What Is an Endpoint?
It may seem like a simple question, but the answer is complicated — not because of the tech industry, but rather the cybersecurity industry. Too often, the definition of endpoint is driven by security tool vendors, who manipulate and truncate the definition for their own needs. If their tool is limited to coverage of a computer, then that is their definition of an endpoint.
But the true answer is simple, and it’s found in the two words that make up the term.
An endpoint is any physical device that resides at the end point of a network connection and can communicate on that network. This includes desktops and laptops, servers, mobile devices, IoT technology, and more.
In short, an endpoint is anything on your network that can receive and transmit data.
Faced with the choice of either admitting that their endpoint agent does not cover the full spectrum of what can be classified as an endpoint, they simply modify their definition of “endpoint” to match their offerings.
Why the Proper Endpoint Definition Matters
If we limit what we consider an endpoint, then we risk missing essential visibility that can help an organization detect a potential threat. A successful approach to endpoint security is one that includes visibility into any physical device that can transmit and receive data on your network.
Endpoint Cybersecurity Risks
Endpoints pose a difficult challenge to an organization’s IT and security teams. The make and model of endpoints vary widely, as does the operating system, the apps or programs installed on them, and the security habits of each endpoint user. The rise of hybrid work has increased these challenges, as endpoints have become more mobile than ever before.
Common attack types leveraged by cybercriminals against endpoints include phishing, ransomware, and malware. Endpoints are also frequently lost or left unattended, offering threat actors ample opportunity for exploit.
How to Protect Endpoints
While endpoints are a tempting target for threat actors, there are best practices your organization can implement to better protect them and, in turn, your entire environment.
Enable Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) and Password Requirements
Passwords alone are insufficient in protecting endpoints. Too often, they are either weak enough to be guessed or cracked through a brute-force attack, or too complex to remember. Establishing strong password requirements, including minimum length and special character requirements, is necessary in addition to activating MFA.
MFA acts as an additional security measure to a login and is defined as two or more forms of verification factors that are needed to gain access. For example, entering a password and then approving the login attempt on your mobile phone.
Adopt a Zero Trust Policy
With zero trust, every user is held to the same scrutiny when trying to access a system, program, or asset – all of the time. Zero trust is intended to shrink the potential attack surface during a breach by proactively limiting what users can access within a network or system. As the saying goes, “never trust, always verify.”
Provide Proper Training
An effective security awareness training program encourages users to think of themselves as the first line of defense in securing their endpoint — because they are.