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Businesses Rethink Endpoint Security for 2021

The mass movement to remote work has forced organizations to rethink their long-term plans for endpoint security. How will things look different next year?

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Businesses have realized they can't create a traditional network perimeter for remote devices connecting to corporate access through untrusted networks. Further, they don't have the same control over remote endpoints that aren't on their network; devices they don't even own. This is driving the demand for security-as-a-service and zero-trust access.

There is discussion around what kind of presence the company should have on an employee's endpoint, says Nather. Security teams have relied on network traffic monitoring to catch what they weren't seeing on endpoints; now, with less ability to monitor network traffic and more people moving to the cloud, "there's a lot of stuff they can't see," she says. CISOs are trying to balance their monitoring strategy between endpoint and network.

"Flexibility and adaptability will definitely be the name of the game for 2021, or at least until we have true clarity about how we will be getting out of this pandemic," says Omdia analyst Rik Turner. His impression is that companies expect 2021 revenue to fall short of pre-pandemic forecasts and are trying to find an endpoint security strategy flexible enough to support this. 

Endpoint Technology: What CISOs Are Prioritizing

Distributed security is top of mind for John, who is prioritizing zero-trust going into next year.

"Having [remote work] now be our new normal, obviously we need to accelerate the concept of zero trust; in other words, particular technologies that can help democratize security throughout the infrastructure … rather than this one-and-done, VPN-type, castle-and-moat approach," he says.

Both Turner and Parizo foresee the emergence of extended detection and response tools, which combine endpoint, network, and cloud, and are often supported by managed security services. Businesses need visibility and control across the full IT estate, whether that's on the corporate network, in a hybrid data center, or on the remote employee's endpoint. 

"I'm not, of course, saying that the VPN market for remote access will shrivel and die overnight," says Turner of demand for technologies like secure access service edge (SASE). "Enterprises have too much invested in it for that to happen, but I do see growth in the [zero-trust access] market alongside it, as ever more applications reside in the cloud and people work from home."

Many CISOs wish they had implemented SASE before now, says Nather, and this will be a top priority going into 2021. This move goes along with sustainability: secure access through the cloud will work better for everyone, she points out, and CISOs want to build it out right.

Security leaders are interested in passwordless security, which many have wanted to install but haven't had the bandwidth. Now, as they realize how the pandemic has affected employees' user experience, they're thinking of how to improve. Even if they can't adopt passwordless tech, they're refining the user access experience. This could mean increasing single sign-on, switching the authentication factors employees use, or changing how employees authenticate. 

"Tweaking those settings to try to make things better and smoother for their users is something that's going on, even if they're not ready to start tackling new technologies," Nather adds.

Several CISOs, instead of buying new tech, are using this time as an opportunity to take an asset inventory. In all the confusion, many aren't sure which assets belong to the company and which are being used by employees, or the amount of technical debt they have accrued. Many have realized their multiplicity of security tools and are thinking about which they should keep.

"Some of it is clean-up from the beginning of the year, some of it is taking time to catch up," says Nather. Technical debt tends to accrue when a company is in high-growth mode. At a time like this, when growth is affected, it's a good time to switch to maintenance mode.  

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

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