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The Windows 10 OS includes plenty of native security features, but these features aren't enough to protect enterprise organizations from modern cyber attacks, which continue to grow in number and complexity.
With this in mind, many IT teams turn to endpoint security tools to protect their managed endpoints. An endpoint security platform can safeguard an organization's entire fleet of Windows desktops, often alongside other OSes and device types, to prevent hackers from exploiting the endpoints.
A comprehensive endpoint security platform includes a wide range of features for mitigating risks to a device and its data. These offerings provide malware and ransomware protections, application denylisting, patch management, intelligent analytics, anomaly detection, web and email safeguards, data encryption and an assortment of other protections.
Modern endpoint security platforms have become so comprehensive that it's difficult for IT departments to know which one is right for each organization. Even so, a quality platform should meet certain endpoint security requirements to effectively protect Windows desktops. There are six features that IT admins should consider as requirements for their endpoint security platform.
1. Exploit and threat protection
Exploit and threat protection is a broad category that addresses risks such as malware, ransomware, spyware, viruses, zero-day threats and any other type of exploiting software. For example, a security platform might perform scans that target known application and OS vulnerabilities and isolate anything it finds. In general, endpoint security tools should be able to proactively detect and block any attempt to compromise a Windows desktop or its data.
One example of a platform that meets this endpoint security requirement is Kaspersky Integrated Endpoint Security. The offering includes Kaspersky Sandbox, a virtualized environment for isolating and analyzing suspicious objects. IT can use the results of the analysis to protect other managed endpoints.
2. Network protection
An effective endpoint protection platform should safeguard a device beyond its own borders to mitigate threats before they reach the device itself. A good example of this type of security is browser protections that prevent users from accessing malicious or unauthorized websites. Some platforms might also offer email gateways to block suspicious messages or provide firewall and intrusion prevention.
For example, Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection meets this endpoint security requirement because it includes a network engine that inspects network activities to identify and stop malicious activities. Another example is CrowdStrike Falcon Complete, which provides instant visibility into who and what is connected to an endpoint's network at all times.
3. Application protection
The applications that run on a Windows desktop are often just as susceptible to security threats as the underlying OS. For this reason, many security platforms include patch management features that automatically keep endpoint applications up to date. Some platforms also provide application denylisting and allowlisting capabilities and containment functionality that quarantines malicious software. In addition, some endpoint security platforms support application hardening to reduce the vulnerability surface.
For example, Trend Micro Apex One includes a feature that virtually patches an application's vulnerabilities until there is an actual patch that IT can deploy. This platform also safeguards against unwanted or unknown applications, such as executables or dynamic link libraries. In addition, Apex One includes denylisting and allowlisting capabilities and can control application installations based on reputation-related variables.
4. Data protection
Data protection is an essential endpoint security requirement for an effective platform. It helps prevent sensitive data from being compromised, whether through breaches, carelessness or other behavior. For example, some platforms might provide full-disk encryption or encrypt all web traffic. They might also offer secure password management, file activity monitoring or other data controls that prevent leaks and improve data security.
For instance, Symantec Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) can denylist and allowlist files on managed Windows systems. If a file-level threat is discovered, the platform will delete the malicious files and associated artifacts to ensure the threat doesn't return. The Symantec product can also automatically sandbox suspicious files and make them available to IT for analysis.
5. Intelligence and analytics
Endpoint security platforms are steadily becoming smarter as they incorporate AI, machine learning and other advanced computing technologies. These technologies enable security platforms to perform sophisticated analytics. They also make it possible for IT to implement features such as behavior monitoring, machine learning-based anomaly detection, deep learning malware detection, forensic analysis and root cause analysis.
A good example of this is Sophos Intercept X Endpoint, which includes AI technologies that detect known and unknown malware without relying on signatures. This platform also uses behavioral analytics to prevent boot-record attacks and never-before-seen ransomware.
6. Centralized management
The final endpoint security requirement that IT teams should look for is quick and easy deployment. IT admins should also be able to manage the platform from a centralized portal that supports features such as endpoint detection, over-the-air enrollment, default profiles, centralized patch management, support ticket generation and the ability to send installation links to remote users. In addition, administrators should be able to easily identify and respond to potential threats or actual incidents.
For example, Bitdefender GravityZone provides automatic alerts that the platform pre-triages to ensure faster incident response. And Symantec EDR simplifies incident hunting by offering a broad view of user, memory, software and network baseline activity. The platform also includes the Endpoint Activity Recorder tool for hunting attack indicators and performing endpoint analysis.