76% of enterprises increased their use of endpoint devices since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting their remote, work-from-home (WFH) and hybrid workforces globally.
66% of enterprises believe securing their networks and infrastructure requires a more focused, proactive approach to endpoint resilience that doesn’t leave endpoint security to chance.
Cybersecurity leader’s top challenges today are maintaining compliance, enforcing security standards, and understanding the health of security controls on each endpoint.
Just 38% of IT leaders can track the ROI of their cybersecurity investments, accentuating the need for more resilient, persistent endpoints that provide greater visibility and control.
These and many other fascinating insights are from Forrester Consulting’s latest study on endpoint security, Take Proactive Approach To Endpoint Security, completed in collaboration with Absolute Software. The study is noteworthy for its impartial, accurate view of the current state of endpoint security and the challenges IT teams face in creating greater endpoint resilience. The study’s methodology is based on 157 interviews with IT and security professionals located in the U.S. and Canada who are decision-makers in endpoint protection, with interviews completed in November and December 2020.
Key insights from the study include the following:
Security leaders are reprioritizing endpoint automation efforts with a strong focus on sensitive or at-risk data. In 2021 automation efforts will focus on sensitive or at-risk data (60%), geolocation (52%), security control health (48%), web-based application usage (36%), patch management (35%), and hardware inventory (32%). Each of these technologies is integral to supporting remote workers. There’s also a significant shift from how automation strategies were prioritized before the pandemic, as the graphic from the study below illustrates:
Maintaining compliance, enforcing security standards, understanding security controls’ health, and measuring security investments are the top challenges to managing endpoint security today. The majority of enterprises, 59%, cannot maintain or prove compliance of endpoints at any given time. Lack of compliance drags down the efficiency of endpoint security efforts, making an entire network more vulnerable. Just over half of enterprises can’t enforce security standards across endpoints or don’t know today’s health. The most surprising finding of the study: 62% of enterprises cannot measure the ROI of their security investments – with half (31%) – strongly disagreeing with how measurable security ROI spend is.
Enterprises see four key areas where endpoint management could improve today. Forrester asked enterprise IT and security leaders which capabilities need to be added to endpoint management systems to make them more effective. The executives first focused on securing sensitive and at-risk data, a sure sign enterprises are moving to a more data-centric cybersecurity model in the future. That’s good news as cyber attackers want to penetrate software supply chains and take control of systems managing data assets. Managing devices remotely at scale is second, which is also a frequent challenge IT and security teams encounter when attempting to patch endpoints. Having an unbreakable digital tether to devices is solving the scale issue while also providing greater endpoint resiliency, visibility, and control.
The pandemic forced every business to become more innovative in supporting work-from-home and hybrid work environments, improving endpoint security an immediate priority. What’s needed is an unbreakable digital tether to all devices, capable of delivering complete visibility and control, enabling real-time insights into the state of those devices, and allowing them to repair security controls and productivity tools autonomously. Of the many solutions available for securing endpoints today, the ones that take a firmware-embedded approach to secure endpoints are proving the most reliable. The more integrated an endpoint is to firmware, the more likely self-healing agents will be reliable while also providing complete visibility across every device on or off the network. Absolute’s firmware-embedded approach is noteworthy in its track record of securing endpoints during the pandemic.
Bottom Line: Today’s largely-distributed enterprises need to make sure they are putting endpoint security first in 2021– which includes closely managing every stage of the device lifecycle, from deployment to decommission, and ensuring all sensitive data remains protected.
There’s a looming paradox facing nearly every organization today of how they’ll secure thousands of remote endpoints without having physical access to devices, and without disrupting worker productivity. Whether there’s the need to retire hardware as part of down-sizing or cost-cutting measures, or the need to equip virtual teams with newer equipment more suitable for long term work-from-home scenarios, this is one of the most pressing issues facing CISOs and CIOs today.
Wanting to learn more about how their customers are tackling their endpoint security challenges and how their companies are helping to solve it, I sat down (virtually) with Absolute Software’s President and CEO Christy Wyatt and Matthew Zielinski, President of North America Intelligent Devices Group at Lenovo. The following is my interview with both of them:
Louis Columbus:Christy and Matt, thanks so much for your time today. To get started, I would like each of you to share what you’re hearing from your customers regarding their plans to refresh laptops and other endpoint devices in 2021.
Christy Wyatt: We’re seeing a strong desire from organizations to ensure that every individual is digitally enabled, and has access to a screen. In some cases, that means refreshing the hardware they already have in the field, and in other cases, that means buying or adding devices. From the endpoint security standpoint, there’s been a shift in focus around which tools matter the most. When laptops were primarily being used on campus, there was a certain set of solutions to monitor those devices and ensure they remained secure. Now that 90% of devices are out of the building, an entirely different set of capabilities is required – and delivering those has been our focus.
Matt Zielinski: We are seeing historic levels of demand from consumers, as many are transitioning from having maybe one or two devices per household to at least one device per person. We’re also seeing the same levels of demand on both the education and enterprise side. The new dynamic of work-from-anywhere, learn-from-anywhere, collaborate-from-anywhere underscores that the device hardware and software need to be current in order to support both the productivity and security needs of hugely distributed workforces. That’s our highest priority.
Louis: Where are CISOs in their understanding, evaluation, and adoption of endpoint security technologies?
Christy: The journey has been different for the education market than for the enterprise market. Most enterprise organizations were already on the digital path, with some percentage of their population already working remotely. And because of this, they typically have a more complex security stack to manage; our data shows that the total number of unique applications and versions installed on enterprise devices is nearly 1.5 million. What they’ve seen is a trifecta of vulnerabilities: employees taking data home with them, accessing it on unsecured connections, and not being aware of how their devices are protected beyond the WiFi connection and the network traffic.
In the education space, the challenges – and the amount of complexity – are completely different; they’re managing just a small fraction of that total number of apps and versions. That said, as the pandemic unfolded, education was hit harder because they were not yet at a point where every individual was digitally connected. There was a lot of reliance on being on campus, or being in a classroom. So, schools had to tackle digital and mobile transformation at the same time – and to their credit, they made multiple years of progress in a matter of weeks or months. This rapid rate of change will have a profound effect on how schools approach technology deployments going forward.
Matt: Whether in enterprise or education, our customers are looking to protect three things: their assets, their data, and their users’ productivity. It’s a daunting mission. But, the simplest way to accomplish it is to recognize the main control point has changed. It’s no longer the server sitting behind the firewall of your company’s or school’s IT environment. The vulnerability of the endpoint is that the network is now in the user’s hands; the edge is now the primary attack surface. I think CISOs realize this, and they are asking the right questions… I just don’t know if everyone understands the magnitude or the scale of the challenge. Because the problem is so critical, though, people are taking the time to make the right decisions and identify all the various components needed to be successful.
Louis: It seems like completing a laptop refresh during the conditions of a pandemic could be especially challenging, given how entire IT teams are remote. What do you anticipate will be the most challenging aspects of completing a hardware refresh this year (2021)?
Matt: The PC has always been a critical device for productivity. But now, without access to that technology, you are completely paralyzed; you can’t collaborate, you can’t engage, you can’t connect. Lenovo has always been focused on pushing intelligent transformation as far as possible to get the best devices into the hands of our customers. Beyond designing and building the device, we have the ability to distribute asset tags and to provide a 24/7 help desk for our customers whether you’re a consumer, a school, or a large institution. We can also decommission those devices at the end, so we’re able to support the entire journey or lifecycle.
The question has really become, how do you deliver secure devices to the masses? And, we’re fully equipped to do that. For example, every Lenovo X1 Carbon laptop comes out of the box with Lenovo Security Assurance, which is actually powered by Absolute; it is in our hardware. Our customers can open a Lenovo PC, and know that it is completely secure, right out of the box. Every one of our laptops is fortified with Absolute’s Persistence technology and self-healing capabilities that live in the BIOS. It’s that unbreakable, secure connection that makes it possible for us to serve our customers throughout the entire lifecycle of device ownership.
Louis:Why are the legacy approaches to decommissioning assets falling short / failing today? How would you redesign IT asset-decommissioning approaches to make them more automated, less dependent on centralized IT teams?
Christy: There have been a few very visible cases over the past year of highly regulated organizations, experiencing vulnerabilities because of how they decommissioned – or did not properly decommission – their assets. But, I don’t want anyone to believe that that this is a problem that is unique to regulated industries, like financial services. The move to the cloud has given many organizations a false sense of security, and it seems that the more data running in the cloud, the more pronounced this false sense of security becomes. It’s a mistaken assumption to think that when hardware goes missing, the security problem is solved by shutting down password access and that all the data is protected because it is stored in the cloud. That’s just not true. When devices aren’t calling in anymore, it’s a major vulnerability – and the longer the device sits without being properly wiped or decommissioned, the greater the opportunity for bad actors to take advantage of those assets.
The other piece that should be top of mind is that once a device is decommissioned, it’s often sold. We want to ensure that nothing on that device gets passed on to the next owner, especially if it’s going to a service or leasing program. So, we’ve concentrated on making asset decommissioning as precise as possible and something that can be done at scale, anytime and anywhere.
Matt: Historically, reclaiming and decommissioning devices has required physical interaction. The pandemic has limited face-to-face encounters, so , we’re leveraging many different software solutions to give our customers the ability to wipe the device clean if they aren’t able to get the asset back in their possession, so that at least they know it is secure. Since we’re all now distributed, we’re looking at several different solutions that will help with decommissioning, several of which are promising and scale well given today’s constraints. Our goal is to provide our enterprise customers with decommissioning flexibility, from ten units to several thousand.
Louis:Paradoxically, having everyone remote has made the business case for improving endpoint security more compelling too. What do you hear from enterprises about accelerating digital transformation initiatives that include the latest-generation endpoint devices?
Christy: The same acceleration that I spoke about on the education side, we absolutely see on the enterprise side as well, and with rapid transformation comes increased complexity. There has been a lot of conversation about moving to Zero Trust, moving more services to the cloud and putting more controls on the endpoint – and not having these sort of layers in between. Our data tells us that the average enterprise device today has 96 unique applications, and at least 10 of them are security applications. That is a massive amount of complexity to manage. So, we don’t believe that adding more controls to the endpoint is the answer; we believe that what’s most important is knowing the security controls you have are actually working. And we need to help devices and applications become more intelligent, self-aware, and capable of fixing themselves. This concept of resiliency is the cornerstone of effective endpoint security, and a critical part of the shift to a more modern security architecture.
