Endpoint Monitoring

What is Endpoint Monitoring?

In IT, an endpoint is an internet-capable hardware device on a TCP/IP network. An endpoint serves as a connection point for communicating with a network or accessing a service, it is often a device such as a computer or smartphone. Beyond consumer devices such as laptops and phones, the term endpoint now also encompasses devices such as tablets, information screens, thin clients, printers and other specialized hardware, such as actuators, point of sale (POS) terminals and smart meters.

Endpoint monitoring involves the continuous observation and analysis of endpoint devices to ensure optimal performance, security, and compliance. It typically includes monitoring key metrics such as CPU usage, memory utilization, network traffic, and security events to detect issues, enforce policies, and protect against security threats at the endpoint level.

There are now a vast range of genres of endpoint monitoring tools, such as antivirus software, Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solutions, Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Solutions, Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) platforms, and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems.

Endpoint Monitoring vs RMM

Endpoint monitoring is often considered a subset of the broader capabilities offered by RMM (Remote Monitoring and Management) software. Endpoint monitoring focuses specifically on endpoints, while RMM software provides a more comprehensive set of tools for managing and supporting various aspects of IT infrastructure remotely. In addition to endpoint monitoring, RMM software often includes features such as remote desktop control, patch management, software deployment, asset inventory, backup and recovery, and IT automation.

Modern challenges of Endpoint Monitoring

In earlier times, business IT setups were often relatively straightforward, comprising a handful of on-prem servers linked to a fleet of on-site personal computers or workstations. An on-site IT team was usually available to troubleshoot user issues face-to-face. Network sizes were modest, and configurations were manageable manually, with uncomplicated monitoring requirements.

However, the landscape has evolved significantly. Modern businesses and different industries now rely not only on physical PCs and servers but also on a diverse array of cloud-based virtual machines, digital workspaces and storage solutions. Working patterns have shifted with hybrid and work-from-home / anywhere now common.

More employees or service users who were never traditional PC users now rely on IT and devices to perform their roles, for example it is common for servers in restaurants to use a tablet endpoint or even a smart phone to take orders and even payments. In hospitals it is now common for patients to check-into clinics on endpoints that are touchscreens.

The prevalence of mobile devices adds another layer of complexity, as they continually traverse network boundaries. Furthermore, network configurations are in a constant state of flux, with devices frequently entering and leaving the network.

Given this dynamic environment, it becomes imperative to implement a centralized solution for endpoint monitoring and management. Such a solution automates the tasks involved in tracking, controlling, and securing the various types of endpoints present within a business's network, ensuring operational efficiency, user productivity and security.

What is the cost and ROI of Endpoint Monitoring?

Admins evaluate the cost-effectiveness of endpoint monitoring solutions and inquire about licensing models, subscription plans, and return on investment (ROI) metrics. Most organizations consider factors such as total cost of ownership (TCO), cost per endpoint, and potential cost savings from improved security and productivity.

What types of Endpoint Monitoring tool are available?

Endpoint monitoring tools can be categorized based on their functionality and the aspects of endpoint management and security they address. Here are several types of endpoint monitoring tools:

  • Antivirus/Anti-Malware Solutions: These tools focus on detecting and preventing malware infections on endpoints by scanning files, processes, and network traffic for known signatures or suspicious behavior.
  • Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) Solutions: EDR tools provide real-time monitoring, detection, and response capabilities to identify and mitigate advanced threats and security incidents on endpoints. They collect and analyze endpoint telemetry data to detect indicators of compromise (IOCs) and anomalous behavior. These tools provide a particular type of Endpoint Security Monitoring.
  • Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) Solutions: UEM tools offer comprehensive management of endpoints across various platforms (Windows, macOS, Linux, mobile devices, etc.). They provide functionalities such as device inventory, configuration management, software deployment, patch management, and remote troubleshooting.
  • Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Solutions: DLP tools help prevent unauthorized access, leakage, or exfiltration of sensitive data from endpoints. They monitor data transfers, enforce policies, and encrypt or block sensitive data to prevent data breaches and ensure compliance with regulations.
  • Network Access Control (NAC) Solutions: NAC tools control access to network resources based on the security posture of endpoints. They authenticate and authorize devices, enforce security policies, and quarantine non-compliant or compromised endpoints to prevent network attacks and unauthorized access.
  • Vulnerability Management Solutions: These tools assess endpoints for known vulnerabilities in operating systems, applications, and configurations. They scan endpoints for missing patches, misconfigurations, or insecure settings and provide recommendations for remediation to reduce the attack surface and strengthen security posture.
  • Behavioral Analytics Solutions: Behavioral analytics tools monitor user and endpoint behavior to detect suspicious or anomalous activities indicative of insider threats, advanced malware, or targeted attacks. They use machine learning algorithms and AIOps to baseline normal behavior and identify deviations that may indicate security incidents. These tools may also be used for personnel management and employee wellbeing programs.
  • Mobile Device Management (MDM) Solutions: MDM tools manage and secure mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) by enforcing policies, configuring settings, deploying apps, and remotely wiping or locking devices in case of loss or theft.
  • Application Control/Whitelisting Solutions: These tools control which applications are allowed to run on endpoints by enforcing whitelists of approved applications and blocking unauthorized or malicious software from executing.
  • Endpoint Backup and Recovery Solutions: Backup and recovery tools protect endpoint data by automatically backing up files, folders, and system configurations and enabling fast recovery in case of data loss, hardware failure, or ransomware attacks. Many organizations avoid the need to backup endpoints by using cloud-based applications notably SaaS options such as Office / Microsoft 365 – users are mandated to keep company data such as word documents within the cloud system removing the need to backup local word documents on the endpoint.

