12 Endpoint Security Myths Dispelled

Mistaken beliefs that hold back endpoint protection
7. Poor Signature Detection Is AV's Only Weakness
Antivirus has long been criticized for its fundamental design flaw, namely, you can't protect against threats you don't yet know about. But there's also another issue about AV and any other on-device endpoint protection that enterprises should account for: that these solutions, themselves, are vulnerable at times.

"The endpoint security solution runs on the same platform it's trying to defend and, consequently, suffers from identical vulnerabilities," says Pierluigi Stella, CTO of Network Box USA. "[That] means it is, in itself, vulnerable. In fact, the first thing Trojans do when they start working is to take down the endpoint security, disarm it, and render it useless."

8. Users Can Avoid Infection By Staying Away From The Internet 'Red Light' District
For a long time many an enterprise security awareness training program taught users that they could avoid malware detection through safe browsing habits. But avoiding the proverbial "red light district" of the Internet isn't a good enough hedge on your malware bets anymore.

"Pornography, warez, and torrent-like sites generally are more risky, but cybercriminals aren't just targeting those sites anymore," Hunt says. "We are seeing a lot of exploitation of legitimate sites now; there have been a number of exploits of ad networks, meaning that thousands of legitimate websites suddenly become malware-distributors overnight. Just visiting your favorite blog or news site can get you infected now."

9. Endpoint Security Is All Or Nothing
Mike Parrella, director of operations for managed services at Verdasys, has run into some people with the all-or-nothing mentality that if they couldn't protect all of their endpoints, they shouldn't even bother with the protection at all.

"Not all endpoints are created equal; if you have limited resource or budget, get endpoint protection on the machines that can get someone to your coveted data," he says, suggesting organizations start with simple use cases, such as preventing customer service reps from using USB devices or monitoring for malicious applications accessing sensitive files. "These low-hanging, high-value targets are important to help security pros generate the momentum necessary to move onto the harder aspects of a broad endpoint security program."

10. Endpoint Controls Are Expensive
Knowing what endpoints you have and what their current states are should be the first step to establishing better endpoint protection, says Rick Doten, chief information security officer for DMI. But many of his colleagues ignore the importance of these asset and configuration management tasks, often because they feel they need to buy tools to gather this information. Not so, he says.

[Why do data breach costs continue to grow? See Negligence, Glitches Push Up Cost Of Breaches Worldwide.]

"For Windows systems, Powershell scripts can pull anything from the machine you want," says Doten, who calls Powershell the most underused tool in the security toolbox. "I can put information about what applications or files users are using, when they used a USB drive, and other activity before or after the fact. Most folks like tools with a pretty interface, but if you have someone who can write Powershell scripts, you have a tremendous capability for identifying what is going on your endpoints."

11. Mobile Devices Live By Different Endpoint Security Rules
"It seems that we are still of the mindset that mobile devices are just some kind of thin client we can simply encrypt and forget about," says Paul Henry, a security and forensic analyst for Lumension Security. "With an encryption-only concern, it's apparent these devices are not being treated like something connected to the network with extensive amount of user information, passwords, and data. Mobile devices are endpoints that are just as juicy as laptops."

Doten agrees, stating that he hopes the myth of mobile devices standing apart from other endpoints is soon debunked.

"There is little that my users aren't doing in their daily jobs they can't do on their mobile device. The data they access, the applications they use the networks to which they connect, are all the same as they have traditionally with their laptops," he says. "We need to treat them as endpoints and set policy to protect them as we do computers, and include the monitoring and configuration management as part of our operations the same way."

It's a definite challenge once you consider these devices as a part of the mix, notes Brad Causey, author of the recent InformationWeek Reports paper "Building and Enforcing on Endpoint Security Strategy" (PDF).

"It's always difficult to find just the right security balance between user freedom and the safety of corporate assets, but the variability of endpoints -- especially with the rise in the BYOD, or bring-your-own-device model--makes things especially difficult," he writes.

12. Virtual Machines Are Immune To Attack
The idea that simply turning off a virtual machine that has become infected and the bad stuff goes away is a big endpoint myth, according to Mark Bermingham, senior product marketing manager for Kaspersky Lab.

While virtual machines may be less prone to threats, such as spyware and ransomware, they are just as vulnerable to malware in the form of malicious email attachments, drive-by-downloads, botnet Trojans, and even targeted spearphishing attacks, he says. "Now, we're seeing examples of malware that can survive the decommissioning of nonpersistent virtual machines and become active again when the virtual machine is put back into operation."

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