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Device security is the defense of IT assets against harm and unauthorized use. Although the term “device security” is not as widely used as “cybersecurity,” it is a relevant concept that denotes the full range of practices for securing desktop PCs, laptops, smartphones, tablets, or Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
To reliably fend off modern security threats, a device security strategy must be multilayered, with multiple security solutions working in tandem with one another and oriented around a consistent set of processes. Moreover, both security personnel and end-users must be aligned on best practices such as keeping software up to date and using the right access points or gateways when accessing applications remotely.
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Device security has three fundamental components.
People: Security experts, whether in-house or at a cloud service provider, are the core of device security. They decide what tools and controls are implemented and monitor environments for anomalies and threats. Security leaders are also important in educating users about how to prevent sensitive data leakage and avoid risky behaviors, especially when working remotely.
Processes: Effective device security requires a systematic approach to dealing with each threat, with security policies and plans that follow best practices. For example, the National Institute of Standards and Technology offers a framework with a continuous cycle of Identify > Protect > Detect > Respond > Recover that can be followed when confronted with malware or ransomware.
Technologies: Many technical solutions are available for securing environments against threats. Web application firewalls (WAFs), analytics, bot identification and management platforms, antimalware programs, email security, and more are among the most commonly deployed for this purpose. The exact mix of tools changes over time. For instance, secure internet access may replace a traditional virtual private network (VPN).
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This is the protection of networks against the entry and spread of threats. In recent times, the secure access service edge (SASE) has emerged as an important model for network security, as it combines the features of a software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) with a variety of controls such as secure web gateways (SWGs) and cloud application security brokers.
Application security encompasses all of the measures for making applications themselves secure. Much of this work happens during development, through the inclusion of relevant security features. Subsequent updates to software are then critical to thwarting cyberattacks.
Cloud security includes both the mechanisms for protecting applications (e.g., encryption) and for securing access to them. Across remote work environments, mechanisms in the latter category may include firewalls, SWGs, malware defense, sandboxes, and more. Simultaneously, cloud service providers handle many app-specific security controls on their end.
In addition to encryption, data security includes tokenization, key management and other measures for protecting sensitive information and personal data. Access controls like multifactor authentication (MFA) and single sign-on, along with data loss prevention (DLP) solutions, are also relevant to this device security subcategory.
Endpoint security is used to protect end user devices and ensure they're safe to connect to corporate networks. This type of device security especially important at organizations with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) programs, where employees may access corporate resources from personal devices that lack IT controls and oversight.
Mobile device management refers to tools designed specifically to help IT implement mobile device security plans. This type of device security is especially important at organizations where data, files, and applications are accessed from personal devices.
Device security threats are numerous, but there are a few that deserve particular attention.
In remote work environments, all of these threats are more pressing, since IT does not have direct control over a defined network perimeter or user behaviors. WAFs, MFA, SD-WAN and zero-trust network access (ZTNA) have all become more important in this context.
Device security has become more complex as cloud applications and remote work setups have become more common. The shortage of cybersecurity personnel has also made it difficult for organizations to scale their defenses against sophisticated threats.