If you’re tech-savvy and like having the latest gadgets and appliances, chances are your environment has more insecure endpoints than you realize. You might have security software installed on devices like phones, laptops, and computers—but do you have the same kind of software installed on, say, your smart fridge?
While you wouldn’t expect cybercriminals would want to hack into devices like smart appliances, printers, and baby monitors, they are still endpoints. And because they’re connected to your environment, they can expose your network to breaches and attacks. An endpoint is any kind of virtual device or hardware that connects to a particular environment—and leaving insecure endpoints exposed only increases your vulnerability. This is the basis of endpoint security.
Your home appliances are one small example of how difficult it is to have full visibility of all endpoints connected to a network. It’s far more time-consuming and exhausting for organizations that deal with staff working across multiple devices—including PCs, mobiles, tablets, and more—at any given time, both on- and off-site. And with 68% of organizations having experienced one or more successful endpoint attacks in the past year, endpoint security cannot be overlooked.
With almost three in four employees currently working remotely, it’s now more important than ever for organizations to have full visibility of their endpoints and any potential vulnerabilities, as well as having the tools available to remediate them. Because, after all, how can you address a security issue that you don’t know exists? And moreover, how can you address it without the right tooling in place?
A relatively new solution helping organizations ensure full visibility and security across all endpoints connected to their network, is Unified Endpoint Security (UES)platform.
But what is UES, and how does it work?
What Is Unified Endpoint Security?
To put it simply, UES is designed to simplify the way that endpoint security tools work together. Rather than working in siloes, they are integrated from the beginning and delivered as part of one manageable platform. This simplifies often overly complicated processes for security teams and helps increase productivity and efficiency.
UES combines the features of Endpoint Protection Platforms (EPP), Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR), and Mobile Threat Defense (MTD) on one, single-pane-of-glass platform with a central admin console. This type of centralized management enables organizations to secure end-user, server, and cloud endpoints on their network, as well as quickly and effectively identify and remediate any threats.
Unified Endpoint Security Versus Unified Endpoint Management
If you’re familiar with Unified Endpoint Management (UEM), then you’ll already have an idea of how centrally managing your endpoints works. You might be wondering—well, what’s the difference between UEM and UES? Let us explain.
In many ways, UEM and UES overlap. But the critical difference lies in the final two words of both abbreviations—management, versus security. While UEM provides centralized management for all endpoints within an organization, UES takes this a step further by preventing, detecting, and addressing threats identified on endpoint devices. In this sense, UES can integrate with and be layered on top of the UEM solution you might already have in place and provide a lower total cost of ownership. Because of this, some vendors include both UES and UEM as part of a solution.
While UEM includes device patching, policy management, mobile device management, and more, layering UES on top of this adds a whole range of security features. Features include device vulnerability management, alerting, app vetting, exploit prevention, app control, behavioral anomaly detection, quarantine, remote wipe, rollback, and more. Integrating UES with UEM enables security teams to smoothly adjust device patching and policies when faced with new threats identified by their security tooling.
What Are The Key Features Of A Unified Endpoint Security Solution?
A robust UES solution includes three components—EPP, EDR, and MTD—working together on one centralized platform. But as you might already be thinking, abbreviations alone don’t mean much. Don’t worry—we’ll break these down for you.
Endpoint Protection Platform (EPP)
The key word here is “protection”. An EPP is essentially a shield for your devices, and is designed to protect endpoints by blocking threats before they can enter your environment. It does this via an integrated suite of anti-malware and web scanning technologies, and by providing centralized management across the entire endpoint estate.
At the heart of any good EPP solution is the capability to scan and examine files as they enter your environment, quickly detecting and blocking malware and other threats before they can compromise your network. Advanced solutions might include multiple different ways to detect threats—including behavioral analysis and static Indicators of Compromise (IoC)—enabling real-time detection.
While there’s no set list of features that all EPPs include, Gartner advises that a good EPP solution should incorporate antivirus software to prevent file-based malware, identify and block malicious activity, and provide investigation and remediation features to respond to incidents and alerts.
Other features of a strong Endpoint Protection Platform include:
- Application control. This includeswhitelisting, blacklisting, sandboxing, and machine learning.
- Data protection. For example, data encryption, encrypted web traffic, password management, and more.
- Patch management. Administering updates to endpoints.
- Firewalls. Helping direct traffic through specific ports.
Endpoint Detection And Response (EDR)
EPP and EDR are often closely linked—but they don’t quite do the same thing. While EPPs prevent and block malicious attacks, EDR focuses on detecting, analyzing, and responding to threats that have already breached the system. An EPP is your shield, but EDR is your sword.