Matt: I think there are two major forcing functions: connection and security. Because we are all now remote, there’s a huge desire to feel connected to one another even though we aren’t sitting in the same room together. We’re modifying our products in real-time with the goal of removing shared pain points and optimizing for the new reality in which we’re all living and working. Things like microphone noise suppression and multiple far field microphones, so that if the dog barks or kids run into a room, the system will mute before you’ve even pressed the mute button. We’re improving camera technology from a processing standpoint to make things look better. Ultimately, our goal is to provide an immersive and connected experience.
Security, however, transcends specific features that deliver customer experiences – security is the experience. The features that make hardware more secure are those that lie beneath the operating system, in the firmware. That is why we have such a deep network of partners, including Absolute. Because you need to have a full ecosystem, and a program that takes advantage of all the best capabilities, in order to deliver the best security solution possible.
Louis:How is Absolute helping enterprise customers ensure greater endpoint security and resiliency in 2021 and beyond?
Christy: We spend a lot of time sitting with customers to understand their needs and how and where we can extend our endpoint security solutions to fit. We believe in taking a layered approach – which is the framework for defense in-depth, and an effective endpoint security strategy. The foundational piece, which we are able to deliver, is a permanent digital tether to every device; this is the lifeline. Not having an undeletable connection to every endpoint means you have a very large security gap, which must be closed fast. A layered, persistence-driven approach ensures our customers know their security controls are actually working and delivering business value. It enables our customers to pinpoint where a vulnerability is and take quick action to mitigate it.
Lenovo’s unique, high value-add approach to integrated security has both helped drive innovation at Absolute, while also providing Lenovo customers the strongest endpoint security possible. Their multilayer approach to their endpoint strategy capitalizes on Absolute’s many BIOS-level strengths to help their customers secure every endpoint they have. As our companies work together, we are both benefitting from a collaboration that seeks to strengthen and enrich all layers of endpoint security. Best of all, our shared customers are the benefactors of this collaboration and the results we are driving at the forefront of endpoint security.
Louis:How has the heightened focus on enterprise cybersecurity in general, and endpoint security specifically, influenced Lenovo’s product strategy in 2021 and beyond?
Matt: We have always been focused on our unique cybersecurity strengths from the device side and making sure we have all of the control points in manufacturing to ensure we build a secure platform. So, we’ve had to be open-minded about endpoint security, and diligent in envisioning how potential vulnerabilities and attack strategies can be thwarted before they impact our customers. Because of this mindset, we’re fortunate to have a very active partner community. We’re always scouring the earth for the next hot cybersecurity technology and potential partner with unique capabilities and the ability to scale with our model. This is a key reason we’ve standardized on Absolute for endpoint security, as it can accommodate a wide breadth of deployment scenarios. It’s a constant and very iterative process with a team of very smart people constantly looking at how we can excel at cybersecurity. It is this strategy that is driving us to fortify our Lenovo Security Assurance architecture over the long-term, while also seeking new ways of providing insights from existing and potentially new security applications.
Louis:What advice are you giving CISOs to strengthen endpoint security in 2021 and beyond?
Christy: One of our advisors is the former Global Head of Information Security at Citi Group, and former CISO of JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank. He talks a lot about his shared experiences of enabling business operations, while defending organizations from ever-evolving threats, and the question that more IT and security leaders need to be asking – which is, “Is it working?” Included in his expert opinion is that cybersecurity needs to be integral to business strategy – and endpoint security is essential for creating a broader secure ecosystem that can adapt as a company’s needs change.
I believe there needs to be more boardroom-level conversations around how compliance frameworks can be best used to achieve a balance between cybersecurity and business operations. A big part of that is identifying resiliency as a critical KPI for measuring the strength of endpoint controls.
The Pharma industry has lost $14 billion through Intellectual Property (IP) cyber theft worldwide, according to the United Kingdom Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance.
53% of pharmaceutical IP thefts and related breaches are carried out by someone with insider access, also according to the United Kingdom Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance.
The pharma industry’s average total cost of a data breach is $5.06 million, with one of the highest costs of remediating the breach at $10.81 million across all industries, according to a recent ProofPoint study.
Over 93% of healthcare organizations experienced a data breach in the past three years, and 57% have had more than five data breaches, according to the Cybersecurity Ventures 2020 Healthcare Cybersecurity Report.
Gartner predicts the privileged access management (PAM) market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.7% from 2020 through 2024, reaching $2.9 billion by 2024.
Bottom Line: Having developed COVID-19 vaccines in a fraction of the time it takes to create new treatments, pharmaceutical companies need to protect the priceless IP, supporting data, and supply chains from cyberattacks.
Showing how powerful global collaboration between pharmaceutical industry leaders can be, the world’s leading vaccine producers delivered new vaccines in record time. The IP behind COVID-19 vaccines and their supporting supply chains need state-of-the-art protection comprised of cybersecurity technologies and systems, as the vaccines’ IP is an asset that cyber attackers have already tried to obtain.
Pharmaceutical’s Growing Number of Threat Surfaces Make Cybersecurity a Priority
The report provides specifics about how cyber attackers could impersonate an executive from a Chinese biomedical company known for having end-to-end cold chain expertise, which is essential for delivering vaccines reliably. The cyber attackers conducted spear-phishing attacks against global companies who support the global cold chain needed for distributing vaccines. There were credential harvesting attempts against global organizations in at least six countries known today to access vaccine transport and distribution sensitive information.
Launching a phishing campaign with the goal of harvesting details on key executives and access credentials across the cold chain is just the beginning. According to Lookout’s Pharmaceutical Industry Threat Report, some of the most significant threat surfaces are the most problematic today, including the following:
Research & Development & Clinical Trials
Collaborative research teams across pharmaceutical manufacturers globally
Scientists creating initial compounds and completing primary research to define a vaccine.
Integration of study sites at the test device and reporting system level
Manufacturing and Distribution
Plant workers’ systems, including tablets with build instructions on them
Physician & Pharmacist Networks
Distribution Channels and their supporting IT systems
Cyber attackers are taking a more synchronized, multifaceted approach to attacking Covid-19 supply chains, reiterated in CISA’s report. There’s evidence that state-sponsored cyber attackers attempt to move laterally through networks and remain there in stealth, allowing them to conduct cyber espionage and collect additional confidential information from victim environments for future operations. Cyber attackers are initially focused on phishing, followed by malware distribution, registration of new Covid-specific domain names, and always looking for unprotected threat surfaces.
10 Ways Cybersecurity Can Protect COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Chains
By combining multiple cybersecurity best practices and strategies, pharmaceutical companies stand a better chance of protecting their valuable IP and vaccines. Presented below are ten ways the pharmaceutical industry needs to protect the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain today:
Prioritize Privileged Access Management (PAM) across the vaccine supply chain, ensuring least privilege access to sensitive data starting with IP. CISA’s note finds that there have been multiple attempts at capturing privileged credentials, which often have broad access privileges and are frequently left standing open. PAM is needed immediately to institute greater controls around these privileged accounts across the supply chain and only grant just enough just-in-time access to sensitive IP, shipping and logistics data, vaccination schedules, and more. Leaders include Centrify, which is noteworthy for cloud-based PAM implementations at the enterprise and supply chain levels. Additional vendors in this area include BeyondTrust, CyberArk, Ivanti, Thycotic, Ping Identity, and Senhasegura.
Assess every supplier’s security readiness in vaccine supply chains, defining minimum levels of compliance to security standards that include a single, unified security model across all companies. In creating a secured vaccine supply chain, it’s imperative to have every supplier network member on the same security model. Taking this step ensures accountability, greater clarity of roles and responsibilities, and a common definition of privileged roles and access privileges. Leaders in this area include BeyondTrust, Centrify, CyberArk, Ivanti, and Thycotic.
Taking a Zero Trust-based approach to secure every endpoint across the vaccine manufacturer’s R&D, Clinical Trials, Manufacturing, and Distribution networks is necessary to shut down cyber attackers taking advantage of legacy security weaknesses approaches. The pharmaceutical companies and myriad logistics providers see a much faster than the expected proliferation of endpoints today. Trusted and untrusted domains from legacy server operating systems are a time sink when it comes to securing endpoints – and proving unreliable despite the best efforts that Security Operations teams are putting into them. Worst of all, they leave vaccine supply chains vulnerable because they often take an outdated “trust but verify” cybersecurity approach. Leaders include Illumio, Ivanti (MobileIron), Cisco, Appgate, Palo Alto Networks, and Akamai Technologies.
Extend the Zero Trust framework across the entire supply chain by implementing microsegmentation and endpoint security requirements across all phases of the vaccine’s development cycles. This will ensure cyber attackers don’t have the opportunity to embed code to activate later. The goal is to push Zero Trust principles to all related processes integrating with the vaccines’ pipeline, including all dependencies across the entire development lifecycle.
Incorporating Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) across every system in the vaccine supply chain is a given. Usernames and passwords alone are not enough, and MFA is low-hanging fruit to authenticate authorized users. MFA is based on two or more factors that can authenticate who you are based on something you know (passwords, PINs, code works), something you have (a smartphone, tokens devices that produce pins or pre-defined pins), or something you are (biometrics, facial recognition, fingerprints, iris, and face scans). For example, Google provides MFA as part of their account management to every account holder and has a thorough security check-up, which is useful for seeing how many times a given password has been reused.
Alleviate the conflicts of who will pay for increasing cybersecurity measures by making supplier-level security a separate line item in any CISOs and CIO’s budget. Today certain pharma supply chain CISOs are expected to ramp up cybersecurity programs with the same budget before Covid-19. While there are slight increases in cybersecurity budget levels, it’s often not enough to cover the higher costs of securing a broader scope of supply chain operations. CISOs need to have greater control over cybersecurity budgets to protect vaccine IP and distribution. Relying on traditional IT budgets controlled by CIOs isn’t working. There needs to be a new level of financial commitment to securing vaccine supply chains.
