Manoharan Mudaliar

Cyber Security Consultant

Understanding the Differences Between EDR and MDR Methods of Threat Detection

Threat detection service

The cyber security world today is filled with multiple acronyms. It isn’t easy for stakeholders to detect and distinguish the differences between many of these acronyms and what they stand for. IT and security personnel need to be well equipped with methods of threat detection, which is why they should be well versed in all the terms in use in the cyber security domain.

IT and cyber security personnel need to make quick decisions in the heat of the moment, which is what makes it even more important for them to know their acronyms in full. Two of the most common acronyms likely to be encountered by organizations looking to improve their threat detection mechanism for shutting down threats are MDR and EDR. MDR stands for Managed Detection and Response while EDR stands for Endpoint Detection and Response.

This blog takes a look into the differences between EDR and MDR methods of threat detection, and oversees just how they can help cyber security personnel take the right decision.

What Is EDR?

Endpoint Detection and Response or EDR is a term commonly used by cyber security agencies and personnel to define measures taken to detect threats in endpoint servers. With the growing number of endpoint servers, organizations today take special interest in ensuring that all host devices connected to their network are protected. These devices include laptops, desktops and other mobile servers.

Endpoint Detection and Response technology combines different elements of functionality with next generational antivirus to deliver anomalies reported in all endpoint systems. EDR does a good job at detecting anomalies by supporting threat hunting and by eventually automating the incident response process.

EDR solutions begin work by collecting all of the data generated by endpoint systems. Once this data is collected, the systems run behavioral analytics to examine and detect any signs of suspicious activity in how the endpoint system is being used. This constant monitoring ensures that even the slightest anomaly is detected by the system. Once an anomaly is detected, a prompt alert is sent generated for human investigation and response.

Endpoint systems can be used to contain and quarantine infected devices, perform kill chain analysis, block malicious IPs and create a custom threat watch list for monitoring. All these benefits provide security teams with the layer of visibility they need to not only identify, but also respond to threats and intrusions.

Features of EDR

  • Endpoint device data monitoring: As we have studied above, all endpoint devices are constantly monitored as part of an EDR system. Systems are monitored for suspicious data and files, which may be the doing of a network threat. All detected threats are mitigated with limited damage. EDR also monitors and updates security systems like anti-malware programs in endpoint devices.
  • Traffic Analysis: Cyber security specialists monitor traffic going in and out the endpoint system, looking for variations in the flow. These variations are basically signs of an intrusion. Specific digital methods of common threats are identified.
  • Digital Forensics: Digital forensics is perhaps one of the most essential aspects of EDR. Once a data breach takes place, a thorough forensic analysis of all endpoints is conducted to unearth the cause behind and the damage caused by a breach. Digital forensics help mitigate network threats and also guide cyber security analysts about threats, so that they can be neutralized in the future.
  • Endpoint Event Storage: Log files from a threat are stored in central locations accessible by all. These log files play an instrumental part in eventually unearthing data surrounding the breach.

What Is MDR?

MDR or Managed Detection and Response is an acronym used to define a process for helping organizations not only detect, but also respond to threats. MDR combines a number of areas such as human expertise, endpoint detection technologies, networks and threat intelligence mechanisms to reach the results that it generates.

All Managed Detection and Response Services are delivered by professional MDR experts. These services are concocted to help organizations form an enterprise grade cyber security mechanism. MDR is best suited for businesses that do not have the ability or the financial prowess to build a fully oiled in-house security system. MDR comes at a fraction of the cost it takes businesses to build their own cyber security capabilities in-house. The system not only helps save costs, but also ensures that organizations are able to safeguard their systems from threats.

MDR can work as the virtual extension of the in-house team within your organization. It not only hunts down threats, but also responds to them around the clock. MDR goes well beyond the scope of what is traditionally offered by a managed security service provider. MDR providers are tasked with hunting for, investigating and providing the support needed to remediate and manage threats.

Features of MDR:

  • Intrusion detection and prevention: MDR systems come equipped with the ability to recognize all attempts to breach a network. Countermeasures are a hallmark of MDR. With MDR almost all kinds of network intrusions are discovered right in their infancy. Timelier responses are possible due to early detection.
  • Threat Analytics: MDR does not only oversee the mitigation of all threats, but also runs an analysis over the kind of threat in action. Cyber security protocols following MDR protocols look for composition and sources of threats during threat analysis. Analyses help experts develop the right counter measures for keeping all such threats away in the future.
  • Round the clock support: With MDR, businesses can rest assured knowing that their systems are monitored 24×7. Since attackers don’t work in 8 hour shifts, an attack can come at any hour, which is why coverage throughout the day is necessary.
  • Proactive Threat Hunting: Some network threats are made to evade traditional security systems. MDR systems can detect all such threats due to attention round the clock and because of their specialized tools. All sophisticated threats are neutralized before they can cause any damage to individual systems and the network as a whole.

Does MDR Include EDR?

EDR technologies are an important part of MDR’s stack. EDR technologies allow MDR security teams to achieve deeper threat coverage and visibility. Some EDR providers even offer MDR services dedicated to specific endpoint detection. All such services are marketed as Managed EDR.

However, in almost all cases, EDR is just one of the many tools in place of a full stack MDR service. MDR providers also incorporate a wide range of other services to achieve comprehensive visibility. Other services offered by MDR providers in their stack include intrusion detection, SIEM, vulnerability management tools and network traffic analysis. An MDR provider will deploy, accurately configure and properly monitor all the technologies included within their service pack.

