NetworkTigers discussing best practices for endpoint security.
2022 was a banner year for ransomware, further enforcing that endpoint security plays a crucial role in your network’s safety. The year, from professional sports leagues and educational institutions to microchip manufacturers and federal governments, demonstrated that many of the world’s largest organizations were not adequately protected from attack and that ransomware purveyors were becoming bolder and more brazen when it came to their targets and their strategies.
The effects and disruption caused by ransomware escalated to the extent that the FBI and CISA issued multiple statements containing steps for supply chain vendors and other organizations to follow to slow the avalanche of attacks. According to IDC, a third of all global organizations have suffered a ransomware attack leading to a 13% increase since 2021.
As we forge into 2023, it’s become clear that ransomware will continue to be an existential cyber threat. However, this doesn’t mean that you are powerless against it. One of the best ways to safeguard your system against a ransomware attack is to employ endpoint security and strictly adhere to the following best practices.
Regularly check every endpoint to ensure that it is protected and current
A missed update or accidental misconfiguration can be all an attacker needs to initiate an attack against your network. Ensure that all security options are engaged and endpoints use the most current software to maintain optimum security. Whether manually or automatically, regular scans of all endpoints are critical.
Enable and require multi-factor authentication
Even though hackers are becoming adept at circumventing MFA in some cases, this additional level of security is still recommended, as it places another obstacle between an attacker and your system.
Enable all security features
Endpoint security solutions are loaded with options. Ensure all your features are enabled to limit what types of threats may slip through the cracks, especially those that specifically detect behavior indicative of a ransomware attack.
Regularly review your exclusions
While exclusions are intended to prevent your security solution from using resources to scan trustworthy file types, they can add up and become messy enough even to include some malicious file types that accidentally end up on the list. Regularly check this list to ensure it doesn’t get sloppy and make your exclusions as specific as possible to keep sneaky malware at bay.
Maintain excellent IT hygiene
Keeping your IT neat, tidy and current is paramount regardless of what you are protecting. Good hygiene requires consistently updating, streamlining, backing up, refreshing, scanning and monitoring your systems to promote speedy operation and airtight security. From configuration errors to components that no longer receive manufacturer support, even minor missteps can spell doom if an opportunistic hacker discovers them.
Limit data access
Be sure to adhere to a data access hierarchy. This can be done via MFA or by restricting access based on department. Adhering to this can prevent lateral movement in your system, even if a hacker gains a degree of penetration.
A VPN is a great way to encrypt data and keep your traffic confidential. From specific files to physical hard drives and cloud drives, encrypt critical data so that even if access is gained, it will be useless to an attacker. This is a fundamental tenet to stick to in today’s world of remote workforces, as opportunities for thieves to make off with employee laptops, drives or other endpoint devices have increased.
Enable automatic updating and patching on all devices and apps
Automatic patching pushes updates into your network as they are made available, thereby keeping your endpoint security refreshed. With threat actors continually scanning for vulnerabilities, an automatic update may make the difference between your network’s safety and an intrusion initiated just moments before you could install a patch that would have prevented it manually.
Maintain a strict Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy
Employees using personal devices to access company networks or drives is a Pandora’s box of security issues. However, many organizations allow this as it prevents them from issuing hardware to their staff and makes remote employees more inclined to engage with work. A BYOD policy should be in place that heavily restricts what devices can connect to the company network, what apps they are allowed to use, and what websites can and cannot be visited. Organizations dealing with especially critical or dangerous data should provide devices to their workers with these restrictions in place.
Employ Advanced Endpoint Protection (AEP)
While antivirus software and firewalls remain foundational endpoint security components, modern threats can sometimes slip by these measures. Traditional methods excel at blocking known threats, from popular Trojans to spyware. AEP uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify unknown threats, protecting your network from fileless malware, script-based attacks and zero-day threats that have yet to become publicized. As threat actors themselves leverage machine learning against their victims, 2023 is predicted to be the year that sees dueling AIs duke it out over everything from network control to physical battlefield supremacy.
Continually reinforce the importance of awareness
Regardless of the technology, it would seem that the human element will continue to be a weak spot when it comes to endpoint security for the foreseeable future. Attackers know this; many have turned to social engineering instead of password cracking to persuade victims to simply hand over the keys. From regular newsletters highlighting current threats to meetings that refresh employees on how to identify scammers, the importance of vigilance can’t be overstated.
Look to the future
In addition to awareness, staff should also be updated on the cutting edge of the cyber threat landscape. Policies should allow workers to positively identify the sender of messages that purport to be from coworkers or superiors to avoid spear phishing schemes. As deepfake technology enables threat actors to create convincing video messages and audio calls, workforces must understand what is around the bend before it falls into their lap.