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12 essential features of advanced endpoint security tools

In addition to protecting an organization's endpoints from threats, IT administrators can use endpoint security tools to monitor operation functions and DLP strategies.

As endpoint threats become more sophisticated and abundant, so does the need for more advanced endpoint security tools. An organization can improve the security of its endpoints -- including laptops, desktops, mobile devices, IoT devices and servers in the data center -- by using software that can rapidly detect, analyze, block and contain in-progress attacks. These security systems must collaborate with each other, as well as with other security tools, to enable administrators to quickly detect and remediate these threats.

Endpoint security tools have evolved over the last few years. What began as endpoint protection platforms providing antivirus and antimalware grew into more advanced tools, including endpoint detection and response (EDR) and, more recently, extended detection and response (XDR).

At the very least, an endpoint security platform must provide antivirus, encryption and application control to secure devices accessing an organization's data, while also monitoring and blocking risky activities. Endpoint protection platforms typically employ a client-server security model, consisting of a centrally managed security tool to protect the network and client software that's installed on each endpoint that accesses the network. Some products are SaaS-based, enabling administrators to remotely maintain both the central and endpoint security platforms.

In addition to securing endpoints, encrypting data on removable storage devices and endpoints helps secure them against data exfiltration. Application control stops users from installing unauthorized applications that could create vulnerabilities in the company's network. BYOD policies and the ability of employees to connect from anywhere have intensified the need for endpoint security tools.

Features to look for in endpoint security tools

Endpoint protection of enterprise systems is an efficient method of managing software deployment and enforcing security policies. However, it does more than protect a network from malware. IT administrators can use endpoint security for a number of operation monitoring functions and data backup strategies.

An endpoint security product should include the following key features:

  1. Protection from threats spread via email. An organization's endpoint protection must scan every email attachment to protect the company from attacks, such as phishing.
  2. Protection from malicious web downloads. The technology should analyze incoming and outgoing traffic and provide browser protection to block malicious web downloads before they're executed on endpoints.
  3. Protection from exploits. This protects against zero-day vulnerabilities and memory-based attacks.
  4. Data loss protection (DLP). DLP prevents access violations caused by insiders, including employees, and intentional or unintentional data loss in the event of a system breach. DLP enables organizations to block files transmitted via email or team collaboration tools, as well as files uploaded to the internet.
  5. Application and device control. These enable organizations to control which devices can upload or download data, access hardware or access the registry. IT can reduce the chances of shadow IT with application allowlists or blocklists, ensuring only approved software and apps are installed on endpoints.
  6. Reports and alerts. These provide prioritized warnings and alerts regarding vulnerabilities, as well as dashboards and reports that offer visibility into endpoint security.
Detecting threats as early as possible is crucial. The longer a threat sits in the environment, the more it spreads and the more damage it can do.

In more advanced tools, such as EDR and XDR products, look for the following features:

  1. Incident investigation and remediation. These include centralized and automated tools to provide automated incident response approaches and step-by-step workflows to investigate incidents.
  2. Rapid detection. Detecting threats as early as possible is crucial. The longer a threat sits in the environment, the more it spreads and the more damage it can do. Many endpoint security tools now offer real-time detection capabilities.
  3. Advanced machine learning. This analyzes massive amounts of good and bad files and blocks new malware variants before they're executed on endpoint devices.
  4. Behavioral monitoring. This technique uses machine learning to monitor behavior-based security to determine risks and block them.
  5. Third-party integrations. Endpoint security tools should communicate with other security systems in the organization's environment. These tools should share and ingest threat intelligence so they can learn from each other. Using open API systems, endpoint security products should integrate with other security tools, such as Active Directory, intrusion prevention, network monitoring and
  6. Flexible deployment options. Endpoint security tools should adapt to the organization's needs and environment, offering on-premises or cloud deployment options. Tools should also offer protection for every endpoint in the company that touches data.

Endpoint security tools continue to adapt

Endpoint security tools offer much more than just frontline defenses, expanding through EDR and XDR to provide better protection and detection alongside collecting analytics. This enables IT to more accurately pinpoint how malicious software got onto devices and what it did once inside. The more complete picture IT can get of endpoints, the easier it will be to protect both the devices themselves and any business data they touch.

This was last published in May 2021

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