EDR continuously monitors endpoint devices for advanced threats that might have bypassed the EPP and made it into your environment. EDR automatically detects these threats and notifies security teams for further action. Another key component is its ability to collect and analyze data on threats and incidents.
There are four key features to an EDR solution:
- Continuous monitoring. EDR inspects all files and applications entering a device or network, monitoring and collecting data to provide security teams insights on endpoint-related threats.
- Data analysis. EDR analyzes data in real-time to search for suspicious activity, diagnose threats, and identify threat patterns.
- Forensics. This allows investigation of post-attack data and past breaches to better understand the root cause of the incident.
- Automated response. EDR works by automatically tackling or containing known threats according to pre-configured rules implemented by security teams, and notifying the teams of the threat.
Because of its continuous monitoring capability, EDR offers greater visibility and detection of advanced threats—including zero-day attacks, fileless malware, some types of ransomware, and polymorphic malware.
It should be noted, however, that EDR is notorious for sending false positives and security alerts. In fact, 60% of organizations using an EDR solution report receiving a high number of these, according to a 2020 study by Ponemon Institute.
As well as this, 64% of organizations that choose not to implement EDR say that it is ineffective against new or unknown threats, while 61% lack the staff to support it. Other challenges include a high cost of customization, configuration, and deployment.
Considering this, EDR works best as part of a multi-layered security suite, alongside powerful endpoint protection—which is why it can be useful to implement as part of a UES security solution. This can help address some of the issues with configuration and effort to support, while reaping the benefits that EDR can offer.
Mobile Threat Defense (MTD)
With organizations increasingly implementing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies and more employees using mobile devices to work with sensitive information, a robust MTD solution is key to the overall security health of any organization’s endpoint estate.
An MTD solution works by blocking, identifying, and remediating threats specifically faced by mobile devices—including mobile phones, tablets, and more—as well as networks and applications. It does this by continuously scanning and analyzing these for vulnerabilities, providing full visibility of risk level to security teams, and responding to threats in real-time.
Key features of an MTD solution include:
- Scanning for vulnerabilities. MTD scans and analyzes devices, applications, and networks in real-time for signs of threats or malicious activity, and provides full visibility of these.
- Blocking threats. An advanced MTD solution will not only identify threats, but prevent and block users from engaging with malicious content—including suspicious downloads, insecure webpages, phishing attempts, and more. It can also encrypt traffic on open Wi-Fi networks.
- Addressing configuration risks. An MTD solution can help security teams identify devices operating on out-of-date systems and software, as well as devices using risky configurations.
- Addressing compliance risks. Effective MTD solutions help organizations ensure the security of their data by controlling access, as well as where information is stored.
What Are The Benefits Of A UES Solution?
Now that we’ve covered what each individual component does, a new question arises—should you integrate all three on one single platform?
The short answer is that UES can provide numerous benefits to your organization, depending on what your goals are. By integrating EPP, EDR, and MTD, you’re not only gaining visibility into your entire endpoint estate and implementing the tools to address vulnerabilities and threats as they arise, but also lessening your security team’s workload by providing these three different tools on one seamless platform.
In fact, 59% of organizations reported correlating security alerts from separate technologies as one of the key challenges in keeping their organizations secure, according to a report by Forrester. And in response to this, Microsoft recommends that a consolidated security toolset can help reduce this complexity.
So, going by that, implementing UES seems a wise decision for organizations currently struggling with overly complex security processes, overwhelmed teams, and lack of visibility over their network devices.
As well as this, a UES solution can reduce cost, as well as effort, by reducing the number of platforms and solutions that need to be purchased, implemented, and managed.
So, Should Your Organization Implement A UES Solution?
As a relatively recent concept, few vendors are currently offering UES as a solution. But it is growing in popularity due to the increase in employees working remotely, and consequently, increased focus on endpoint protection. Gartner predicts that most technology providers will support UES in three to four years, but that it will take longer for organizations to widely adopt this framework.
If you’re trying to decide whether implementing a UES solution is right for your organization, it’s highly dependent on what your specific goals are, and what you want to get out of the solution.
Gartner recommends organizations should keep two main goals in mind when considering implementing a UES solution. Firstly, so that mobile device detection and response is included alongside more traditional laptop and desktop endpoint security. And secondly, to consolidate all endpoint security components to a single platform.
UES is suited to larger organizations with a greater budget and more staff available to support the solution. We always recommend trialing the solution in your environment and closely monitoring the results to determine whether it’s right for your specific requirements.
So, is UES the future of endpoint security? Perhaps. Endpoint security needs to undergo a big transformation for it to keep up with advanced threats. Is your organization’s approach to securing its endpoints transforming alongside it?