While we sometimes hear the term endpoint security used to describe the needs of both enterprises and individual consumers, the two differ greatly. Consumer endpoint security often refers to standard retail internet security packages consisting of antimalware, antispam and a personal firewall. Enterprise endpoint security, on the other hand, is much more complicated and robust.
Five Key Elements of Enterprise Endpoint Management
It is important for security professionals working to protect enterprises to understand the differences between personal and enterprise endpoint security. Below are the five most significant factors to consider.
1. More Enterprise Endpoints, More Problems
Consumer endpoints are typically computers, including both classic form factor machines and mobile devices, that are used directly by people, whereas enterprise environments may also include servers as endpoints. There are significant differences in terms of what needs to be done to protect a server that allows inbound requests numerous times per minute versus, for example, someone’s Android-running smartphone.
As a result, and because businesses often have more electronic assets than individuals, corporations need far more robust endpoint security systems than consumers. Furthermore, corporate environments typically have more diverse collections of endpoints than those of individuals, creating challenges not seen in personal settings. Security systems that are used to manage devices must be able to deal with many types of endpoints.
Unified endpoint management (UEM) solutions allow IT and security leaders to enroll smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, wearables and even Internet of Things (IoT) devices into a single unified platform, set up consistent policies and apply them across those devices to preserve the security and productivity of the enterprise. For example, an organization might set up a unified app catalog, which would produce a consistent end-user experience across all devices while giving IT a single location from which work apps can be securely and intuitively downloaded.
2. Remote Management
Consumer endpoints are rarely managed by other devices. But in enterprises, endpoints are almost always managed from other devices. At times, this means that a small number of people are responsible for the security of a large number of computers. Remote management may include the ability to configure machines with specific images, modify user and group permissions, deploy software and updates, and more.
3. Auto Updating Versus Patching
Consumers typically configure their home computers to automatically accept updates from software vendors. This approach is ideal in most cases because users typically do not have a testing environment to test updates and lack the technical sophistication or desire needed to properly test patches before deploying them. If a user has multiple computers, each one of those devices will likely be configured to independently download updates.
Corporate environments are quite different. Patches are usually downloaded once and then deployed to all relevant computers through a centralized system that provides management oversight over updates. Besides handling patches for user laptops, these centralized systems can also manage patches for servers, and there may be an environment for testing patches before they are deployed. This centralized system should be able to enforce patch management for remote locations with low bandwidth and intermittent connectivity. Without this assurance, endpoint hygiene may suffer, leaving the organization vulnerable to attacks via remote endpoints.
4. Endpoint Permissions
Most home computer users have administrator rights on their devices. Administrators can install software, which means that attackers can install malware by compromising these credentials.
People working in corporate environments rarely have administrator access to their own machines, so they cannot update the operating system or critical programs on their own. As a result, phishing and social media attacks are somewhat more likely to succeed in a consumer environment. However, attacks that manage to infect corporate devices are much more difficult to remove and usually require intervention from those responsible for centralized computer management.
If a vendor issues a patch for a significant vulnerability or newly discovered exploit, those responsible for updating systems must do so quickly. There may be a large number of vulnerable systems, and the folks who regularly use those systems cannot address the vulnerabilities on their own.
Most consumers lack the tools required to monitor their activities, but these tools are typically available on enterprise computers. Tracking can enhance security for corporations by sending a message to employees that rogue activities are likely to be caught and the perpetrators of such activities will be apprehended. Doing so sacrifices some privacy, and it is important for organizations to communicate to users exactly what is monitored.
Awareness Is the Best Endpoint Security
Chief information security officers (CISOs) must consider these elements when setting up their endpoint security strategies. An effective strategy requires security leaders to understand the differences between enterprise and personal data protection and configure their endpoint security solutions accordingly. Most importantly, all users throughout the organization must be aware of cyber risks and understand the importance of installing patches and updates promptly to prevent fraudsters from exploiting vulnerable systems within the enterprise.
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Cybersecurity Expert and CEO, SecureMySocial
Joseph Steinberg (CISSP, ISSAP, ISSMP, CSSLP) is a cybersecurity thought leader and technology influencer. He writes a column on cybersecurity for Inc., and ...