What Is Endpoint Encryption? Definition, Architecture, and Best Practices – Toolbox

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Endpoint encryption is a security solution that adds an extra layer of defense to an organization’s data protection system.

Endpoint encryption is defined as a comprehensive security solution typically residing on different endpoints that provides advanced levels of security to valuable corporate data, making it unreadable to unauthorized users. In this article, we’ll look at the fundamental elements of endpoint encryption, its benefits for enterprises, architecture, and the top 10 best practices for implementing and managing endpoint encryption in 2021.
Endpoint encryption is a comprehensive security solution typically residing on different endpoints that provides advanced levels of security to valuable corporate data, making it unreadable to unauthorized users. Endpoint encryption refers to data protection methods that use complex encryption algorithms to protect data at different network endpoints such as devices, hardware, and files. Endpoint encryption also authorizes endpoints to enable data access only for authorized users.
Sensitive data runs across an enterprise’s network, and hence, organizations must ensure that such data isn’t compromised. Today, employees access company accounts from multiple devices. Encrypting data at such endpoints remains a priority to ensure that data is not readily available to unauthorized users.
Endpoint encryption software monitors endpoints, performs encryption, enables key management, and also authorizes devices. Key management refers to storing and backing up encryption keys to enhance an enterprise’s encryption standards.
Endpoint encryption can be deployed using two strategies. The first strategy focuses on full-disk encryption, while the second targets file encryption. Disk encryption, also referred to as drive encryption, encrypts the entire drive. It secures the computer device from external attackers and allows intended users to access it by authenticating them. File encryption, on the other hand, refers to protecting files on an endpoint by locking specific files for transfer or storage.
Encryption exercises two standards: Rivest, Shamir, Adleman (RSA) and Advanced Encryption Standard-256 (AES-256).
Also, all encryption technologies for businesses are fully compliant with the Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) 140-2.
According to a 2021 survey conducted by Vanson Bourne, around 32% of top IT organizations in the U.K. increased overall encryption practices over the last year. Encryptions cover several endpoints, right from mobiles to removable devices. The survey further highlighted that around 31% of organizations now expect all data to be encrypted by default, whether in transit or stored.
See More: What Is Cloud Encryption? Definition, Importance, Methods and Best Practices
Endpoint encryption is one of the pillars for safeguarding and protecting confidential data. It offers several benefits to organizations as it prevents data breaches. The key benefits of endpoint encryption are:
Endpoint Encryption Benefits for EnterprisesEndpoint Encryption Benefits for Enterprises
Endpoint Encryption Benefits for Enterprises
Endpoint encryption protects private data stored in various media such as disks, file folders, USBs, and removable media. It facilitates full disk encryption that encrypts master boot files, OS, system files, hibernation files, etc. Additionally, endpoint encryption offers a hardware- and software-based encryption for environments that combine several media. These security practices also support emerging self-encrypting drives having TCG Opal SED standards. As such, these encryption procedures are future-proof in the context of evolving technologies and provide an effective way of securing your data against cyberattacks.
Endpoint encryption gives better visibility and control over encryption procedures applied on endpoints. It monitors and protects valuable data. It also offers a unified data repository that simplifies operations by logging the status and activity of each hard disk or media encryption application. This helps in identifying the need to update policies or improve key management. Endpoint encryption also automates policy enforcement and provides immediate remediation in the event of a security breach in an organization.
Endpoint encryption helps protect your data without causing problems to users in the event of a lost device or forgotten password. It offers remote one-time passwords across all endpoint client applications. The system manages policies and secures data across devices such as PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones, USBs, CDs, and others. Endpoint encryption methods collect device-specific attributes such as device IDs based on the device name, MAC address, and CPU identifier. In scenarios where new devices are added to an organization’s network, endpoint encryption can automatically recognize, add, and deploy policies on such devices.
Endpoint encryption adheres to compliance mandates such as GDPR, CCPA, LGPD, or POPI, facilitating data protection. It provides a detailed auditing and reporting facility for individuals, devices, and organizational units. Endpoint encryption also offers real-time reporting and auditing to ensure security compliance. It even analyzes usage statistics and thereby schedules reports and alert notifications based on requirements.
Endpoint encryption provides flexible authentication, including fixed passwords and multi-factor authentication, to ensure that only authorized individuals access the data. It also facilitates the remote locking of lost or stolen devices before they boot using Wi-Fi or Ethernet networks that may make them vulnerable. It enables policy updates before authentication procedures and triggers lockout features as a corrective action against incorrect authentication attempts. Additionally, actions are configured in response to a user surpassing limits for failed password attempts.
In the case of manual encryption, methods are prone to human error, and such mistakes may result in data loss, financial loss, damage to an organization’s reputation, or even serious consequences leading to legal liabilities. However, as practiced across most organizations, automatic encryption methods eliminate the human error factor that is liable to bring in additional risks.
Data encryption prevents files that contain sensitive information such as healthcare data, bank information, passwords, and others from falling into the hands of hackers. The security mechanism uses sophisticated and strong algorithms to encrypt an organization’s hard drives, files, and media. Fundamentally, encryption refers to encoding or scrambling data that makes it unreadable and unusable without the correct decryption key. Hence, even if an attacker gains access to an organization’s important information, it is deemed useless due to the applied encryption.
Endpoint encryption is suitable for businesses of all sizes, especially those that bank on removable storage devices such as a USB, compact flash, iPod, and other storage media. It easily integrates with existing business processes while delivering optimum efficiency for business operations. It enables organizations to maximize business productivity while establishing brand visibility and strong customer goodwill.
See More: What Is Application Security? Definition, Types, Testing, and Best Practices
In an endpoint encryption architecture, a server (policy server) manages the policy, databases, authentication, and all client-server activity. It has a security center that enforces encryption policies. It deploys several endpoint encryption agents (computers/disks) that perform specific encryption tasks. Also, endpoint encryption agents communicate via encrypted channels.
The following diagram illustrates the endpoint encryption components and communication between encryption agents:
Architecture of Endpoint EncryptionArchitecture of Endpoint Encryption
Architecture of Endpoint Encryption
Endpoint encryption architecture includes the following components:
See More: 10 Best Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Tools for 2021
Endpoint encryption technology protects important information from cyberattacks, accidental loss, intended ransomware attacks, and device theft. However, organizations need to follow certain best practices to maximize the benefits of endpoint encryption for their business operations. Below are 10 best practices enterprises need to adopt for better implementation and management of endpoint encryption in 2021.
Endpoint Encryption Best PracticesEndpoint Encryption Best Practices
Endpoint Encryption Best Practices
Encryption technology plays a crucial role in protecting valuable data. Business stakeholders can help you in identifying the areas (data) that require extra protection. Hence, you need to involve all relevant stakeholders such as IT management, operations, finance teams, etc., to get an idea of the organization’s critical data needs.
Another factor is that of access control. You can collaborate with all the stakeholders to identify who needs access to what type of information and when. This is necessary so that legitimate users can access information without security being compromised.
One of the best practices for encryption begins with an established policy that applies to different endpoints. Organizations need to decide whether they intend to encrypt entire disk drives, removable media or devices, or just limit it to certain files and folders. Both full disk encryption (FDE) and file level encryption (FLE) encrypt and protect data from theft or loss. These encryption solutions ensure that all sensitive data is unreadable and meaningless to criminals regardless of whether the device is compromised or not.
Making information accessible to the right people at the right time is a priority for most organizations. This is possible with strong foundational policies coupled with an appropriate pool of technologies. Additionally, policies also cover the following:
Today, business-critical information is being stored in USBs that can hold around 100 GB+ of data. There are chances of leaving these removable devices in security trays at airports, jacket pockets, or even in the pockets of shirts given for dry cleaning. Although such unforeseen accidents can never be prevented, you can still control the consequences of such unintended actions.
