Endpoint protection platform (EPP) and endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools are two security products commonly used to protect endpoint systems from threats. EPP is a comprehensive security solution that provides a range of features to detect and prevent threats to endpoint devices. At the same time, EDR is specifically designed to monitor, detect and respond to endpoint threats in real-time. EPP and EDR have some similarities, as they both aim to protect endpoints from threats, but they also have some key differences. Let’s dive into it.
EPPs are a critical component of an organization’s endpoint security strategy. The platforms typically include features such as host intrusion prevention, host web protection, log inspection and integrity monitoring. These features provide a foundational level of protection against known threats. However, their reliance on traditional antivirus components leveraging signatures limits their effectiveness in detecting and blocking new and emerging threats. While nowadays, enterprise EPP players offer some level of heuristic and machine-learning threat detection, they do not match EDR capabilities.
This is where EDR tools come into play. They utilize machine learning and behavioral analysis to detect and respond to cyber threats in real-time. By analyzing endpoint behavior, EDR tools can identify and block unknown malware and advanced threats that traditional antivirus software is unable to detect.
While EPPs provide a strong foundation for endpoint protection, their limitations in detecting and blocking new and emerging threats highlight the need for additional layers of protection, such as EDR tools. By combining the strengths of EPPs and EDR tools, organizations can create a more comprehensive approach to endpoint security that leverages the strengths of both tools.
Pros and cons of EPP and EDR tools
Many of the main players in the endpoint security market provide integrated EPP and EDR suites combining the capabilities of both within a single agent and console to provide a comprehensive overview of an organization’s security threat posture.
Both EPP and EDR have the following components (either individually or combined):
- Endpoint agent: An agent is installed on the endpoint to monitor and collect data on endpoint activity, including system logs, network traffic and file activity.
- Management console: The collected data is sent to a central server for storage and analysis. Typically available both in on-premise and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) options:
- On-Premise: For deployments that don’t allow data to leave a local data center from a regulatory and compliance perspective; it comes with extra cost to maintain infrastructure hosting applications (typically virtual machine and database servers) which are required.
- SaaS: Hosted by a vendor with increased resiliency and availability; all regulatory and compliance impacts are maintained by vendor service level agreements within the license agreement.
EPP modules include:
Endpoint security management services
- Host intrusion prevention: Companies often struggle with patching their operating system (OS) and application vulnerabilities, leaving them with tens of thousands of exploitable gaps. This module helps companies to implement patches in accordance with their processes, typically on server-type endpoints.
- Host firewall: Controls network traffic to and from the endpoint, blocking unauthorized access and limiting the spread of malware, typically via the use of stateful rules.
- Host web protection (URL filtering, web reputation): This module blocks access to known malicious websites and limits access to non-work-related websites to improve productivity. Client endpoints like workstations, laptops and mobile devices are typical target areas.
- Log inspection: This module helps to identify important events that might be buried in OS and application logs, typically for further ingestion by security information and event management (SIEM) solutions.
- File integrity monitoring: Monitors scans for unexpected changes to registry values, registry keys, services, processes, installed software, ports and files to identify violations.
- Device control: Controls access to USB and other external devices, preventing the spread of malware via removable media, specifically for client endpoints and for preventing end-user use of unsanctioned flash drives.
- Disk encryption: Encrypts data on the endpoint, ensuring that sensitive information remains secure even if the device is lost or stolen.
- Endpoint data loss prevention (DLP): Monitors and controls the movement of sensitive data on endpoints, preventing data leaks and unauthorized access. While there are many standalone DLP enterprise solutions, the benefit of using an EPP-integrated one comes with reduced agent footprint and environment complexity.
- Application/change control: Restricts unauthorized software from running until explicitly permitted or permits software until explicitly restricted, allowing companies to choose the level of control aligned to environment specifics.
Pros of EPPs:
- Enhanced protection: EPP modules provide additional layers of protection against a variety of cyber threats. The main benefit is that each module can be enabled individually on a group of systems or individual systems with custom combinations driven by tailored configurations within defined policies.
- Centralized management: By integrating these modules into the EPP, organizations can manage endpoint security more efficiently from a central console, reducing management and infrastructure costs.
- Improved visibility: The data collected by these modules can be used to gain better visibility into endpoint activity, improving the organization’s ability to detect and respond to security incidents.
