Cisco AMP for Endpoints Review

Gives great network visibility by showing how a file interacts with other systems, devices, and files


What is our primary use case?

AMP for Endpoints has Endpoint Connectors, which are agents on the endpoints, providing security against malware and intrusion detection. It also provides intrusion prevention. We install the Connector on all the endpoints before they're deployed and also on our virtual desktop images. They provide constant monitoring and alerting on any events or potential threats to let us know when there is something going on that we can further investigate.

AMP intersects with a bunch of other Cisco tools, such as Threat Grid, Threat Response, and Talos Intelligence to identify threats, then automatically quarantine or remove them. It also gives you the ability to isolate endpoints to prevent further spread of any sort of malware, like a virus that might infect other machines.

How has it helped my organization?

The visibility and insight this solution gives you into threats is pretty granular. It has constant monitoring. You can get onto the device trajectory to look at a threat, but you can also see what happened prior to the threat. You can see what happened after the threat. You can see what other applications were incorporated into the execution of the threat. For example, you have the event, but you see that the event was launched by Google Chrome, which was launched by something else. Then, after the event, something else was launched by whatever the threat was. Therefore, it gives you great detail, a timeline, and continuity of events leading up to whatever the incident is, and then, after. This helps you understand and nail down what the threat is and how to fix it.

The solution’s actionable alerts in the security console are granular. They take you right to whatever the incident was so you can start investigating it. One thing that I have noticed lately, as we have spun up more tools associated with our Enterprise Agreement, is that AMP interfaces with all of them, then takes on some automated actions. One of the things that AMP allows you to do if there's an incident, it gives you an alert. This is because a threat was detected. You can click on the threat that's detected, then it takes you right to it in the timeline. Finally, you can pull/fetch the file and submit it for analysis. However, it will also do that automatically.

Cisco is standing up so much stuff right now. This solution interfaces with Talos Intelligence, Threat Grid, Threat Response, and SecureX. All of these things are integrating together and a lot of stuff is now starting to happen automatically, e.g., if a threat is detected, it is automatically interfacing with Talos Intelligence to figure out what that threat is and the hash value of whatever file that is. If it thinks it's suspicious, it automatically submits it to Threat Grid, which detonates the file in the sandbox, but also in the cloud, and returns a report saying whether the file, or whatever it is, is an actual threat/incident. Then, it remediates and quarantines it, and you find out about it later. It's doing a lot of stuff in the background as the integration with other tools increases.

Cisco Threat Response accelerates security operation functions. It gives you great visibility into your network. You start with a hash value, and you can search for that hash value within your environment by just dropping it into Threat Response. Then, it'll show you how that file has interacted with other files, systems, and devices. It gives you immediate visibility with a chart that shows you where that file has gone and where it's been. If you're looking to contain outbreaks, it's all there.

Cisco AMP simplifies endpoint protection detection and response workflows, such as security instigation. It really shortens the window to respond to an incident. You can do something in five minutes that probably would have taken several days in a big, diverse, ambiguous environment, where you have a lot of people working remotely. It would be tough to run down all this stuff. It is saving not only time, but manpower. Another person plus myself can now fix a problem. Whereas before, I would have to crawl through four or five different people before I got the right guy to get to the right place to do the thing that I needed him to do.

What is most valuable?

I like all the features. They're continually adding features to the product as well. One of the most recent features that they added is Orbital Advanced Search, which gives you great visibility into each individual endpoint. If you need to go look and see what's going on, it gives you that ability very easily.

I've only used Orbital Advanced Search on individual endpoints. Unless what I'm looking for is of great urgency, then I don't want to run very complex queries because they can take a lot of time and use a lot of resources for the endpoint. I'm still getting used to it so I don't know its full capabilities, such as, what it can do without interrupting the use of the endpoint. However, if the endpoint is compromised, it doesn't really matter. If I'm just investigating an incident, I don't want to lock the box up if a user is still trying to use it while I'm trying to figure out what's going on.

The Orbital Advanced Search is a great tool that gives you visibility. Otherwise, you would have to track down the device physically and possibility even do a forensic image of it to figure out what happened, or take it out of the environment just to investigate it. Having the ability to use Orbital to get the information off of a device to determine whether it's legitimately compromised, or if something weird is just going on, shortens the timeline of your response because you have immediate availability and visibility into the device that might be compromised.

Orbital helps reduce attack surface and investigate real-time data on our endpoints. For example, a device alerted in AMP for having a potential browser hijacker. At the same time, the user was also opening a help desk ticket because they were unable to access some online resources necessary for them to be able to work. I was then able to get on the device using Orbital (out of AMP) to locate the device and figure out what was going on, and it was a legitimate infection of a virus: It was a browser hijacker. All that happened in the span of five minutes, and I was able to get one of my guys out there to remove the device from our environment, reimage and replace it with another device.

I was able to figure out what was going on with that device in the span of five to 10 minutes. Then, I was able to have a guy onsite within the next three hours to get the device out of our environment. Previously, that would have taken days to figure out what was going on with the device, remote into the device, and find out where the device was physically, then get somebody to go to where the device was physically and pull the device out of the environment. That used to be a much longer process, and the longer that you have a threat risk in your environment, the riskier it becomes.

One of the best features of AMP is its cloud feature. It doesn't matter where the device is in regards to whether it's inside or outside of your network environment, especially right now when everybody's remote and taken their laptops home. You don't have to be VPNed into the environment for AMP to work. AMP will work anywhere in the world, as long as it has an internet connection. You get protection and reporting with it. No matter where the device is, AMP has still got coverage on it and is protecting it. You still have the ability to manage and remediate things. The cloud feature is the magic bullet. This is what makes the solution a valuable tool as far as I'm concerned.

