ups while a program is running. Adware acts as a form of malware when it collects users’ information without their consent.
Anti-Malware – Software that prevents, detects and eliminates malicious programs on computing devices and IT systems.
Antivirus (AV) – Software that prevents, scans for, detects and eliminates computer viruses and other malicious software.
Companion Virus – A complicated computer virus which, unlike traditional viruses, does not modify any files. Instead, it creates a copy of the file and places a different extension on it that can infect the computer when prompted, unbeknownst to the user.
Cybercrime – Also known as computer crime or netcrime, cybercrime is loosely defined as any criminal activity that involves a computer and a network, whether in the commissioning of the crime or the target.
Denial of Service (DoS) – An attempt to interrupt or suspend host services of an Internet-connected machine causing network resources, servers, or websites to be unavailable or unable to function.
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) – A DoS attack that occurs from multiple sources.
Endpoint – A device or node that is Internet-capable and accepts communications back and forth across the network. Traditionally, an endpoint can be a modem, router or hub, but is more commonly referred to today as a computer, laptop, smart phone, tablet, printer or other similar device.
Firewall – A barrier that protects information from spreading between networks.
Keylogger – A type of surveillance software (also known as spyware) or hardware device that records users’ keystrokes to capture and transmit password credentials and other sensitive information to an unknown third party.
Malware – An overarching term describing hostile and/or intrusive software including (but not limited to) viruses, worms, Trojans, ransomware, spyware, adware, scareware, and more, which takes the form of executables, scripts, and active content.
Phishing – An attempt to acquire sensitive information like usernames, passwords, and credit card details for malicious purposes by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in a digital environment.
Spyware – A type of malware that is unknowingly installed on a computer with the intent of intercepting and gathering user information.
Trojan Horse – A malicious, non-replicating program that hides on a device as a benign file and performs unauthorized actions, such as deleting, blocking, modifying, or copying data, hindering performance, and more.
Virus – A program or programming code that, when executed, replicates by reproducing itself, helping it to easily infect and spread across systems, altering the way computers operate or shutting them down indefinitely.
Webroot – A provider of cybersecurity solutions and threat intelligence services for consumers and businesses.
Worm – A self-replicating virus that does not alter files but resides in active memory and duplicates itself, allowing it to easily spread infection and move across computers.
How Endpoint Protection Solutions Function
Endpoint protection solutions are used to prevent security vulnerabilities by creating and enforcing rules for endpoints based on an organization’s requirements. They typically evaluate an endpoint before permitting access to a network, ensuring that it’s up-to-date and meets the security standards defined by the organization.
Endpoint protection solutions are able to identify sensitive data and block the copying, accessing or transferring of certain files. When activated, endpoint protection software monitors a user’s device for incoming threats and can block and remove threats before they infect the computer or network. In general, there are two main ways endpoint protection software identifies and remediates malware: through signature and behavior detection.
Signature detection scans a user’s computer for characteristics or signatures of programs known to be malicious. It does so by referring to a dictionary of known malware and neutralizing any threats that match any existing patterns listed. Since an endpoint protection program using this approach can only protect against what it recognizes as harmful, it requires frequent updates. The problem with this is that cyber attackers are developing new malware too quickly for this approach to always be effective. In fact, 97 percent malware is found to be unique to a specific endpoint, which means that a more proactive and up-to-date approach is essential.
Behavior detection monitors the behavior of software installed on a user’s computer, instead of attempting to identify known malware. When a program acts suspiciously, such as trying to access a protected file or modify another program, behavior-based endpoint protection software spots the suspicious activity and alerts the user to it. Once this type of activity is flagged, the software can either delete, quarantine or attempt to repair the program or file. This specific approach provides protection against new types of malware that do not yet exist in any dictionary.
Overall, the main function of any endpoint protection solution is to keep your network safe, running smoothly and protected from malicious intent. However, when selecting an endpoint protection vendor(s), it’s important to familiarize yourself with its features so you know what to expect.
What to Look for in an Endpoint Protection Solution(s)
Protecting your clients’ endpoints is an essential part of your security strategy, and a strong endpoint protection or antivirus solution can help ensure that viruses and other malware will be stopped and deleted before they cause any damage. Protection needs may vary from one business to the next, but there are certain key features an effective endpoint protection program should have:
- Application control that prevents the execution of known malicious applications on endpoints, which could create network vulnerabilities and lead to unauthorized access.
- The ability to detect and protect from a wide array of threats, including major ones like CryptoLocker and minor vulnerabilities which could be left undetected and later evolve into major threats.
- An auto-update feature that enables the program to download profiles and behaviors of new threats in real-time so that it can check for and identify a new threat as soon as it is discovered.
- On-access scanning that is always running in the background and checking every file that is opened.
- A small footprint on bandwidth, disk space and processing speed to ensure end-user productivity is not impacted by virus scans.
Effective endpoint protection solutions should also include antivirus because it is “designed to prevent, search for, detect, and remove software viruses, and other malicious software like worms, Trojans, adware, and more,” according to Webroot. The primary purpose of antivirus software is to safeguard a user’s computer by scanning for viruses and other malware, monitoring the health of the device and removing any malicious code or behavior that may be detected. To be most effective, AV software needs to always be up-to-date on the latest virus definitions and signatures because the number and types of threats continue to grow at a rapid pace.
Overall, an ideal solution will give you all of the protection you need to keep your files and client networks safe, while also keeping your endpoints’ performance in outstanding working order. As cybersecurity becomes a more pressing issue for small businesses, having the right endpoint protection solution in place will help you better protect your clients and provide a more valuable service.
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Endpoint Protection and Managed IT Services
Endpoints can provide easy access points to threats, and with crypto ransomware making headlines, having a highly effective endpoint protection strategy in place is essential for managed service providers (MSPs) in order to keep clients and their data protected. Cybersecurity threats can easily disrupt business operations and potentially cost companies thousands of dollars. Today, MSPs must implement fast, effective, and easily deployable solutions that will optimize efficiency and keep their users safe at the same time.
When it comes to cybersecurity, it’s best to take a multi-layered approach to ensure that you’re minimizing risk and providing a comprehensive protection plan. Endpoint security is one of the most crucial layers and should be the leading edge of your security strategy. Endpoint protection goes beyond simply preventing malware attacks – it can provide data protection, file encryption, data loss prevention and device control for a higher-level of endpoint security. However, there are other components to your security strategy to consider, including network security, user access and identity management, as well as physical security.
To ensure business continuity and mitigate the damage caused by viruses and cyber attacks, businesses also need a reliable backup and disaster recovery (BDR) solution. Pairing a BDR solution with endpoint protection is the best way to protect against data breaches and data loss, and with the ever-changing nature of ransomware, it’s more important than ever that essential data and backups remain secure. By providing your clients with a multi-layered IT security solution and strengthening your remote monitoring and management (RMM) solution with antivirus, anti-malware and other software solutions, you can help boost their cybersecurity defenses, thereby minimizing the risk of threats that reach their endpoints and their networks.