network security

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

For improved cybersecurity, cyber hygiene has to start at the endpoint

Cybersecurity is critical, and no one can duck responsibility. But improving security requires a bold shift in the way agencies think about threat defense. Strong cybersecurity and cyber hygiene -- especially in the era of remote and hybrid work -- mean starting at the endpoint.

More federal employees are using endpoint devices to remotely connect to networks than ever before. IDC predicts the total number of connected devices could reach almost 75 billion globally by 2025. These devices represent a critical intersection of users, data and networks, making them an attractive target for adversaries.

More visibility means stronger security and risk management

Traditional endpoint management and security tools are simply not fast or reliable enough -- often taking days or months to diagnose a breach, leaving networks vulnerable. Legacy tools and infrastructure, which deliver static, moment-in-time endpoint data views, are not equipped to meet the needs of modern missions and a “from anywhere” workforce.

Most agencies also lack a complete asset inventory and full understanding of how their assets are used, who is using them and the associated vulnerabilities. Point solutions provide a subset of critical data, but they cannot deliver a complete and real-time picture of everything happening within the network.

IT leaders are working to close vulnerability gaps with solutions that provide a wider aperture of information, enabling security and operations teams to manage the full ecosystem of endpoints -- from PCs and laptops to virtual machines, servers and more. As we have seen with recent security incidents like SolarWinds, where the breach was undetectable via traditional endpoint detection and response, and other ransomware attacks where legacy endpoint protection platforms were successfully bypassed, agencies cannot rely on EDR/EPP capabilities as their only solution. 

Newly established processes and capability requirements outlined in the White House’s recently issued cybersecurity executive order also underscore the importance of enabling agency staff, from the chief information security officer to the system admin, to articulate and manage cyber risk.

Agencies can achieve their security goals and more by adopting a platform that bridges the gap between security and operations and provides a unified view of endpoints across the enterprise. This gives federal teams visibility across end-user tools, cloud infrastructure and the data center, even within government’s most complex environments.

Here are five benefits to a platform strategy: 

  • Ensuring perpetual visibility and control of the most critical cyber assets.
  • Monitoring unfiltered endpoint behavior in real-time to see changes to configurations, identifying vulnerabilities, visualizing lateral movement and adapting to provide data at the time of need.
  • Optimizing the number of IT operations and security tools needed – reducing cost, complexity and risk in the process.
  • Minimizing the overhead and friction between teams working together to secure the organization.
  • Reducing the number of interfaces used for security functions to additionally cut complexity, cost and risk.

Agencies can also leverage a platform strategy to conduct risk prioritization and remediation, identifying and addressing vulnerabilities that pose the highest threat and could have the biggest negative impact on the mission.

Risk prioritization enables IT teams to evaluate the infrastructure to help determine which vulnerabilities to patch, while assessing an endpoint’s security level. This process can dramatically change the risk level and enable security teams to more effectively allocate their already limited resources to focus on mission-critical tasks. 

To start moving the needle on cybersecurity, there must be a collective effort from the government, private industry and the broader public. State governments can pass stronger cybersecurity legislation, requiring devices to have sufficient memory and data storage capacity to handle security updates. Private-sector organizations can set higher cybersecurity standards and highlight devices that meet those standards. Businesses can bring consumers into the fold, listening to their demands and delivering solutions that meet them.

Consensus around cybersecurity as a national priority presents a valuable opportunity to extend collaboration and improve our overall security posture. It all starts with a commitment to stronger cyber hygiene, beginning with the endpoint, and a platform strategy that enables real-time and enterprisewide visibility. The stakes are high and so is the potential for a more secure nation, through highly effective and cost-efficient cybersecurity strategies. 

About the Author

Teddra Burgess is senior vice president, public sector, at Tanium.

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