There are more than a few reasons to freak out about the current state of IT security, including the constant balancing act of keeping pace with evolving technology and dwindling budgets, fulfilling the infinitely unique IT needs of each department while maintaining sanity, and of course, everyone’s favorite: endpoint security.
Let’s talk about that last one. For as long as IT has been around, endpoints have been the face of the franchise, so to speak. Why? They’re the most visible part of an increasingly ethereal industry. Oh, and they’re not only visible to you, either. With that in mind, here are a few tips for identifying the weak links in your endpoint security strategy and how to prevent Chernobyl-like meltdowns when hackers come knocking.
Step 1: Make a list and check it twice
Santa, regardless of your opinion of his existence, sets a phenomenal example for endpoint security. Sure, his “endpoints” are millions of children who need to receive gifts on Christmas morning, but the concept is identical. You should make a simple list of every endpoint in your environment—yes, every endpoint: printers, tablets, desktops, and everything in between. If it has an “on” switch and a connection to the network, it’s an endpoint.
As trivial as this exercise may seem, gaining a detailed view of the devices composing your IT environment is an invaluable asset for your endpoint security strategy. After all, you can’t protect what you can’t see.
Step 2: Categorize your endpoints
With a comprehensive inventory of your connected devices, it’s time to make a few cuts. The idea here is to remove unnecessary “noise” from your IT security profile. Ask yourself if each device serves a distinct and useful purpose on your network. If it doesn’t, cut the cord. As cool as it is to cook a Pop-Tart from your phone, connected toasters probably aren’t critical to your business operations.
If consolidating connected endpoints helps you trim possible points of attack, the next logical step is to harden those you decide to keep active. How? With a little organization and a lot of discipline. Take the remaining devices in your list and group them into the following categories: those whose security can be automated and those requiring manual maintenance. If an endpoint can be set to automatically retrieve and apply security updates, it goes in the “auto” category. If you’re the one who has to seek or otherwise deploy updates, toss it in the manual bin.
The goal of this exercise is to understand the security needs of each set of endpoints and prioritize your attention accordingly. Hopefully, you’ll discover some automation opportunities to ease your management burden, as well. Two birds, one stone.
Step 3: Fix your past mistakes
Keeping track of every device in your environment can obviously help you maintain visibility of endpoint security, but it’ll also keep you from repeating past mistakes. As you scour endpoints, make a side note for the protocols and ports through which network communication is done.
Are your printers opening FTP ports and services you don’t use? Perhaps management interfaces are leveraging port 80 (HTTP) instead of 443 (HTTPS). You get the picture. Take this opportunity to get low-level control over communication between your endpoints. As a bonus, this practice will help you make more educated decisions when it comes to your grand security strategy.
Step 4: Understand that knowledge is power
Remember those old Schoolhouse Rock! episodes? You know, the ones that taught you how a bill becomes a law and managed to do so without putting you to sleep? Empowering stuff. Well, knowledge is power, as they say, and in this case, it’s security, too. You see, the dark powers of the internet underworld are becoming more clever with each passing day. The result is malware that’s increasingly difficult to detect and prevent.
While hackers have a wealth of resources available to them on the dark web, you’ve got even more information at your fingertips with a simple web browser. From podcasts to RSS feeds, it’s never been easier to stay up to date on the current cybersecurity climate. With news aggregation services, you can hardly even use the perceived time commitment as an excuse for ignorance. Even something as simple as perusing a printer security white paper while on the john can go a long way toward ongoing education. And just as important as making sure your security knowledge stays sharp is making sure your endpoints do the same. Consider investing in equally clever tech, like smart printers, that have Wolverine-like self-healing capabilities.
Ultimately, endpoint security is neither trivial nor particularly easy. Every device in your environment represents both an enabler of organizational success and an opportunity for cyber attack. With these tips, however, you’ll be able to build a security strategy that can identify, remediate, and prevent any unsavory activity.