Absolute, a security firm based in Vancouver, Canada, has issued a disturbing 2019 Endpoint Security Trends Report that finds "much of endpoint security spend is voided because tools and agents fail, reliably and predictably."
The report resulted from a one-year study that was conducted by Absolute's security research team. Data was gathered from over 1 billion change events on over 6 million devices.
The devices represent data from 12,000 anonymized organizations across North America and Europe. Each device had Absolute's endpoint visibility and control platform (the product that they sell) activated.
Researchers applied an Endpoint Resiliency Index to the sample to establish a baseline and monitored the results over a 12-month period. The Endpoint Resiliency Index applies the method used by the World Economic Forum's Environmental Performance Index to track the overall direction of key variables of quality.
The research found that devices can have ten or more endpoint security agents installed -- including encryption, AV/AM and client/patch management options. Since IDC has said that 70% of breaches will originate on the endpoint, and 35% of all breaches are caused by existing vulnerabilities.
Yet the report found that at any given point 28% of endpoints are unprotected, 21% had outdated AV/AM and 7% were missing altogether.
Of those covered, more than one agent designed to perform the same service were present on the majority of devices (1.2 AV/AM agents per endpoint). This can mean collision and decay of the services they are designed to provide.
The report also found that 42% of endpoints experienced encryption failures. Indeed, the report says that encryption failures will occur reliably and predictably -- 2% of encryption agents failed every week. While half of all encryption failures occurred within two weeks, the rate of decay found by Absolute is constant: 8% failure per 30 days. Regardless of industry, 100% of devices experienced encryption failures within one year.
Client management and patching tools were found by the report to break reliably and predictably. Nineteen percent of endpoints were said by the report to require at least one client/patch management repair every month. Of those patching agents requiring repair, 75% reported at least two repair events and 50% reported three or more repair events.
Client patch management agents failed at double the rate of encryption agents. However, once failed, an encryption agent then reported seven times more repair events than client management agents.
The report summarizes is thrust as, "The data has shown how well-functioning controls fail. These failures occur without anyone -- threat actors, negligent users, and bots -- intending for failure to happen. Additionally, it shows how endpoint complexity amplifies this natural propensity for device security to degrade over time."
— Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek.