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7 key features your endpoint security software must have

As businesses of all sizes enact digital transformation strategies and permanent remote work policies, the need to protect the endpoint devices involved in these processes — namely laptops — from security threats is more pressing than ever. Endpoints are frequently exploited in cyberattacks because they provide entry paths into an organization’s network and are often sources of valuable information themselves. In remote work environments, which hastily came about en masse due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these endpoints are even more at risk of compromise without the protection of their organization’s secure network. Luckily, endpoint security software exists to help mitigate these risks, and this blog will highlight the key features to look for in your solution.

1. Sensitive data discovery

Cyberattacks share one common goal: to gain access to sensitive data and use it maliciously in one way or another. How it’s used will depend on the type of attack, but by protecting sensitive data at its source, you can prevent an attack from happening at all. To do this, you first need to be aware of all instances where sensitive data exists within your organization, including endpoint devices. Thus, an essential component of your endpoint security software is sensitive data discovery.

This feature scans all sources, locations and file types in and out of an organization’s physical network, including operating systems on remote devices, cloud repositories and storage sites for sensitive data. Once it’s located, persistent labels, tags and visual markers are automatically applied to help IT and governance teams, as well as digital tools, determine its sensitivity and treat it accordingly. This classification step is essential to endpoint security, as it ensures that only authorized personnel can access sensitive data for use on endpoint devices.

Lastly, sensitive data discovery allows data loss prevention tools — another key element of endpoint security — to work at their maximum potential to prevent data loss and leaks across all company laptops.

2. Data loss prevention

Data loss prevention (DLP) protects data while it’s at rest (in storage), in motion (moving throughout a network) and in use (on endpoints). In the context of endpoint security, a DLP agent is installed on all company laptops and enforces security based on rules, policies and user access controls designated by an organization. These are typically determined by the data privacy laws that regulate all sorts of sensitive personal information, which is why it’s so important for organizations to be aware of all the data they possess. If unusual activity is identified, the DLP agent alerts the system administrator, encrypts the data at risk and creates a report for compliance, auditing and incident response purposes.

3. Email security

The next functionality to look for in endpoint security software is email security. With email communication heightened as a result of remote work, email security features can inspect senders and any links or attachments included in emails to ensure they aren’t part of a phishing attack. It’s important to note that these security actions will only be applied to incoming communications from outside sources.

To guarantee sensitive information isn’t accidentally or intentionally being put at risk from within an organization’s network, DLP tools will come in handy once again. They can monitor files sent via email or other communication platforms within an organization’s network for any activity that goes against an organization’s specified rules. If sensitive information is identified and its use has violated these rules, it will be blocked or encrypted.

4. Application and device controls

If you’ve ever tried to install a new application on your work computer, only to be prompted by a notification requiring a system administrator’s password to install and adjust the application’s permissions, that’s endpoint security at work. Both digital transformations and remote work have driven the implementation of third-party applications, some of which aren’t web-based and could create vulnerabilities in the laptops they’re installed on. Application and device controls provide an extra layer of security that ensures only approved software and applications are installed on endpoints, and moderates the uploading and downloading of sensitive data to endpoint devices as well as the remote accessing of shared hardware or storage drives.

5. Machine learning

Endpoint security software that employs machine learning can supplement and increase the efficacy of other security measures like DLP. As discussed, DLP enforces security measures based on rules and regulations set by an organization. Machine learning can enhance DLP monitoring and responses by analyzing typical endpoint activity and behaviors to identify anomalies, determine risks and block them. So, even if DLP monitoring were to miss a potential risk because the behavior or action didn’t go against any predetermined guidelines, machine learning behavioral analysis has the potential to catch it. Machine learning can also deliver an added layer of threat protection by analyzing existing data and intel on common threats to recognize warning signs and notify system administrators of potential risks.

To better illustrate the concept of machine learning in endpoint security, take Spirion’s Sensitive Data Watcher. It collects file and folder activity on laptop endpoints to help pinpoint unauthorized or abnormal behavior involving sensitive data. It then uses this analysis to create intelligent queries and incident definitions. When thresholds are met, incidents are reported for administrators to review, investigate and respond to quickly. Time-sensitive incident response is required not only to minimize the damage of a compromise but also to obey legal regulations and avoid noncompliance penalties as well, which brings us to our next key endpoint security software feature.

6. Incident response technology

Once an incident has been identified and reported, it needs to be quickly investigated and responded to in order to minimize the consequences. Typically, organizations will establish an incident response plan supported by a team of IT managers, security analysts, C-suite executives, legal counsel and even representatives from human resources and public relations departments. But, incident responses can be greatly enhanced and executed more efficiently with software tools. Specifically, look for tools that have automation features such as workflows, which enable you to automate components of your response plans. You also want tools that can provide forensic insights that provide details regarding the device at the source of the compromise or any affected data.

Of course, for incident response tools to work at their full potential, they will rely heavily on sensitive data discovery to first create the definitions and triggers required for the workflows and second to accurately pinpoint the compromised source(s) and data. Again, incident response, which encompasses incident investigation and reporting, is integral to maintaining compliance. Noncompliance can be just as harmful to an organization as a breach, so incident response technology isn’t something you want to be left out of your endpoint security software.

7. Third-party application integration

In an ideal world, all endpoint security software would be created equal and contain the same features. In case your endpoint security software lacks any of the aforementioned capabilities, it should at least be able to integrate with other tools that provide those missing capabilities. This will ensure you’re getting a comprehensive endpoint security experience.

Additionally, your software should be able to communicate with any existing security solutions being employed within your organization’s infrastructure to protect non-endpoint locations or channels where sensitive data exists and could be at risk, such as cloud repositories, networks and on-premise workstations or servers.

Bolster your endpoint security strategy with Spirion tools

When it comes to effective endpoint security, look no further than Spirion’s bevy of sensitive data protection solutions. In addition to Sensitive Data Watcher, which monitors all the sensitive data created on and flowing through endpoint devices to proactively detect and stop security risks, Spirion’s Sensitive Data Platform discovers sensitive data wherever it exists, persistently classifies it based on its level of sensitivity and remediates it to reduce potential vulnerabilities that can arise when endpoint devices access and use sensitive data, such as duplication or modification. To learn more about how Spirion can strengthen your endpoint security strategy, contact us today.