The Shodan search engine is an excellent resource for hackers looking for unprotected endpoints. If you have ever played with Shodan, you will probably know that some of the most popular searches are the searches for unprotected devices using default logins for usernames. At the time of writing, there were 6,630 routers out there which used the login credentials of username=admin / password=1234.

While there were similar resources and alternative software producing similar results before Shodan came along, the search engine has received a lot of publicity and media attention, making non-techies more aware of endpoint security.

What Is Endpoint Security?

An endpoint is simply one end of a communication channel – e.g., a laptop, desktop, wireless router, smart phone or network server. When we talk about endpoints we are usually talking about Internet-connected hardware devices, but even a URL in an API is an endpoint through which a client interacts with a server’s resources. The seemingly innocuous endpoint is the Achilles heel of cybersecurity and vulnerable to attack, as it is often a convenient entry point to a system where criminals can execute their malicious code and gain access to devices and victims’ sensitive data.

Endpoint security is the practice of securing devices against attack from criminals. At its most basic, it is the physical protection of devices in an organization (e.g. ensuring only employees with the proper credentials can access IT equipment.) In cyberspace, endpoint security is about employing complex software to identify system vulnerabilities, protect systems from attack and ensure there are processes in place to patch breaches that do occur.

Endpoint security has evolved over the years from using basic antivirus solutions and firewalls to high-tech, modern solutions that employ artificial intelligence algorithms, advanced automation technologies and predictive analytics software. These new security solutions use highly-skilled security professionals (including ethical hackers) to secure system perimeters.

In this article, we will look at the top trends in endpoint security today and point to some resources to help your business mitigate endpoint vulnerability risks.

The Evolution of Endpoint Security

The imperative for organizations to invest more in cybersecurity in terms of more sophisticated technology and more specialized labor is a response to multiple factors, including:

  • Increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks by criminals at huge cost to businesses
  • Attack latency when attackers leave undiscovered calling cards, the equivalent of unexploded landmines, at digital crime scenes
  • Growth in the sheer number of networks, devices and software applications, and a demand for them that creates a bigger target market for criminals
  • Pace of development and pressure on developers to quickly produce more sophisticated software for tech-hungry users, with possibly less focus on best security coding practices
  • Large number of vulnerabilities that continually need to be patched, with suppliers and vendors barely able to keep up-to-date with plugging holes let alone implementing brand-new security systems

Top 10 Endpoint Security Trends in 2019

1. WiFi endpoint security

WPA3 has recently been released. While it does harden wireless security, the impetus to develop it was in large part due to the discovery of the KRACK vulnerability. There is no documented evidence of a KRACK attack in the wild, but organizations need to address potential risks for Wi-Fi devices before they are breached.

2. Tanium peer-to-peer network and natural language search

Touted as the Google of endpoint security, the Tanium security interface provides an integrated single-source solution that connects an organization’s teams, systems and endpoints. It provides a consolidated view for stakeholders as diverse as DevOps teams and business leaders. The platform’s complexity is transparent to users, in no small way due to the use of natural language searching, allowing users to quickly and easily query big endpoint data.

According to Forbes, what distinguishes Tanium from similar services such as McAfee and Symantec is its peer-to-peer network: “… one that bears a passing resemblance to file-sharing networks such as Napster and BitTorrent.” Traditionally, these types of services require large server networks to communicate with multiple, diverse endpoints. “With Tanium, each computer on a network talks to the computer next to it, relaying information along a chain before sending it back to a single server in a fraction of the time the old brute-force method takes.”

3. Machine learning and AI

As the number of endpoints increase, so does the amount of big data that needs to be secured. Humans simply cannot cope without complex security automation that can intelligently predict and block attacks. There is a growing need for human automatons, however, who can follow up the false positives and false negatives that robotic analysis may produce.

451 Research found that “many efforts in the past year have been directed to build up capabilities in endpoint threat detection and response (EDR), to detect and hopefully contain and defeat increasingly sophisticated attacks that find their way past preventive measures.” A product like Webroot® Threat Intelligence Platform claims to scan 95 percent of the Internet three times a day to detect potential new threats and protect against them proactively.

Machine learning has evolved from learning about file attachments’ core properties to helping to identify attacks’ classes and become better at detecting threats. Artificial intelligence is able increasingly to posit new attack variants.

4. Exaggerated security claims and informed customers

Even a cursory trawl of vendor sites offering endpoint security solutions is confusing to potential customers; each apparently offers the complete security that, for some unexplained reason, their competitors do not. 451 Research warns: “The industry keeps evolving, and the days of ‘legacy vendors only do signatures’ or ‘next-gen vendors are one-trick ponies’ are long gone. Playing to a customer’s lack of information about the trends is bound to fail as information becomes plentiful.” As with all new technologies, there is a steep learning curve. In time, customers will become more circumspect about endpoint security claims and more knowledgeable shoppers.

5. Fileless attacks

Fileless attacks are increasing, warns security specialist McAfee, and are most often directed at Microsoft PowerShell. The best protection is keeping your software up-to-date.

6. Reduced trust in antivirus solutions

According to a study by Barkly and Ponemon Institute, four out of five organizations replaced or improved on their antivirus solution in 2017.

