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Managed Detection and Response

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In an age where hackers can gain access to mission-critical systems by exploiting a single endpoint — like a mobile device, desktop, or server — organizations need more than antivirus tools to protect their networks. Read on to learn about MDR and how it differs from XDR and EDR.

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What is managed detection and response and how does it work?

Managed detection and response (MDR) is a cybersecurity service that combines human expertise and advanced tools with automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to prevent, detect, and respond to cyber threats — including malware and ransomware.

When organizations invest in MDR solutions, they fortify their security operations center (SOC) by getting access to a team of highly skilled security experts who continuously monitor networks and collect and analyze logs to keep bad actors at bay. By combining automated rules with manual investigation techniques, MDR security enables organizations to reduce alert fatigue while accurately identifying real threats and prioritizing them over false positives.

Since no security technology is perfect, MDR also employs the services of threat hunters — security professionals with the expertise needed to identify threats that evade traditional security measures. To maximize the promise of MDR, it’s critical to ensure the solution is seamlessly integrated into everyday workflows.

Once a potential threat is detected, the MDR team begins an investigation. After triaging the incident, gathering more information, and determining the organizational impact, they begin the remediation process. Generally, remediation includes conducting a forensic analysis to determine how threat actors breached the network, what the consequences of the incident are, and what actions can be taken to mitigate the risk of future incidents.

Throughout the detection, investigation, and remediation processes, MDR providers produce and share comprehensive reports that ensure the organization understands its risks and what can be done to improve its security posture moving forward. The MDR team also advises organizations on what they need to do to maintain compliance with regulatory agencies. In today’s age of high-profile data breaches, organizations of all sizes stand to benefit from partnering with a managed security service provider (MSSP) and enlisting them to help with MDR.

Small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and mid-market organizations may have limited internal security staffing resources. By joining forces with an MDR provider, these smaller shops can deploy comprehensive threat detection and real-time response capabilities that would otherwise be out of reach.

In contrast, large enterprise organizations likely have security infrastructure that’s more complex, sophisticated, and diverse. At the same time, with their additional resources may come a larger attack surface and thus more security events. On top of these concerns, enterprises also need to ensure they comply with regulatory requirements. With an MDR service acting as an extension of the internal team, organizations can reduce the likelihood that hackers' efforts are successful.

What Is The Difference Between MDR vs EDR

Generally speaking, MDR provides broader coverage than standalone endpoint detection and response (EDR) technology. 

While EDR tools analyze data from endpoints to detect suspicious activities — including the latest threats, like zero-day exploits and vulnerabilities that traditional antivirus and antimalware software can’t detect — MDR leverages a combination of technologies, including advanced threat intelligence, behavioral analytics, and machine learning, to detect and respond to a wide range of cyberattacks automatically.

Since EDR focuses on detecting and responding to threats that originate from individual endpoints, an IT or security team member needs to review logs continuously to determine whether the alerts have value for the organization. This can lead to alert fatigue, which occurs when cybersecurity professionals deal with so many notifications that they become numb to them. This, in turn, makes it that much more likely that suspicious activity is undetected. 

On their own, EDR tools do not stop malicious or suspicious activity. It’s then up to the team to manually review alerting data and decide whether to intervene and how to respond. Compare this with MDR solutions, which typically come with incident response services facilitated by an external team of cybersecurity experts.

While MDR services tend to be more beneficial, EDR tools can still provide value to a range of organizations. For SMBs, EDR solutions can be a cost-effective option because they typically don’t require large-scale infrastructure investments or significant personnel resources to administer. Since smaller businesses have limited security resources, EDR tools can help them cover more ground and protect their networks more efficiently.

EDR solutions can also help mid-sized organizations manage their expanding security needs while optimizing their in-house resources and meeting compliance requirements. For large enterprises, EDR can provide endpoint detection at scale. Large organizations can benefit from advanced threat detection and response by integrating EDR tools with existing security infrastructure.

What Is The Difference Between XDR vs. MDR

Extended detection and response (XDR) is an emerging approach to cybersecurity that goes beyond EDR by integrating and correlating data from various security tools and sources, including endpoints, networks, cloud environments, IoT devices, and applications. MDR, on the other hand, primarily focuses on network and endpoint security.

When a team of detectives begins solving a crime, they don’t obsess over a single piece of evidence. Rather, they interview witnesses, collect information from different sources, and analyze patterns to see if they can identify the culprit. XDR tools operate similarly by adding additional information to try and create a richer picture of suspicious activities, pulling in telemetry from data sources like email and networks. XDR solutions leverage advanced analytics, machine learning, and threat intelligence to help organizations detect and respond to more sophisticated attacks more effectively.

