Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) is the next big thing in IT management, and many organizations are adopting it as part of their smart, robust IT management strategies. In this article, we will demystify UEM, boil it down to the basics, and understand why it plays a crucial role in shaping an organization’s IT policies.
What Is UEM?
Before devices became small enough for us to carry around in our pockets, organizations primarily only had desktops to manage. Now, however, many organizations also use laptops, mobile phones, and tablets, and because these devices are used for business purposes, they often contain sensitive data. With the wave of mobile devices came the need to manage their applications and content.
As the average number of devices and the data existing on them increased, organizations needed to find a way to not only manage these devices but to secure them as well. Combining the concepts of endpoint security and mobile security to shield all devices from external attacks, the term UEM was born.
“It took one global pandemic to highlight the flaws of traditional device management and push organizations to embrace security measures against cybercriminals who were quick to take advantage of inexperienced end users new to remote work.”
Today, UEM includes managing and securing all laptops, desktops, mobile devices, IoT devices, wearables, and various point-of-sale devices from a single console across multiple platforms and locations.
UEM is the combination of both traditional and modern management and involves managing patches, automated tracking and auditing of hardware and software inventories, managing licenses, managing mobile devices, deploying OSs and software, troubleshooting for end-users via remote control, remediating threats, and automating day-to-day IT tasks.
Why UEM Is Essential and How Your Organization Can Benefit from It
In the absence of UEM, we usually rely on point products, i.e., individual software and apps, to get the job done—think multiple products with multiple licenses without any proper integration between them. After a certain point, things are bound to get messy, not to mention costly. It took one global pandemic to highlight the flaws of traditional device management and push organizations to embrace security measures against cybercriminals who were quick to take advantage of inexperienced end users new to remote work.
With an effective UEM strategy, you can:
- Manage a variety of devices: Manage a diverse array of IT endpoints including smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, smartwatches, smart TVs, and browsers across multiple OSs from a central console.
- Handle security breaches smartly: By protecting device data, automating patching, controlling your end-user apps, monitoring threats, and reducing the risk of corporate data leakage, your IT team will be more proactive in the event of a security breach or attack.
- Cut down costs: By using multiple management and security tools that can be bundled in a single license, not only is it easy on your pocket, but it also allows for a tighter integration between management and security.
- Keep your organization up and running 24/7: Productivity is the key to growing any business, and a UEM solution can help with that. Use automations so your IT team can spend less time on mundane tasks and more time boosting productivity.
How Remote Work Is Shaping Today's IT Security
For decades, organizations have been slowly embracing digital transformation, but in the wake of the pandemic, remote work and virtual collaboration were essentially adopted overnight in many organizations that had not even considered remote operations yet. However, after leaving the secure perimeter of the office, many began to feel the impact of no high-speed corporate internet and no security measures such as firewalls, antivirus solutions, and other measures that guarded employees from the barrage of threats.
“The massive surge in attacks on remote work environments forced many to sit up and take security seriously.”
With work from home gaining popularity, threat actors shifted their attention from fortified IT enterprises to personal devices and home networks, which are likely less secure.
Since the shift to remote work, supply chain attacks grew by 420%, and ransomware and phishing continue to remain primary risks in 2021, with recent research stating that by the end of 2021, ransomware is expected to attack a business every 11 seconds.
The massive surge in attacks on remote work environments forced many to sit up and take security seriously. But how do organizations offer effective security without compromising on productivity among end users? This is where Unified Endpoint Management and Security (UEMS) comes into play.
Does Your UEM Strategy Cover These Security Aspects?
Now that we have seen how crucial UEM is when it comes to navigating remote work environments, here is a list of 5 must-have security aspects for a comprehensive UEM strategy:
1. Secure End-User Browsers
One major aspect that cannot be overlooked while securing end-user devices is the management of browsers. Organizations monitor laptops, memory devices, and networks but often neglect internet browsers.
“A vulnerability management solution can help scan endpoints, assess their threat level, resolve security misconfigurations, and harden web servers from XSS, clickjacking, and brute-force attacks.”
The most common ways to thwart browser-based attacks in your organization are isolating browsers deployed by end-users, filtering URLs, clearing password data stored in browsers, restricting suspicious extensions and plug-ins, tracking browser add-ons, and enforcing security configurations to ensure compliance with both internal and external mandates.
2. Protect Endpoints Against Known and Unknown Vulnerabilities and Threats
Vulnerabilities come in two varieties—known and unknown. Known vulnerabilities are well-documented within the internet community and can be located, identified, and understood. Unknown vulnerabilities are harder to pinpoint and they show up as suspicious activities or abnormal traffic. Alerts for these vulnerabilities are generated by the Intrusion Detection and Prevention (IDP) system, or your firewall, or the IDP security event logs in your product environment.
While known vulnerabilities can be addressed by applying patches released by vendors, fixing unknown vulnerabilities is tricky.
Vulnerability management is an effective way to assess and remediate threats and unknown vulnerabilities. A vulnerability management solution can help scan endpoints, assess their threat level, resolve security misconfigurations, and harden web servers from XSS, clickjacking, and brute-force attacks.
Vulnerabilities that are identified publicly tend to be more actively exploited, so it is important to patch them with higher priority. In the case of zero-day vulnerabilities, alternate fixes may need to be implemented before patches are available.
3. Keep Tabs on End-User Devices
It is normal for organizations to discourage end-users from bringing their own memory devices, such as USB sticks, to their workplaces. However, in work-from-home environments, restricting the use of personal storage devices is much more difficult, and failing to do so could lead to compromised corporate information. The catch is, enforcing too many restrictions might end up limiting end-user productivity. With a UEM solution that offers device control policies, you can strike the perfect balance between device security and employee productivity.
“To safeguard your organization from the increasing threat of suspicious applications and malware, utilize an application control policy that lets you create lists of approved and denied apps and software that your end-users can or cannot install.”
Device control is crucial when you want to manage the connections of any external device, like a USB drive, connected to an end-user’s computer. Control and block USB and peripheral devices, limit data transfer rates, and set role-based access to files to prevent data leaks and theft. If you have to provide administrative access to users, grant temporary access to devices without compromising on security.
4. Filter Applications and Software on End-User Devices
In remote work environments, it is more difficult to exercise control over end-users. However, with a good UEM solution, you will be able to filter applications and software installed on your end-user devices.
To safeguard your organization from the increasing threat of suspicious applications and malware, utilize an application control policy that lets you create lists of approved and denied apps and software that your end-users can or cannot install. This acts as a filter to catch applications that your organization considers suspicious. With application control, you can restrict the installation of malicious applications, allow the installation of trusted applications, and manage greylisted applications effortlessly.
“Failing to encrypt your data and devices is like waiting for the inevitable threat of corporate data theft and leakage.”
To further fine-tune application management, you can create rule-based application lists that need to fulfill a set of criteria before your end users can install them on their devices. You can also provide application-specific privileged access with endpoint privilege management and block non-business applications and malicious executables.
5. Encrypting Your End-User Devices and Data
Failing to encrypt your data and devices is like waiting for the inevitable threat of corporate data theft and leakage. Sooner or later your organization will experience trouble unless you take proactive measures to avoid it.
You can secure your data on Windows systems by encrypting it with BitLocker. Certain UEM tools have BitLocker enabled within their dashboards, negating the need for another third-party tool. This lets you go the extra mile and ensure data transfers are completed only on BitLocker-encrypted devices. You can also monitor the encryption status of endpoints and choose whether to use Trusted Platform Module protection for those endpoints or not.