What is Endpoint Protection Software?
Endpoint protection software is a cybersecurity solution that examines files, processes and system activity for suspicious or malicious indicators. Sometimes referred to as an endpoint protection platform (EPP), endpoint protection software offers a centralized management console from which administrators can monitor, protect, investigate and respond to incidents across all endpoints, including computers, mobile devices, servers and connected devices.
Endpoint security is a cornerstone of any modern cybersecurity strategy. Given that any device can serve as the entry point for an attack, it is vital to ensure complete, real-time visibility into all endpoints, even when off-network or offline.
What an Endpoint Is
An endpoint is any device that connects to the corporate network from outside its firewall. Examples of endpoint devices include:
- Mobile devices
- Internet of things (IoT) devices
- Point-of-sale (POS) systems
- Digital printers
- Other devices that communicate with the central network
The proliferation of connected devices, coupled with an acceleration of remote work trends, has heightened the need for a comprehensive and powerful endpoint security solution.
Key Functions of Endpoint Security Software
Endpoint protection software will help an organization conduct a variety of cybersecurity related functions, including:
- Prevention: Protect the organization from advanced cybersecurity threats, including fileless malware
- Detection: Alert the information security (InfoSec) team to anomalous activity, suspicious traffic or high-risk user behaviors
- Response: Enable the timely and efficient investigation and remediation of cyber threats
Types of Endpoint Protection Solutions
There are three main types of endpoint security software.
Legacy Endpoint Protection
A traditional, or legacy, endpoint protection approach is an on-premises security framework that operates in conjunction with a locally hosted data center. This approach is essentially a hub and spoke model, wherein the data center acts as the base for the management console to provide security services to endpoints through an agent. This security model can result in limited visibility and silos since administrators typically only manage endpoints within their designated area.
Hybrid Endpoint Protection
The ongoing shift to remote-based work, as well as the growing trend of bring your own device (BYOD) policies has underscored the potential shortcomings of a traditional endpoint protection model. In a hybrid model, cybersecurity solution providers adapted the existing EPP solution, retrofitting it to operate in the cloud. While this typically provides new security capabilities, it does not allow organizations to reap the full benefits of a cloud-native approach.
Cloud-native Endpoint Protection
Cloud-native endpoint protection solutions are built in and for the cloud. In a cloud-based solution, network administrators can remotely monitor and manage all endpoints through a centralized management console and lightweight agent. This protects devices remotely, regardless of whether the device is connected to the network or even the internet. These solutions leverage cloud controls and policies to maximize security performance beyond the traditional perimeter, removing silos and expanding administrator reach.
Endpoint Protection vs. Antivirus Software
Sometimes used interchangeably, endpoint protection software and antivirus software are two distinct solutions.
Endpoint protection software is the overarching solution that protects an endpoint from being breached.
Antivirus software, on the other hand, is a core component within the endpoint protection software that scans for and removes known viruses and malware based on virus signatures. Though certainly an important element within the cybersecurity architecture, antivirus solutions provide only basic protection from known threats; these tools do not use advanced techniques or leverage human threat hunters to identify emerging risks.
Features of Endpoint Protection Software
To provide advanced, continuous breach prevention, endpoint security software must integrate the following fundamental elements:
Next-Gen Antivirus (NGAV)
Next-Gen Antivirus (NGAV) is an antivirus software solution that identifies both known and unknown malware through a combination of advanced endpoint protection, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), and the examination of more elements, such as file hashes, URLs and IP addresses.
Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)
Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) is the EPP component that provides continuous and comprehensive visibility into what is happening on endpoints in real time. While the capabilities of each EDR solution vary from vendor to vendor, the most advanced endpoint management solutions will provide threat detection, as well as investigation and response capabilities. This includes incident data search and investigation, alert triage, suspicious activity validation, threat hunting, and malicious activity detection and containment.
Managed Threat Hunting
Though many elements of endpoint security are automated, the most effective solutions also include managed threat hunting services by trained security professionals. This feature is absolutely essential to detecting the most sophisticated attacks. Threat hunting teams review past incidents and aggregate crowdsourced data in order to identify in-progress attacks and provide guidance on how to respond to malicious activity.
