When you want to avoid having malware infect your network, which can lead to time-consuming and costly mitigation processes, conventional wisdom says that you need to install antivirus protection. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who uses any type of computer these days without at least minimal protection against harmful viruses and other malware.
Given the ever-increasing cyberthreat landscape, though, and the potential damage that can be done when a network is accessed by cybercriminals, it’s becoming clearer to many CIOs and security teams that antivirus is only the beginning of a network security plan. To truly shield your networks and data from harm, you need to employ advanced security processes and programs.
To better protect their corporate networks, many IT security teams are turning to the advanced protection offered by endpoint security. While some experts argue that endpoint security is just another form of antivirus and nothing more than a marketing ploy, the truth is that endpoint security in addition to network antivirus protection has been proven to more effectively deter unauthorized access and data breaches than antivirus on its own.
What Is Endpoint Protection?
To understand endpoint protection, we first must understand what constitutes an endpoint. Basically, an endpoint is any device that accesses a network, whether a computer, tablet or mobile phone. Even bar code readers or point-of-sale terminals are considered endpoints. Antivirus software helps prevent endpoints from becoming the source of an infection that damages the network in some way. The protection is installed on each individual endpoint, or provide on a network basis via the cloud and a Software as a Service (SaaS) provider. Some antivirus programs offer intrusion protection, which prevents unauthorized users from accessing the network, but for the most part, antivirus programs are designed to stop malware and not much else.
Endpoint protection takes antivirus protection a few steps further. Antivirus protection is often a part of the endpoint protection package, but it also includes other features, such as firewalls, encryption, intrusion protection and detection and data leak protection. How it works is that the protection program is managed by a central server and accompanying programs installed on every device that will be granted access to the network. When any device attempts to access the network, it is first scanned to ensure that it complies with the define security policies for that network. If the device meets the standards, it can access the network without problem; if it doesn’t, it is blocked or given restricted access to certain areas of the network.
Why Endpoint Protection Is Important
Endpoint protection not only blocks malicious attacks against a corporate network but also ensures that individual devices are effectively secured when transmitting and storing data. For example, encryption is an important part of data security. Encrypting data in files and emails during transmission and storage renders the content useless to someone who does not have the appropriate decryption key — but it’s not a feature of most antivirus programs.
The benefits of endpoint protection go well beyond encryption, though. With so many people accessing corporate networks from outside the office using tablets, laptops and mobile phones, it can be difficult to maintain appropriate security. A cybercriminal who illegally obtains login credentials, for example, could conceivably access a network using his or her own computer, and the network administrator would never suspect anything was amiss. With endpoint protection, the criminal would need to have an approved device in addition to the login credentials in order to gain access to the network.
The fact that mobile malware protection has not yet become a standard for all users only highlights the need for organizations to employ endpoint security in the BYOD environment. Using endpoint security also makes it far easier and more efficient for IT to develop and enforce company-wide usage policies regarding BYOD. Quite simply, if mobile devices are not configured for the network appropriately, they cannot gain access.
Endpoint protection is very effective at lowering the risk created by malware and hackers. Endpoint protection based on antivirus only leads to increased costs — organizations without endpoint protection spend up to 68 percent more on mitigation than those who have both antivirus and endpoint protection. However, relying only on the antivirus protection included in endpoint solutions isn’t always adequate, either. The most secure option is always to employ both endpoint protection and strong network protection in the form of robust antivirus software.