Originally published on Forbes.com
- Enterprises who are increasing the average number of endpoint security agents from 9.8 last year to 10.2 today aren't achieving the endpoint resilience they need because more software agents create more conflicts, leaving each endpoint exposed to a potential breach.
- 1 in 3 enterprise devices is being used with a non-compliant VPN, further increasing the risk of a breach.
- 60% of breaches can be linked to a vulnerability where a patch was available, but not applied. Windows 10 devices in enterprises are, on average, 95 days behind on patches.
CIOs, CISOs and cybersecurity teams say autonomous endpoint security is the most challenging area they need to strengthen in their cybersecurity strategy today. Software agents degrade faster than expected and conflict with each other, leaving endpoints exposed. Absolute’s 2020 State of Endpoint Resilience Report quantifies the current state of autonomous endpoint security, the scope of challenges CISOs face today and how elusive endpoint resiliency is to achieve with software agents. It’s an insightful read if you’re interested in autonomous endpoint security.
Endpoint Security Leads CISOs’ Priorities In 2020
With their entire companies working remotely, CIOs and CISOs I’ve spoken with say autonomous endpoint security is now among their top three priorities today. Cutting through the endpoint software clutter and turning autonomous endpoint security into a strength is the goal. CISOs are getting frustrated with spending millions of dollars among themselves only to find out their endpoints are unprotected due to software conflicts and degradation. Interested in learning more, I spoke with Steven Spadaccini, Vice President, Sales Engineering at Absolute Software and one of the most knowledgeable autonomous endpoint cybersecurity experts I’ve ever met. Our conversation delved into numerous cybersecurity challenges enterprise CIOs and CISOs are facing today. My interview with him is below:
The Seven Toughest Questions the C-Suite Is Asking About Endpoint Security
Louis: Thank you for your time today. I have seven questions from CIOs, CISOs and their teams regarding endpoint security. Let’s get started with their first one. What happens if an endpoint is compromised, how do you recover, encrypt, or delete its data?
Steven: It’s a challenge using software agents, both security and/or management, to do this as each agents’ tools and features often conflict with each other, making a comprised endpoints’ condition worse while making it virtually impossible to recover, encrypt, delete and replace data. The most proven approach working for enterprises today is to pursue an endpoint resilience strategy. At the center of this strategy is creating a root of trust in the hardware and re-establishes communication and control of a device through an unbreakable digital tether. I’m defining Endpoint Resilience as an autonomous endpoint security strategy that ensures connectivity, visibility and control are achieved and maintained no matter what is happening at the OS or application level. Taking this approach empowers devices to recover automatically from any state to a secure operational state without user intervention. Trust is at the center of every endpoint discussion today as CIOs, CISOs and their teams want the assurance every endpoint will be able to heal itself and keep functioning.
Louis: Do endpoint software security solutions fail when you lose access to the endpoint, or is the device still protected at the local level?
Steven: When they’re only protected by software agents, they fail all the time. What’s important for CISOs to think about today is how they can lead their organizations to excel at automated endpoint hygiene. It’s about achieving a stronger endpoint security posture in the face of growing threats. Losing access to an endpoint doesn’t have to end badly; you can still have options to protect every device. It’s time for enterprises to start taking a more resilient-driven mindset and strategy to protecting every endpoint – focus on eliminating dark endpoints. One of the most proven ways to do that is to have endpoint security embedded to the BIOS level every day. That way, each device is still protected to the local level. Using geolocation, it’s possible to “see” a device when it comes online and promptly brick it if it’s been lost or stolen.
Louis: How can our cybersecurity team ensure compliance that all cybersecurity software is active and running on all endpoints?
Steven: Compliance is an area where having an undeletable tether pays off in a big way. Knowing what’s going on from a software configuration and endpoint security agent standpoint – basically the entire software build of a given endpoint – is the most proven way I’ve seen CISOs keep their inventory of devices in compliance. What CISOs and their teams need is the ability to see endpoints in near real-time and predict which ones are most likely to fail at compliance. Using a cloud-based or SaaS console to track compliance down to the BIOS level removes all uncertainty of compliance. Enterprises doing this today stay in compliance with HIPAA, GDPR, PCI, SOX and other compliance requirements at scale. It’s important also to consider how security automation and orchestration kicks on to instantly resolve violations by revising security controls and configurations, restoring anti-malware, or even freezing the device or isolating it from data access. Persistent visibility and control give organizations what they need to be audit-ready at every moment.
