The Ultimate Guide to Endpoint Security in 2024

Endpoint security has become a top priority for organizations of all sizes as the threat landscape continues to evolve. With more employees working remotely and conducting business on the go, endpoints like laptops, mobile devices, and Internet of Things (IoT) have become prime targets for cybercriminals. Recent surveys indicate that a majority of data breaches originate at endpoints, bypassing traditional network perimeter defenses.

This comprehensive guide examines the key trends, technologies, and best practices that information security leaders need to know to develop an effective endpoint security strategy for 2024 and beyond.

Why Endpoint Security is Critical

An endpoint refers to any device that can connect to a network, including desktop computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets. As digital transformation accelerates, the number and variety of endpoints accessing corporate networks has exploded.

Unfortunately, endpoints represent the soft underbelly of most organization‘s defenses:

  • More Points of Entry: With more devices connecting, there are more potential entry points for attackers to exploit.

  • Increased Mobility: Endpoints like laptops and mobile devices often connect from outside the corporate LAN, bypassing on-premise security controls.

  • Human Factor: Employees may engage in risky behavior on endpoints, like opening phishing emails, that let attackers gain a foothold.

Statistics illustrate the scope of the endpoint security problem:

  • 68% of firms surveyed experienced one or more endpoint attacks in 2020 that compromised data or infrastructure. (Source: 2020 State of Endpoint Security Report)

  • 70% of breaches originate at endpoints, rather than the network perimeter. (Source: 2019 Absolute Endpoint Security Trends Report)

Securing endpoints is no longer optional. It must be a top priority for security leaders looking to manage risk in 2024.

Best Practices for Endpoint Security

Organizations should incorporate the following best practices as they develop and implement an endpoint security strategy:

Analyze Endpoints to Identify Gaps

The first step is to analyze the full population of endpoints – including PCs, servers, mobile devices, printers, and IoT – to identify any vulnerabilities or unprotected assets. This asset inventory allows security teams to assess their true exposure and address any coverage gaps.

Tools like endpoint management and monitoring platforms can automate discovery and inventory of endpoints. IT teams should classify data and applications on endpoints to understand potential impact if compromised.

Enforce Strong Passwords and Multifactor Authentication

One of the most basic protections is to enforce password policies and multifactor authentication (MFA) for endpoints, especially those storing sensitive data. MFA adds an extra layer of protection, requiring users to confirm their identity using biometrics or a secondary device.

IT can use tools like single sign-on (SSO) and identity and access management (IAM) to apply these access controls across all endpoints.

Provide Security Awareness Training

Endpoint users themselves represent a security risk if they don‘t follow good security practices. Ongoing user education and training teaches employees to identify risks like phishing emails and encourages protective behaviors like keeping devices locked when not in use.

Combining training with simulated phishing and social engineering tests helps reinforce secure habits. Training should be mandatory for all employees with endpoint access.

Maintain Updates and Patching

One of the simplest ways to close security gaps is maintaining devices with up-to-date software and patches. Yet this basic hygiene step is often neglected. IT teams should have automated mechanisms to patch vulnerabilities across endpoints as soon as fixes become available.

Endpoint protection platforms provide centralized visibility and controls for patching and configuration. Cloud-based patch management tools can also simplify and streamline updates.

Capabilities of Endpoint Security Platforms

Endpoint security suites provide integrated software to protect against threats and rapidly detect and respond to any incidents. Core capabilities include:

Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)

EDR solutions focus on detecting and responding to advanced threats that evade preventive controls. Key features include:

  • Behavioral Analysis – Uses machine learning to model normal endpoint activity and detect subtle anomalies that may represent threats.

  • Threat Hunting – Provides tools for IT security staff to proactively hunt for signs of compromise across the endpoint environment.

  • Alert Triage – Automatically analyzes alerts, separating signal from noise to allow staff to prioritize response.

  • Automated Response – Can take immediate actions like isolating infected endpoints or killing malicious processes when a threat is detected.

  • Threat Containment – Stops threats from spreading across endpoints by blocking lateral movement.

By combining machine learning, automation, and human threat hunting, EDR provides 24×7 monitoring and response across the endpoint environment.

Endpoint Protection Platforms (EPP)

EPP provides foundational preventive security for endpoints, including:

  • Anti-malware – Signature-based defenses complemented by machine learning to block malware and exploits.

  • Host Firewalls – Monitors inbound and outbound connections to prevent unauthorized network access.

  • Web/Email Security – Scans web and email traffic entering endpoints to filter out threats like phishing attacks or malicious downloads.