Consider using an AIOps platform adept at unifying diverse IT environments into a single, cohesive AI-based intelligence system that can identify anomalous network behavior in real-time and take action to avert breaches. Based on conversations with CIOs across the financial services industry, it is clear they’re leaning in the direction of AIOps platforms that provide real-time integration to cloud platforms combined with greater control over IT infrastructure. LogicMonitor’s prioritizing IT integration as a core strength of their platform shows, as they have over 2,000 integrations available out of the box. Relying on Collectors’ agentless system, LogicMonitor retrieves metrics such as cloud provider health and billing information. This collector then pulls metrics from different devices using various methods, including SNMP, WMI, perf Mon JMX, APIs, and scripts.
Unified Endpoint Security (UES) needs to become a standard across all vaccine supply chains now. Vendors who can rapidly process large amounts of data to detect previously unknown threats are needed today to stop cyberattacks from capturing IP, shipment data, and valuable logistics information. Absolute Software’s approach to leveraging its unique persistence, resilience, and intelligence capabilities is worth watching. Their approach delivers unified endpoint security by relying on their Endpoint Resilience platform, which includes a permanent digital tether to every enterprise’s endpoint. Absolute is enabling self-healing, greater visibility, and control by having an undeletable digital thread to every device. Based on conversations with their customers in Education and Healthcare, Absolute’s unique approach gives IT complete visibility into where every device is at all times and what each device configuration looks like in real-time.
Pharma supply chains need to have a strategy for achieving more consistent Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) across every device and threat surface of the vaccine supply chain. UEM’s many benefits, including streamlining continuous OS updates across multiple mobile platforms, enabling device management regardless of the connection, and having an architecture capable of supporting a wide range of devices and operating systems. Another major benefit enterprises mention is automating Internet-based patching, policy, configuration management. Ivanti is the global market leader in UEM, and their recent acquisition of Cherwell expands the reach of their Neurons platform, providing service and asset management from IT to lines of business and from every endpoint to the IoT edge. Neurons are Ivanti’s AI-based hyper-automation platform that connects Unified Endpoint Management, Security, and Enterprise Service Management. Ivanti is prioritizing its customers’ needs to autonomously self-heal and self-secure devices and self-service end-users.
Track-and-traceability is essential in any vaccine supply chain, making the idea of cyber-physical passports that include serialization for vaccine batches more realistic given how complex supply chains are today. Passports are an advanced labeling technology that provides the benefits of virtual tracking, verification of specific compounds, and yield rates of key materials. Serialization is a must-have for ensuring greater traceability across vaccine supply chains proving effective in stopping counterfeiting. Having digital passports traceable electronically can further help thwart cyber attackers.
By closing the cybersecurity gaps in vaccine supply chains, the world’s nations can find new, leaner, more efficient processes to distribute vaccines and protect their citizens. It’s evident from the results achieved so far in the U.S. alone that relying on traditional supply chains and means of distribution isn’t getting the job done fast enough, and cyber attackers are already looking to take advantage. By combining multiple cybersecurity tactics, techniques, and procedures, the vaccine supply chain stands to improve and be more secure from threats.
Bottom Line: Cybersecurity CEOs’ lessons learned from navigating the pandemic provide a valuable framework for leading and growing a business through anxious, uncertain times.
How each cybersecurity CEO responds to the challenges of keeping employees safe, customers secure and product release cycles on schedule while still achieving customer success – all virtually – provide valuable insights into leading a company during difficult times. Simon Biddiscombe, former CEO of MobileIron (acquired by Ivanti), exemplifies the empathy all CEOs interviewed have for their employees’ welfare. “My first priority when the pandemic hit was to protect the health and safety of our employees, yet still maintain an “always-on business” for our customers,” Simon mentioned during a recent interview.
What made leading during the pandemic even more difficult was the exponentially increasing number of breaches and cyberattacks their customers are experiencing. McAfee Labs Covid-19 Threats Report found a 630% increase in cloud services cyberattacks between January and April of this year alone. The FBI estimates cyberattacks are up 400% due to the pandemic. As DevOps teams fast-track new features and releases, CEOs keep their virtual organizations cohesive and focused on the same goals.
The following cybersecurity CEOs provide their most valuable lessons learned leading through the pandemic:
Christy Wyatt, CEO of Absolute Software
Absolute is a leader in Endpoint Resilience solutions and the industry’s only undeletable defense platform embedded in over a half-billion devices. Enabling a permanent digital tether between the endpoint and the enterprise who distributed it, Absolute provides IT and Security organizations with always-connected visibility and Self-Healing Endpoint security.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
There was a clear moment for us where we said, “What is our objective? What is the best response to this?” And the phrase that came out was, “How can we help?” We knew our primary focus needed to be helping our customers solve a massive problem, instead of monetizing this opportunity. Making this decision to come together as a mission-driven organization… that was so incredibly powerful.
Even as life was changing drastically between breakfast and dinner every single day and employees were navigating their own work-from-home journeys and trying to care for their families, what we heard was that this ability to contribute was the thing that they were hanging onto. They were able to say, “Listen, I’m getting up every morning and I’m helping organizations with something that’s really scary and unfamiliar.” And, they did remarkable things… these teams put themselves through so much to help our customers stand up remote work and learning environments essentially overnight.
I always say you don’t win the race when you’re in the race. It’s the training and the practice, and the talking,and the drills and the teamwork… which we had been working on long before the pandemic hit. So I think my biggest takeaway is that if you put in the training upfront and you focus on doing the right things, the right things will happen. And you really can achieve more than you thought you could.
Flint Brenton – President and CEO of Centrify
Centrify is redefining the legacy approach to Privileged Access Management by delivering multi-cloud-architected Identity-Centric PAM to enable digital transformation at scale. Centrify Identity-Centric PAM establishes trust and then grants least privilege access just-in-time based on verifying who is requesting access, the context of the request and the risk of the access environment. Centrify centralizes and orchestrates fragmented identities, improves audit and compliance visibility and reduces risk, complexity and costs for the modern, hybrid enterprise.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
“Our customers and the people they serve are all going through rapid change. When you look at the concept of digital transformation, a lot of companies were struggling with that before the pandemic. Now we know that we can’t live without it. The role of the developer is more important than ever and they are driving innovation in a very different environment than they’ve ever experienced.
One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned during the pandemic is that no matter what the obstacles are, people need connection. For a company like Centrify, that means we need to be connected to our customers intellectually, strategically, virtually and – eventually – physically.
An example of this was very clear recently, as we engaged in discussions with one of the world’s largest financial institutions to replace their existing password vaulting solution. They have a vision for where they want to be, how they are going to get there and how they are going to secure that transformation. But they need the right partner who not only has the technology capabilities and architecture for a cloud-focused, DevOps-drive, digitally-enabled enterprise, but also to understand their vision and be invested in their success.
So the CIO asked me to personally track the rollout of our product against their product enablement success and he was very interested in how our vision of Privileged Access Management will converge with cloud security, DevOps and other modern technologies and empower their vision and plan. Ultimately, he wanted connectedness. He wants a personal relationship built on understanding, honesty and accountability, even if that relationship can’t be forged and nurtured over a dinner or meeting in a conference room.
That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned leading this year: that customers, employees, partners and peers want to be connected any way possible, even if they can’t do so in close physical proximity yet.”
Steve Havas, CEO of Evernym
Evernym is a pioneer in the field of verifiable credential technology, which gives individuals control over their digital identity and organizations the ability to trust and verify their data. Evernym builds and deploys self-sovereign identity solutions, with the technology and go-to-market resources powering the largest implementations of digital credentials in production.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
The pandemic has been, to say the least, impactful on society and our business. The market changes have required ruthless listening to customer needs and absolute focus on delivering what’s needed today.
We’ve all anticipated a gradual convergence of the digital and physical worlds, but that timeline has been accelerated by the sudden rise in remote work/education and contactless identity verification. We’re fortunate that this is the future we’ve been building toward, although we would have never imagined many of the COVID-19 credential use cases that are now mission-critical for our customers. It’s certainly been a lesson in adaptability and prioritization.
Benji Markoff, CEO of Founder Shield
About Founder Shield
Founder Shield is a tech-enabled insurance brokerage, focusing on rapidly growing businesses that operate in emerging industries. As a broker, we have a unique perspective of protecting our clients against cyber threats and guiding them to recovery should their fall victim. We work with forward-thinking insurers using proprietary cyber risk management tools, while also offering the most innovative insurance coverage possible.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
People say that fortunes are won and lost in times like these and it certainly appears that hackers & social engineering fraudsters have gotten that memo. Over the past 6 months, we’ve seen an increase in both hacking and social engineering attacks on clients of all shape and size $5M Revenue to $500M revenue. The reports suggest that working from home has only increased vulnerabilities of company networks (or lack thereof as employees use home networks) and the ability to induce fraudulent payments from employees who might not be able to lean over to a coworker to fact check a fishy invoice. The valuable lesson? Do a cyber audit and make sure you’re training your team on spotting social engineering and phishing scams.
Anand S – CEO at Gramener: Insights as Data Stories
About Gramener: Insights as Data Stories
Gramener is a data science company that helps solve complex business problems with compelling data stories using insights and a low-code analytics platform. We help enterprises large and small with data insights and storytelling by leveraging Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Automated Analysis and Visual Intelligence using modern charts and narratives (NLG). Our Gramex platform is a low-code framework to rapidly build engaging data solutions across multiple business verticals and use cases. Our products have empowered CXOs, Chief Data Officers, Scientists, Business Analysts and others save millions of dollars by making an impact on revenue and decision making. Gramener was founded in 2010 and has over 325+ clients worldwide, 200+ employees and 5 offices globally including the United States and Singapore.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
As an SMB we leaned more towards cost optimization over premium cybersecurity tools and services, resulting in ring-fencing our office infrastructure more. Due to COVID-19, when we moved 100% remote, our cybersecurity controls fell short to defend us against external threats. We had to extend the security protocols like moving all work to Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), strengthen VPN tunnel security, implement 2FA for all logins, opt for more security services from our Cloud service provider.
We accelerated digitization across operations and increased spending in Cloud security and production application security. We are revisiting our current approach and playbooks for cybersecurity.
