What Is Endpoint Security? Definition, Key Components, and Best Practices


Endpoint security is defined as a security practice that is used to safeguard endpoints on a network, including user devices such as PCs, laptops, servers, smartphones, tablets, and virtual environments from malware, spyware, computer viruses, and online/offline threats. This article explains the fundamentals of endpoint security, its key components, and its benefits for enterprises. It also shares the top 10 best practices for the implementation and management of endpoint security in 2021.

What Is Endpoint Security?

Endpoint security is a security practice used to safeguard endpoints on a network, including user devices such as PCs, laptops, servers, smartphones, tablets, and virtual environments from malware, spyware, computer viruses, and online/offline threats.

Endpoint security refers to the protection of organization networks against threats that originate from on-premise or remote devices. An endpoint can be any device such as a smartphone, tablet, laptop, server, PC, or IoT device that serves as an entry point to the assets and applications of an enterprise. These devices represent attack vectors that cybercriminals use to exploit potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

With businesses adopting the remote work culture, mobile applications, and cloud services, their network perimeters have become even more vulnerable than ever before. Also, there has been a sharp rise in device theft, which has resulted in a huge loss of enterprise-sensitive data. Additionally, cyber attackers are using sophisticated solutions that can easily bypass many of the traditional security measures that enterprises use.

To address these problems, organizations are implementing endpoint security via advanced tools equipped with features similar to machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), cloud, virtual private network (VPN), encryption, and granular application control. These tools are up-to-date and secure companies from the ever-evolving threat landscape. They safeguard organizations from malware attacks, zero-day vulnerabilities, and other potential cyber threats.

The main objective of an endpoint security solution is to monitor and secure every operational endpoint in a network. This is achieved via a centralized management console installed on the enterprise network or server. These endpoint security tools offer features such as vulnerable endpoint detection, multi-factor authentication, real-time monitoring, user behavioral analysis, and others to detect advanced security threats and, in turn, manage them.

According to a 2021 report by Statista, the global endpoint security market is expected to reach a valuation of $9.51 billion in 2021. The report also projects that the market will continue to grow rapidly with a valuation of $15 billion by 2024.

How does endpoint security work?

To go down the endpoint security path, it is important for businesses to understand how endpoint security tools interact with other security elements that are already in place. Let’s dive into the elementary process of endpoint security implementation that enterprises need to consider, irrespective of their industry type.

Process of Endpoint Security

  • Step I: Gather information.

In the first step, a company needs to gather all the relevant information. To better defend your network from potential attacks, you need to be aware of all the access points that it connects to. This also involves making a note of sensitive and private data along with identity and access management (IAM). This activity will make you aware of what information you need to protect and who is given access to what kind of data.

  • Step II: Choose security solutions.

After surveying and gathering relevant information about various endpoints, you need to choose an appropriate security solution for every endpoint layer. This can include cloud protection, network protection, and hardware & software protection.

  • Step III: Implement security solutions.

In the final step, you can implement the selected security solution and start monitoring the endpoints. Here, you need to measure the performance of the selected solution and determine if any network vulnerability still exists. If the answer is yes, you need to begin the entire process all over again. To do so, you can test all the vulnerabilities and adjust the security solution as needed.

Now we’ll move to the key components of endpoint security and how they interact to provide complete security to organization networks.

See More: What Is Data Security? Definition, Planning, Policy, and Best Practices

5 Key Components of Endpoint Security

With the growing popularity of the ‘bring your own device (BYOD)’ culture and the rising number of mobile IoT devices in use, it is important for organizations to consider whether the endpoint security solution is comprehensive enough to tackle threats on all fronts. As such, businesses need to understand the fundamental components of an endpoint security solution. Let’s understand the main elements of an endpoint security solution.

Components of Endpoint Security

1.Device protection

The device protection component identifies and investigates suspicious activities on endpoint devices. These include endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools that track endpoint events, right from monitoring and recording to analyzing the events. It helps IT security teams to effectively detect and tackle potential threats well in advance.

Endpoint security solutions provide antivirus (next-generation) and malware protection for all kinds of devices to remove new forms of malware. As next-generation antiviruses use advanced analytics and ML, tackling emerging ransomware and advanced phishing attacks that evade traditional antivirus software becomes easier.

2. Network control

The network control component tracks, monitors, and filters all inbound network traffic. It provides a comprehensive firewall-like facility that helps detect, identify, and handle potential security risks that can infect the organization’s network.

3. Application control

The application control component refers to the kind of control that endpoints have over applications leveraged on the network. This is characterized by integration with application servers as it helps determine, monitor, and limit the endpoint access to these very applications.

Additionally, this component also involves application patching, where the security risks associated with individual software applications are completely eliminated. Enterprises can thus enjoy improved security cover by keeping all endpoints, including desktops, servers, and apps, up to date.

4. Data control

The data control component manages how the data is handled over a network. This includes data in transit as well as stored data. The data control tool prevents data leaks and improves overall data security by encrypting sensitive or valuable data. Encryption makes the data unreadable and remote to cyber attackers.

5. Browser protection

Endpoint security systems enable browser protection by employing web filters. These filters allow you to choose what your users can access or which sites they can visit while they are connected to your network.

This component offers privilege management features, also known as the principle of least privilege (POLP). It allows businesses to grant users and processes the bare minimum set of resources necessary to accomplish their tasks. POLP restricts access privileges to authorized users and applications by removing local admin rights on servers and PCs. This significantly reduces the security risks of the enterprise network.

See More: What Is a Security Vulnerability? Definition, Types, and Best Practices for Prevention

Key Benefits of Endpoint Security for Enterprises

Endpoint security plays a crucial role in protecting enterprises from the rising number of security threats that are being witnessed today. Some of the key benefits of endpoint security for enterprises include:

Benefits of Endpoint Security for Enterprises

1. Provides a unified platform

Installing individual security solutions can be cumbersome. Endpoint security provides a single security system that connects to all devices and servers. This unified characteristic allows the security solutions to update dynamically, thereby countering zero-day and multi-vector threats effectively.

2. Offers greater visibility

Endpoint security is a security tool for all devices, networks, and the data exchanged between them. The tool allows you to track and monitor applications across networks continuously. This gives businesses greater visibility into the happenings over their networks.

3. Supports dynamic updates

Endpoint security utilizes the cloud’s power to enforce security across all devices. This implies that any small update on the cloud is bound to reflect on all devices and networks linked to it.

4. Provides a safe virtual environment

Endpoint security creates a local user interface that resembles the original applications on a network. Although these interfaces are null and void, they act as a sandbox that redirects any threats that breach the firewall of the security solution. The advantage of such a sandbox setup is that it secures the enterprise’s servers and devices, and attackers can cause no harm to it.

5. Prevents data loss

A database is an important asset to any organization. Compromising it can expose all the company’s valuable data, thereby hampering its business prospects and damaging its reputation in the industry. Endpoint security provides an end-to-end data encryption feature that secures the company’s data and keeps it safe from cybercriminals. Thus, data loss prevention is one of the prominent benefits of endpoint security.

6. Reduces security costs

Endpoint security uses a centralized security system to manage all the devices operational in a network. This reduces the requirement to hire an IT security team specialized in handling or managing individual devices. Thus, centralized operations significantly reduce security costs under endpoint security.

7. Ensures better user experience

Multiple security procedures can drive customers away from your business offerings. However, endpoint security is known to monitor applications and user behavior in a manner that lets them navigate through a minimum number of security processes. As such, it allows users to enjoy a seamless experience.

See More: What Is Web Application Security? Definition, Testing, and Best Practices

Top 10 Endpoint Security Best Practices for Implementation and Management in 2021

After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have started embracing remote work on a large scale. As a result, more people are working outside traditional offices. Such a working environment is exposing more and more endpoint devices that are now acting as the biggest potential weaklings in secure networks.

According to a 2020 report released by the Ponemon Institute, around 68% of companies suffered more than one endpoint attack in the last 12 months alone.

Endpoint devices provide a backdoor entry to unauthorized access by external actors. Thus, the system is of paramount importance for organizations that want to safeguard their networks from potential security breaches. Here are the top best practices that companies need to employ while deploying endpoint security.

Endpoint Security Best Practices

1. Secure every endpoint on the system

Endpoint devices act as a gateway to your network. Hence, securing and keeping track of each and every device that connects to your system can serve your enterprise well.

Organizations can maintain an inventory of all endpoints in a network and update it when new devices are connected to it. Additionally, they need to ensure that each endpoint device is equipped with the requisite safeguards to keep them safe from security threats and thereby apply the latest patches as per the need.

2. Enforce stronger password policy & endpoint encryption

Once the endpoint devices become secure under the ambit of endpoint security measures, companies need to encourage their users to exercise good password practices.

Companies can make long and complex passwords a mandate for all their users. They can also encourage the practice of periodic password changes. Also, the habit of reusing old passwords should be banned by organizations. Beyond passwords, companies may need to add an additional layer of protection through encryption.

