What is Endpoint Visibility?

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The digital world is highly interconnected. According to data from IoT Analytics, the number of global active endpoints was expected to reach 16.7 billion in 2023. IoT Analytics further projects that these active endpoints could be more than 29 billion by 2027.

The average modern organization has so many active endpoints that management might have trouble controlling them. Unless you know and see the active endpoints in the entire organization, you’re never aware of the serious threats posed by cybercriminals. 

Endpoint visibility is critical when you want to secure your organization from the many threats that could cripple your IT system and cause untold financial misery. In this article, we’ll discuss endpoint visibility and show why it’s important for all organizations.

What is endpoint visibility?

Endpoint visibility refers to the ability to see the endpoints connected to a company’s computer network. There are many endpoints that connect and share information in a modern network.

Such endpoints include:

  • Desktop computers
  • Laptops
  • Mobile phones
  • Servers
  • Printers
  • Virtual machines.

In a smart home or office, additional Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices will add to the array of endpoints which could include:

  • Cameras
  • Thermostats
  • Lighting systems
  • Refrigerators

To achieve endpoint visibility, it’s critical to develop effective systems that can identify and manage the devices connected to the network. Without endpoint visibility, it’s difficult to detect or respond to threats

Moreover, unless all the devices are visible, the organization cannot tell whether all of them are working optimally and in compliance with company, industry, or government standards.

Why is endpoint security important for modern enterprise?

The number of interconnected devices today is massive and will continue to increase. Unless you can see all the endpoints, it’ll be impossible to control and manage them. This informs the foundation for the following reasons that make endpoint visibility so critical for companies today.

1. The rise of remote work

Covid-19, with its social distancing and lockdowns, led to a substantial rise in the number of employees who work away from the office. Today, research shows that more than 12% of employees in the U.S. alone work from home and that about 16% of offices are 100% remote with no physical presence whatsoever.

While the pandemic could have triggered the rise in remote work, the Harvard Business Review projects that the number of remote workers will continue rising because many employees and employers love it.

Employers like remote work because it reduces employee turnover and also cuts back on the costs of running a physical office. But while working from home has distinct advantages, the employer should be wary of the endpoints that access the organization’s computer network.

When employees work from home, they could be using their mobile devices to access the company’s network. Controlling such workers is challenging as there’s nobody to supervise their activities. Remote work, therefore, increases the threat of unauthorized access to critical company data.

Learn what you need to do in order to provide the best IT support for remote working environments

2. Endpoint visibility reduces exposure to cyber attacks

Computer networks are faced with many potential cybersecurity threats. We have discussed many of these threats and some of the leading ones include:

  • Malware attacks
  • Social engineering threats
  • Password attacks
  • Distributed denial of service attacks

To safeguard a computer network against these potential attacks, it’s important to identify the endpoints that could expose it to the disabling threats. While some attacks could be facilitated by hackers or disgruntled employees as part of insider threat, sometimes an organization could get exposed because of misconfigurations in the network.

Dig deeper into the root causes of common attacks in our comprehensive look at the various types of cyber attack vectors. Remember some attacks can emerge from the dark side of the internet, in what is known as dark web threats

3. Endpoint visibility improves efficiency

When you have a myriad of endpoints, you need to identify the performance of each. Is an endpoint performing optimally or should you replace it? How about user-experience? Are some endpoints to blame for downtime and how can they be improved?

Endpoint visibility makes it easy to identify gadgets that could be compromising productivity or increasing operational costs. Identifying these points provides an opportunity to deal with problems. For example, you could get rid of software that could be reducing productivity.

4. Visibility improves end-user support

The people accessing a company’s network could be employees or clients. When such users experience network problems, it becomes difficult to assist them when you don’t know the kind of endpoints they’re using. 

When an endpoint is identified and understood, diagnosing problems and prescribing solutions is highly facilitated.

Learn the different levels of IT support plus the advantages of onsite IT support services. If not sure what IT needs are most important for teams, please get help from this resource on the main types of IT services for small business. For providers, visit the best IT support service providers

How to implement endpoint visibility in your organization

Implementing endpoint visibility might sound overwhelming but it’s achievable. Follow these steps:

1. Identify and track endpoint devices

Maintaining an inventory of all the endpoint devices in your network will help you take actions based on concrete information rather than speculation. Device information will provide details about all the gadgets in real time. 

Since your IT team understands all the devices, they can easily tell what could have made a gadget malfunction or the possibility that it could pose threats to the network. When information on all the endpoint devices is held in a computer program or software, it becomes easy to diagnose and proactively anticipate problems.

2. Address minor endpoint problems before they become huge issues

When an endpoint problem arises, the best way to ensure that it does not affect the entire network is to have it addressed immediately. 

When a problem is addressed at the earliest possible time, you avoid escalation and get rid of a potentially harmful endpoint.

3. Keep the endpoint management software updated

Proper updates ensure that the company can consistently see the performance of all endpoints and take corrective actions on devices that are not operating optimally. In addition to ensuring that you have ideal endpoint management software, you should ensure that you’re using the latest update.

We have a comprehensive resource for the best endpoint security tools. Please check it out for a deeper view on what kind of options you have out there.  While at it, you might also want to check the best antivirus software

3. Continuous monitoring of endpoint policies 

Endpoint visibility gets a boost when the policies are continuously monitored. When the IT team keeps an eye out on the policies governing various endpoints, they can see players who could be acting maliciously or breaking rules. 

