Security Focus Shifting From Network To Endpoint

Mobility, cloud computing and an increasing mobile device threat landscape are creating a significant need for endpoint security that is tight and right.

And as more devices move outside of the enterprise walls, endpoint security is poised to eclipse network security as a sales driver for solution providers, creating new opportunities in locking down the endpoint device, according to some industry executives.

"The value in security is all shifting to the endpoint," said James Lyne, Sophos chief technologist, later adding, "I absolutely see the death bell being rung (for network security) … and that's a real opportunity for the channel."

Dave Asprey, vice president of cloud security for Trend Micro, said the network has become unpredictable and trying to protect an enterprise using network-based security has become an uphill battle. With encryption, authentication, anti-malware and a host of other security options moving to the endpoint, it's creating an era where network security becomes second to endpoint security.

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"We're feeling really good about endpoint," said Asprey. "The network security market has traditionally been bigger than the endpoint security market. We're predicting these are going to flip."

And while many VARs stop short of saying network security is gasping its last breath, some say that market flip is creating more opportunities around endpoint security and fewer around traditional network security solutions like firewalls, gateways and other boxes.

"The focus is going away from the network perimeter and to the endpoint because it has to," said Shane Vinup, president and CEO of Maple Grove, Minn.-based solution provider Cyber Advisors, adding that laptops, smartphones and a host of other devices are being used outside the enterprise walls and off network, where they can't be protected by traditional firewalls and other networks security solutions. "There's a lot of data and a lot of sensitive data in the wild outside of the firewall. The focus now really is: How do I protect that data? The focus for a security professional has shifted from the perimeter."

Greg Abrams, vice president and CTO of PC-PLUS Technologies, an Auburn, Mass.-based solution provider, said that enterprises still have a relatively strong grip on network security solutions, while SMBs are moving more security, like Web security, malware protection and other security services, to the endpoint, whether that is a smartphone, tablet, laptop or other device.

Abrams said requests and sales in medium-sized businesses for network security solutions like intrusion prevention systems (IPS), intrusion detection systems (IDS) and have declined recently as clients focus more heavily on "protecting stuff when it gets off of the network."

"Devices are out there all over the place and they are endpoints that aren't secured properly," Abrams said. "Everything's mobile. People are going everywhere with their devices and they have to be secure. There's got to be a focus on endpoint security and off of network security.

Next: Is It Time To Rip Out The Firewall?

Vinup, too, said he's seeing more clients looking to bolster their endpoint security protection than at the network layer, though that doesn't necessarily mean network security is on its way out. He said locking down client devices is creating new opportunities.

"I don't see a lack of customers not wanting to focus on their firewall and gateway devices," he said.

But Abrams said network security isn't exactly dead. Instead, it's forcing solution providers to take a more end-to-end look at security with a heavier focus on the endpoint than in the past.

"It's making us focus more on security from a holistic standpoint," he said, adding that off network policy management has become important.

"It's certainly not time to rip out the firewall," said Spencer Ferguson, president and founder of Wasatch Software, a Salt Lake City-based solution provider. "Network security isn't dead yet. It's changing."

Like Ferguson, Sophos' Lyne cautioned that he's not advocating ripping out firewalls today, but said endpoint-based security presents a more affordable security option at a time when most business is conducted via endpoints like smartphones, notebooks and tablets and more business is happening in the cloud.

For solution providers, that opens the door to add more value in helping customers build out policies and in delivering services.

"Partners get much stronger engagements in adding value continually," Lyne said. "It changes the way they deliver protection."

Ferguson said a lot of network security tasks are being moved into the cloud, creating a limitless network perimeter and creating the need to "build a wall around each endpoint." Ferguson said the change is slow, but it is altering the course of security.

"It used to be just build a wall around the network and make sure that everything coming in is ok," he said. "But mobile users need just as much protection as the corporate network."

Andy Leung, vice president at ES Williams, a Calgary-based solution provider, agreed that security is not a one or the other play, but instead should take components from both the endpoint and the network side.

"Our customers are telling us they really value the full solution," Leung said. "You can't just focus on the endpoint. You have to look at the whole system."

The need for a full system security set was echoed by Alex Thurber, senior vice president of worldwide channels, commercial and SMB for McAfee. Thurber said that along with growing interest in its endpoint security play and McAfee's latest foray into securing embedded devices, McAfee's networks security business is still brisk.

"Endpoints have to be locked down, but we continue to see a lot of interest in e-mail and Web security at the gateway...I think there continues to be a role for multi-layer defense."

Next: The Death Of Network Security Is A 'Fallacy'

Kaspersky Labs Vice President of Business Marketing Gary Mullen said this company has been stumping for layered security since day one. While endpoint security is increasing in importance, the right policies, processes and tools are required at every level.

"One of the reasons the endpoint has become of significant importance is the porous nature of the perimeter," Mullen said. "The endpoint is the primary line of defense now. But to say 'I don't need network protection; I'll do it at the endpoint,' is an absolute fallacy."

Mullen said taking focus off of network security and targeting the endpoint opens a significant security hole that will be exploited.

"The cybercriminal is going to adjust to any hole you leave open," he said. "We have to be more vigilant at every layer we're protecting against."

Susan Don, director of security business development for worldwide channels at Cisco Systems said the rise of mobile and cloud computing are exactly the reasons why network security remains essential.

"The consumerization of end points means that it's impossible to control the security on those endpoints," said Susan Don, Cisco. As more and more applications move to the cloud, the amount of sensitive data that's accessible to end users on their mobile devices is also increasing.

"What's in the middle that you can control? The pipe," Don said.

As ES Williams continues to secure on all fronts, Leung said the company notices that endpoint security is creating new opportunities, especially in education, where solution providers can help customers plot an endpoint security game plan. Leung said there is a large opportunity emerging around bringing clients up to speed on endpoint security solutions.

Leung added that he has noticed a recent refocus on endpoint security. Part of that renewed focus is due to the changing threat landscape, which has increasingly targeted mobile devices through malware attacks, spam and other means, creating a need for tighter endpoint security solutions and policies.

"The threat landscape has changed a bit," he said. "There's a perception by many of our customers that the endpoint is a commodity. At the end of the day, they think that once they hit 'install' they're protected. There's a lot of ignorance about endpoint security and a false sense of security. Our biggest challenge is educating them that endpoint security is a priority. There's a carelessness in there that is a direct result of lack of education and lack of understanding of what's out there."

And after several years of complacency around endpoint security and what Leung called "sloppy endpoint solutions," protecting the endpoint has become a hot topic of discussion again and has created an increased interest.

"We're able to start leading with the story … you can't take your endpoint for granted anymore," he said.

Cyber Advisors' Vinup said that the next few years, with emerging threats targeting devices and more data traveling out of the ivory tower, the need for endpoint security will grow exponentially. For solution providers, that will be a big opportunity that they must attack.

"We're going to have to protect those [endpoints] with a lot more gusto over the next few years," Vinup said. "That's where the war is right now. In security, we have to go to war and the frontline is the endpoint."