Endpoint protection solutions protect endpoints, such as PCs, laptops, servers, mobiles, and IoT devices from malware, phishing, malicious applications, and zero-day attacks. They also enable IT teams to triage, investigate, and remediate security incidents, respond to alerts, and configure device policies. They differ from commercial anti-virus solutions as they allow admins to manage all devices from a single admin console and perform complex investigations against threats, with the ability to carry out remediation activities.
Endpoint protection is a fundamental pillar of a cybersecurity plan that will protect users and data. They are crucial to any organization, and one of the most effective ways of protecting devices against harmful web downloads, ransomware, and malicious applications. Endpoint protection solutions should be easy to install across your endpoints. They should be lightweight and provide you with a comprehensive management portal where you can monitor endpoints, deploy updates, and view reports.
However, the endpoint security market today is extremely crowded. There are a dozens of vendors on the market with different technologies and approaches designed to stop threats from reaching your corporate devices. Some of these solutions are designed around specific device fleets (Mac or PC) or different approaches to endpoint protection like machine learning powered extended detection and response (XDR) solutions. These will be designed for particular company types, such as SMBs or large corporate enterprises.
To help you cut through the noise and find the endpoint security solution that works best for your organization, here is our list of the best endpoint security and anti-virus software. To put together this list, we’ve assessed the key features, pricing, user feedback, and our own independent technical analysis of the different vendors on the market.
Endpoint Protection: Everything You Need To Know
What Is Endpoint Protection Software?
Endpoint protection (EPP) software is a cybersecurity solution that protects your endpoint devices (PCs, mobiles, laptops, tablets, routers, etc.,) against malware, phishing, harmful files, and suspicious activity.
EPP solutions are typically deployed via a software agent, which is installed directly onto the end user’s device and managed by admins from a central dashboard. From here the admins can configure policies, respond to incidents, and track endpoints connected to the network.
What Is An Endpoint In Cybersecurity?
Any physical device connected to your network is described as an ‘endpoint’ in cybersecurity. This can include PCs, laptops, mobile devices, virtual machines, servers, and routers. Internet-of-things (IoT) devices are also endpoints – this includes cameras, smart speakers, lights, security hardware, smart refrigerators, toys, and even smart televisions.
Essentially, any device that can connect to your network and transfer or receive data is considered an endpoint device. Any of these devices has the potential to become compromised and pose a risk to the wider network. However, most endpoint protection solutions for the enterprise focus on protecting end-user devices, such as laptops, PCs, and mobile devices, rather than IoT devices. This is because these web browsing workstations are the most targeted vectors in most organizations when it comes to malware and ransomware.
How Does Endpoint Protection Work?
Endpoint protection solutions are deployed directly onto every individual endpoint on the network. This enables them to scan the device locally for malware and suspicious activity. Endpoint protection tools can also encrypt files and ensure only approved applications are installed on the device. There are a range of other policies That admins can configure and deploy. For this reason, it’s important to consider what operating systems an endpoint security solution supports when selecting one for your organization.
Traditionally, endpoint security tools would use a signature-based system to detect malware and prevent it from being installed. Signature-based detection systems compare files and URLs with known malware examples to prevent users from downloading malicious documents or visiting harmful webpages. While this provides fast and effective protection against known risks, there is the risk that unknown and emerging malware strains can slip through.
For this reason, many leading endpoint security tools today use a heuristic system based on ML engines, alongside (or in place of) signature-based detection. Heuristic endpoint protection systems use a confidence-based philosophy to assess files and judge whether it is likely to be malicious, even if the code has never been seen before. As many cybersecurity companies operate massive threat intelligence platforms with hundreds of millions of data points collected every day, week, or month, it does not take long for these AI systems to become effective at catching highly advanced malware strains, with very low false positive rates.
Many endpoint security vendors now combine endpoint security with endpoint detection and response (EDR) and extended detection and response (XDR) capabilities. These services provide greater remediation and investigation features, often utilizing machine learning to enable faster identification and resolution of detected threats. They also often integrate with third party tools for more in-depth reporting across your security stack. You can view our guide to the top XDR solutions here.
What Is Endpoint Detection And Response (EDR)?
Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solutions are an evolution of endpoint security that continuously monitors end user devices to detect and respond to advanced threats. While endpoint protection solutions would traditionally scan user devices periodically (as well as scanning new files and web downloads), EDR solutions will continuously scan for suspicious activity, recording, and analysing endpoint behaviours at the system level. EDR solutions can automatically block malicious endpoint activity and provide high levels of contextual data and remediation actions for IT admins.
Many endpoint vendors now offer EDR capabilities built into their core endpoint solutions, or offer these features as additional, tightly integrated products. EDR solutions provide extensive data, helping to uncover incidents that could otherwise be undetected. Analytics are typically shown in the admin console, including real-time threat tracking data, threat hunting, and alerting. These solutions are ideal for admins looking to get greater insight and context into endpoint threats. We’ve put together a separate list of the top endpoint detection and response solutions here.
What Is Extended Detection And Response (XDR)?
Extended detection and response (XDR) tools are an evolution of the EDR solutions detailed. They are SaaS-based solutions that provide threat detection and incident response across multiple security products, including your endpoint protection and EDR solutions.
The main benefit of implementing an XDR solution is consolidating your security operations, enabling you to manage all endpoints, networks, and cloud solutions in a single admin console, with unified visibility and controls. XDR tools help to improve threat detection and response times, allowing teams to respond to incidents and implement policy automations effectively.
Many enterprise endpoint protection leaders now offer XDR solutions which extend across your networks. We’ve put together a separate guide to choosing the best XDR solutions here.
What Is Managed Detection And Response (MDR)?
Managed Detection and Response (MDR) covers EDR solutions that are managed by a security vendor directly on behalf of the organization. Security tasks such as incident investigation, alert triaging, threat hunting, and remediation are outsourced to the EDR vendor, saving valuable time for IT admins and SOC teams. There are many benefits to going with the MDR approach – it can help teams with a lack of resources internally and bolster in-house talent with external expertise. You can read our guide to the top 10 managed detection and response solutions here.
How Is Endpoint Security Deployed?
Endpoint security is typically deployed as a software agent which is downloaded to end user-devices. These work on the device locally, so scanning and malware protection can take place even when the device is offline.
A key component of endpoint security is the management console, which allows admins to monitor, control, and track all the endpoint devices with the software agent installed. This admin console can be deployed in the cloud, on-premises, or a hybrid approach, depending on your organization’s preferences.
How To Choose The Right Endpoint Protection Solution?
There are many considerations to make when choosing an endpoint protection solution, including factors such as price, features, and compatibility with the devices your workforce uses. Some important factors to consider when choosing the right solution include:
- Features: How developed is the solution’s feature-set, and does it meet the challenges facing your organization?
- Scalability: What is the cost for your organization, and can it scale with your teams’ growth?
- Performance: Does the solution impact on the performance of machines? Is it easy to manage for end users?
- Integrations: Does it integrate with the devices your workforce is already using? What about other security tools?
- Support: Is the solution regularly updated? Does it have an in-depth knowledge base?
Planning out your organization’s requirements around these questions can be a strong way to identify the best endpoint protection solution for your organization.
What Features To Look For In An Endpoint Protection Solution?
To protect endpoint devices against malware, there are many key features enterprise endpoint protection solutions provide for teams. This includes:
- Anti-virus and anti-malware detection engines to prevent harmful malware
- Analysis of inbound and outbound traffic to prevent malicious downloads
- Data loss prevention (DLP) features, such as data encryption and file upload prevention
- Application and device control policies, to prevent users installing certain apps and services
- Reporting and alerting so admins can quickly identify compromised devices
What To Look For In An Endpoint Protection Solution For Small Business?
The best endpoint protection for a small business is dependent on several factors, not least your organizations budget, the type of endpoint devices you are running (Mac vs PC), your industry, the level of security you need, and the number of users.
There are a wealth of endpoint security providers that offer powerful, easy-to-install, and cost-effective endpoint security solutions for small-and-midsized organizations. ESET, Avast, and Bitdefender, for example, are all known for their small-business and consumer focused endpoint security solutions. There is more detail on each of these providers featured on our list of the top endpoint security solutions for business.
For more from Expert Insights on the best endpoint protection for small businesses, read our guide to the Top 10 Antivirus Software For Small Businesses.