Endpoint Security and Modern Compliance

endpoint security featured

With all the focus on network security, SaaS compliance, and big data protection, it’s sometimes very easy to forget that the most vulnerable parts of any given system are often those tied to the user. These devices (endpoints) are where these users do most of their work and where a lack of security best practices can threaten an entire infrastructure. 

Here, we’re touching on endpoint security: what it is, what it means, and how you can rethink your approach in light of security and compliance needs.


What Is Endpoint Security?

Endpoint security is the hardening and securing of these endpoint devices: laptops, workstations, mobile devices, and literally anything a user may use to do their work using organizational resources. 

As such, endpoints are susceptible to various threats, including malware, ransomware, phishing attacks, and more sophisticated state-sponsored attacks–but these attacks will target physical devices and access points rather than more ephemeral vulnerabilities tied to APIs or network technologies. 

Network and endpoint security are still complementary, however. Robust network security can limit the spread of threats across the network, while strong endpoint security ensures that each entry point is individually secured.


Components of Endpoint Security

Endpoint security almost always lives or dies on how it protects devices from access, typically due to malware, theft, or user error. As such, endpoint security components will often resemble typical home user security, with additional considerations for what a user should and shouldn’t be able to do on a network-connected device.

The critical components of endpoint security include:

  • Antivirus and Anti-Malware Software: Antivirus solutions are fundamental for detecting and removing malicious software.
  • Firewalls: They monitor incoming and outgoing network traffic and decide whether to allow or block specific traffic based on a defined set of security rules.
  • Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS): These are crucial for identifying and swiftly responding to potential threats.
  • Data Encryption: Encrypting data on endpoints ensures that it remains unreadable and secure even if data is intercepted or accessed without authorization.
  • Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR): EDR tools continuously monitor and respond to mitigate cyber threats.
  • Advanced Authentication: Endpoint devices have moved to more advanced authentication methods, particularly fingerprint and facial scan biometrics.
  • Software Control: A basic part of endpoint security includes remote access and software control on all devices. This controls all software and firmware allowed on devices and restricts users’ ability to install software from untrusted sources. 

The Threat of Endpoint Breaches in the Real World

endpoint security

Unfortunately, endpoint data breaches are some of the most common forms of a breach and often turn normal operations into non-compliance or security events that can cost businesses millions of dollars in damages and fines. 

Some prominent examples include: 

  • Eir Data Breach: This breach involved the theft of an unencrypted laptop from Ireland’s largest telecom provider, Eir, compromising the data of 37,000 customers. The laptop contained personally identifiable information, and the breach was due to a faulty security update that decrypted the laptop. 
  • Houston’s Health Plan Data Breach: A laptop stolen from an employee’s car may have contained PHI records of the city’s staff, including names, addresses, dates of birth, social security numbers, and medical information. The organization couldn’t confirm if the data were accessed or encrypted.
  • Northwest Territories Health Data Breach: In this breach, a laptop containing the PHI of 33,661 residents of Canada’s Northwest Territories was stolen. The data included patient names, birth dates, and medical conditions. The laptop was a new device, and the encryption process either failed or was missed. 
  • IBM MOVEit Data Breach: A data breach exploiting a vulnerability in MOVEit transfer software installed on workstations led to the theft of sensitive healthcare data of 4.1 million patients in Colorado. 
  • PharMerica Data Breach: US Pharmaceutical giant PharMerica suffered a data breach where the ransomware group Money Message used malware to compromise user computers to gain access to the company’s network. The personal data of 5.8 million individuals was accessed during the event. The stolen data included social security numbers, birth dates, names, and health insurance information.


The Role of Endpoint Security in Compliance

Endpoint security is paramount for any organization that expects to maintain compliance with specific security requirements. These compliance requirements typically overlap, covering specific endpoint security, data privacy, and network security requirements. 

  • GDPR: GDPR mandates strict data protection and privacy standards for organizations handling EU citizens’ data. This means that endpoint devices would need to protect that data privacy through strong encryption and device authentication while also managing their data flow to and from these devices
  • HIPAA: Like GDPR, HIPAA requires control of data privacy, which means that laptops and other devices must have strong encryption and authentication. As we’ve seen from the above examples, lost laptops are a standard part of compliance breaches. Additionally, HIPAA’s emphasis on risk management underscores the need for robust endpoint security to identify and mitigate potential risks to patient data.
  • FedRAMP: For organizations providing cloud services to the U.S. government, FedRAMP emphasizes the importance of securing endpoints accessing these cloud services. This includes implementing strong authentication, encryption, and continuous monitoring.
  • SOC 2: SOC 2 focuses on principles of security, availability, and integrity, requiring measures like robust endpoint security to protect against unauthorized access and data breaches. SOC 2 Common Criteria 6.8 specifies that endpoint security should include restrictions to access, software installation, and required device scans. 


Best Practices in Endpoint Security

  • Policy Development and Implementation: Your organization should have robust and aligned security and device policies. Ideally, these policies should be more than ideas on paper–you should be using cloud infrastructure to support policy implementation across a fleet of devices. 
  • Regular Updates and Patch Management: One of the simplest yet most effective practices is ensuring that all software, particularly operating systems and security tools, are regularly updated. These updates often contain patches for security vulnerabilities discovered since the last version, making them critical for maintaining security.
  • Employee Training and Awareness: Human error remains among the most significant security risks. Users should be trained on maintaining device security and know how careless use of devices could threaten an entire organization. 
  • Use of Advanced Security Tools: Incorporating advanced security tools, such as next-generation antivirus, EDR, and network access control systems, can provide more robust protection against sophisticated threats. These tools can identify and mitigate threats using advanced behavioral analysis and machine learning techniques.
  • Strong Authentication: Biometrics, regular authentication updates, and coherent authorization policies across a fleet of devices can go a long way to mitigate threats. While a lost laptop or tablet will most likely be hacked, it’s critical that unauthorized users can never access system devices and systems by default. 


Bolster Your Endpoint Security Policies with Lazarus Alliance

Managing a fleet of devices can be daunting, especially if you don’t have an established set of policies and controls to maintain their security. Work with Lazarus Alliance to ensure that these systems are aligned with best security practices and compliance requirements. 

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