Having that level of visibility makes it easy to brick a device. Cybersecurity teams using Absolute’s Persistence platform can lead to humorous results for IT teams, who call the bricking option a “fun button as they watch hackers continually try to reload new images and right after they’re done, re-brick the device again. One CIO told the story of how their laptops had been given to a service provider who was supposed to destroy them to stay in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and one had been resold on the black market, ending up in a 3rd world nation. As the hacker attempted to rebuild the machine, the security team watched as each new image was loaded at which time they would promptly brick the machine. After 19 tries, the hacker gave up and called the image rebuild “brick me.”
Louis: With everyone working remote today, how can we know, with confidence where a given endpoint device is at a moments’ notice?
Steven: That’s another use case where having an undeletable tether pays off in two powerful ways: enabling autonomous endpoint security and real-time asset management. You can know with 100% confidence where a given endpoint device is in real-time so long as the device is connected to a permanent digital tether . Even if the device isn’t reachable by your own corporate network it’s possible to locate it using the technologies and techniques mentioned earlier. CIOs sleep better at night knowing every device is accounted for and if one gets lost or stolen, their teams can brick it in seconds.
Louis: How can our IT and cybersecurity teams know all cybersecurity applications are active and protecting the endpoint?
Steven: By taking a more aggressive approach to endpoint hygiene, it’s possible to know every application, system configuration and attributes of user data on the device. It’s important not to grow complacent and assume the gold image IT uses to configure every new or recycled laptop is accurate. One CIO was adamant they had nine software agents on every endpoint, but Absolute’s Resilience platform found 16, saving the enterprise from potential security gaps. The gold image is an enterprise IT team was using had inadvertently captured only a subset of the total number of software endpoints active on their networks. Absolute’s Resilience offering and Persistence technology enabled the CIO to discover gaps in endpoint security the team didn’t know existed before.
Louis: How can we restrict the geolocations of every endpoint?
Steven: This is an area that’s innovating quickly in response to the needs enterprises have to track and manage assets across countries and regions. IP tracking alone isn’t as effective as the newer techniques, including GPS tracking, Wi-Fi triangulation, with both integrated into the Google Maps API. Enterprises whose business relies on Personal Identifiable Information (PII) is especially interested in and adopting these technologies today. Apria Healthcare is currently using geofencing for endpoint security and asset management. They have laptops in use today across Indonesia, the Philippines and India. Given the confidential nature of the data on those devices and compliance with local government data protection laws, each laptop needs to stay in the country they’re assigned to. Geofencing gives Apria the power to freeze any device that gets outside of its region within seconds, averting costly fines and potential breaches.
Louis: How can our IT team immediately validate an endpoint for vulnerabilities in software and hardware?
Steven: The quickest way is to design in audit-ready compliance as a core part of any endpoint resilience initiative. Endpoint resilience to the BIOS level makes it possible to audit devices and find vulnerabilities in real-time, enabling self-healing of mission-critical security applications regardless of complexity. The goal of immediately validating endpoints for current security posture needs to be a core part of any automated endpoint hygiene strategy. It’s possible to do this across platforms while being OS-agnostic yet still accessible to over 500M endpoint devices, deployed across Microsoft Windows, macOS via a Mac Agent and Chrome platforms.
Knowing if their autonomous endpoint security and enterprise-wide cybersecurity strategies are working or not is what keeps CIOs up the most at night. One CISO confided to me that 70% of the attempted breaches to his organization are happening in areas he and his team already knew were vulnerable to attack. Bad actors are getting very good at finding the weakest links of an enterprises’ cyber defenses fast. They’re able to look at the configuration of endpoints, see which software agents are installed, research known conflicts and exploit them to gain access to corporate networks. All this is happening 24/7 to enterprises today. Needing greater resilient, persistent connections to every device, CISOs are looking at how they can achieve greater resilience on every endpoint. Capitalizing on an undeletable tether to track the location of the device, ensure the device and the apps on that device have self-healing capabilities and gain valuable asset management data - these are a few of the many benefits they’re after.