The New Endpoint: Why Traditional Security Won't Work
When an endpoint is a mobile app, data, or a connection to another device, traditional security measures don't cut it.
The term "user endpoints," or even just "endpoints," usually conjures a vision of tangible objects -- smartphones, laptops, desktop computers, tablets, sensors, and intelligent devices. For these traditional endpoints, IT organizations have a wealth of protection and management options to choose among.
But that "endpoint" has shifted, making the tangible end device now but a means to an end. The new endpoints have become mobile apps, data, and connections to other devices. And traditional security measures, while they still might protect physical devices and objects, are not equipped to secure the new endpoints. Why is that?
Devices Cannot Be Trusted
As enterprises have discovered to their chagrins, devices cannot be made completely trustworthy. In many organizations, employees and contractors use their personal devices to access and work with enterprise data. When IT no longer controls devices, it cannot always ensure that security measures are up to speed -- or even deployed. IT must view every device as compromised, while allowing continued use.
Users' personal apps and Internet usage habits also can create security vulnerabilities for sensitive enterprise data and assets. Personal and commercial apps typically don't use security measures that are as rigorous as an enterprise's protections, and many popular apps are even subject to second-party data mining.
Finally, employees often use up to three different devices to do their jobs. This makes tracking usage quite difficult, and detecting and identifying serious internal threats -- such as those that rely on fake or stolen credentials to move between different VPN connections, source IP addresses, machines, and account names -- almost impossible. This fact has exposed a much larger attack surface to potential threats at a time when threats have increased exponentially.
Authentication Is a Pain in the Neck!
Another reason why device-based security measures do not suffice for the new endpoint is that traditional user authentication often comes at the expense of usability. Mobile usage patterns differ significantly from desktop/laptop system usage patterns. Having to log into traditional enterprise apps from mobile devices often requires authentication each time. As a result, users spend up to a minute authenticating in order to complete 30 seconds worth of work, in what's known as a micro-transaction.
And because users often must authenticate to each app or VPN connection, mobile traffic patterns are significantly "burstier." Mobile users spend little time in each app -- sometimes just seconds -- before moving to a different app, as opposed to desktop and laptop users who generate relatively long-lived VPN sessions. This means that mobile infrastructure must be scalable enough to handle the extremely high volume of connection churn, the rapid setup and teardown of secure connections from mobile apps. Cumbersome, annoying authentication processes are a major reason why enterprise mobility initiatives fail to drive user adoption. Apps and data must provide consumer-level ease of use or employees will either not use them and/or revert to unsecure workarounds.
External Partners Need Access, Too
As if managing and protecting employee app, data, and connection endpoints aren't enough, enterprises also must be able to secure and scale access to enterprise data and apps for external partners. Suppliers, distributors, customers, developers, and their extended enterprises often need access to relevant enterprise information but with different types of access privileges. And increasingly, the Internet of Things demands that access be extended to new types of endpoints, like wearables and machine-to-machine data exchanges -- all of which impose unique challenges and requirements on IT.
Changing Usage Patterns Introduce Unpredictability
Finally, mobility has dramatically shifted usage patterns and placed new demands on enterprise networks and remote access and security connectivity infrastructure. Analysts are projecting astronomical growth for data volumes, numbers of access points, and numbers of transactions. IT must design the enterprise infrastructure to enable rapid connection churn and multiple connections in simultaneous use. In addition, enterprise users need access to current apps and data whether they are online or offline. Enterprise infrastructure must be able to handle tasks such as data synchronization and backup reliably no matter how unpredictable traffic patterns and data demands become.
Protect What Matters
IT teams need to step back from the traditional device-focused approach and pivot to securing apps and data -- the things that really matter to the enterprise. As they begin to tackle securing the new app and data endpoints, they should consider:
- Evaluating existing security measures from the perspective of securing apps and data instead of devices
- Looking for new ways to shrink their attack surfaces and simplify security management
- Ensuring high security while enabling consumer-like app ease of use
- Implementing scalability to support extended enterprises, growth, and changing usage patterns
- Gaining better visibility into app and data usage for continuous security improvements
The new endpoints are here already. It's time to bring security strategies and tactics in alignment with the new benefits -- as well as the new realities -- that these endpoints present to the enterprise.