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2021 Endpoint Hardening Checklist - Top 9

Improved endpoint management is a New Year’s resolution fit for organizations of every size in 2021. Over the last year, many organizations have had to make dramatic changes to their workforce dynamics.

Coronavirus precautions have caused a spike in remote work, and the remote workforce has grown significantly. This shift in workforce operations has had many benefits for both employees and their employers, and it is expected that remote work will continue to be a valued solution for many organizations.

Now, effectively managing endpoints is more vital than ever.

Endpoints are end-user devices, such as laptops, tablets, and desktops, among others. Regardless of whether they are located on-premise or connected from a remote location, these devices need to be protected.

Endpoints are some of the most sought-after targets for malicious actors. Recent projections suggest that the cost of cybercrime will exceed $6 trillion yearly by 2021 -- up from $3 trillion in 2015.

The good news is that cloud-based technologies can provide organizations with the agility they need to manage a growing network of remote endpoints and deploy patches in a timely manner.

The continued trend of remote work puts a special focus on the integrity of an organization’s endpoints. Without corporate firewalls and other in-house security measures, end-user devices may be at an increased risk of being breached.

Now here's the run-down on the top things you need to know to effectively manage endpoints in 2021:

Malware and other threats are becoming more sophisticated

Whether it be ransomware, fileless malware or cryptocurrency mining (cryptojacking), these programs can be highly damaging – and also quite costly. In many cases, these programs are built to exploit known vulnerabilities with available patches and can skirt around traditional antivirus options.

Endpoints are often easy targets for these kinds of attacks. Limitations in endpoint visibility and low patching rates mean that multiple devices on your network could be hosting a number of vulnerabilities that can be easily exploited through ransomware or malware. In 2020, reports indicated that ransomware attacks are becoming an increasingly popular tool for malicious cyber activity.

Remote workforces are here to stay

Remote work is the new normal. Survey data from Upwork indicates that up to 1 out of every 4 Americans will be employed remotely in 2021.

Remote devices often lack protections such as corporate firewalls and are used outside of corporate networks. This means that remote devices may be making unsecure connections, which is an additional risk to  endpoint security. Managing remote endpoints includes ensuring that end-user devices are receiving patches regularly to safeguard against potential threats. For many organizations, this means adopting newer, more modern solutions for deploying security updates. Legacy options, such as Microsoft WSUS, are limited in their capacity to patch remote devices.

Consider segmentation and configuration

Network segmentation allows organizations to separate critical and non-critical systems within their network. This can reduce the impact a compromised endpoint may have on your network. Overall, a properly configured network is a crucial element of endpoint management.

Configuring remote devices separately from your on-premise systems provides an additional barrier between remote endpoints and an organization’s most sensitive data and infrastructure.

Many organizations have expanded their remote workforces over the course of 2020, and this expansion is expected to continue into 2021. Endpoints are a prime target for many different types of cyber threats.

Organizations may find that previously employed network segmentation and configurations may no longer be the best fit, especially with a larger remote workforce.

Inventory and asset discovery

Maintaining an inventory of all endpoints, third-party apps and off-site assets on your organization's network is a critical step for managing remote endpoints. Keeping track of everything that needs to be protected  is crucial to ensuring that those devices, apps and assets are secure. Assets can include a wide array of publicly available intelligence related to an organization, and attackers often make use of open-source intelligence (OSINT) prior to launching an attack. Social media accounts, SaaS-based applications, Amazon Web Services (AWS) S3 buckets and forgotten servers are all examples of shadow IT that may be lurking in the background, just waiting to be discovered by attackers.

A strong endpoint management platform can also provide your organization with hardware, software, patches, and configuration details for all endpoints.

Maintain visibility

In today's digital landscape, it's common for organizations to have a vast array of endpoints on their network. Being able to see all the endpoints on your network (regardless of where they are) and take inventory of all your organization's devices is a critical element of good cybersecurity practices. Seeing what's happening on your endpoints in real-time offers organizations the ability to begin taking action against potential threats and remediate vulnerabilities as soon as they're detected.

