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Endpoint Security and the Reality of Ubiquitous Computing

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By on Aug 28, 2014

I recently wrote a piece in Dark Reading around the notion that Endpoint security is not dead, but instead facing a steadily mounting series of obstacles with relation to the new universe of Internet-connected devices. While there are certainly more challenges to securing corporate networks today, claiming that enforcing Endpoint security policies is basically fighting a losing battle would be shortsighted. The reality is that the security pendulum is swinging back in the direction of endpoint security as things like BYOD and IoT increase the porousness of the network edge.

There is no doubt that the current technology landscape has changed drastically over the last decade. Long gone are the days of desktops being the only endpoint concern on an IT Security Manager’s mind. Now they have to worry about things they never imagined would be a reality like hand held computing devices with as much power and more applications than a traditional PC, the bizarre reality that the building’s air conditioning system is now IP enabled and connected to the corporate network, and the fact that anybody with a credit card and an ounce of computing savvy can spin up a server instance on Amazon with enough storage to hold the contents of their corporate hard-drive and that of their 20 closest friends or colleagues. This is some serious stuff if you are the guy whose backside is on the line for corporate security.

As the “Internet of Things” has gone from headlines to a daily reality, understanding the obstacles that this new paradigm creates for businesses starts with the endpoint dilemma. The onslaught of web-accessible devices like smartphones, tablets, and even copy machines has made it necessary for IT security to span beyond traditional networks into private ones. Employees bringing personal devices to the office — and using them for work purposes — has also created an entirely new complication in the form of Shadow IT, which must now be located, regulated, and secured.

One of the greatest challenges facing endpoint security today is the human factor and what I like to call security apathy. People used to actively think when computing, and we were intentional in our use of said computing resources. Now we compute as unconsciously as we breathe, and that is a dangerous state because when you start doing something without thinking, it’s highly likely that you aren’t going to consider the potential security implications. Today, employees are leveraging the functionality of consumer devices and applications at the office for the sake of efficiency, but often break corporate policies and regulations to do so.

So, with these challenges in mind, how can endpoint security effectively link these disparate devices and networks together in order to protect businesses from malicious intruders? For starters, security tactics must shift from reactive to predictive and begin to dynamically respond to changes in the threat environment. In responding to future threats, endpoint security alone is not enough, and companies must utilize a layered and highly integrated approach at the interface, data and management levels. Complex security environments mean more comprehensive and intelligent solutions are needed to secure infrastructure, data, applications, and even people.

One of the greatest benefits of the McAfee Security Connected framework is the visibility and cross product integration that it provides to customers. The ability to manage an entire endpoint population from one centralized interface and integrate it with other powerful security solutions is crucial when it comes to managing an ever-changing network environment, and is truly what sets McAfee apart.

In future posts, I am looking forward to discussing how endpoint will play a new role in corporate security, as well as how a unified, holistic approach can help businesses stay one step ahead of malware and other next-generation threats.

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