Cisco Secure Endpoint Review

Continues to decrease the man-hours needed to perform tasks, such as threat hunting and incident response

What is our primary use case?

AMP was purchased for our organization in response to continued threats that we had from malware and malicious activity on our endpoints. We received AMP for Endpoint and also AMP for Networks as part of our Cisco Security ELA. The solution has made a huge impact on the visibility of what has actually been transpiring at the process level on our servers and workstation endpoints as well as being able to look in detail on those processes to see whose executed those processes and what the trajectory was for those processes.

AMP for Endpoints is Software as a Service. It's a subscription service. You do download a connector onto the endpoint. Then, there is the option to run it to an air gap mode where you connect to a local server that does back out to the AMP Cloud. However, that's not the deployment we have in our case, we have it connecting back directly to Cisco Cloud Security.

How has it helped my organization?

While I can understand from a theoretical standpoint how some organizations may not want a cloud connection, it increases the processing and detection because of ETHOS and SPERO detection. Throughout all the other Cisco security products, it is able to add this detection into the threat analytics through Threat Grid and Threat Response for other customers who have the same type of hash in their environment. There are the options: If you want to submit a file to be removed after submission and also for it to be submitted anonymously.

We tie AMP into our SIEM so we are receiving alerts through the SIEM. I also have AMP independently send me alerts. I have these alerts finely tuned so I'm getting the right severity level on events where I am being notified. If you choose to receive a notification on all events, potential malware, or potentially unwanted applications, you're going to have an overload of information. Therefore, AMP allows the ability to go through and fine tune the alerts, both in the console and remotely, so you get a proper level of notification to make actionable requests and executions.

In our organization, we have about 95 percent Windows operating systems. Then, we have about five percent Mac OS. Therefore, Cisco AMP covers a 100 percent of our endpoints. It's totally comprehensive.

I had a conversation with my CIO about a week ago. We are seeing more security incidents in our organization. However, we believe these events have always occurred, and that we are more aware of them now. For example, last Thursday we had an incident where a device tried to go and reach out to a malicious website. Because of the integration we have with Threat Response between Umbrella with WSA and AMP, we were able to stop that malicious activity. That's something we wouldn't been previously aware of: If we had an endpoint out there trying to reach out to a malicious site. Until it hit our perimeter security, we wouldn't have been aware of that. You don't always want to rely on your perimeter security for everything, as it won't catch everything all the time. Therefore, you want a multilayered approach, and having Cisco AMP and Cisco Threat Response helps us to accomplish that.

What is most valuable?

There are several valuable features that AMP offers:

  • Application blacklist
  • Threat Response
  • Cognitive Threat Analytics
  • Threat Grid
  • Orbital
  • Endpoint Isolation. 

We regularly use all these features on a daily basis. E.g., if we have an alert stating exploit prevention was detected on an endpoint, we will look to see what the hash for that executable/application was, then we can add it to a simple blacklist. Then, everyone else in the organization with AMP for Endpoint running that device can prevent it from running. This is really useful in the event that you have some type of malware incident or event where something is trying to propagate. You can squash it then and there. 

There is also the ability: If you have one device that is running something that's really malicious. You can go ahead and put that in isolation mode to prevent any further spread or damage.

I have used Orbital for searching and taking a bit of a deeper dive. It provides detail on assets, users logged in, the IP address, and architecture. It also helps with going through posture assessment, threat hunting, and forensics. 

What needs improvement?

The room for improvement would be on event notifications. I have mine tuned fairly well. I do feel that if you subscribe to all the event notification types out-of-the-box, or don't really go through and take the time to filter out events, the notifications can become overwhelming with information. Sometimes, when you're overwhelmed with information, you just say, "I'm not going to look at anything because I'm receiving so much." I recommend the vendor come up with a white paper on the best practices for event notifications.

As far as reducing the attack surface, Orbital really doesn't decrease that surface.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using Cisco AMP for about 18 months.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

With most applications, whether it's AV or some type of IDS/IPS running on an endpoint, you will have some type of performance hit or degradation of the endpoint's performance. Out of all the devices that we've put AMP on, which is around a 1,000 devices at this point, we have only had one device that had a problem with performance using AMP. So, we were able to go through and tune the policy from the AMP console for that one endpoint. The overall view of AMP's performance is very good.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

You have the same deployment process and methodology for 10 to 10,000. Therefore, it scales very well.

How are customer service and technical support?

I have never had to use tech support for this solution.

