Antivirus vs. EPP vs. EDR: How to Secure Your Endpoints

eSecurity Planet content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

Terms like antivirus, EDR, and EPP might seem like ones you would hear in a hospital emergency room, but there’s no mistaking the significance these tools have for endpoint security.

On one end, antivirus software is suitable if you have a limited number of devices that need protection and a small budget to protect them. On the other end, endpoint detection and response (EDR) may be your best option for securing numerous devices with a larger budget. EDR is also preferable if you need to monitor your endpoint security from a higher vantage point. Endpoint protection platforms (EPPs) are somewhat in the middle in terms of capabilities and scale and are often combined with EDR to create the perfect endpoint security cocktail.

So what approach should you take when securing your organization’s endpoints? Let’s break down each strategy to get a better sense of which one is most appropriate for you.

Jump to:

What is antivirus?

Antivirus protection is the most common type of endpoint security, especially among consumer electronics. Some devices come with antivirus software pre-installed, but there are vendors that offer premium solutions for more advanced protection. Typical antivirus software scans a user’s computer for malware such as worms, trojans, adware, ransomware, and others. It accomplishes this by using three types of detection:

  • Signature comparison, which monitors a device for evidence of known threats and blocks them from taking further action
  • Heuristic analysis, which examines new programs for suspicious source code or behavior by comparing it to viruses that are already known from a heuristic database
  • Integrity checking, which inspects system files for evidence of corruption

Some antivirus vendors support artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, but many do not. These advanced features are essential for protecting endpoints from the kinds of sophisticated threats that frequently attempt to compromise business data.

Recommended: Best Antivirus Software for 2021

What is an endpoint protection platform (EPP)?

An endpoint protection platform (EPP) often includes antivirus tools while also offering a few additional key features. First, it adds machine learning to support behavioral analysis, which extends traditional threat monitoring beyond known threats. This capability allows an EPP to prevent unknown attacks in addition to the ones that are more common. An EPP also verifies indicators of compromise (IoC) and monitors a device’s memory to identify irregular patterns in memory consumption.

An EPP is better than basic antivirus protection for widespread endpoint management and threat prevention in large companies, but some sophisticated attacks are still able to evade detection. It’s also worth noting that while EPP is useful for identifying vulnerabilities and preventing attacks, it stops short of taking action to remove active threats that advance past your endpoints. That’s why it’s often combined with EDR solutions to create a multi-layered security system.

What is endpoint detection and response (EDR)?

Endpoint detection and response (EDR) represents the newest and most advanced layer of endpoint protection. It expands typical EPP support for AI, machine learning, threat intelligence, and behavioral analysis to create a solution that actively neutralizes attacks. If an EPP is a shield, EDR is a sword. To this effect, an EDR system collects and analyzes data from endpoints across a network so it can stop an attack in its tracks. Once the threat has been removed, EDR can then be used to trace the exact source of the attack so similar events can be prevented in the future.

EDR functions as a centralized management hub for an organization’s endpoints network-wide. It acts to stop an attack at the earliest signs of detection, even before a human administrator learns that a threat exists. Whereas EPP is a first line of defense that provides passive threat prevention, EDR actively works to mitigate network attacks before they can cause significant damage.

Recommended: Top Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) Solutions

How to choose the right endpoint security strategy

There’s no question that failing to implement some kind of endpoint security can have disastrous consequences. You need something to protect your organization, but what that looks like in practice depends on the size of your company, industry and your need for high security and protection for data privacy laws.

EDR—or at the very least, EPP—is ideal for larger companies, but the best strategy involves a combination of both. Indeed, most enterprise-grade endpoint security vendors offer a blended EDR/EPP solution. This ensures a company’s endpoints are protected from all angles. Antivirus software is a suitable bare-minimum option for small businesses, but those that work with very sensitive data should consider investing in a stronger EDR and/or EPP framework. It’s always more cost-effective to prevent an attack than it is to clean up after one, so make sure the endpoint security you choose is appropriate for your organization’s needs.

Get the Free Cybersecurity Newsletter

Strengthen your organization’s IT security defenses by keeping up to date on the latest cybersecurity news, solutions, and best practices. Delivered every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday

Kaiti Norton Avatar

Subscribe to Cybersecurity Insider

Strengthen your organization’s IT security defenses by keeping abreast of the latest cybersecurity news, solutions, and best practices.

Top Cybersecurity Companies

Top 10 Cybersecurity Companies

See full list

Get the Free Newsletter!

Subscribe to Cybersecurity Insider for top news, trends & analysis