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What is endpoint security?

“Endpoint security” is a term that is commonly used when cyber and network security is discussed. However, many do not fully understand what this phrase means.

Every device is an endpoint

Any device that connects to the internet, from laptop computers to smartphones and video game consoles, is considered an “endpoint.”

As the internet of things continues to proliferate and increase the complexity of our home and business networks, potential vulnerabilities can emerge as the safety of these varied endpoints becomes increasingly difficult to manage.

Thus, “endpoint security” becomes a challenging but critical component of network safety.

Examples of surprising endpoint security hacks

TVs

Smart TVs contain software and even hardware that can be exploited by a savvy hacker. While changing channels and adjusting video and audio settings may seem more like pranks than hacks, many smart TVs also have built-in cameras and microphones that can potentially be used for spying.

Smart home devices

In a scenario that sounds as if it was from the script of a horror movie, a Milwaukee couple had their smart home devices attacked by an outsider who used their speakers to play music at high volume, spoke to them through their cameras and turned their thermostat to 90 degrees. It was discovered that poor password security allowed a hacker to access the couple’s smart home devices.

Kitchen appliances

Connected kitchen appliances like coffee machines seem like unlikely paths into your network. However, these smart devices are designed for convenience, not security. Any device that is plugged into your internet could provide an open window into your network.

Printers and fax machines

One would assume that devices that are designed specifically with a business network in mind would not provide the same hacking opportunities that coffee machines or toasters might. However, hackers can successfully penetrate your network via unprotected smart office devices just as easily as they could a home appliance like a dishwasher.

Smart bulbs

Even the simple, ubiquitous lightbulb has been ensnared into the internet of things in the form of trendy new “smart bulbs” that allow for color and brightness control via an app. These bulbs can potentially be accessed and even controlled by a determined outside user.

7 ways to create better endpoint security

Most cybercriminals are opportunists who seek out soft targets with easily exploited vulnerabilities. The following steps can help you bolster your endpoint security and create an environment that is not enticing for hackers. 

1. Create a business-wide security policy

Many small businesses, and even some large corporations, don’t operate within a tightly followed and documented security policy. A security policy should detail what individuals have access to what data and the manner in which they are able to access it using authentication processes such as two-factor identification. Keep unauthorized users away from restricted data and mandate that information access protocols be followed.

2. Secure your connected devices

Simple steps such as changing the default passwords on connected devices and ensuring that their software and firmware is regularly patched and updated will help prevent hackers from easily accessing your network.

3. Use antivirus software

Today’s antivirus software does more than simply detect and quarantine malware. These programs often provide pop-up blockers as well as scanners for emails and removable devices. A subscription to an antivirus app should be one of the main pillars in your network security.

4. Use a virtual private network (VPN)

Using a VPN will prevent hackers from observing your web usage to access critical information such as passwords or personal data. Many antivirus software programs also provide VPN services for an additional charge.

5. Use a firewall

Firewalls are a tried and true manner in which to gain added network security. These hardware devices keep a close eye on incoming and outgoing network traffic, only allowing passage if certain criteria are met. It’s important to keep your hardware updated. Refurbished firewalls can be purchased for a much lower cost than brand new ones. Keep your budget down and your defences up by purchasing a refurbished firewall from a trusted, reputable dealer. 

6. Create and enforce a Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) policy

Workers that bring their home devices into the office or use them to access the internet via a company network can unknowingly create opportunities for hacks and malware attacks. If the budget allows, consider providing employees with company devices that have their access to certain apps or accounts restricted. If employees are to use their own phones, tablets etc., be sure to inform them of what kinds of activities are not permitted while on the company network. If your workforce is remote, endpoint security becomes more complex and requires further considerations

7. Educate your workforce

Human error can provide hackers with an easy way in. Whether it’s poor password strength or simply falling for a phishing scam resulting in a ransomware attack, endpoint security begins and ends with knowledge. Various third party firms provide cybersecurity awareness training that companies can leverage to help stay on the cutting edge. As security threats come, go and change, it’s important to understand that cybersecurity education is a continual process.

Sources

Derek Walborn
Derek Walborn is a freelance research-based technical writer. He has worked as a content QA analyst for AT&T and Pernod Ricard.

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