The team can then take a number of steps including issuing warnings, removing the intentionally bad actors from the network or taking disciplinary action as per company policies .

The most important metrics to measure for effective endpoint visibility

There are many metrics you can always measure, but these five are critical.

1. Number and types of endpoints

You cannot tell whether your company’s endpoint visibility is effective or not unless you know the exact number and types of endpoints in the network. 

The IT team needs to know, for example, how many desktops, laptops, smartphones, and printers are connected to the network. Such knowledge is good for visibility and also helps the IT team think in advance about the potential security threats posed by each gadget. 

The team could, for instance, stay especially alert to threats that are likely to emanate from mobile devices as such gadgets could be more danger-prone than desktops.

As you measure this metric, please beware of Shadow IT, where some employees could be using their own devices that have not been sanctioned by the IT department. If Shadow IT is already an issue in your company, check the best Shadow IT solutions to counter this growing phenomenon. 

2. Location of endpoints

If your company has offices around the world that remotely access the network, it’s important to identify the gadgets accessing the network from the various geographical locations. 

Even for a small company, the IT team needs to know the people who are using gadgets from the office and the devices being used by unsupervised remote teams. The threats posed by endpoints vary from one location to another.

3. Gadget ownership

While your company could own some of the gadgets used in the network, there could also be many other devices used that it does not own. 

With the latter category of devices, the company has little control over how they’re used. Such devices need to be monitored more closely as they present a bigger security threat than company assets.

In short, the IT team needs to have a device ownership system that makes it crystal clear who owns what device. 

4. Security compliance

All endpoints need to comply with industry and government security regulations such as PCI DSS or HIPAA. Should an endpoint compromise the organization’s security, it could cause problems with other industry players or perform in breach of government regulations. 

Security breaches could cause many problems — they could expose your organization to expensive lawsuits, lead to lost business due to loss of reputation, and lead to a breach of cyber laws.

Also read: What is Cybersecurity Insurance and Why is it Important?

5. Endpoint flexibility

Your company could be small today but expand substantially in the future. So you need to look for scalable technology when introducing endpoints and deploying security systems.

The gadgets in your network today should have the capability to handle changes in the future.

For more on metrics across the wider IT ecosystem, please check out the key IT metrics that organizations need to track for effective IT operations. For optimal help desk performance, please check the most critical help desk KPIs.

Why some organizations lack endpoint visibility

While endpoint visibility is critical for every organization, implementing it poses some fundamental challenges. 

Many organizations have failed to create visibility due to these key reasons:

1. The vast number of endpoints

Implementing complete endpoint visibility for some organizations is impossible because of the vast number of endpoints in a company’s network. 

According to Resolution IT, a small business with 50-100 employees could have 114 endpoints. A large company with over 1,000 employees could have over 1,900 endpoints. Since each endpoint allows access to a company’s network, the enormity of the gadgets involved makes visibility impossible for some organizations.

The future of endpoint visibility will prove challenging for many organizations because, as noted earlier, the number of endpoints is projected to rise.

2. Inability to control some connected devices

IT departments could increase the visibility and control of endpoints if the devices were company-owned. 

Unfortunately, some of the gadgets connecting to organizations’ networks might be owned by other entities, for example Managed IT Services Providers

When you don’t own some endpoints, the IT department has little or no control over them and such gadgets could present security threats that go unmonitored.

3. Rise in mobile access

Statistics from Exploding Topics indicate that globally, 92.3% of people access the internet using mobile devices. Moreover, over 55% of web traffic comes from such devices and as of November 2023, 56.2% of global website traffic came from mobile devices.

With such a massive rise in the number of people accessing the internet on the go, many companies have no control over the gadgets used to access their network. If, for instance, a client or employee were to access the network using their laptop or smartphone, it might be difficult to identify the gadget used or the threat it poses.

4. Limited human resource

The threats posed by cybercriminals could be well documented and understood by IT security teams. However, many companies' IT departments are understaffed. In an interview with ESET, Michal Jankech, the company's principal product manager, notes that it's «next to impossible» to get an IT security specialist these days.

Help Net Security also highlights the shortage in competent human resources to monitor endpoint security blind spots. As a result of this level of human resource shortage, only 43% of companies actively monitor 75% of endpoints.

When IT departments are undermanned, hackers could have a field day. When you remember that there are many false threats that do the rounds online, lack of adequate human resources means that your company could fail to detect and respond to genuine threats in a timely manner.

5. Complexity of the investigative tools

To increase endpoint visibility, some organizations have invested in sophisticated tools. Such tools are supposed to investigate and provide solutions to endpoint visibility problems. When a large number of complex tools is employed and expected to be used by understaffed IT departments, the tools' effectiveness is compromised.

For some companies, tool complexity has become so dire that some are resorting to cumbersome manual operations to interact with the tools. According to CSO online, the number of endpoints security tools used is so overwhelming that some companies have no choice but to leave their devices unprotected.

Look at endpoint visibility as an investment, not a cost!

Since hackers and other cybercriminals are always innovating ways to cause security breaches, the importance of maintaining a strong endpoint visibility system cannot be emphasized enough.

While you could spend substantial amounts to create a robust endpoint visibility system, the benefits of such a system outweigh the costs. You definitely desire to reap from the benefits of today's widespread connectivity, and so the expenses should be viewed as an investment rather than a cost.

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