One of the best practices could be to encrypt the endpoint’s disk or memory. This ensures that the device data remains unreadable or inaccessible when it is transferred to another device or is safe even if the device is stolen or lost.

3. Enforce least privilege access

Limiting access and device privileges is a good practice to ensure the security of the endpoints. Admin privileges should not be assigned to regular users. Such a least privilege access policy can prevent unauthorized users from loading executable code onto the endpoints.

4. Leverage SIEM tools and run endpoint scans regularly

Endpoint security solutions should readily leverage security information and event management (SIEM) tools to enable real-time monitoring of the network. With the growing count of endpoint devices, SIEM solutions are now a part of company standards to enforce overall security. A good SIEM solution should log all network events. It should also have policies in place that can flag potential incidents and take action against them immediately.

Besides, regular endpoint scans can allow organizations to keep track of all devices connected to the network in real-time. This can be further enhanced by employing constant location awareness practices for endpoint devices such as smartphones and tablets that are vulnerable to loss or theft.

5. Implement automated patching

Endpoint security is effective with automated patching practices. With these, you can dynamically push patch updates during downtimes. Organizations need to take care that such automated systems also apply to third-party patches.

According to a study by the Ponemon Institute, 60% of breaches identified in 2019 were due to unpatched software. Here, the vulnerabilities were known, but the required patches weren’t applied.

6. Practice strict VPN access policy along with MFA

Today, as the task force turns to the remote work model, VPNs are being extensively used by most corporate companies. However, VPNs remain exposed to spoofing, sniffing, DDoS, and other external attacks.

Thus, it is more appropriate to limit VPN usage, thereby allowing VPN access only at the application layer. This can narrow down the network-level security risk considerably.

Besides, implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) can prevent account theft from different sources. Also, introducing a secondary layer of verification, when the system identifies a log-in from unrecognized or unknown locations, can enhance overall security.

7. Manage BYOD cases judiciously

While allowing employees to use their own devices, companies should have policies that outline the requisite security protocols. Organizations can also consider utilizing a guest access account policy in many cases.

Enterprises should emphasize and focus on making end-users aware of their responsibilities and remind them of the rules pertaining to device loss or theft. A weak or faulty BYOD policy can cost companies billions of dollars as users can hack into the organization’s network using their own devices.

A similar case was observed in 2017 when a data breach of South Korea’s largest bitcoin exchange occurred. An unclear BYOD policy led to this incident, where $30 million (in cryptocurrency) was stolen in just a few hours and compromised the data of around 32,000 users.

8. Practice system hardening and use cloud storage cautiously

Organizations can limit access to the device’s configuration and settings to cut down on IT vulnerabilities, attack surfaces, and potential attack vectors. System hardening can set a benchmark for different devices and operating systems. It can also define traffic pathways between endpoints and the network. As a consequence, all the other open ports (UDP or TCP) can be closed.

Additionally, companies need to remember that the cloud acts as another endpoint that is easily accessible to external entities. Hence, providing distinct credentials for each user is essential. Also, using TLS (HTTPS) to transport data should be standard practice.

9. Implement granular application control

Implementing this security practice will allow you to focus on restricting unauthorized application executions that present a risky element to the organization’s security.

Companies can use application control programs that limit app executions based on factors such as hash, path, or publisher. They can maintain a list of programs, files, and app executions that are permissible. Besides, while an application is granted access, ensure that you also implement rules that block communication to other irrelevant network segments.

10. Practice network segmentation

The overall performance of an endpoint security solution can be doubled if you split your network into sub-networks.

This can be started by setting up a privileged area and establishing a well-defined system with a privilege hierarchy. You also need to be mindful of interpersonal, interdepartmental dependencies, and organizational factors while segmenting the network. This will ensure that regular business processes are not affected. Also, managing and updating privileged resources should be done regularly.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security regards network segmentation as a standard security practice that plays a pivotal role in any organization’s network security.

See More: What Is Network Security? Definition, Types, and Best Practices


Today, endpoint security solutions have come a long way from traditional antiviruses and firewalls. They provide a broader set of defenses to tackle known and unknown malware attacks, security exploits, and post-intrusion consequences.

With a substantial rise in the number of remote and mobile workers, more endpoints are being exposed to attackers. This is increasing the ‘protect surface’ from traditional office environments to endpoints distributed across the globe. Thus, by implementing an endpoint security system, you can ensure that all endpoints, including employee-owned devices, are protected against unauthorized access and potential cyberattacks. This will safeguard your company’s valuable data and help maintain its reputation in the industry.

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