Network Security vs. Endpoint Security: Which Matters More?

_Cyber attacks affect 556 million victims per year, which amounts to 1.5 million victims per day and 18 victims per second. When funds are illegally stolen from a business or personal bank account, they’re only recoverable 22 percent of the time. As of 2013, the average global cost of cyber crime is over $100 billion per year — and rising.

Implementing a cyber security solution pays off for your business in more ways than one. First, it increases customer confidence by assuring customers you’re taking steps to secure their private information. Second, effective security means easier collaboration for your employees, thanks to secure network access from anywhere using any device. Third, an IT department becomes more efficient because employees waste less time dealing with spam and putting out service disruption fires. Customer loyalty, improved productivity and strategic IT deployment mean more money for your company and lower costs of doing business.

As you consider solutions to protect your business, you may hear different opinions about whether network security or endpoint security is more important for your security investment. When you couple endpoint security with deep discovery specialized network security, you get a layered security solution that can protect both your network and your end users’ devices.

Network vs. Endpoint

Some cyber security experts argue network security matters most. For one thing, it protects all inbound vectors to your hosts, servers and other important assets. In addition, network monitoring provides a snapshot of threats over time, allowing you to maintain up-to-date situational awareness. If a suspicious program makes it onto the network, then it may probe the network until it finds a weakness. Network security solutions can help IT to recognize attacks in progress.

Other experts argue that while network security may be easier to deploy, it doesn’t provide the same level of protection as endpoint security. As workers become more mobile, their mobile device traffic doesn’t necessarily get routed through the business network. By recognizing endpoints as the new network perimeter, companies can prevent outside infections from being transmitted into the network. Also, in many cases, it’s easier to detect suspicious code on an end-user device. When looking for code coming into a network, IT has to decode packets that may be disguised as legitimate traffic.

Endpoint Security Essentials

In truth, both network and endpoint security areas are essential to a layered cyber-security approach. However, endpoint security tends to be the more neglected area in a company network. You may think of endpoints as just your desktop computers and mobile devices, but networked printers, barcode scanners and point-of-sale terminals can also be entry points for malware infections. In addition to keeping an up-to-date antivirus solution on your endpoint devices when available, follow these steps to secure your endpoints:

  • Follow the principle of least privilege. Regularly review the access rights of different employees. Make sure they can only use their endpoint devices to access what they need to know.
  • Segregate duties. For the most important functions, require more than one person to authorize critical changes.
  • Restrict admin rights. Many end users may lobby for certain admin functions, saying that they make changes or install software all of the time. Unfortunately, if a piece of malware infects an employee’s mobile device, then that piece of malware gains the same admin privileges as the employee has.
  • Follow good password practices. Require employees to set good passwords and to reset them often. Consider using an antivirus solution that offers a password management tool as part of the package.
  • Educate your employees. Let employees know how to recognize attacks in progress as well as what not to do, such as open phishing email.
  • Patch it up. Use vulnerability scanners to identify where you need to patch endpoints instead of just waiting for big software companies to issue patches. Also, make sure employees download patches when prompted.

In the past, cyber security businesses have treated network and endpoint security as different beasts. Now, as threats multiply exponentially, networks require multiple layers of protection. In addition to having an antivirus program on your devices and other perimeter security features like firewalls around your network, you need deep discovery network solutions to protect you from the threats you don’t even know about yet.

Author: Melissa Cromwell works as an IT specialist at Trend Micro. She graduated at the top of her class in computer science and enjoys educating readers about adaptive threat protection and other information technology matters. 

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