10 endpoint security issues every SMB faces — and what to do about them

A 2018 report on “next-generation endpoint security” by Jon Oltsik, an analyst for Enterprise Security Group (ESG), observed that both antivirus vendors and enterprises find it hard to keep up with endpoint security due to the sheer volume, sophisticated nature, and growing complexity of the attacks. According to Oltsik, 40 percent to 50 percent of advanced malware attacks could bypass antivirus, harm systems, and lead the way for destructive cyberattacks. Irrespective of the controls deployed by chief information security officers (if your company even has one!), there is always the possibility that some malware might sneak through. Thus, the continuous visibility and monitoring offered by endpoint behavior is required. Unfortunately, endpoint security has certain practical limitations. And hackers are quick to exploit these security gaps. Vulnerable software, weak antivirus, and connected employees are ideal targets for cybercriminals, which is why it’s important for small businesses to protect themselves.

Malvertising

In this practice, malware-laden adverts are placed inside legitimate online web pages and advertising networks. When websites unknowingly run a corrupted adverted on a page, visitors to that page may risk infection even without clicking the ad. The malware either runs automatically or takes the visitors to a harmful website. The worst part is, legitimate adverts are susceptible to hacks and may include malicious code. Investing in high-quality antivirus with anti-malware tools is a good start since it offers companies a fighting chance at removing or warding off malvertising. Ad blockers postpone the delivery of such adverts. Organizations should train employees to be careful and vigilant when using software like Adobe Reader or Adobe Flash since they are vulnerable to attacks.

Incomplete automation

Managing endpoint security requires improved automation, preferably powered by machine learning tools. Otherwise, malware can easily slip past regular antivirus solutions. The absence of integrated endpoint-security automation results in too many manual processes and increases the possibility of industrial endpoint attacks. Automation based on PKCS (public-key cryptography standards) is a must to ensure reliability and safety in the digital supply chain of firmware updates, certificates, and others.

Accidental downloads

When a user visits a site, clicks a link, updates software following a prompt, or views an email, they might be unknowingly downloading spyware, malware or viruses. In many cases, visitors to a site are encouraged to click a link which downloads a virus in the background. This is highly dangerous since the virus may not just infect your networks and machines but go undetected while the cybercriminals collect data about your company. Small businesses benefit from installing high-quality antivirus that uses multiple detection methods, from detecting shell code to monitoring a system for anomalies while rendering a web page.

Email attachments

One of the most common phishing attacks involves the use of email attachments to direct visitors towards suspicious websites or even launch background system software. Not all emails are detected by antivirus or blocked by firewall due to the absence of malicious links in the email body. Most of the time, the emails seem to come from a trusted source like an insurance company, government, or bank.

Although the attachment seems like a harmless file (jpeg, PDF), it could be, in fact, a link that directs victims to malicious website disguised as reputable ones to collect sensitive login or security details. The only way to prevent such attacks is to keep your antivirus updated at all times. Moreover, employees should be given cybersecurity training to identify malicious emails and more attack strategies.

Suspicious links

Many enterprises are in the habit of mortgaging endpoint security for the sake of agility. There is nothing to prevent employees from clicking on links that cause data breaches. Email and popup links take victims to suspicious websites that gather sensitive information or launch software in background operations.

Even though it’s possible to remove background processes, the private details that employees accidentally hand over to the hackers make the entire company vulnerable through corporate networks or shared software. Companies must update their antivirus every time new threats emerge and train employees to report suspicious, shortened links.

Legacy devices

Equipment is not always reliable. But in spite of such admonitions, legacy endpoints are allowed from time to time. However, it should be kept in mind that the majority of effective endpoint security measures are included in the hardware and network security measures play a big role in securing the legacy endpoints. Thankfully, it is possible to implement lower trust levels across legacy endpoints. These endpoints are maintained for cost reasons and require levels of accessibility similar to more updated endpoints in spite of the integrity and confidentiality risks.

Outdated antivirus

When new security threats emerge, antivirus developers are quick to push software updates so that the antivirus currently running on user machines can safeguard against the threat. A lot of people pay no attention to AV software updates. However, those updates are responsible for protecting you against new threats. If they don’t exist, hackers can easily access your systems. Unfortunately, AV updates are often viewed as a nuisance. Users refuse the updates and thereby increase the vulnerability of their systems. That’s why regular AV software updates are a must whenever you receive a prompt.

Unpatched software

Software often contains security gaps. Even legitimate third-party apps that have access to different parts of your network and system may not be entirely secure. Hackers exploit these opportunities to hack legitimate software and gain access. That’s why companies should be vigilant against low-quality apps and software that aren’t from trusted sources. Sure, many different free apps and programs are available for specific tasks, but you might expose your system to hackers when you install them. Turn on auto-update on Windows and other OS to make sure you’re running the latest version at all times.

Data theft

As more sophisticated technology emerges, hackers are targeting small businesses to steal data. They target these smaller companies to prepare for main “high value” networks. Once they access the endpoints or servers, the hackers can get sensitive or private data which they then copy in large information dumps. Small businesses are prime targets since they offer details on financial data, patents, and business structures. SMBs are highly susceptible to this threat and they should invest in good quality AV software, which will include host-based and network signatures along with network intrusion detection methods.

Ransomware

Ransomware attacks threaten to delete the victim’s data, publish it, or block access until the victim pays them to get their files decrypted. Hackers quickly steal or block data the moment a user downloads malware content. Ransomware is one of the fastest growing threats to SMBs with damages estimated at $11.5 billion. Protect your systems by getting high-quality antivirus and backing up all your data on a separate system.

Endpoint security is where safety begins

SMBs should ideally try to control the threats because striving to eliminate all threats is simply not possible. Establish company policies on what’s allowed and what isn’t. Make sure everyone is aware of the incoming risks and avoid the top endpoint security issues mentioned above.

Images: Pixabay

Rahul Sharma

Rahul Sharma is an accomplished copywriter/blogger who likes to create content that compel people to comment, share, and discuss. He has written content for blogs, websites, forums and magazines. His work is published on some popular websites like Android Authority, Tweakyourbiz and Tech.co. etc. You can contact follow him on Twitter @Im_RahulSharma.

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