Unified Endpoint Security: Short-Lived Hype or Long-Term Trend?

BrandPost By Tanium
Oct 19, 2020

The term "Unified Endpoint Security" is making headlines in the cybersecurity space. But what's the story behind it? And is UES just a hype or a sign of a bigger transformation?

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Credit: Tanium

“A time of extreme uncertainty.”

“A once-in-a-lifetime event.”

“The ‘new normal.’ ”

We’ve all heard these phrases relating to the global COVID-19 pandemic that hit the world without warning. But there’s another term that’s been making headlines in the cybersecurity space: “Unified Endpoint Security” or “UES.”

What’s the story behind Unified Endpoint Security? Why is UES in the spotlight right now? And is UES a temporary hype or a trend that’s here to stay beyond the pandemic? Let’s take a closer look:

The endpoint security space has seen two trends that have been around for years but that have been dramatically accelerated by the current pandemic:

The Irreversible Shift to a Distributed Workforce

Transitioning to a remote workforce was on the long-term horizon for many organizations as part of their digital transformation strategy but few, if any, were ready to make this transition overnight. When entire workforces around the world were forced to work from home without advance notice, overwhelmed IT teams scrambled to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape. Suddenly, BYOD and unsecured home networks were part of the IT reality, and identifying and tracking remote endpoints became the #1 concern for IT leaders.1 But how can you keep track of all those managed and unmanaged devices when the rules of engagement and the scope of your environment are changing by the minute?

Cyberattacks Are at an All-time High

Over the past decade, cybercrime has morphed into a $1.5 trillion industry of exploitations and for organizations, the question was no longer IF they get breached, but WHEN. The current pandemic has only exacerbated this trend, and with non-stop breaking news headlines of school districts, government agencies and businesses alike being under attack, the question has yet again evolved from WHEN to HOW SOON an organization will get breached.

Within the first two months of the pandemic alone, 98% of organizations reported an increase in security challenges yet 93% delayed or canceled security priorities to accommodate the transition to a distributed workforce.1 It’s a clear sign that the legacy approach to endpoint security is not capable of handling the demands of the COVID-19 reality.

So Why Unified Endpoint Security? And Why Now?

Gartner Analyst Rob Smith wrote, “similar to the convergence Gartner saw on endpoint management to a single unified endpoint management system, Gartner sees the evolution of endpoint security toward unified endpoint security.2” The pandemic has accelerated trends and caused countless other disruptions to the status quo – both temporary and permanent. These painful disruptions forced IT leaders to rethink their holistic approach to endpoint security to solve the challenges at hand.

Realization 1: Tool Sprawl Is Data Sprawl

Over the past decade, organizations were so focused on solving specific security priorities that, as the saying goes, they couldn’t see the forest for the trees. IT operations and security teams independently purchased best-of-breed solutions that helped solve their own problems without considering if that solution could help other teams solve their challenges as well.

The result? An unnecessarily complex IT environment with an average of 43 disparate tools that worked well enough until disruption hit.3 In times of crisis, IT needs to drive collaboration and shared data sets to ensure the business’s survival.

Realization 2: Collaboration and Alignment Is Key

The tool and data sprawl along with the ensuing chaos made organizations realize that collaboration and alignment between IT teams and their tools are quintessential to properly protect and secure endpoints in a distributed workforce. If teams and data aren’t aligned, processes and operations are disrupted, true visibility into the environment becomes unachievable, and time is wasted fighting over priorities. The consequences? Endpoints remain unprotected leaving the business exposed; doors are left wide open for adversaries to infiltrate the network; and adversaries are given extra time to retreat into the shadows and cause more harm.

In a presentation at the 2019 Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategy Conference, Gartner predicted that “by 2022, 30% of network operations and security operations teams will have aligned security and performance goals and incentives, up from 1% in 2019.4” That was before the pandemic hit and it’s obvious that today, organizations need to accelerate these efforts.

Realization 3: Unifying Teams Means Unifying Endpoint Security

Driving collaboration and alignment alone, however, will not solve the challenges of the ‘new normal.’ In a truly distributed workforce, devices are not coming back to the enterprise garage where regular maintenance and inspections can be administered. They operate exclusively in the wild where organizations need to constantly verify and secure data, applications and endpoints without the benefits of perimeter controls. With VPNs no longer feasible, IT leaders were quick to realize that higher levels of visibility, agility, speed and Zero Trust is the new way forward. That’s where Unified Endpoint Security comes in.

UES combines Zero-Trust authentication with the critical elements of endpoint security – asset discovery and inventory, data risk and privacy, EDR, EPP, and vulnerability and configuration management – in a single console for devices and users. It empowers IT to help detect previously undiscoverable threats through cross-data analysis, respond to and remediate those threats and unify teams around a single source of truth to achieve the common goal together: ensuring business continuity and resilience.

To us, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Endpoint Security 2020 predicts UES to mature to mainstream adoption within the next 2-5 years.2

Unified Endpoint Security: Short-Lived Hype or Long-Term Trend?

The COVID-19 pandemic may be a once-in-a-lifetime event, but as IT leaders around the world are reevaluating their modus operandi in the new normal, it is hard to imagine any of them drawing the conclusion that a plethora of point solutions and siloed teams are the future of their department.

Instead, UES will be the natural progression. Why? Because it offers better visibility into managed and unmanaged devices on the network; faster detection and response of previously unknown threats; improved risk posture; increased collaboration, productivity and efficiency between IT teams; and reduced cost of ownership with fewer tools to pay for and fewer resources needed to maintain those tools.

According to the Hype Cycle, “…25% of end-user organizations participating in a Gartner survey in early 2020 were found to be currently pursuing a vendor consolidation strategy.2” This survey was conducted in March and April, before COVID-19 changed the world forever.

Fast forward to today’s rapidly distributed workforces and spiking cyberattacks and it becomes clear that endpoint security will remain a top concern for IT leaders for the long run. The genie is out of the bottle that employees are productive at home and that office spaces may no longer be needed. In this ‘new business normal,’ Unified Endpoint Security will have to become the new normal for endpoint security.

To learn more about UES, read the latest Gartner Hype Cycle for Endpoint Security 2020.

1 Tanium (2020) When the World Stayed Home

2 Gartner (2020). Hype Cycle for Endpoint Security, 2020.

3 Tanium (2020) Visibility Gap Study.

4 Ganguli, S. (2019). Network Operations and Security Operations: Shared Use Cases With Common Tooling [PowerPoint Slides]. Retrieved from Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategy Conference.