– We are evaluating the current 3rd party service providers offering and reevaluating if they still have same level security controls in place at their end
We are conducting an accelerated implementation of Data Security protocols across the organization and not just on client specific projects. This includes updates to Information Security Policy around Data classification, Data tracking and protection.
With 100% remote operations, we are moving to VDI for all production and critical services. This means access to all data is through dedicated VPN Tunnels only. This is to mitigate any exposure to data from folks working at home.
– Our Virtual Desktop Infrastructure allows our IT teams to protect client sensitive data to a restricted cloud environment. All the tools and 3rd party cloud services required by our team members to perform their tasks are provided in the VDI. No data can be extracted or moved from VDI instances.
– All internal company data around operations, team members, Intellectual Property are a prime target for cyberattacks and ransomware. We have moved to a secure VPN tunnel architecture for all our team members to access company internal systems. Earlier this was restricted to a small group of functions. By mandating access via secure VPN tunnel our IT team has centralized visibility of all traffic across the network and can intervene quickly against any potential threats.
We are mandating 2FA. Earlier employee convenience led to not mandating 2FA for all our services. Now 2FA has been made mandatory across all services.
In order to optimize costs, we are consolidating tools used in the organization to identify overlapping functionalities and getting rid of those which are no longer required.
Apu Pavithran, founder and CEO of Hexnode
Hexnode MDM is the award-winning Unified Endpoint Management platform from Mitsogo Inc. The company has been helping organizations in over 100 countries to stay agile and competitive in an increasingly mobile world. Mitsogo Inc. is a leading provider of Endpoint Management and security solutions. From SMBs to Fortune 500s, enterprises of all sizes have leveraged Mitsogo’s prowess in device management to drive business productivity and compliance. Mitsogo’s solutions adapt to the most complex of business environments.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
Navigate the path, trust your crew
Being a CEO, as lucrative as it may seem has its own little big challenges, for example, they don’t tell you that there are no off days. There are always thousands of choices to be made and tons of pathways to be chosen, but the absolute worst thing comes when we face an uncertainty that was never on the radar.
And when the pandemic hit, the team needed support more than ever, I had to switch through the roles of commander in chief, therapist, cheerleader and even at times a babysitter. After all, you have to be the rock for your employees, or else it shows. But fortunately, I was so lucky to be surrounded by like-minded people who are as passionate as the founder about our business and customers.
We had to establish a fully remote work landscape and it was not what we would have expected, it was at a time when everyone was very insecure about COVID-19. People were worried about their safety, the safety of their families and work started to slip into second gear, some of us were even having mental breakdowns. It was time to be the person that the team could look up to.
“Customer is king”, is a tired old saying but that is what Hexnode live by, we had a commitment towards our clients, so we had to provide uninterrupted service for them rain or shine. So, we made a decision that would be deemed “mad “from a financial standpoint.
We rented out hotel rooms and made guesthouses for each of our employees around the globe and ran security and screening protocols equivalent to that of hospitals. Soon the stress levels were back to normal and the team started to enjoy the atmosphere. Productivity became better than pre-COVID levels.
As a leader, your team should be able to trust that you’re going to do everything in your power to navigate them through this tough time. The greatest asset for every business is said to be “finding the right staff”, but I would say it is “how you create the right staff”. The most valuable lesson l learned during this pandemic is “When the crew is great you just have to navigate, they will pull through all the tides and storms coming your way. They always do”.
Brad Wiskirchen, CEO, Kount
Kount’s Identity Trust Global Network delivers real-time fraud prevention and account protection and enables personalized customer experiences for more than 9,000 leading brands and payment providers. Linked by Kount’s award-winning AI, the Identity Trust Global Network analyzes signals from 32 billion annual interactions to personalize user experiences across the spectrum of trust—from frictionless experiences to blocking fraud. Quick and accurate identity trust decisions deliver safe payment, account creation and login events while reducing digital fraud, chargebacks, false positives and manual reviews.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
Open, honest, fearless communication. The Kount team has lived by this motto for more than a decade and never before has it been more tested and more relevant than in navigating the events of 2020. From moving our entire team to remote work to quickly pivoting to help our eCommerce businesses handle dramatic changes in transaction volume, it’s essential that our team communicate at the highest levels. As the impacts of the pandemic are often deeply personal, open, honest, fearless communication has empowered us to balance individual needs, customer needs and company needs while uniting us in our mission to do whatever it takes to stop digital fraud for our customers.
Simon Biddiscombe, former CEO of MobileIron (acquired by Ivanti)
MobileIron is redefining enterprise security with the industry’s first mobile-centric security platform for the Everywhere Enterprise. MobileIron’s platform combines award-winning and industry-leading unified endpoint management (UEM) capabilities with passwordless MFA (Zero Sign-On) and mobile threat defense (MTD) to validate the device, establish user context, verify the network and detect and remediate threats to ensure that only authorized users, devices, apps and services can access business resources in a “work from everywhere” world.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
As a leader during a pandemic, you must go above and beyond to provide your employees and customers with world-class service and support. My first priority when the pandemic hit was to protect the health and safety of our employees, yet still maintain an “always on business” for our customers. At MobileIron, we quickly enabled our employees around the world to work remotely. We also made it as easy as possible for our customers to issue more corporate-owned devices or enable a BYOD program to keep their employees secure and connected – whether they were working on the frontlines or at home. And we continued to innovate to meet the changing security needs of our customers and communities.
Overall, the pandemic has crammed years’ worth of change into a few short months and it will have long-lasting effects on how, when and where we work in the future. Work in the future will be very different to work in the past, which will present leaders with some challenges. However, it will also offer some significant opportunities to overhaul working practices and support employees who work from home with better collaboration and more intuitive access. The “Everywhere Enterprise” is not a passing phase, it’s the current reality and will continue to grow and expand as workers find new ways to be productive from anywhere.
Ward Osborne, CEO of Osborne Global Security
About Osborne Global Security
Osborne Global Security is a new player in the security space. They are challenging the stereotypes that come to mind when you originally think of security and replacing them with the ideas of trust, care and a shift in general security culture. This is a fascinating company to watch in the future.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
As CISO’s for multiple companies through this pandemic, we have seen so much shift and change. There’s been borderline chaos in many companies – and chaos ALWAYS brings opportunity. For our clients, the ones we’ve worked with and developed mature, risk and capabilities based models for just this situation, they are thriving.
It’s interesting to see the world adapt to a virtual delivery model which we’ve been creating, living, evangelizing for 25 years. Our clients who may not have had the time or prioritization to develop those models and capabilities have taken a hit, but we continue to do what we do, which is develop and provide resilience and growth to our customers.
In a virtual and distributed world, Trust becomes a major factor in every conversation. If a customer can’t Trust that we are there to solve problems when things get tough, then they aren’t able to operate effectively knowing that someone has their back.
Our world has become physically disconnected, but the people and companies that deal with that challenge in a proactive and positive way will always thrive. We are here. Growing our tribe. Doing the next right thing and leading customers to success in the midst of all of this chaos and challenge.
Rodrigo Tumaián, CEO and Co-Founder of Prometeo
Prometeo provides a single point of access to banking information, transactions and payments across multiple financial institutions in Latam. Inspired by PSD2 and with high security standards, Prometeo brings easy plug & play access to open banking, the future of financial services. Currently, Prometeo is connected with more than 30 financial institutions across 9 countries of Latam (including México & Brazil) and provides access to more than 45 APIs.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
Prometeo was born with a very strong focus on cyber-security, so the pandemic had no effect on our operation. Our company grew up with the foundation of mobility and work flexibility, this forced us from the beginning to think about the best way to transmit data and protect mobile assets. So when the pandemic arrived, we were already providing remote access (VPN) to all our employees, limiting access by profile. We were already using two-factor authentication to access our services. We already had user nomination and record of the operations generated by our employees on our assets. I think if I had to mention what was the most valuable thing we learned from the pandemic, it’s that the direction we took from the beginning was worth it. We didn’t have to deal with operational issues to handle the high demand for digital products from customers, we just did it. So the pandemic for us strengthened another of our fundamental values, not to make security to be compliance, but to make integral security, both within our company and for our customers.
Jean Le Bouthillier, CEO of Qohash
Qohash delivers advanced data classification and monitoring capabilities to protect your personal, health, corporate and financial data using transformational technologies such as machine learning and analytics.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
2020 has accelerated digital transformation efforts and highlighted the need for advanced, lightweight data security capabilities. With enterprise employees working increasingly remote, data is flowing faster and in previously unimagined ways. Businesses realize that to keep up with the demands of clients and a digital workforce, data risk models need an update or risk jeopardizing the enterprise.
Qohash clients recognize that the employee Risk Score, a quantifiable measure of trust, mitigates the impact both of bad actors as well as busy, distracted employees.
Remote, digital work will be a part of enterprise operations for the foreseeable future. Organizations need to enable governance risk and compliance teams to better support this transition to Work From Anywhere [WFA] models where talent and business thrive.
Jean-Paul Smets, Founder and CEO RapidSpace
Rapid.Space is a cloud provider whose “approach is based exclusively on the use of free, fully auditable and reversible software, hardware and management procedures under open licenses. Thanks to a network of 228 points of presence, Rapid.Space has global presence including in mainland China. It covers similar features as the most sophisticated public cloud provider and introduces exclusive innovations such as industrial edge computing and private 4G/5G vRAN.
“What are the most valuable lessons learned leading through a pandemic?”
“Rapid.Space learned during the pandemic how to formalize its management procedures and remotely setup points of presence. Thanks to Augmented Reality and smart glasses, Rapid.Space team in Europe and Americas could setup remotely its points of presence in mainland China and Taiwan without having to travel by air plane”.
Removing any doubt endpoints are resilient, self-healing and secure is what matters most to cybersecurity leaders today. It has become the highest priority across education, enterprise, financial services and government organizations in 2020 and beyond. At the same time, CIOs and CISOs are recognizing that endpoint complexity itself is a vulnerability. Absolute’s 2020 State of Endpoint Resilience Report finds there are now 10.2 agents per endpoint installed, up from 9.8. Add to this how quickly software agents degrade across thousands of remote devices and the size of the challenge becomes clear.
