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The Importance of Endpoint Security in Hybrid Work Environments

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The Importance of Endpoint Security in Hybrid Work Environments

Large disruptive events tend to accelerate innovation by forcing everyone to quickly adapt to rapidly changing conditions. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, organizations of all sizes were presented with a problem they had never encountered before. Which was how to remain operational without being able to gather at the office. 

Many of the same organizations discovered that they could work from home just as effectively as from the office—if not more. Their employees fell in love with having more freedom, better work-life balance, less commute stress, and greater location independence. For these and other reasons, Gartner estimates that between 30 and 40 percent of employees will continue to work remotely in some fashion even after the end of the pandemic.

30 and 40 percent of employees will continue to work remotely in some fashion even after the end of the pandemic.

These and other similar statistics make it clear that the future of work is hybrid. But how secure is this future? When employees don’t gather behind the same firewall at the office, are they sufficiently protected against current cyber threats? Not unless organizations shift their focus from edge security to endpoint security.

Insufficient Endpoint Security Can Have Dire Consequences

Opportunistic as always, cybercriminals wasted no time when the pandemic hit. Taking advantage of the situation to target organizations whose operations have been disrupted by social distancing measures. According to HPthere was a 238 percent increase in global cyberattack volume between February and April 2020.

Ponemon research revealed that 68 percent of organizations experienced one or more endpoint attacks that successfully compromised their IT infrastructure in 2020, with ransomware being the most common cyber threat. Since 2020, the average ransomware payment climbed 82 percentreaching $570,000 in the first half of 2021 

68 percent of organizations experienced one or more endpoint attacks that successfully compromised their IT infrastructure in 2020.

For SMBs, whose financial resources have been drained by the pandemic, a single cybersecurity incident caused by poorly secured endpoint devices can have dire consequencesTo avoid the worst-case scenario, organizations must learn how to effectively protect themselves in the era of hybrid work. 

Understanding the Elements of an Effective Endpoint Strategy

Endpoint security is defined as the practice of securing endpoints or entry points of end-user devicesBefore the global shift to hybrid work, endpoint devices, such as desktops, laptops, and smartphones, were hidden behind clearly defined network perimeterWhich are all protected from the threats coming from the public internet by an enterprise-grade firewall and other perimeter defenses.

Now that employees work from various remote locations, there’s no clearly defined network perimeter to protect anymore. So traditional perimeter defenses are no longer as effective as they used to be. To stop attacks on endpoint devices from leading to costly cybersecurity incidents, organizations must design and implement an endpoint security strategy that reflects today’s complex threat landscape.

Step 1: Know Your Endpoints

It’s impossible to effectively protect endpoint devices without knowing what kinds of endpoints you’re trying to protect and how many of them there are. That’s why the design and implementation of every endpoint security strategy should always be supported by a comprehensive asset inventory. The inventory should include both hardware devices and the software running on them. It also needs to be regularly updated to reflect IT infrastructure changes.

Step 2: Create Hybrid Work Policies

The HP survey we mentioned earlier also revealed that around 30 percent of employees allowed someone besides themselves to use their work laptops when working from home during the pandemic, often more than once a day. What’s also alarming is that nearly half of employees now think of their work laptops as personal devices.  

That’s not good. Why? Because web browsing, torrenting, and other unsafe regular activities being done on personal devices are common causes of cybersecurity incidents. To address this issue, organizations should create hybrid work policies that clearly state which devices employees can use for work and under which conditions.  

Step 3: Train Hybrid Employees

Most employees who have transitioned into hybrid work arrangements have limited understanding of the cybersecurity threats they face when working from various remote locations, often connected to public Wi-Fi networks. It shouldn’t then come as a surprise that 85 percent of data breaches have a human aspect, according to the recently published Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report.

To prevent employees from being the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain, organizations should invest in cybersecurity awareness training that focuses on remote work risks. A well-trained workforce can then form the first line of defense against cyberattacks, especially those that attempt to trick human victims into revealing sensitive information.

Step 4: Invest in an Endpoint Security Solution

Traditional antivirus products play an important role in endpoint security, but they’re not designed to protect against different types of cyberattacks targeting all kinds of endpoints, including computers, mobile devices, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

To reliably protect all endpoints connected to the enterprise network, organizations should invest in an endpoint security solution capable of providing centralized protection of all endpoint devices against malware and fileless threats alike. Such solutions often come with useful endpoint detection capabilities, real-time monitoring and reporting, as well as support for integrations with other security apps.

Step 5: Don’t Trust Anyone by Default

When employees stop working from a single place and start working from various remote locations, the number of potentially malicious login attempts skyrockets. Instead of trying to come up with all kinds of convoluted authentication solutions that would automatically trust only certain users and devices, it’s much easier and safer to not trust anyone by default, which is the main idea behind the Zero Trust security model.

One of the core values of the Zero Trust security model is multi-factor authentication (MFA), which is an authentication method that requires users to present two or more pieces of evidence during authentication, such as a password and a hardware token. According to Microsoft, MFA can prevent 99.9 percent of account compromise attacks, so its implementation should be a no-brainer.

Conclusion

The era of hybrid work is here, and it’s time for organizations large and small to realize that their perimeter defenses no longer provide sufficient protection against increasingly sophisticated cyber threats. Moving forward, they must shift their focus to their endpoints and implement a comprehensive security strategy that can keep them secure regardless of where they’re located.

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