What needs improvement?

The solution’s endpoint protection, in terms of the operating systems and devices that it protects, is pretty comprehensive. The one challenge that I see is the use of multiple endpoint protection platforms. For instance, we have AMP, but we also have Microsoft Windows Defender, System Center Endpoint Protection, and Microsoft Malware Protection Engine deployed. So, we have a bunch of different things that do the same thing. What winds up happening is, e.g., if I get an alert for a potential incident or malware and want to pull the file, I'll go to fetch the file to analyze it. But, one of these other programs has already gotten it, so the file has already been quarantined by another endpoint protection system. AMP doesn't realize that and the file fetch fails, then you're left wondering what's going on. 

It's a rapidly evolving product. Every time they turn on a new feature, you're going to have glitches. Recently, they put out a bad version of a Connector, but they put out a new version of a Connector every other week it seems, so they pulled that back and put out a new version.

For how long have I used the solution?

About a year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It is very stable. I haven't noticed it being unstable. It is what it is and does what it does.

On a regular basis, we have four or five network security engineers working on its deployment and maintenance.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It is easily scalable. It's a simple deployment. You can push it out through any sort of desktop management system that you have.

Because we're a hospital, some things (like an imaging device) will not be using the solution as it may stop the imaging software from working. As far as endpoints for regular people who are not doctors using nuclear medicine imaging computers, it is pretty much on all those devices, including all of our virtual desktops. We have about 5,000 endpoints.

How are customer service and technical support?

Their technical support is excellent. I often wind up working with the same people who are responsive, knowledgeable, and available to do live troubleshooting and analysis. They also do a great job of teaching you things that you otherwise wouldn't know about the tool.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We still do use System Center Endpoint Protection (SCEP). I am in the security group, and there's an infrastructure group who deploys the desktop. As part of their deployment, not only do they include AMP, they also include the Microsoft tools of various types.

Mostly, AMP affords us utility and visibility. Whereas, we had very little control and visibility into other tools because they weren't ours. we didn't have such great access. For endpoints, it's really been great for us as far as having that level of visibility and ability to control what's going on. To not only have the responsibility for security, but the ability to provide security has been the big deal for us. We didn't have such great access. 

When we only had the SCEP solution, we would get alerts but that would be it. We wouldn't have access to the tool to get more information from it. This left us sort of trying to troubleshoot the device in a vacuum without understanding what was going on.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was straightforward, easy, and quick. When we first started testing and deploying it, we were installing it on individual machines ourselves. It's just a matter of downloading the Connector or having the URL to the Connector that you just run on the machine. All you need is local admin rights and it takes about five minutes. That's it. 

In our testing environment, deployment was probably a month or two, because we were just testing. Once we felt comfortable with it and started deploying it, we gave it to our desktop engineers because it's an integral part of the image that gets installed on every machine. Therefore, for our entire environment, it probably took a total of four months, since three months were for testing.

Initially, we deployed it to individual desktops for testing. Then, we incorporated it into the standard image deployed on all desktops, laptops, or endpoints.

What was our ROI?

We have absolutely seen ROI. The way that it is starting to integrate and work with all the other Cisco products, as far as the ease of use, visibility, and being able to respond to incidents. We can know if something bad is potentially happening instantaneously and prevent it from happening. We can go to a device and isolate it before it infects other devices. In our environment, that's millions of dollars saved in a matter of seconds.

The solution has made our team more effective and productive.

The solution has decreased our time to detection because we are getting alerts letting us know that something needs to be looked at. Now that it's integrating with all these other tools, it's automatically submitting files for analysis to determine whether they are dangerous. Up until about two months ago, I would get a bunch of alerts about certain files. For example, I used to get alerts about a machine having a file, then I'd have to fetch the file and submit it for analysis. That stuff is happening automatically now. So, I went from about 100 or so odd alerts a week to around five because everything is now happening on its own.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

We have an Enterprise Agreement with Cisco for a bunch of tools. This is one of them.

The Enterprise Agreement is like an all-you-can-eat buffet of Cisco products. In that vein, it was very affordable.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We looked at a bunch of different things. We looked at Carbon Black along with two or three other of our tools that we didn't really have any control over. 

Cisco AMP came as part of the Enterprise Agreement with Cisco, so it was included. This made it much easier to spin up and use.

What other advice do I have?

You need to look at your exclusions. You need to understand everything you have in your environment that needs to be able to operate. Because one thing AMP does, if doesn't know what a file is, it will go get that file and isolate/quarantine it. That file might be part of another software platform that's needed to function for whatever it is you do. Chances are you won't have any visibility into whatever that platform is until it stops working, because AMP has quarantined one of the central files for it. Knowing what you have in your environment, what the exclusions are, and how to create and apply those exclusions for those other systems is a key piece.

I think that AMP is really effective in isolating and stopping things that it doesn't know. This is probably good because you don't know if a threat is really a threat until you get a chance to look at it. AMP gets out in front of that. This can cause problems if you don't know that you need to have an exclusion, but you're better safe than sorry.

We are using Cisco Email Security, Cisco Firepower, Cisco Talos, Cisco Threat Grid, and SecureX. We have not stood Stealthwatch up yet. We are refreshing our ISE instance. The integrations across the board have really been a multiplier for each tool individually, and certainly through AMP. It's really launched AMP into another level far as automation is concerned. The integration of all these tools is seamless and very effective.

I would rate it an eight (out of 10). It is all still a work in progress; it is all still a new thing. Not only is the tool itself a new thing, but how the tool integrates with all the other tools. It's in development.

**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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