Absolute’s approach to delivering unified endpoint security using their Endpoint Resilience platform that creates a permanent digital tether to every endpoint in the enterprise is getting noticed by CIOs and CISOs. IT leaders say Absolute’s ability to provide greater visibility and control is what they need. Interested in learning more about how Absolute is helping customers taking on the many challenges of protecting the proliferating number of endpoints today and how the company sees the future, I recently spoke with Christy Wyatt, CEO. (You can see my discussion with her last year here.)
Under her leadership, Absolute’s revenues, customer retention and Net Income continue to grow. Total revenue in Q4-FY2020 was $27.2M, representing a year-over-year increase of 7%. Annual revenue in FY2020 was $104.7M, representing an increase of 6% over F2019. Absolute also attained a 14% year-over-year increase in Enterprise and Government revenue making this segment 68% of Total ARR on June 30, 2020.
Christy is one of the most brilliant, insightful leaders in cybersecurity today and her perspective on the future of endpoint security makes for a fascinating discussion. The following is my interview with her:
Louis: When you look back over the last eight months, which decisions and strategies do you see as being pivotal to Absolute’s growth and the fact that you accomplished so much, so quickly?
Christy: That’s a great question and the first thing that jumps to mind is our decision that Endpoint Resilience needs to be its own category. This was kind of a new thing. Many people talk about finding bad guys and the need for identity and access management.. there is a lot of use of the fear factor. And as an industry, we kept thinking of different ways devices could be compromised and we kept adding more security controls to solve those problems.
The thesis we arrived at, here at Absolute, is, “Listen, more isn’t always better. Making sure that things are actually working in there when you need them, that’s what is more important.” Because when you spend a lot of money on solutions, or when you tell your board or your CEO that you have a particular control and are now safe from a specific kind of risk… you need to go to sleep at night knowing that that’s in fact true. There needs to be a foundational belief that there is something solid to stand on when bad things happen.
And so, much of what we did this past year was really focused on quantifying that rate of decay because we believe that it is a painful problem organizations are having. I think that we are making traction and the insights we continue to publish on the state of Endpoint Resilience is really helping with that.
Louis: On your last earnings call, you talked about undeletable endpoint security and how it caught on in the education market. Did you change your go-to-market strategy this quarter to show you could scale an enterprise-wide deployment with teachers and administrators?
Christy: What’s important to remember is that we’ve been in business 20 years and that we started in education – as the one-to-one laptop initiatives for school kids were just getting underway. Those devices were very expensive and so that is the first problem we worked to solve. If somebody got their hands on a student’s device, how do you build a security platform that can survive anything that happens to that device? That was the original design premise all those years ago. And so, we have deep experience in things like scalability and solving problems for the education market.
What we’ve been seeing n the education market over the last couple of years has really been that, while technology has been an enabler for students, they weren’t necessarily thinking about teachers and administrators. So the challenge that they’ve grappled with over the last few months, notably with the accelerated shift to remote learning, is figuring out how to be both a digital and remote organization all at once. A lot of their processes were not yet online and not every single individual was connected.
Because we have a long-standing relationship with this community, we have a lot of expertise in the providing the scale and stability that they need. It was relatively intuitive for us to step and say, “Listen, these are things we can help you with. Here’s the bigger picture of things we could be helping you with, as you’re still figuring out distance learning and how to mobilize students.” Because we’ve also while serving education, we’ve also been serving banks and governments – and our enterprise business has been growing quite nicely over the years as well.
And I think we’re going to see that continue, because even as schools are contemplating sending children back to school, nobody knows whether this is a long-term or short-term. The new term I’ve started using is operational agility… and I think it applies to enterprise as well as it goes to education. I don’t think we ever again get to take for granted location and physical proximity to employees or students or devices. It has become a critical KPI for most organizations going forward.
Louis: Excellent point. And with regard to enterprise and government sectors growing 14% annually, what did you see in the eight months of this year that led to the double-digit growth in those markets?
Christy: Very few organizations had ever really contemplated the question, “What would happen if everybody had to be remote at a moment’s notice?” While our enterprise business has been experiencing double-digit growth for quite a while now, the onset of the pandemic really accelerated that growth. There has been a shift in thinking, that working remotely is not just for a smaller population of road warriors and sales reps and executives. I’ve spoken with many organizations that would say having a permanent digital connection to a device is really important for the people who are on airplanes and in a taxi cabs. But, I have a large percentage of my population that has a device that really they only use at work. Maybe it’s a laptop, maybe it’s a desktop – but either way, 99% of the time they are here. Or the times that they’re not here, they can VPN in. And I think that’s really become the challenge, that we can’t make that assumption anymore.
A lot of customers are rethinking all of that right now, as they’re seeing that being a remote, digitally-led organization can actually fit within their business model. If they give employees the flexibility to do what they love, where they want to do it, they’ll have an edge. While this is something that’s been forced on us, as with many things, the more you practice, the better you get… and then at some point, it becomes a part of the company’s DNA. And you learn to trust that you’re going to be safe and secure, your data and your employees are going to be just fine, because you don’t lose connection with them just because you can’t see them.
Louis: I think trust is an accelerator and Absolute’s success with endpoint security shows how to enable it at scale across organizations. Now with 13,000 customers, Absolute’s approach to building trust is working well.
On the earnings call you gave guidance of $112M to $118M with between 7% to 13% growth defined by how accounting transactions are handled. Underneath those figures, what’s the customer segment or what’s the geographic segment that you believe will be the primary catalyst for that revenue growth?
Christy: Perhaps a bit unusually for company our size, a large percentage of our revenue is actually North America-based. Our international markets have been some of the fastest growing segments for us. Our ecosystem of partners that we support – notably, the large PC and device manufacturers and their indirect channels – most of those are global entities and would like to support their customers in the same way internationally that they support them in North America. So one big focus for us is doing more selling and marketing globally, to meet this need.
I think the other big catalyst is going to be this shift to Resilience. We have a lot of customers who still rely on us for making sure they’re always connected to their devices and able to take preventative action – such as selectively wiping images or freezing a device, or geo-fencing a device from specific locations. While that’s certainly a critical set of capabilities, because we’re sitting in the hardware and sort of looking up at the software, we can help with this concept of self-healing. We can make sure that the critical controls you care about are truly working and protecting your employees.
A lot of the conversations we’re having, especially with new customers, are really focused on these capabilities. It’s not just, “How do I make sure I always know where my things are and that I can take action on them no matter where they are?” Instead, it’s “how do I use automated workflows to remediate risk? How do I have devices fix themselves so that my IT people don’t have to drown and help those calls?”
This concept of persistence and true self-healing that’s rooted in the hardware, I think is really, really powerful.. and the value of that really starts to become apparent when we’re in a world that looks like this. So I think those are some big focus areas for us as we go in the next year.
Louis: I like that one point you made on the earnings call about intelligence efforts, providing more data in a more interactive way for customers. I thought that that was really insightful and I think relevant to what you’ve been saying throughout our discussion. How do you help customers see themselves in a new way with new metrics, more interactively, more intuitively with greater insight?
Christy: It’s a different view for us and it’s something I’m very excited about. When it comes to a new product, I focus on, “What’s the question the customer’s going to be asking? What’s the problem they’re trying to solve?” And from there, “How do I package that up neatly so that they click on a button and get a report and it solves all of their problems?” But that’s not the world we live in today, especially when you have so many moving parts and things are continuously changing.
So it’s a different design philosophy when we say to the team, “You actually have no idea what question the customer is going to ask. Your job is to create tools that allow them to ask any question they have and then help them define the answer, either using our tool or using our data in some other tool.” At the end of the day, that’s how they get closer to the truth about what’s going on within their organization… and how they gain the ability to make better decisions.
Louis: Absolutely, that’s key to creating a culture that can continues to innovate and with Absolute’s focus on helping customers attain greater autonomous endpoint resiliency, it’s proving to be a strong catalyst for future growth too.
Enterprises who are increasing the average number of endpoint security agents from 9.8 last year to 10.2 today aren’t achieving the endpoint resilience they need because more software agents create more conflicts, leaving each endpoint exposed to a potential breach.
1 in 3 enterprise devices is being used with a non-compliant VPN, further increasing the risk of a breach.
60% of breaches can be linked to a vulnerability where a patch was available, but not applied. Windows 10 devices in enterprises are, on average, 95 days behind on patches.
CIOs, CISOs and cybersecurity teams say autonomous endpoint security is the most challenging area they need to strengthen in their cybersecurity strategy today. Software agents degrade faster than expected and conflict with each other, leaving endpoints exposed. Absolute’s 2020 State of Endpoint Resilience Report quantifies the current state of autonomous endpoint security, the scope of challenges CISOs face today and how elusive endpoint resiliency is to achieve with software agents. It’s an insightful read if you’re interested in autonomous endpoint security.
Endpoint Security Leads CISOs’ Priorities In 2020
With their entire companies working remotely, CIOs and CISOs I’ve spoken with say autonomous endpoint security is now among their top three priorities today. Cutting through the endpoint software clutter and turning autonomous endpoint security into a strength is the goal. CISOs are getting frustrated with spending millions of dollars among themselves only to find out their endpoints are unprotected due to software conflicts and degradation. Interested in learning more, I spoke with Steven Spadaccini, Vice President, Sales Engineering at Absolute Software and one of the most knowledgeable autonomous endpoint cybersecurity experts I’ve ever met. Our conversation delved into numerous cybersecurity challenges enterprise CIOs and CISOs are facing today. My interview with him is below:
The Seven Toughest Questions the C-Suite Is Asking About Endpoint Security
Louis: Thank you for your time today. I have seven questions from CIOs, CISOs and their teams regarding endpoint security. Let’s get started with their first one. What happens if an endpoint is compromised, how do you recover, encrypt, or delete its data?
Steven: It’s a challenge using software agents, both security and/or management, to do this as each agents’ tools and features often conflict with each other, making a comprised endpoints’ condition worse while making it virtually impossible to recover, encrypt, delete and replace data. The most proven approach working for enterprises today is to pursue an endpoint resilience strategy. At the center of this strategy is creating a root of trust in the hardware and re-establishes communication and control of a device through an unbreakable digital tether. I’m defining Endpoint Resilience as an autonomous endpoint security strategy that ensures connectivity, visibility and control are achieved and maintained no matter what is happening at the OS or application level. Taking this approach empowers devices to recover automatically from any state to a secure operational state without user intervention. Trust is at the center of every endpoint discussion today as CIOs, CISOs and their teams want the assurance every endpoint will be able to heal itself and keep functioning
Louis: Do endpoint software security solutions fail when you lose access to the endpoint, or is the device still protected at the local level?