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

Threat Response is integrated with AMP and all the other Cisco security products. That has really helped to decrease the troubleshooting time. Back in the legacy days of AV and Endpoint Protection, the typical workflow would be, "Okay, I have a machine over here that has been infected. I have to figure out all the files which touched it." It was almost impossible retroactively to go back and see what everything it touched and where it all went.

You had to witness the malware in the wild (in real-time) to figure out what it was doing. With Threat Response, you are able to see its executables and trajectory across your network, then where it tried to reach the outside world. All of this helps to mitigate our threat response from days or hours to just a few minutes.

Prior to Cisco AMP, we used Sophos Intercept X, which we still do use, and we also used Carbon Black.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was extremely straightforward. I performed the initial install, and I maintained it ever since.

The deployment took about 30 minutes.

The deployment plan was to get the console and policies configured. Once the policies were configured, we started with the servers first because the servers were easier for us to get our hands on and ensure that the connector was installed. Secondarily, we went out to the workstation level endpoints and installed there.

What about the implementation team?

There is Cisco documentation on best practices for your specific endpoints. My recommendation would be to get with your Cisco support team or account manager and obtain the most recent iteration of that document to ensure that your deployment goes as smoothly as possible. While the deployment will go smoothly, the main thing that this document does ensure is you have the correct policies configured per endpoint type. E.g., you have a different type of policy for a workstation versus a server.

What was our ROI?

We have seen ROI, but it's hard to calculate that return on investment in terms of actual dollars because it's more man-hours. Time spent on other projects is possible because of the optimization and performance that we have by utilizing AMP.

AMP for Endpoints simplifies endpoint protection, detection, and response workflows. It continues to decrease the man-hours needed to perform tasks, such as threat hunting and incident response.

It has decreased time to detection by 95 percent. A lot of the time, prior to having AMP, even with our traditional AV protection, we weren't aware of any type of malicious activity until it had an impact on the organization.

We had a 97 percent reduction in time to remediation, because it's almost instantaneous. In the 18 months that we've had AMP, there has not been malicious activity on an endpoint that we weren't able to resolve immediately.

In our organization, Orbital definitely does save time. Anything that we can do in our organization to save time is crucial, as we have a small IT staff. Therefore, we really need to find force multipliers.

For each incident which occurs, whether it's an exploit prevention or malware detected, Orbital is saving us five to eight hours per incident. In one week, it could save eight hours, and then another week, it could save 32 hours. It just depends on the malicious activity for any given week.

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

Whenever you are doing the licensing process, I would highly advise to look at what other Cisco solutions you have in your organization, then evaluate if an Enterprise Agreement is the best way to go. In our case, it was the best way to go. Since we had so many other Cisco products, we were able to tie those in. We were actually able to get several Cisco security solutions for less than if we had bought three or four Cisco security solutions independently or ad hoc.

In our case, it is a straightforward annual payment through our Enterprise Agreement.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We evaluated Carbon Black before going with Cisco AMP. The reasoning behind going with AMP over Carbon Black was we already had other Cisco security products in our organization. Therefore, AMP was a native integration versus something like Carbon Black where you're looking at a third-party integration. Also, Carbon Black was a bit more cumbersome when it came to performing a lot of the tasks that AMP performs. Carbon Black was first to market with things like endpoint isolation. However, after speaking with our Cisco account reps, we did realize that, "Okay, Endpoint Isolation is coming to AMP. It's just not there yet." That did come to fruition, so there wasn't an advantage to using Carbon Black over AMP. Plus, there were several advantages to using AMP over Carbon Black. That's what led to our decision.

What other advice do I have?

Integration is a key selling factor for Cisco security products. We have a Cisco Enterprise Agreement with access to Cisco Email Security, Cisco Firepower, Cisco Stealthwatch, Cisco Talos, Cisco Threat Grid, Cisco Umbrella, and also third-party solutions. This is key to our security and maximizing operations. Because we do have the Email Security appliance and it is integrated with Threat Response, we have everything tied together. Additionally, we are using the Cisco SecureX platform, as we were a beta test for that new solution. With SecureX, we are able to pull all those applications into one pane for visibility and maintenance. This greatly maximizes our security operations.

Orbital just went from beta to production recently, so I haven't had the opportunity to go through and do a complex search on anything yet.

Biggest lesson learnt: How impactful proper tool utilization in an organization can be to the overall efficiency.

I would rate the solution a 10 (out of 10).

Which version of this solution are you currently using?

**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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