Why Endpoint Security on Macs used at work goes beyond traditional Antivirus

SubhamSeptember 29, 2022
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Macs are on pace to become the top endpoint in the enterprise in the coming years. If you entered the workforce in the last 5-6 years, there’s a good chance you were given a Mac on your first day and you likely don’t remember a world where the only Macs that an organization generally had was in the graphic design department. 

These users were on an island by themselves – often having to become their own IT department to troubleshoot issues. The IT department didn’t manage software updates or system settings. They’d buy the Mac, give it to the employee and probably would never see the device again. 

The world has changed, and not just because Macs have become more common in the enterprise (which they have), but cybersecurity is now front and center. Security is no longer a technical problem. It’s now a board-level problem, and that’s led every endpoint to a situation where IT teams no longer can rely on trust to make sure their devices are secure – they must verify. 

The Mac’s built-in protection

The Mac has historically been the type of platform that didn’t get traditional anti-virus tools as Windows did. Apple has done an excellent job of hardening the core of macOS while also putting in place tools to deal with threats when they occur. 

Through tools like the App Store, Notarization and Gatekeeper, Apple makes it harder for malicious agents to create and distribute Mac malware without the Mac user being clearly informed of the risks associated with installing applications that would bypass those protections.

The next layer of defense is to help ensure that if a known malware can find its way through the first prevention layer, it will be identified and blocked, stopping the spread before further damage can occur. This includes both XProtect and MRT. 

These protections can offer a good level of security for the traditional consumer user. But what about for business?

Macs used at work normally have access to very critical and sensitive information, from large volumes of personal identifiable information of customers, to confidential business data, and even source code of hundreds of thousands of applications that will be installed in millions of devices around the world. 

For these reasons, the security for Macs used at work needs reach a new level of defense. 

Companies don’t only need stronger and more specialized security tools, but also to be able to remotely validate, in real time, that all devices are protected with a centralized solution that would make this information readily available internally for internal reviews, security certifications and external audits.

How can enterprise IT managers and CISOs secure their Macs?

Building upon the secure foundation that Apple has built, there are a handful of additional technologies that can – and should – be deployed to add achieve the appropriate level of security expected from companies while ensuring compliance (with reporting). The first is a next-generation antivirus.

Apple-specific Next-Generation Antivirus

Plain and simple: All Macs used for business purposes should be running a next-generation antivirus software

While the built-in tools such XProtect will offer protection against some well-known malware, the majority of attacks targeting companies today leverage new or updated malware. With a good portion of them being totally unknown before identified as part of a security incident.

Next-generation antivirus solutions go beyond known file-based malware signatures, and are prepared to efficiently identify unknown malware and threats by leveraging sophisticated engines based on artificial intelligence and machine learning to execute predictive analysis. 

But not just any next-generation antivirus will be effective on Macs. macOS is materially different than Windows and so are the threats and methods used by malicious agents. Solutions that “also work on Macs” are normally adapting their original Windows solution to Macs by looking for common elements between both. This allows providers to also generate some extra revenue from Macs by exploring their market recognition as efficient in protecting Windows.

However, in several cases, these solutions do not add much on top of what macOS is already doing around malware prevention. 

So, when selecting a next-generation antivirus solution for Macs, the IT or security teams should ask one simple question: is that provider specialized on Macs and is the solution provided specially crafted to protect Macs? If the answer is no, they should look for another solution provided by an Apple-specific security provider.

macOS Hardening and Compliance

A macOS Hardening & Compliance solution can provide a complete repository of security controls to help you better protect your macOS fleet, including remote and hybrid work environments where there is no corporate firewall at the incoming network connection. 

A macOS hardening & compliance solution allows you to integrate your existing security controls into the deployment process, so that you can deploy a secure and compliant macOS environment in minutes—and then easily repeat it across your entire fleet as new machines are introduced.

Hardening should be accompanied by means to report and maintain compliance with regulations. When considering the tools your business will use, look for these features:

  • Preconfigured security configurations library
  • 24/7 monitoring
  • Mapping for CIS, NIST, SOC2, and PCI
  • Specialized options for each supported macOS version
  • Compliance status reporting
  • Automatic remediation for devices out of compliance
  • Easy to create any custom compliance rules

Privilege management

In today’s complex IT environment, companies must take a new approach to their macOS privileged access management. Attackers look for ways to spread malware after exploiting a vulnerability and persistence is one of the first things they try. 

So it’s important that your company has measures in place for disabling the option for all users to run as an admin 24/7. 

There needs to be a solution that only gives admin-level privileges when needed. An admin on-demand tool is an automated solution that eliminates the time-consuming process of managing and securing privileged accounts. 

Employees can be given administrator privileges for a particular task and period of time. Once the employee completes the task and no longer needs privileged access, they are immediately removed from admin level permissions, and a detailed log is generated for IT to use in analysis. 

Taking this approach allows IT teams to focus on what really matters, saving money and strengthening the business’s security profile.

Online Security

Online protection in a remote environment can be challenging.

While the number of malware distribution websites, phishing attacks, spam and user online tracking grows exponentially, the new hybrid work environment has eliminated the traditional corporate network layer used in the past to create some protection against these threats.

For this reason, a Mac-specialized solution for online security and privacy has become a must have for all companies using Macs at work. A Mac-specialized solution for online security and privacy will enforce controls and protection against online threats directly on each Mac.

Because of this, employees will be protected wherever they work, whether it be from home, in airports, hotels and coffee shops. 

Finally, methods to ensure privacy should be another requirement for advanced online security, because no company wants to give hotels, coffee shops of even Internet Service Providers access to all the online activity of their employees. Methods like encrypted DNS offer strong protection and are readily available through the top Mac-specialized solutions for online security and privacy.

One solution to solve all your macOS security needs

Based on the different solutions described above, companies might expect needing several different vendors to achieve the desired level of security for their Macs. While this may seem like a viable option, in reality it is not ideal.

The good news is that there are better options for protecting Macs used at work.

Software providers that focus on solutions for managing and protecting Apple devices used at work can use their deep knowledge of Apple’s operating systems and specialization to integrate all the features needed to manage and protect Apple devices used at work via a single Apple platform.

This approach is known as Apple Unified Platform.

Mosyle, a leader on modern Apple endpoint solutions is the reference on Apple Unified Platform through its product called Mosyle Fuse.

Mosyle Fuse integrates a complete and automated apple device management, a Mac-specific next-generation antivirus, Mac-specific hardening and compliance, Mac-specific privilege management, Mac identity management, Apple-specific application and patch management with a complete library of fully automated apps not available on the App Store, and an encrypted online privacy & security solution.

By unifying all solutions on a single platform Mosyle not only simplifies the management and protection of Apple devices used at work, but Mosyle Fuse also reaches a level of efficiency and integration that is impossible to be achieved by independent solutions.

Finally, the cost benefits of an Apple Unified Platform such as Mosyle Fuse is also material. Considering the average cost of each individual solution that should be part of the IT software stack for Macs, we estimate that by adopting an Apple Unified Platform enterprises can generate savings of more than 70%. Even for small fleets, it’s a relevant amount.

So, if you have Macs used by employees at work you should try a unified Apple solution, such as Mosyle Fuse, since they can bring amazing benefits for you and your company.

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