Device encryption can serve as an effective encryption strategy in scenarios such as:
The encryption strategy would be effective only when the underlying technology implementing it is reliable. Encryption algorithms that can easily be cracked may fail to provide the right kind of data protection. As such, choosing encryption solutions that utilize advanced encryption standards (AES) with 256-bit key length or RSA with simplified key management can help.
Similar to algorithms, encryption keys are also important for proper endpoint protection. Encryption keys that can be hacked make the encryption program quite vulnerable. In addition, effective key management is an equally significant factor in a complex cryptographic system. You may have the world’s best lock on the door, but it is of no use if the key is placed somewhere where it can easily be found.
Computer algorithms continue to evolve with time. In today’s day and age, cyber criminals and attackers are resorting to much more complex malware attacks capable of accessing systems and stealing sensitive data, which eventually go undetected. Although encryption ensures that the stolen data stays secure, integrating complementary layers of security along with endpoint encryption can go a long way. This may include adding high-quality anti-malware components that help in better device and application controls to a suite of endpoint encryption solutions.
Such integrated security layers are capable of detecting malicious codes and managing different types of vulnerabilities that can expose an organization’s data. Adopting multi-layered security can strengthen the security arsenal possessed by the organization, thereby helping in the mitigation of cyberattacks.
Users tend to forget their passwords just as often as they lose their USBs or smartphones. This prevents them from accessing vital information. Hence, keeping the encryption keys in a centralized location such as central storage can make it easier for users to handle emergencies.
Thus, a good encryption solution should offer administrative tools for faster data recovery that aids in addressing unexpected events such as::
Organizations regard encryption as a complex security strategy to implement and manage. However, this is due to the fact that traditional solutions are rendered separately from other IT security or anti-malware technologies. As a result, complexity is increased. Managing security solutions such as endpoint encryption, application controls, and anti-theft solutions separately can be expensive.
Additionally, implementation of each solution requires purchasing, staff awareness, skill development, policy management, maintenance, and upgrades. Cumulatively, deploying each solution separately can turn out to be a costly affair. Instead, integrating all these solutions together and managing them centrally can save time, money, and resources. The central management of integrated solutions can make the software adoption process seamless and easy to deploy.
The encryption process should first ensure that the health of the endpoint (device or disk) is fine before actually encrypting it. This can be achieved by leveraging scans that perform low-level integrity checks and repair inconsistencies, if any. Such checks can rectify errors that may disrupt the encryption process.
Also, inconsistencies or bad disk sectors encountered while scanning can be logged onto servers as events that can halt the encryption process. Once these events are logged, you can remedy the problem before resuming with the endpoint encryption. Such checks would prevent disk corruption and eventual data loss.
As a good security practice, running a pilot test on a small group of computers before rolling out the software on a large number of computers is essential. This method checks overall software compatibility and ensures that there is no conflict with any software on any of the endpoints. Also, before installing a particular encryption software, it is a best practice to completely remove any other endpoint encryption software, as two encryption solutions may eventually render a machine unusable and unrecoverable.
Last but not least, as a best security practice, if you need to perform a recovery task on any endpoint such a disk, it is recommended to decrypt the disk first. Upon decryption, recovery activities can be completed. For example, consider a system that is facing operating system issues. In such a case, the disk is first decrypted and then recovery is performed, such as Windows recovery on the disk. If you attempt to go for Windows repair on an encrypted disk, it could cause further issues leading to data corruption or loss, as a consequence.
See More: What Is Disaster Recovery? Definition, Cloud and On-premise, Benefits and Best Practices
Endpoint encryption adds a security layer to an organization’s security infrastructure. Various security products such as firewalls and access control applications secure data within an enterprise. However, with rising sophistication in complex algorithms, organizational networks are still vulnerable to cyber threats. Encryption protects valuable data even if it leaves the organization’s perimeter. Endpoint encryption thus acts as a key defense against data theft, loss, or exposure to external attackers. It provides encryption policies that protect sensitive data with strong encryption across PCs, laptops, USB drives, and servers.
 How important is endpoint encryption to your organization? Comment below or let us know on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. We’d love to hear from you!

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