- Simplified deployment: Since these modules are integrated into the EPP, they can be deployed and managed more easily than standalone security tools.
Cons of EPPs:
- Limited effectiveness in detecting and blocking new and emerging threats
- A reactive approach to security, relying on signature updates to detect new threats
- Can be costly for on-prem deployments and more complex to deploy and manage with add-on modules
- May produce a high number of false positives, which can be time-consuming to investigate
- Integrating additional modules can make the EPP more complex, requiring more resources and expertise to manage it effectively
- Some modules may have a performance impact on the endpoint, potentially affecting productivity.
Despite these potential drawbacks, the benefits of using EPPs come with integrated add-on modules that can outweigh the costs. By providing additional layers of protection, improving visibility and centralizing management, these modules can enhance an organization’s endpoint security posture.
Ultimately, organizations should carefully consider their specific security needs and budget when deciding which modules to integrate with their EPP. By selecting the right combination of modules, organizations can achieve a more comprehensive approach to endpoint security that addresses their unique needs and mitigates cyber risks. Companies should start with a phased approach, gradually enabling additional modules and features as needs expand.
EDR tools, on the other hand, utilize machine learning and behavioral analysis to detect and respond to cyber threats in real-time. By analyzing endpoint behavior, EDR tools are able to identify and block unknown malware and advanced threats that traditional antivirus components are unable to detect. EDR can be considered an add-on to the core EPP suite for comprehensive security protection, detection and response.
EDR modules include:
- Behavioral analysis: EDR tools monitor endpoint activity for suspicious behavior that may indicate a threat. This can include detecting unusual network traffic, file activity and system changes.
- Machine learning: EDR tools use machine learning algorithms to identify patterns and anomalies in endpoint activity that may indicate a security threat. This enables EDR tools to identify and respond to new and unknown threats.
- Threat intelligence: EDR tools use threat intelligence feeds to stay up-to-date on the latest known threats and indicators of compromise. This helps EDR tools identify and respond to known threats more effectively.
- Response and forensics: EDR tools allow for remote containment of endpoints, cutting them out of the network with a single click and opening a remote shell for threat hunter investigation, minimizing the impact of an attack spreading across the environment.
Pros of EDR tools:
- Can detect and block unknown and advanced threats in real-time
- Continuously learn and adapt to new and emerging threats
- Can provide deeper visibility into endpoint activity and behavior
- Enable faster detection and response to security incidents, reducing the mean time to respond.
Cons of EDR tools:
- Can be complex to deploy and manage
- Typically introduce additional agents on protected endpoints
- May require more resources and expertise than EPPs to understand and triage threats
- Can produce a high number of alerts, which can be time-consuming to investigate.
Combining EPPs and EDR tools provides a more comprehensive approach to endpoint security that leverages the strengths of both tools. EPPs can provide a foundational level of protection against known threats, while EDR tools can detect and block unknown and advanced threats in real-time.
To mitigate the gaps in each tool’s capabilities, organizations can implement the following:
- Integration: Integrating EPPs and EDR tools can provide a more holistic view of endpoint activity and enable faster detection and response to security incidents.
- Automation: Automating the investigation and response to security incidents can reduce the workload on security teams and help ensure faster response times.
- Threat intelligence: Incorporating threat intelligence feeds into EPPs and EDR tools can help identify and block emerging threats.
EPP and EDR are both important components of a comprehensive security strategy, and they can work together to provide a more robust defense against threats. Combining EPPs and EDR tools provides a more comprehensive approach to endpoint security that leverages the strengths of both tools. By integrating the two tools and implementing automation and threat intelligence feeds, organizations can mitigate the gaps in each tool’s capabilities and achieve truly comprehensive endpoint security.
Furthermore, the combination of EPPs and EDR tools can lead to the implementation of an extended detection and response (XDR) platform.
XDR platforms integrate data from multiple security tools, including EPPs and EDR tools, proxies, firewalls, SIEM and many other solutions to provide a holistic view of an organization’s security posture. This enables security teams to effectively detect and respond to threats across the entire environment, reducing the risk of successful cyberattacks.
With its Endpoint Security Management Services, IBM Security Services can help organizations design, configure and deploy endpoint protection, align policies with regulatory compliance to protect sensitive data, install the latest endpoint encryption technologies and use security analysts and centralized consoles to monitor, maintain and update security operations.