Again, though MDR also uses advanced technologies, it primarily relies on network and endpoint data analysis for threat detection and response.

While XDR tools probably pack a bigger punch than what most SMBs need, they are suitable for medium- and large-sized organizations. Such companies tend to have larger, more complex security operations. As a result, they usually have a larger attack surface, more diverse security systems, and a higher volume of security events and data to manage. That said, some SMBs and mid-market organizations with advanced security needs — like financial services firms and insurance companies — may still decide to invest in XDR tools for extra protection.

What Challenges Does (Managed Detection and Response) MDR Solve?

According to a recent report, the MDR market — which brought in $4.9 billion in 2021 — is expected to reach $21.93 billion by 2030, growing 18.1% yearly. This growth can be attributed to the increase in the volume of cyber incidents and their impact, as well as the myriad benefits MDR solutions deliver to organizations, including:

  • 24/7 monitoring and coverage. MDR services offer continuous monitoring and coverage, ensuring an organization’s systems and networks are constantly observed for potential threats. In addition to using automated technologies, MDR providers have dedicated security teams available around the clock to monitor security alerts and investigate suspicious activity. 

  • Enhanced threat visibility. By providing enhanced visibility into endpoints, it’s easier for organizations to identify potential breaches targeting specific devices or specific users.

  • Proactive threat hunting. Using advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms — and deploying human threat hunters to catch what technology can’t — MDR solutions can identify patterns and anomalies that indicate potential threats. Instead of waiting until systems are breached and then responding, MDR enables organizations to prevent cyber risk before it strikes. 

  • Reduced time to remediation. Through automated alerting and monitoring, teams get notified of potential security incidents ahead of time. As a result, they’re able to identify and remediate security incidents faster, minimizing potential damage.

  • Improved compliance. Thanks to security monitoring and incident response capabilities, MDR tools make it easier for organizations to comply with regulatory requirements. By automatically capturing security logs, conducting audits, and generating reports that demonstrate compliance, organizations that invest in MDR services can minimize the likelihood they make costly missteps. 

  • Overcoming resource constraints. By adding an external team of experienced security analysts to the mix, organizations can use MDR solutions to augment the capabilities of their internal teams. As a result, these individuals can avoid alert fatigue and can spend more time focusing on critical security tasks. 

  • Improved security posture. Every year, data breaches become more common and more expensive. Organizations can improve their security posture by implementing an MDR service on top of existing security mechanisms. By taking a proactive stance, it’s possible to stay ahead of emerging threats while mitigating risks.

How do you evaluate an MDR platform?

As you search for an MDR solution, you’ll quickly find plenty of options on the market. When you’re ready to narrow down your choices, here are some criteria to keep top of mind:

  • Assess the platform’s threat detection capabilities. To provide the most protection, look for a solution that uses the latest technologies and techniques, including machine learning, artificial intelligence, and advanced analytics. 

  • Consider the platform’s response capabilities. Make sure the solution can help you effectively respond to threats, from detection to remediation. If the platform isn’t capable of helping you resolve incidents with urgency, it’s not the right fit.

  • Evaluate the platform’s visibility and reporting. Does the solution have complete visibility into networks and systems? Can it create actionable insights from each event and share those insights with all relevant stakeholders? The right solution should consolidate information in a centralized dashboard while enabling teams to produce customizable reports.

  • Analyze the platform’s scalability and performance. The right MDR solution should be scalable by design and capable of maintaining high performance during periods of peak traffic. The last thing you want is a solution that can’t keep pace with your growth; the bigger your organization gets, the higher the stakes become.

  • Assess the expertise and support provided. Assess each provider’s reputation and track record to see what the market has to say about them. Ideally, you want a vendor that offers comprehensive, round-the-clock support as well as a robust knowledge base and several glowing customer references. 

  • Consider integration capabilities. In order to effectively fight back against threat actors, the MDR service should integrate with your existing security infrastructure so that there aren’t any blind spots. Find out whether the solution can connect with other technologies your organization relies on, including EDR platforms, security information and event management (SIEM) platforms, firewalls, and other tools. 

  • Review the platform’s compliance features. To avoid fines and other penalties, ensure that the MDR solution you ultimately choose complies with relevant regulatory frameworks, like GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA, and PCI-DSS. The right solution will also include support for compliance monitoring, reporting, and incident response.

Who should use an MDR solution — and how does Coalition help?

Any organization that is interested in navigating an ever-complicated threat landscape should consider using an MDR service.

If you’re looking to add an MDR platform on top of your current security systems to strengthen your organization’s security, Coalition can help.

Coalition's Managed Detection & Response (MDR) and security services combine industry-leading cyber technology and expertise to provide powerful risk prevention and response. Learn more here.