Steven: When they’re only protected by software agents, they fail all the time. What’s important for CISOs to think about today is how they can lead their organizations to excel at automated endpoint hygiene. It’s about achieving a stronger endpoint security posture in the face of growing threats. Losing access to an endpoint doesn’t have to end badly; you can still have options to protect every device. It’s time for enterprises to start taking a more resilient-driven mindset and strategy to protecting every endpoint – focus on eliminating dark endpoints. One of the most proven ways to do that is to have endpoint security embedded to the BIOS level every day. That way, each device is still protected to the local level. Using geolocation, it’s possible to “see” a device when it comes online and promptly brick it if it’s been lost or stolen.
Louis: How can our cybersecurity team ensure compliance that all cybersecurity software is active and running on all endpoints?
Steven: Compliance is an area where having an undeletable tether pays off in a big way. Knowing what’s going on from a software configuration and endpoint security agent standpoint – basically the entire software build of a given endpoint – is the most proven way I’ve seen CISOs keep their inventory of devices in compliance. What CISOs and their teams need is the ability to see endpoints in near real-time and predict which ones are most likely to fail at compliance. Using a cloud-based or SaaS console to track compliance down to the BIOS level removes all uncertainty of compliance. Enterprises doing this today stay in compliance with HIPAA, GDPR, PCI, SOX and other compliance requirements at scale. It’s important also to consider how security automation and orchestration kicks on to instantly resolve violations by revising security controls and configurations, restoring anti-malware, or even freezing the device or isolating it from data access. Persistent visibility and control give organizations what they need to be audit-ready at every moment.
Having that level of visibility makes it easy to brick a device. Cybersecurity teams using Absolute’s Persistence platform can lead to humorous results for IT teams, who call the bricking option a “fun button as they watch hackers continually try to reload new images and right after they’re done, re-brick the device again. One CIO told the story of how their laptops had been given to a service provider who was supposed to destroy them to stay in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and one had been resold on the black market, ending up in a 3rd world nation. As the hacker attempted to rebuild the machine, the security team watched as each new image was loaded at which time they would promptly brick the machine. After 19 tries, the hacker gave up and called the image rebuild “brick me.”
Louis: With everyone working remote today, how can we know, with confidence where a given endpoint device is at a moments’ notice?
Steven: That’s another use case where having an undeletable tether pays off in two powerful ways: enabling autonomous endpoint security and real-time asset management. You can know with 100% confidence where a given endpoint device is in real-time so long as the device is connected to a permanent digital tether . Even if the device isn’t reachable by your own corporate network it’s possible to locate it using the technologies and techniques mentioned earlier. CIOs sleep better at night knowing every device is accounted for and if one gets lost or stolen, their teams can brick it in seconds.
Louis: How can our IT and cybersecurity teams know all cybersecurity applications are active and protecting the endpoint?
Steven: By taking a more aggressive approach to endpoint hygiene, it’s possible to know every application, system configuration and attributes of user data on the device. It’s important not to grow complacent and assume the gold image IT uses to configure every new or recycled laptop is accurate. One CIO was adamant they had nine software agents on every endpoint, but Absolute’s Resilience platform found 16, saving the enterprise from potential security gaps. The gold image is an enterprise IT team was using had inadvertently captured only a subset of the total number of software endpoints active on their networks. Absolute’s Resilience offering and Persistence technology enabled the CIO to discover gaps in endpoint security the team didn’t know existed before.
Louis: How can we restrict the geolocations of every endpoint?
Steven: This is an area that’s innovating quickly in response to the needs enterprises have to track and manage assets across countries and regions. IP tracking alone isn’t as effective as the newer techniques, including GPS tracking, Wi-Fi triangulation, with both integrated into the Google Maps API. Enterprises whose business relies on Personal Identifiable Information (PII) is especially interested in and adopting these technologies today. Apria Healthcare is currently using geofencing for endpoint security and asset management. They have laptops in use today across Indonesia, the Philippines and India. Given the confidential nature of the data on those devices and compliance with local government data protection laws, each laptop needs to stay in the country they’re assigned to. Geofencing gives Apria the power to freeze any device that gets outside of its region within seconds, averting costly fines and potential breaches.
Louis: How can our IT team immediately validate an endpoint for vulnerabilities in software and hardware?
Steven: The quickest way is to design in audit-ready compliance as a core part of any endpoint resilience initiative. Endpoint resilience to the BIOS level makes it possible to audit devices and find vulnerabilities in real-time, enabling self-healing of mission-critical security applications regardless of complexity. The goal of immediately validating endpoints for current security posture needs to be a core part of any automated endpoint hygiene strategy. It’s possible to do this across platforms while being OS-agnostic yet still accessible to over 500M endpoint devices, deployed across Microsoft Windows, macOS via a Mac Agent and Chrome platforms.
Knowing if their autonomous endpoint security and enterprise-wide cybersecurity strategies are working or not is what keeps CIOs up the most at night. One CISO confided to me that 70% of the attempted breaches to his organization are happening in areas he and his team already knew were vulnerable to attack. Bad actors are getting very good at finding the weakest links of an enterprises’ cyber defenses fast. They’re able to look at the configuration of endpoints, see which software agents are installed, research known conflicts and exploit them to gain access to corporate networks. All this is happening 24/7 to enterprises today. Needing greater resilient, persistent connections to every device, CISOs are looking at how they can achieve greater resilience on every endpoint. Capitalizing on an undeletable tether to track the location of the device, ensure the device and the apps on that device have self-healing capabilities and gain valuable asset management data – these are a few of the many benefits they’re after.
Bottom Line: Defining the perfect mix of cloud apps, platforms and secured endpoints to create compelling online learning experiences customizable to students’ learning strengths is how schools are overcoming the challenge of virtual teaching.
There are over 56 million students in the U.S. alone who are relying on remote learning apps, platforms and autonomous endpoint security to protect them as they pursue their education. School districts, online educators and teachers quickly realized the move to 100% online classes could mean the end to outdated mechanized approaches to teaching. Eager to teach using technologies that tailor individual learning programs to every student’s unique learning strengths, schools are combining cloud, e-learning and endpoint security with strong results. Combining technologies gives every student regardless of their socioeconomic background a chance to excel. The goal is to provide unique personalized instruction at scale using a teaching technique called scaffolding. Scaffolding stresses creating an individual learning plan for each student complete with reinforcement for each lesson.
Why Cybersecurity Is The Cornerstone Of Online Learning
Tailoring the latest technologies to the diverse needs of online learners is the easy part of creating an online learning program. Far more difficult is choosing the right endpoint security strategies to protect their identities, every one of their video conference sessions with peers and teachers and thwarting breach attempts. Parents, teachers, students and administrators all need to trust an e-learning platform to make it work. The bottom line is an e-learning platform needs to create and grow trust while being adaptive enough to meet students’ unique learning needs.
Interested in learning more about how leading online educators are bringing together the latest cloud and autonomous endpoint security technologies to help students learn online, I recently interviewed Eric Ramos Chief Technology Officer at Duarte Unified School District and Dean Phillips, Senior Technology Director, David Atkins, Director of Marketing and Communications and Jennifer Shoaf, Deputy Chief Academic Officer at PA Cyber. Duarte Unified School District (USD) serves the educational needs of 3,400 scholars at the elementary, K-8 and high school levels. The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber) in Midland, PA, is one of the most experienced and successful online K-12 public schools in the nation serving over 12,000 students. Together the group of education professionals provided valuable insights into how educators can combine cloud, collaboration and cybersecurity applications to create more personalized, effective learning experiences for students. David Atkins of PA Cyber says that their approach to e-learning is succeeding because they take a fully holistic view of the student, their family and their situation. “Our collaboration with the student starts from the very moment that there’s interest in having some sort of cyber education. And we go from enrollments, all the way through any issues of that students could have, or the students family could have and take them all the way through graduation’ David said. “We take the time to listen and see the student as a complete person.”
The following are the key insights based on our conversations:
Choosing to make cybersecurity the highest priority treats students as customers, protecting their unique online learning experiences while providing excellent access across all socioeconomic levels. That’s when online learning experiences excel. What’s impressive how committed the team of educators I spoke with is about making technology work as a catalyst to help every student achieve their educational goals across all socioeconomic levels. They’re also the most advanced at tailoring complex technologies to deliver customized online learning experiences with PA Cyber serving 12,000 remote students at once. “Each of our students is different and they’re looking to accomplish different things and they learn in different ways. We have a different classroom options that they can choose from. And we have a lot of different scaffolding options in place when it comes to our instructional platform, “Jennifer Shoaf, Deputy Chief Academic Officer at PA Cyber said. Eric Ramos, CTO at USD says that he and his staff “reach out to teachers and staff members and provide them with the latest cybersecurity alerts and make sure they are aware of how their autonomous endpoint security platform is securing every laptop and making their job of staying in compliance to security protocols easy.” Eric continued saying that, “having an undeletable digital tether gives my staff, senior educators and me peace of mind, especially with summer here and the need to keep track of the Chromebooks out with students and families.”
The more resilient the autonomous endpoint security on the laptop, the easier it is to secure, upgrade and locate each of them if they’re lost or stolen. Duarte Unified School District provides Chromebooks to students for use all year long, often also providing an Internet HotSpot as many students’ families don’t have Internet access. PA Cyber provides students a Dell laptop and an entire technology kit that includes printers and peripherals as well. Having an undeletable digital tether to every laptop makes it possible to keep every system up to date on security and system patches. Dean Phillips, Senior Technology Director at PA Cyber, says that it’s been very helpful to know each laptop has active autonomous endpoint security running at all times. Dean says that endpoint management is a must-have for PA Cyber “We’re using Absolute’s Persistence to ensure an always-on, two-way connection with our IT management solution, Kaseya®, which we use to remotely push out security patches, new applications and scripts. That’s been great for students’ laptops as we can keep updates current and know where the system is. Without an endpoint management solution on student laptops, it is very difficult to manage endpoints without that agent. So Absolute absolutely helps us with that as well. That’s been a big plus.” Eric Ramos, CTO, says that “Absolute has been great, especially when student calls in and says they can’t find their laptop. I don’t know where it is. It’s lost or maybe stolen. We’re able to pull that up, figure out the last time it got pinged and we can locate that usually. Nine times out of 10, the student finds it by next day by just having that information. So that’s been crucial. It’s always been something we love having.”