Cloud-based endpoint management platforms like Automox make it possible for organizations to maintain visibility over all of their endpoints (including remote devices) seamlessly. Network connections via VPN have long been the “standard” for updating remote devices -- but there are several drawbacks to this solution. Along with the expense and complexity that come with VPNs, issues with connectivity and speed can be an issue. These drawbacks can make visibility over endpoints difficult to assess -- however, modern solutions for endpoint management make it possible to maintain visibility in real-time. A cloud-based approach to managing endpoints resolves many of the frustrations and limitations seen in legacy options like VPN.

Routine endpoint assessments

Endpoint visibility is important, but having the processes and tools to regularly check-in on the devices on your network is vital. Conducting regular assessments of endpoints can help your organization detect and resolve vulnerabilities before they get exploited. When it comes to managing endpoints, routine assessment is critical. In addition to ensuring that your known devices are up-to-date and secure, conducting routine assessments helps organizations maintain an updated inventory of hardware and software assets.

Consider automating patching protocols

Patching is a critical element of endpoint hardening. And with automated patch deployment, you can ensure that every endpoint is receiving necessary security updates on a regular basis. Patching is crucial to minimizing an organization's attack surface.

Delays in patching can put your organization at risk. Legacy patching solutions can slow you down, but there are more modern, automated patch management solutions out there that can patch all your endpoints from the same platform. When a patch is released for a zero-day vulnerability, the faster you can patch for it, the better your organization's ability to reduce risk and to ensure productivity. Automated patching solutions provide organizations with the ability to conduct routine or emergency patch deployment to every endpoint, regardless of location.

Patch third-party apps and multiple OSs

Many organizations today utilize multiple third-party applications, but few are patching for them regularly. However, third-party applications can be a real threat to endpoint security if left vulnerable. Modern endpoint management solutions like Automox allow users to patch third-party applications from a single console. By making it less complicated to deploy and install security updates, much of the user frustration experienced by remote and in-house staff can be avoided. Patching third party applications is often overlooked; there are often compatibility issues between third-party software and legacy patch management tools. Modern endpoint management platforms help reduce patching complexity.

In addition to multiple third party apps, it's common for businesses to have several operating systems on their networks. Legacy patching options often have limitations in their ability to patch multiple operating systems – which means some devices may get overlooked. Modern endpoint management solutions are better suited for cross-platform patch management and can cover all your endpoints with ease, no matter what operating systems they're running.

Consider cloud-based options

Cloud-based options for endpoint management tackle many of the cybersecurity concerns facing organizations today in 2020 and moving into 2021.

Remote work has been a driving force throughout 2020 and this is a trend that is expected to last long-term. Cloud-based infrastructure can provide organizations with the agility and flexibility they need in order to maintain remote resources efficiently.

In 2020, there was a dramatic shift towards remote work. For 2021, organizations will do well to optimize and secure remote assets.

Cloud-based technologies, such as the Automox platform, are easily adaptable to organizations of all sizes and often provide more rapid time-to-value than their legacy, on-premise counterparts. In many cases, cloud-based tools are more compatible with an array of third-party applications and operating systems.

Cloud options are more easily scalable, and may be more accessible for remote workers. For example, a cloud-based patch management solution can be easily applied to a remote device.

The digital transformation from on-premise to remote and cloud-based assets and infrastructure is expected to continue throughout the coming year. Many organizations may find it’s time to update security protocols for better endpoint management and protection in 2021.

Automox for Easy IT Operations

Automox is the cloud-native IT operations platform for modern organizations. It makes it easy to keep every endpoint automatically configured, patched, and secured – anywhere in the world. With the push of a button, IT admins can fix critical vulnerabilities faster, slash cost and complexity, and win back hours in their day. 

Grab your free trial of Automox and join thousands of companies transforming IT operations into a strategic business driver.

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