Threat Intelligence Integration
A threat intelligence integration solution combines advanced automation tools, like AI and ML, and human resources, including expert security researchers, threat analysts, cultural experts and linguists, to quickly investigate all incidents and suspicious activity. This activity leverages vast amounts of data at the endpoint level to create a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy and identify emerging threats in a variety of contexts.
Benefits of Endpoint Protection Software
Endpoint protection software, when integrated in a broader cybersecurity strategy and architecture, provides a baseline of protection for the organization by preventing breaches at the endpoint level. Benefits of endpoint protection software fall into three main categories:
Real-time, End-to-end Visibility
Advanced security software provides continuous raw event recording that enables complete visibility for all networked endpoints through a centralized console. This threat intelligence data can be leveraged by threat hunters to respond to and mitigate security threats.
Improved Threat Detection and Resolution
Intelligent EDR tools, which rely on AI and ML, automatically process billions of events per day, helping the organization prioritize activity and route events to the most appropriate resource. The security software also provides powerful response capabilities that allow the organization to contain infected systems while a full investigation is carried out.
Enhanced Efficiency and Improved Outcomes
With an advanced endpoint protection solution, organizations can improve response times. This, in turn, limits damage, optimizes resources and helps prevent future attacks.
The Importance of a Cloud-based Architecture
It is important to note that not all endpoint protection solutions are created equal. To get the maximum benefits, organizations must make use of the cloud. Leveraging a cloud-native EPP helps the organization:
- Reduce complexity and simplify deployment to reduce operational costs by eliminating constant signature updates, on-premises infrastructure or complex integrations
- Harnesses the power of big data and artificial intelligence to provide instant visibility across all endpoints
- Deploy the solution quickly and efficiently, offering protection from day one, without slowing down endpoint device performance
- Offers threat protection even when the device is off-network or offline
- Provides the ability to fluidly scale up or down based on the organization’s changing needs
Who Uses Endpoint Protection Software
Security software is an absolute necessity in today’s digital world. Quite simply, without such a solution in place, the organization runs the risk of costly breaches that could cripple operations, as well as result in the loss or theft of data, intellectual property (IP) or trade secrets. The results of such an attack can be devastating with consequences ranging from the need to pay costly ransoms, to fines and sanctions for lax security measures, to reputational harm, to loss of competitive advantage.
Because every endpoint can be the entry point to an attack, it is important for organizations to take a comprehensive approach to endpoint security. The solution must provide unobstructed visibility across all endpoints, as well as the ability to prevent sophisticated attacks in real time.
Protecting Endpoints with CrowdStrike
CrowdStrike offers a new approach to endpoint security. Unlike traditional security or network security solutions, CrowdStrike’s endpoint security solution unifies the technologies required to successfully stop breaches, including true NGAV, EDR, managed threat hunting and threat intelligence automation, delivered via a single lightweight agent. CrowdStrike Falcon Enterprise™ includes the following modules:
CrowdStrike’s NGAV solution, Falcon Prevent™, has a 100 percent rating for detecting both known and unknown samples of malware with a false positive rate of zero percent. Falcon Prevent is the industry’s first “NGAV Approved” endpoint solution, as noted by Gartner, Forrester and other industry analysts. Learn more.
Falcon Insight™ EDR collects and inspects event information in real time to prevent and detect attacks on endpoints. Built on CrowdStrike’s cloud-native architecture, Falcon Insight records all activities of interest for deeper inspection, both on the fly and after the fact, so security teams can quickly investigate and respond to incidents that evade standard prevention measures. Learn more.
The CrowdStrike Falcon Overwatch™ team elevates detection beyond automation. With one of the most seasoned teams in the industry and CrowdStrike Threat Graph®, a database that processes upward of 1 trillion events per day, Falcon Overwatch identifies and stops over 30,000 breach attempts per year. When a threat is discovered, the Overwatch team can act within seconds.
CrowdStrike Falcon X™ makes predictive security a reality by integrating threat intelligence and endpoint protection. Suitable for businesses of any size, Falcon X provides the ability to instantly analyze any threats that reach an endpoint. Learn more.