Standardize on a secure cloud platform that is flexible enough to support scaffolding or individualized learning yet hardened enough to protect every laptop connected to it via an undeletable digital tether. A major challenge both online schools face is keeping their cloud platforms adaptive enough to support students’ varying skills yet also secure enough to protect every student online. Dean Phillips, Senior Technology Director at PA Cyber, says that it’s best to “keep technology as simple as possible for the students and families. Standardization is key, I think, with everything you do from a technology standpoint. Making sure that you build from the inside out from the core. Your applications and networks and making sure that that’s consistent all the way to the endpoint, I think that’s extremely important.” PA Cyber’s lessons learned creating a secure and adaptive e-learning platform makes the goal of providing personalized instruction for every student achievable at scale. Jennifer Shoaf, Deputy Chief Academic Officer at PA Cyber, explains how the school personalizes online instruction for every student. “It all starts when the student first comes to PA Cyber and we try to get an understanding of where they are and where they should be and where they want to see themselves, whether it’s in a month or in a couple years, or when they graduate from our school. So one of the things that we pride ourselves on here at this school is allowing for multiple modes of instruction for our students,” Jennifer said.
Capitalizing on the excellent asset management reporting autonomous endpoint security solutions have, CTOs and senior IT directors are gaining new insights into how to improve learning effectiveness. Having resilient, persistent connections to every endpoint with an undeletable digital tether also provides invaluable asset management data. Eric Ramos of Duarte USD and Dean Phillips of PA Cyber are leaders in this area of e-learning today. Eric Ramos says that asset management and activity reports made possible by the autonomous endpoint platform he is using from Absolute makes getting prepared for senior management meetings easy. “During principal meetings, I’m able to pull up these reports and say, look, these were the goals at the beginning of the year to use these four products at this amount of time. And here’s where you’re at on a small window. Or you can look at it over time and saying, this has been an increase here, this is a decrease here, these sites are doing really well with it, these sites may be not. But let’s now talk about what’s working for you. What are your teachers liking about the particular program? Or, program aside, how are your results coming about?” Eric Ramos, CTO said.
Delivering an excellent online learning experience needs to start with a cybersecurity strategy that includes autonomous endpoint security. Duarte USD and PA Cyber are leaders in this field, being among the first to see how combining core technologies while having an undeletable digital tether to every laptop is a must-have. Earning and growing the trust of parents, students, teachers and school administrators start with an endpoint security strategy that can adapt and grow as an e-learning program does.
Bottom Line: Absolute’s 2020 Endpoint Resilience Report illustrates why the purpose of any cybersecurity program needs to be attaining a balance between protecting an organization and the need to keep the business running, starting with secured endpoints.
Enterprises who’ve taken a blank-check approach in the past to spending on cybersecurity are facing the stark reality that all that spending may have made them more vulnerable to attacks. While cybersecurity spending grew at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 12% in 2018, Gartner’s latest projections are predicting a decline to only 7% CAGR through 2023. Nearly every CISO I’ve spoken with in the last three months say prioritizing cybersecurity programs by their ROI and contribution to the business is how funding gets done today.
Cybersecurity Has Always Been A Business Decision
Overcoming the paradox of keeping a business secure while fueling its growth is the essence of why cybersecurity is a business decision. Securing an entire enterprise is an unrealistic goal; balancing security and ongoing operations is. CISOs speak of this paradox often and the need to better measure the effectiveness of their decisions.
This is why the findings from Absolute’s 2020 State of Endpoint Resilience Report are so timely given the shift to more spending accountability on cybersecurity programs. The report’s methodology is based on anonymized data from enterprise-specific subsets of nearly 8.5 million Absolute-enabled devices active across 12,000+ customer organizations in North America and Europe. Please see the last page of the study for additional details regarding the methodology.
Key insights from the study include the following:
More than one of every three enterprise devices had an Endpoint Protection (EP), client management or VPN application out of compliance, further exposing entire organizations to potential threats. More than 5% of enterprise devices were missing one or more of these critical controls altogether. Endpoints, encryption, VPN and Client Management are more, not less fragile, despite millions of dollars being spent to protect them before the downturn. The following graphic illustrates how fragile endpoints are by noting average compliances rate alongside installation rates:
When cybersecurity spending isn’t being driven by a business case, endpoints become more complex, chaotic and nearly impossible to protect. Absolute’s survey reflects what happens when cybersecurity spending isn’t based on a solid business decision, often leading to multiple endpoint security agents. The survey found the typical organization has 10.2 endpoint agents on average, up from 9.8 last year. One of the most insightful series of findings in the study and well worth a read is the section on measuring Application Resilience. The study found that the resiliency of an application varies significantly based on what else it is paired with. It’s interesting to see that same-vendor pairings don’t necessarily do better or show higher average compliance rates than pairings from different vendors. The bottom line is that there’s no guarantee that any agent, whether sourced from a single vendor or even the most innovative vendors, will work seamlessly together and make an organization more secure. The following graphic explains this point:
60% of breaches can be linked to a vulnerability where a patch was available, but not applied. When there’s a compelling business case to keep all machines current, patches get distributed and installed. When there isn’t, operating system patches are, on average, 95 days late. Counting up the total number of vulnerabilities addressed on Patch Tuesday in February through May 2020 alone, it shows that the average Windows 10 enterprise device has hundreds of potential vulnerabilities without a fix applied – including four zero-day vulnerabilities. Absolute’s data shows that Post-Covid-19, the average patch age has gone down slightly, driven by the business case of supporting an entirely remote workforce.
Organizations that had defined business cases for their cybersecurity programs are able to adapt better and secure vulnerable endpoint devices, along with the sensitive data piling up on those devices, being used at home by employees. Absolute’s study showed that the amount of sensitive data – like Personal Identifiable Information (PII), Protected Health Information (PHI) and Personal Financial Information (PFI) data – identified on endpoints soared as the Covid-19 outbreak spread and devices went home to work remotely. Without autonomous endpoints that have an unbreakable digital tether to ensure the health and security of the device, the greater the chance of this kind of data being exposed, the greater the potential for damages, compliance violations and more.
Absolute’s latest study on the state of endpoints amplifies what many CISOs and their teams are doing today. They’re prioritizing cybersecurity endpoint projects on ROI, looking to quantify agent effectiveness and moving beyond the myth that greater compliance is going to get them better security. The bottom line is that increasing cybersecurity spending is not going to make any business more secure, knowing the effectiveness of cybersecurity spending will, however. Being able to capable of tracking how resilient and persistent every autonomous endpoint is in an organization makes defining the ROI of endpoint investments possible, which is what every CISO I’ve spoken with is focusing on this year.
86% of all breaches are financially motivated, where threat actors are after company financial data, intellectual property, health records, and customer identities that can be sold fast on the Dark Web.
70% of breaches are perpetrated by external actors, making endpoint security a high priority in any cybersecurity strategy.
55% of breaches originate from organized crime groups.
Attacks on Web apps accessed from endpoints were part of 43% of breaches, more than double the results from last year.
These and many other insights are from Verizon’s 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), downloadable here (PDF, 119 pp. free, opt-in). One of the most-read and referenced data breach reports in cybersecurity, Verizon’s DBIR, is considered the definitive source of annual cybercrime statistics. Verizon expanded the scope of the report to include 16 industries this year, also providing break-outs for Asia-Pacific (APAC); Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA); Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC); and North America, Canada, and Bermuda, which Verizon says is experiencing more breaches (NA).
The study’s methodology is based on an analysis of a record total of 157,525 incidents. Of those, 32,002 met Verizon’s quality standards, and 3,950 were confirmed data breaches. The report is based on an analysis of those findings. Please see Appendix A for the methodology.
Key insights include the following:
Verizon’s DBIR reflects the stark reality that organized crime-funded cybercriminals are relentless in searching out unprotected endpoints and exploiting them for financial gain, which is why autonomous endpoints are a must-have today. After reading the 2020 Verizon DBIR, it’s clear that if organizations had more autonomous endpoints, many of the most costly breaches could be averted. Autonomous endpoints that can enforce compliance, control, automatically regenerating, and patching cybersecurity software while providing control and visibility is the cornerstone of cybersecurity’s future. For endpoint security to scale across every threat surface, the new hybrid remote workplace is creating an undeletable tether to every device as a must-have for achieving enterprise scale.
The lack of diligence around Asset Management is creating new threat surfaces as organizations often don’t know the current health, configurations, or locations of their systems and devices. Asset Management is a black hole in many organizations leading to partial at best efforts to protect every threat surface they have. What’s needed is more insightful data on the health of every device. There are several dashboards available, and one of the most insightful is from Absolute, called the Remote Work and Distance Learning Insights Center. An example of the dashboard shown below:
85% of victims and subjects were in the same country, 56% were in the same state, and 35% were even in the same city based on FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) data. Cybercriminals are very opportunistic when it comes to attacking high-profile targets in their regions of the world. Concerted efforts of cybercriminals funded by organized crime look for the weakest threat surfaces to launch an attack on, and unprotected endpoints are their favorite target. What’s needed is more of a true endpoint resilience approach that is based on a real-time, unbreakable digital tether that ensures the security of every device and the apps and data it contains.
Cloud assets were involved in about 24% of breaches this year, while on-premises assets are still 70%. Ask any CISO what the most valuable lesson they learned from the pandemic has been so far, and chances are they’ll say they didn’t move to the cloud quickly enough. Cloud platforms enable CIOs and CISOs to provide a greater scale of applications for their workforces who are entirely remote and a higher security level. Digging deeper into this, cloud-based Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) provides invaluable real-time analysis, alerts, and deterrence of potential breaches. Today it’s the exceptional rather than the rule that CISOs prefer on-premise over cloud-based SIEM and endpoint security applications. Cloud-based endpoint platforms and the apps they support are the future of cybersecurity as all organizations now are either considering or adopting cloud-based cybersecurity strategies.
