The rise of hybrid working has forever changed how businesses must view their security posture. As employees are now working between multiple locations, the risk of data breaches, cyberattacks and network intrusion has grown exponentially. With employees working from home, it is more difficult for IT teams to ensure employees are following best practices to avoid an attack, and due to this, endpoint security has become a high priority for many businesses. In this article we will discuss the meaning of endpoint security, and the 5 key endpoint security challenges that businesses are facing.
What is Endpoint Security?
An endpoint is any device that is connected to a network or IT system. This includes laptops, mobile phone, desktops, IoT devices, servers and virtual environments. Endpoint security is important as they are key vulnerability points of entry for cybercriminals. If a hacker gains access to an endpoint and executes malicious code, they can potentially access private data or launch a larger attack. In the past, endpoint security was primarily focused on antivirus solutions, but as the threat landscape has changed, the scope for endpoint security has broadened, with an emphasis on user behaviour.
Constantly Expanding Attack Surface
As technology evolves, businesses and their employees are using more devices either in a work capacity or on a business’s network. In the past, cybercriminals had a handful of endpoints they could target, including desktops, network devices, printers, and servers. For businesses, this meant that if these devices were secure, the chance of a successful attack was relatively low.
In 2022, this attack surface has greatly increased with devices such as virtualised servers, personal laptops and phones, IoT devices, smart environmental controls and even wearable technologies, such as smart watches and fitness trackers. All these endpoints are now targetable by hackers, and it is difficult for an IT team to manage the sheer volume of devices. As new technologies are introduced into the market, this attack surface will continue to expand, putting businesses at risk of a cyberattack.
Remote and Hybrid Workforces
The advent of remote and hybrid work has many benefits for businesses and its employees, however it poses a unique challenge for endpoint security. With employees working in different geolocations, it means they need to connect to a business network through other means, which also expands the attack surface.
If employees are connecting to a business’s IT systems through a hotspot or public Wi-Fi, it opens the door to a potential man-in-the-middle attack. This form of attack is where a cybercriminal uses malicious software that allows them to intercept all traffic between an endpoint and a corporate network. Through eavesdropping on this information, they may be able to launch an attack, or even gain access to the corporate network via the endpoint device.
BYOD and Mobile Devices
Many businesses have enabled a bring your own device (BYOD) program, as it saves the business money, whilst increasing productivity for employees. Although such a program has many benefits, it carries a potential security risk. If employees are using older devices that do not receive security updates, it becomes an easy target for cybercriminals to exploit software vulnerabilities. Similarly, if an employee loses their device, or has it stolen, it puts the local device at risk of a data breach, as well as the corporate network, if they have their passwords saved.
Shadow IT is the use of IT hardware or software used by a department or individual without the knowledge of the IT department or IT/security provider. This software may include cloud services or applications that departments use to increase productivity or to solve shortcomings of the provided software. The risk of using unauthorised software is that it may have a vulnerability that could lead to an attack on a business’s network or systems. Similarly, if employees use unauthorised file sharing platforms, it puts customer data at risk of a data breach.
Lack of Visibility
All the previous challenges have a common factor, a lack of visibility. It is extremely difficult for an IT team to secure all endpoints when there are many devices, from multiple locations connecting to their IT systems. In order for IT teams to effectively secure endpoints, they require complete visibility over who is connecting to a network, from which device, for what use, and all associated traffic. As technology becomes more complex, IT teams need to have a solution in place that allows them to respond to changes in technology and devices.
If you want to find out more about how your business can overcome these challenges to ensure that your endpoints and networks are secure, contact us today.