With many organizations monitoring diverse IoT endpoints such as security (CCTV) cameras and IoT devices, monitoring tools that support SNMP are widely used and SNMP remains a key monitoring protocol (see: What is SNMP & Why is SNMP Still Relevant | eG Innovations).

What are the security concerns around Endpoint Monitoring?

Security concerns around endpoint monitoring tools primarily revolve around data privacy, access control, and potential exploitation by malicious actors. Here are some key concerns:

  • Data Privacy: Endpoint monitoring tools collect sensitive information about devices, users, and network activities. There's a risk of this data being intercepted or accessed by unauthorized parties, leading to privacy breaches and regulatory non-compliance, especially if personally identifiable information (PII) is involved.
  • Data Storage and Retention: Storing endpoint monitoring data requires careful consideration of security measures to protect it from unauthorized access, tampering, or theft. Additionally, data retention policies must be established to ensure that collected data is only stored for as long as necessary and securely disposed of when no longer needed.
  • Access Control: Endpoint monitoring tools typically require privileged access to endpoints for data collection and analysis. Ensuring proper access controls and permissions are in place to prevent unauthorized users or attackers from gaining access to sensitive systems and data is crucial. Granular RBAC (Role Based Access Control) is essential.
  • Detection of Insider Threats: While endpoint monitoring tools are essential for detecting external threats, they must also be capable of identifying suspicious activities from insiders, such as employees or contractors with authorized access. Balancing monitoring for security without infringing on employee privacy is a delicate task. AIOps anomaly detection capabilities are extremely useful for detecting unusual behaviors.
  • Endpoint Agent Vulnerabilities: Endpoint monitoring tools often rely on software agents installed on devices to collect data. Vulnerabilities in these agents could be exploited by attackers to gain unauthorized access to endpoints, compromise data integrity, or launch further attacks within the network. It is especially important to avoid agent technologies that use open ports, see: Secure Monitoring - Open TCP Ports are a security risk (eginnovations.com) for all you need to know to avoid issues. It is always wise to request to see a monitoring tool’s SOC 2 Type 2 audits.
  • Overhead and Performance Impact: Intensive monitoring activities can sometimes impose a significant performance overhead on endpoints, affecting user experience and productivity. Balancing the need for comprehensive monitoring with minimal impact on system performance is essential.

To mitigate these concerns, organizations should implement security best practices such as encryption of sensitive data, strong access controls, regular security audits, patch management for endpoint agents, and compliance with relevant regulations such as GDPR or HIPAA. Additionally, transparent communication with employees about the purpose and scope of endpoint monitoring can help build trust and address privacy concerns.

Monitoring any authentication and components in use, such as Okta, Active Directory, or Entra ID (was Azure AD) is paramount in an endpoint monitoring strategy.

Advice on how to select SaaS monitoring technologies that do not compromise your IT landscape is provided in Should I Trust a SaaS Vendor or Product? | eG Innovations.

Many organizations leverage MITRE ATT&CK, a globally accessible knowledge base of adversary tactics and techniques based on real-world observations to harden their endpoint security strategies, see: Endpoint Denial of Service, Technique T1499 - Enterprise | MITRE ATT&CK®.