Antivirus vendors have been forced to consolidate their security offerings as “endpoint security suites.” CSO Online says these pick-and-mix packages will include attack prevention controls and advanced detection and response capabilities. Customers will have a choice about what devices they want covered, and how the suite will be managed, e.g., SaaS, on-premise or managed. There will be options to select from a range of endpoint management technologies as well as security technologies. Add-ons could include data security and staff augmentation.

7. Ease of use and consolidation

A growing trend in endpoint security, as evidenced by Tanium, is simplicity. A report produced by 451 Research on behalf of Barkly predicts an increasing demand for solutions that “can show effective security results in the real world while simplifying operational aspects.”

An enterprise needs a solution that incorporates a Mobile Device Management policy, simplified incident reporting, tools to prevent zero-day exploits, automated monitoring, protection against threats, the use of AI to enable better forensics, ability to secure multiple OSes, robust hardware, complex detection algorithms, built-in remediation abilities and more. According to Comodo, these requirements demand more integrated, manageable solutions that can be monitored at a low level from a high level.

8. Sophisticated analysis techniques

Sophisticated analysis techniques focusing on endpoint behavior on millions of devices play an important role in security and help to detect attack behaviors and identify endpoints participating in dangerous actions.

9. Behavioral authentication

Instead of traditional passwords, behavioral authentication can be used to more reliably identify endpoints.

10. The way staffing structures are organized

The way staffing structures are is changing. There is a rise in the employment of specialized security professionals, like computer forensics experts, white-hat hackers and penetration testers. A study by the Ponemon institute (The 2017 State of Endpoint Security Risk) found that “In addition to failing to stop new attacks, many existing endpoint solutions are also putting an untenable strain on staff, resources, and overall productivity.”

Help! The Cost of a Professional Security Solution

Basic Solution Costs

The pressure to stay ahead in the endpoint security game can be costly and resource-intensive. If you shop around, you should be comparing annual license fees for a package that covers a single endpoint, protects most types of devices (from servers to smart phones) and includes a combination (preferably all) of the following:

  • Advanced malware detection
  • Smart scanning and use of behavioral heuristics to detect zero-day threats
  • Central management console with complete organization visibility
  • Hardware layering technologies
  • Learning intelligence that continually refines threat classifications
  • Dynamic whitelisting
  • Automatic sandboxing of suspicious executables
  • Protection across files, apps, messaging, browsers, internal and external networks, URLs and more

Vendors are often shy to advertise their prices online, and sometimes their prices vary, but to give you an idea of what comprehensive endpoint security might cost you:

  • McAfee’s Complete EndPoint Protection Enterprise + 1 Year Gold Business Support is $39.99 (per node) from CDW. The license is based on volume usage and is suitable for 251-500 users. The price goes up to $89.99 for 101 to 250 users
  • Webroot’s SecureAnywhere Business Endpoint Protection – $30 (per endpoint with a 5-endpoint minimum, which makes this solution $150)

Staffing Costs

Red Canary has taken a stab at calculating the cost of implementing EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response) at a mid-sized company.

Source: Red Canary

The company stresses this only buys you basic EDR capability. You may also need to invest in additional staff – threat researchers, threat hunters (at a salary of between $95,000 and $145,000 a year, according to Indeed, and quite rare on the ground), incident responders, data scientists and endpoint specialists ($75,000 to $140,000 a year, according to Indeed) – and software, e.g., Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) software.

Security Awareness

Endpoint Security Awareness

A survey of 694 IT and security professionals in 2016 indicated that employees using multiple mobile devices in the workplace were one of the biggest threats to endpoint security. The biggest threat, though, was negligent employee behavior when it came to following organizations’ security rules and procedures.

What are the biggest threats to endpoint security in your organization? (Source: Statista)

Security awareness is vital for all echelons in an organization, from the cleaner to the CEO. InfoSec Institute’s SecurityIQ offers free awareness training that will give staff a new perspective on how vulnerable the endpoints they use can be.

Before you go, look on the lighter side and share some tips for your developers from OWASP on how to write insecure code.

 

Sources

  1. Shodan
  2. Cybercrime costs business over 2 trillion, Juniper Research
  3. Two Remarkable Cyber Security Companies to Join in 2016, Medium
  4. Security, Wi-Fi.org
  5. Asking questions, Tanium
  6. Meet Tanium, The Secret Cybersecurity Weapon Of Target, Visa And Amazon, Forbes
  7. 2018 Trends in Information Security, 451 Research
  8. Webroot® Threat Intelligence Platform, Webroot
  9. McAfee says fileless cyber attacks are on the rise, Cybersecurity Insiders
  10. 3 Key Findings from the Upcoming 2017 State of Endpoint Security Risk Report, Barkly
  11. The push toward comprehensive endpoint security suites, CSO Online
  12. Endpoint Security – Most Enterprises May Be Wasting Money on Ineffective Solutions, Comodo
  13. The 2017 State of Endpoint Security Risk, HubSpot
  14. What’s the Cost of Endpoint Detection & Response?, Red Canary
  15. Senior Cyber Hunter jobs, Indeed
  16. Endpoint Staffing jobs, Indeed
  17. What are the biggest threats to endpoint security in your organization? Statista
  18. How to write insecure code, OWASP
  19. SecureAnywhere Business Endpoint Protection, Webroot
  20. Complete EndPoint Protection Enterprise + 1 Year Gold Business Support and Complete EndPoint Protection Enterprise + 1 Year Gold Business Support, McAfee