Over 80% of breaches within hacking involve brute force or the use of lost or stolen credentials. One of the most valuable insights from the Verizon DBIR is how high of a priority cybercriminals are placing on stealing personal and privileged access credentials. Shutting down potential breach attempts from stolen passwords involves keeping every endpoint completely up to date on software updates, monitoring aberrant activity, and knowing if anyone is attempting to change the configuration of a system as an administrator. By having an unbreakable digital tether to every device, greater control and real-time response to breach attempts are possible.
Autonomous endpoints that can self-heal and regenerate operating systems and configurations are the future of cybersecurity, a point that can be inferred from Verizon’s DBIR this year. While CIOs are more budget-focused than ever, CISOs are focused on how to anticipate and protect their enterprises from new, emerging threats. Closing the asset management gaps while securing every endpoint is a must-have to secure any business today. There are several cybersecurity companies offering endpoint security today. Based on customer interviews I’ve done, one of the clear leaders in endpoint resilience is Absolute Software, whose persistent-firmware technology allows them to self-heal their own agent, as well as any endpoint security control and productivity tool on any protected device such as their Resilience suite of applications.
Bottom Line: Endpoint security business cases do much more than just quantify costs and benefits; they uncover gaps in endpoint and cyber protection that need urgent attention to avert a breach.
Bad actors and hackers prefer to attack threat surfaces that are isolated, vulnerable with out-of-date security patches, yet integrated into a corporate network to provide access. For these reasons and more, endpoints are now the popular choice for hacking attempts. Ponemon Institute’s Third Annual Study on the State of Endpoint Security Risk published in January of this year found that 68% of organizations were victims of successful endpoint attacks in 2019 that compromised data assets and IT infrastructure. Since 2017, successful endpoint attacks have spiked by 26 percent. The Ponemon study also found that it takes the typical organization 97 days to test and deploy patches to each endpoint. When the average endpoint is three months behind on updates, it’s understandable why breaches are increasing. In 2019 the average endpoint breach inflicted $8.94M in losses. The following graphic compares the escalating number of breaches and economic losses for the last three years:
Exploring Endpoint Security’s Many Benefits
Think of building a business case for endpoint security as the checkup every company needs to examine and identify and every threat surface that can be improved. Just as all efforts to preserve every person’s health is priceless today, organizations can’t let their guard down when it comes to keeping endpoint security strong.
The economic fallout of COVID-19 is hitting IT budgets hard. That’s why now is the time to build a business case for endpoint security. CIOs and CISOs have to make budget cuts due to revenue shortfalls. One area no one wants to compromise on, however, is allowing endpoint agents to degrade over time. Absolute Software’s Endpoint Security Trends Report found that the more complex and layered the endpoint protection, the greater the risk of a breach. Overloading every endpoint with multiple agents is counterproductive and leaves endpoints less secure than if fewer agents were installed. Additionally, Absolute just launched a Remote Work and Distance Learning Insights Center, providing insights into the impact of COVID-19 on IT and security controls. An example of the dashboard shown below:
Business Case Benefits Need To Apply To IT and Operations
Absolute and Ponemon’s studies suggest that autonomous endpoints are the future of endpoint security. Activating security at the endpoint and having an undeletable tether to every device solves many of the challenges every business’s IT and Operations teams face. And with the urgency to make IT and Operations as virtual as possible with budgets impacted by COVID-19’s economic fallout, team leaders in each area are focusing on the following shared challenges. COVID-19’s quarantine requirements make hybrid workforces instantly appear and make the budgets needed to support them vanish at the same time. The following are the shared benefits for IT and Operations that need to anchor any endpoint security business case:
The most urgent need is for greater IT Help Desk efficiency. While this is primarily an IT metric, the lack of real-time availability of resources is slowing down remote Operations teams from getting their work done.
Both IT and Operations share asset utilization, loss reduction, and lifecycle optimization ownership in many organizations today. Having a persistent, undeletable tether to every device at the hardware level is proving to be an effective approach IT, and Operations teams are relying on to track and improve these metrics. The Absolute and Ponemon studies suggest that the more resilient the endpoint, the better the asset efficiency and lifecycle optimization. Autonomous endpoints can self-heal and regenerate themselves, further improving shared metric performance for IT and Operations.
The more autonomous endpoints an organization has, the quicker Operations and IT can work together to pivot into new business models that require virtual operations. Education, Healthcare, Financial Services, Government, and Professional Services are all moving to hybrid remote workplaces and virtual operations as fast as they can. Using the business case for endpoint security as a roadmap to see where threat surfaces need to be improved for new growth is key.
Endpoint Security Benefits
The following are the benefits that need to be included in creating a business case for endpoint security:
Reduce and eventually eliminate IT Help Desk backlogs by keeping endpoints up-to-date. Reducing the call volume on IT Help Desks can potentially save over $45K a year, assuming a typical call takes 10 minutes and the cumulative time savings in 1,260 hours saved by the IT help desk annually.
Reduce Security Operations staff interruptions and emergency security projects that require IT’s time to run analytics reports and analyses. Solving complex endpoint security problems burns thousands of dollars and hours over a year between Security, IT, and Operations. Having a persistent, unbreakable connection to every endpoint provides the device visibility teams need to troubleshoot problems. Assuming the 2,520 hours IT Security teams alone spend on emergency endpoint security problems could be reduced, organizations could save approximately $130K a year.
Autonomous endpoints with an undeletable tether improve compliance, control, and visibility and is a must-have in the new hybrid remote workplace. For endpoint security to scale across every threat surface, having an undeletable tether to every device is a must-have for scalable remote work and hybrid remote work programs in the enterprise. They also contribute to lowering compliance costs and improve every aspect of asset management from keeping applications current to ensuring autonomous endpoints can continue to self-heal.
Reducing IT asset loss, knowing asset utilization, and system-level software installed by every device can save a typical organization over $300K a year. Autonomous endpoints that can heal themselves and provide a constant hardware connection deliver the data in real-time to have accurate IT asset management and security data teams need to keep software configurations up to date. It’s invaluable for IT teams to have this level of data, as it averts having endpoint patches conflict with one another and leave an endpoint vulnerable to breach.
Accurate asset lifecycle planning based on solid data from every device becomes possible. Having autonomous endpoints based on a hardware connection delivers the data needed to increase the accuracy of asset life cycle planning and resource allocation, giving IT and Operations the visibility they need to the device level. IT and Operations teams look to see how they can extend the lifecycle of every device in the field. Cost savings vary by the number of devices in the field and their specific software configurations. The time savings alone is approximately $140K per year in a mid-size financial services firm.
The more autonomous and connected an endpoint is, the more automated audit and compliance reporting can become. A key part of staying in compliance is automating the audit process to save valuable time. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) all require ongoing audits. The time and cost savings of automating audits by organizations vary significantly. It’s a reasonable assumption to budget at least a $67K savings per year in audit preparation costs alone.
Evaluating Endpoint Security Costs
The following are the endpoint security costs that need to be included in the business case:
Annual, often multi-year endpoint security licensing costs. Endpoint security providers vary significantly in their pricing models, costs, and fees. Autonomous endpoint security platforms can range in licensing costs from $750K to over $1,2M, depending on the size of the organization and the number of devices.
Change management, implementation, and integration costs increase with the complexity of IT security, Operations, and IT Service Management (ITSM) integration. Expect to see an average price of between $40K to over $100K to integrate endpoint security platforms with existing ITSM and security information and event management (SIEM) systems.
Creating A Compelling Business Case For Endpoint Security
The best endpoint security business cases provide a 360-degree view of costs, benefits, and why taking action now is needed.
Knowing the initial software and services costs to acquire and integrate endpoint security across your organization, training and change management costs, and ongoing support costs are essential. Many include the following equation in their business cases to provide an ROI estimate. The Return on Investment (ROI) for endpoint security initiative is calculated as follows:
ROI on Endpoint Security (ES) = (ES Initiative Benefits – ES Initiative Costs)/ES Initiative Costs x 100.
A financial services company recently calculated their annual benefits of ES initiative will be $475,000, and the costs, $65,000, will yield a net return of $6.30 for every $1 invested.
Additional factors to keep in mind when building a business case for endpoint security:
The penalties for non-compliance to industry-specific laws can be quite steep, with repeated offenses leading to $1M or more in fines and long-term loss of customer trust and revenue. Building a business case for endpoint security needs to factor in the potential non-compliance fees, and penalties companies face for not having autonomous endpoint security. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and other laws require audit reporting based on accurate endpoint security data.
Endpoint Security ROI estimates fluctuate, and it’s best to get started with a pilot to capture live data with budgets available at the end of a quarter. Typically organizations will allocate the remaining amounts of IT security budgets at the end of a quarter to endpoint security initiatives.
Succinctly define the benefits and costs and gain C-level support to streamline the funding process. It’s often the CISOs who are the most driven to achieve greater endpoint security the quickest they can. Today with every business having their entire workforces virtual, there’s added urgency to get endpoint security accomplished.
Define and measure endpoint security initiatives’ progress using a digitally-enabled dashboard that can be shared across any device, anytime. Enabling everyone supporting and involved in endpoint security initiatives needs to know what success looks like. Having a digitally-enabled dashboard that clearly shows each goal or objective and the company’s progress toward them is critical to success.
The hard economic reset COVID-19 created has put many IT budgets into freefall at a time when CIOs and CISOs need more funding to protect proliferating hybrid remote workforces. Endpoint security business cases need to factor in how they can create an undeletable resilient defense for every device across their global fleets. And just as every nation on the planet isn’t letting its guard down against the COVID-19 virus, every IT and cybersecurity team can’t let theirs down either when it comes to protecting every endpoint.
Autonomous endpoints that can self-heal and regenerate operating systems and configurations are the future of endpoint security management. The race to be an entirely virtual enterprise is on, and the most autonomous endpoints can be, the more cost-effective and valuable they are. The best business cases bridge the gap between IT and Operations needs. CIOs need endpoint security solutions to be low-cost, low maintenance, reliable yet agile. Operations want an endpoint solution that has a low cost of support, minimal if any impact of IT Service Help Desks, and always-on monitoring. Building a business case for endpoint security gives IT and Operations the insights they need to protect the constantly changing parameters of their businesses.