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Reducing data security complexity: Avoiding endpoint bloat

According to Gartner, worldwide IT spending is projected to total $3.76 trillion in 2019, an increase of 3.2 percent from 2018. Today, 24 percent of the overall spend is allocated to endpoint security tools.

But there’s a dangerous downside to this investment: when tools collide, when they battle for resources, all fail. This reality renders systems and assets unprotected and vulnerable. Meanwhile, the organization is left with a false sense of security.

Complexity is the single largest contributing factor to the rising security failure rate. For starters, devices can have 10 or more endpoint security agents, and still, 70 percent of breaches originate on the endpoint and 100 percent of devices will experience an encryption failure within a year.

Recent research, which analyzed more than six million enterprise devices over a one-year period to uncover what causes security tools and agents to fail, found that nine out of 10 agents installed are from the same five technology categories: encryption, unified endpoint management (UEM), endpoint detection and response (EDR), endpoint protection platform (EPP/AV/AM), and virtual private network (VPN).

Ultimately, this means that multiple technologies exist on any given endpoint to perform the same task and the likelihood that these agents will conflict and collide with one another is high. But why? The answer lies in the fact that every control, app, and agent is tapping into hardware and software resources — a zero-sum game in which some feast while others starve.

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Endpoint complexity also puts a strain on resources. A report by Ponemon found that 50 percent of companies require more than 35 full-time employees to manage their endpoints. The same report found that 425 hours are wasted weekly on false security alerts, likely due to conflicting endpoint agents sending convoluted signals back to SIEM solutions.

Fortifying the Endpoint

Today, endpoints are fragile, degrade quickly, and create unnecessary friction amongst each other. But investing more money on more security tools does not protect enterprises from threats. It triggers risk. Here are three tips to fortify the endpoint:

  • Reduce Complexity: Rather than spending more, IT and security teams should strive to reduce complexity on the endpoint and focus on ensuring that existing security tools are fortified, more resilient, and less inclined to fail. Measuring IT complexity entails identifying redundancy that is self-imposed by overloaded endpoints. Begin with these questions: Where is there agent creep, driver creep or app creep within your endpoints? What are all the OS types, device types, and client types within your organization? What is the lifecycle process?
  • Maintain Visibility: Once the complexity problem is reeled in, it is critical to achieve ongoing and true visibility across all device activity within and outside of your network.
  • Get Encryption Right: Encryption is the staple security tool most often taken for granted. While it can certainly provide protection, it is not a “set it and forget it” solution — whether disabled by users or through malfunction, encryption is regularly broken, disabled, misconfigured, or missing entirely. In fact, research shows, at any given point in time, over 42 percent of endpoints experience encryption failures.

Visibility is Key

In order to strengthen endpoint security and avoid endpoint bloat, enterprises need to unlock value from existing investments. Investing more money into exciting new technologies is pointless if basic measures – visibility, control, and resilience – are not operating effectively first. Specifically, IT and security leaders must create an environment which fosters a path to:

  • Intelligence: Knowing what’s happening across their device fleets
  • Command: Seamless and automated responses to security decay
  • Resilience: Regenerated broken/disabled controls, apps, and agents - security immortality

Take a moment to consider your own environment. Do you have an understanding that spans time and space (intelligence histories and universal sight to all devices)? Can you validate exposures are mitigated? Can you withstand the reliable and predictable march of security decay?
These are the questions our newly minted environments are ready to answer: Yes, I know the inner workings of each device and can model moves throughout the population. Yes, I can seize command, never lose my grip, and instantly reclaim security slides and yes, my security agents are now immortal, because I have taken steps to halt endpoint entropy with the unflinching power of persistence.

Whether agents, particularly security control agents, persist over time is the only metric worth our attention, because it puts a spotlight on the greatest hidden danger of all: the naturalness of security decay. Things fall apart. Rust never sleeps. Agents topple over.

Decay is the fate of all security agents. But if these serve as the foundation of our security goals or most technical expression of security intent, then what could possibly be more important? It’s also not a question of whether security decay is happening in your environment, you can rest assured it is. What must be asked is, will you persist through it? This question demands an answer.

Ideally, organizations reduce their overall security costs by monitoring how their endpoint controls work (or don’t) to reduce endpoint security decay. They validate safeguards and eliminate compliance failures. And they respond to threats and exposures with the confidence to control devices from anywhere.

As a result, organizations can eliminate spending on ineffectual technology, and reduce the number of agents, while ensuring that endpoints are more secure than ever. Sometimes less really is more.

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