  • Application Control – Only allows whitelisted applications and code to run, blocking unauthorized executables.

  • Device Control – Limits endpoint functionality by restricting peripheral devices like USB drives.

EPP provides broad preventive protection, while EDR adds top-tier detection and response capabilities.

Leading Endpoint Security Vendors

The endpoint security market has seen robust competition and innovation, with both pure-play security vendors and larger IT providers vying for market share. Top vendors include:

  • CrowdStrike – A cloud-based endpoint leader, CrowdStrike uses machine learning and AI capabilities for EDR and threat hunting.

  • SentinelOne – Leverages autonomous agents on endpoints to detect behavioral anomalies and automatically remediate threats in real-time.

  • Microsoft – Microsoft Defender provides integrated EDR, EPP and threat intelligence capabilities. Tight integration with Windows endpoints and Microsoft 365 cloud stack.

  • Symantec – Long-time market leader, Symantec fusion EDR and EPP with threat telemetry and deception technology across endpoints.

  • VMware Carbon Black – Focuses on behavioral EDR powered by big data and analytics collected from endpoints.

  • Sophos – Emphasizes synchronized security that shares threat intelligence across EDR and EPP capabilities.

Top vendors incorporate both signature-based prevention and advanced ML/AI powered detection and response. Deception technology is also emerging to trick attackers into revealing themselves. Integration and data sharing with broader security stacks is a key trend, along with consolidation of EPP and EDR into single platforms.

New Innovations in Endpoint Security

The endpoint security market continues to rapidly innovate. Key developments to watch include:

XDR Expands Scope of Detection and Response

Extended Detection and Response (XDR) expands EDR capabilities beyond individual endpoints to also ingest network, cloud and other data sources. This provides broader context for discovering stealthy threats that may try to hide their activity across endpoints.

MDR Offloads Monitoring and Response

Managed Detection and Response (MDR) provides 24×7 threat hunting and response capabilities delivered as a managed service. MDR allows resource-constrained security teams to offload day-to-day monitoring to specialists.

Deception Tools Trick Attackers

Deception tools deploy traps and lures across endpoints to detect attackers and study their methods. When attackers take the bait, the deception tools alert security staff.

AI for Improved Threat Analytics

AI and machine learning techniques help endpoint security platforms perform tasks like behavioral modeling, log analysis and threat hunting at scale. Cloud-delivered AI allows vendors to tap powerful deep learning capabilities.

Shift to Cloud-Based Management and Delivery

Vendors are increasingly offering cloud-based consoles and management for centralized visibility, control and intelligence sharing across endpoints located anywhere. Cloud-based, rather than on-premise, solutions simplify deployment and scalability.

Implementing Endpoint Security: Deployment Tips

How should IT security teams take advantage of these innovations to implement effective endpoint defenses? Key deployment best practices include:

Conduct Gap Assessment and Audits

Before deployment, audit endpoints to quantify risks, identify security gaps, take an inventory of assets and their sensitivity, and segment higher-risk endpoints. This allows appropriate policies and controls to be implemented based on endpoint risk profiles.

Take a Phased Approach

Roll out EDR and EPP controls in phases, beginning with higher risk endpoints. Start with foundational EPP policies, and enable advanced EDR capabilities over time. This allows policies and machine learning models to be tuned over an initial learning period.

Integrate with Existing Security Stack

Configure EPP and EDR tools to integrate with defenses like SIEM, firewalls, secure web gateways, and IAM/SSO. Open APIs make integration with other security data sources straightforward. Correlation across tools improves threat detection.

Provide Ongoing Optimization

Monitor alerts and metrics to fine-tune policies andtrim false positives over time. Threat hunt proactively for incidents that slip through defenses, and use findings to continually strengthen prevention and detection capabilities.

The Future of Endpoint Security

Endpoint security will only grow in importance as threats become more advanced and new computing form factors like IoT and mobile devices proliferate. Organizations need to shift from pure prevention to an approach combining complementary prevention, detection, response and threat hunting.

Machine learning and AI will become the cornerstone of endpoint security platforms, enabling them to automatically analyze and adapt to an evolving threat landscape. As the distributed workforce trend continues, securing endpoints outside the traditional corporate perimeter will require centralized cloud-based tools.

Security leaders need to take a proactive and layered strategy to securing endpoints, integrating protection and intelligence across on-premise and cloud-based defenses. By following best practices around deployment, integration and optimization, modern endpoint security platforms provide the capabilities to detect and stop known and unknown threats in their tracks.