endpoint securityWhen it comes to developing a cybersecurity strategy, it is important to know that a multitude of security tools will need to be deployed, with many overlapping capabilities. This is called a defense-in-depth strategy. This strategy is based on a military principle that it is more difficult to defeat a complex and multi-layered defense system than it is to penetrate a single barrier. This leads in to endpoint security vs. network security. Each set of tools provides alerts for similar threats in its intended coverage, and each offers advantages and disadvantages depending on the use. While they both overlap, they both contribute to a defense-in-depth security program.

Architectural Differences

As their names imply, endpoint security is deployed and operated directly on endpoints, whereas network security tools protect against threats traversing corporate networks. In an ideal case, network security products will locate, block and alert these threats prior to them reaching endpoints connected to the network. Endpoint security often serves as the last line of defense against threats that seek to compromise end devices, such as desktops, servers, mobile and IoT devices.

Network security tools vary widely and are often purpose built for a specific type of threat. Endpoint security products also vary heavily. Traditionally, endpoint antivirus scans an endpoint's local applications and files searching for any signatures indicative of malware. More recently however, endpoint detection and response tools have monitored device behavior over time and alerts administrators when a device or group of devices deviate from baseline behavior.

It is important to realize that network security tools are designed to protect multiple corporate assets, while endpoint tools focus on protecting endpoints. While they both have different goals for protecting your network and devices, they often complement one another.

Security Integrations

Network security tools were originally operated in silos. For modern tools, this is no longer required. Vendors today use these tools to share information on potential emergent threats, identified threats, and malware infestation on networks. These tools often receive the same global threat intelligence feeds that way they can automatically detect and defend against the newest attack types.

In addition to these global threat feed shares, modern tools are also sharing threat information that they collect locally. It is also important to note that an endpoint security tool can notify the network security tools of an identified threat as well. The sharing of potential threats goes both ways. The security mechanisms receiving this information can then use the shared data to automatically create policies to protect against threats of a similar nature.

Where Endpoint Tools Excel

While in many instances, endpoint and network tools should be deployed together, there are cases where one is more preferable over the other.

One of the major advantages endpoint security tools have over network tools is that they are directly on the endpoint and can follow the devices wherever they go. This benefits employees who may work in hybrid or permanent work-from-home scenarios. That said, endpoint security software is generally designed for deployment on specific hardware and OS versions. An IT team can install endpoint security on PC's Macs and Linux devices but there is a potential for incompatibilities on purpose-built hardware that may be incompatible with the IT teams selected products.

Public cloud security is another common topic with endpoint vs. network security. Cloud platforms, such as AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure, integrate multiple network security tools within third-party infrastructures. Security teams can then choose to deploy virtual instances of their preferred network security tools. Either way, network security tools can monitor traffic between users, applications and data, no matter where they are located.

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