Challenges of In-House Endpoint Monitoring

As the sophistication of cyber threats continues to grow, the perimeters in place for controlling threats are insufficient now. While buying and integrating all necessary technologies is already extensive, most organizations also have to go through the additional burden of training their staff members.

Many organizations run into spending exuberant amounts on staff training, without realizing the cost burden of all such expenditures. The potential offered by systems like EDR is significant, but no organization can truly unlock this potential without a dedicated team of experts to configure, monitor and manage these systems around the clock.

Overstretched IT teams often fail to extract value out of these systems, while professionals end up suffering from alert fatigue. Eventually, the technology is rendered redundant. It is because of these challenges that organizations today prefer managed security services to fill in the resource gap.

The Rise of MDR

Managed Detection and Response has grown as a popular form of threat detection because of the growing concerns related to managed security services or MSS. These concerns include the inefficiency of MSS systems to handle modern cyber threats.

Many MSSPs were criticized for passing threats with only basic monitoring and alerting. MDR goes well above and beyond the scope of a traditional security service, adopting a more outcome-driven and proactive approach. Elements included in a typical MDR include continuous network and endpoint monitoring, security orchestration, threat hunting and remote threat disruption and containment.

Many MDR providers also extend their coverage to cloud services. This could mean proper detection and response in GCP, Azure, AWS and common SaaS applications. It is believed that a quarter of all organizations across the globe will be using MDR services in 2024, a massive jump from the 5 percent that use these services today.

A cyber security consultant can help provide the help you need in choosing the right threat detection service. I’m a certified information security manager with extensive experience in helping organizations from various industries devise cyber security protocols and measures to ward off sophisticated and invasive cyber threats.

 

Understanding SOAR and Its Impact on Threat Detection and Mitigation

Working on a network security solution

Keeping your remote systems protected is no more a matter of just deploying a firewall and an antivirus system. Defending your systems from modern, sophisticated cyber threats requires you to put up a unified security strategy. Your strategy should detect, manage and mitigate all security lapses and attacks whenever they emerge.

Almost all cyber security experts have heard of SOAR, better known as Security Orchestration, Automation and Response. SOAR is considered to be one of the most capable tools for managing security threats and creating an actionable mitigation strategy to tackle them.

Originally coined by Gartner in 2017, it is used to refer to the presence of tools combining Threat Intelligence Platforms, Security Orchestration and Automation and Incident Response Platforms together. A SOAR solution essentially enables users to gather data from multiple sources and view it together in one location.

Understanding How SOAR Works

SOAR tools and solutions can basically be defined as monitoring platforms that give users access to a dashboard compiled with metrics and security data from different systems across the organization. Combining data from different sources across the organization helps give a comprehensive understanding of threats, with an immediate incident response.

Tools coming under the SOAR solution use AI and threat intelligence to help users respond to threats and improve their decision making skills. The automated response generated through SOAR tools helps reduce the time it takes to detect problems and the system, and to resolve them.

A typical SOAR platform is made of three integral components:

  • Orchestration
  • Automation
  • Response

Orchestration

Orchestration is the process of gathering data from multiple sources and compiling it together on one platform. Orchestration is considered highly useful in the cyber security domain as it gathers data from different disparate technologies and tools to provide a single top-down perspective into security attacks and threats.

For instance, a typical SOAR tool would use the feature of orchestration to gather alerts from multiple data sources and compile them in one place where users can easily manage these threats. Compiling security event data and real-time results in one place can make vulnerability management and threat detection easier than before. Without a proper tool for security orchestration in place, security analysts would have to sift between different tabs and systems to maintain a professional network. This leaves greater room for human error.

Automation

Automation is another forte of SOAR tools for reducing administrative burdens. Most network administrations and security analysts face a wide range of administrative burdens when managing security threats. Manually monitoring, detecting and responding to cyber events and attacks has proven ineffective and useless for many professional organizations. One network analyst cannot possibly monitor over a dozen systems together. These systems generate over a thousand alerts and alarms during a typical day.

SOAR solutions offer automation in not just alert detection, but also in how network managers respond to the security threat. Automated solutions automatically shut down systems or devices where cyber threats have been detected.

Response

A typical SOAR tool is also concerned with enabling users to respond to a given situation, also known as incident management. The dashboard compiles and gathers data from across the board, which is why response and incident management activities take place here. Network analysts can monitor the dashboard to view threat intelligence alerts in real-time.

SOAR tools offer root-cause intelligence and diagnostics to help users find security events that have infiltrated the system faster. In simpler words, SOAR tools come designed with the intention of performing a thorough diagnostic operation during the remediation process.

Ways SOAR Is Helping Businesses Combat and Overcome Security Challenges

The cyber security domain has never been as complicated as it is right now. In the face of complications and ever-evolving threats, SOAR offers businesses of all sizes an opportunity to improve their chances of swiftly detecting and responding to attacks.

Some of the complications facing businesses on the cyber security domain include:

  • A rise in ever-evolving and disruptive cyber security threats
  • Shortage of qualified security analysts for managing threats on a routine basis
  • And, the growing structure and reliance on IT estates. Businesses now have more to lose from a cyber attack than ever before.

SOAR helps support cyber security systems by:

Providing Intelligence of the Highest Order

Cyber security threats have become complicated and more disruptive over time, which is why tackling these threats now requires an ability to not only recognize all indicators of compromise, but to also understand the techniques and procedures followed by attackers, along with their line of attack.

SOAR systems compile and validate data from disparate sources, including security and exchange technologies such as intrusion detection systems, firewalls SIEM and UBA technologies and threat intelligence platforms. Eventually, SOAR helps SOCs become even more intelligence driven.

The changes brought through better quality intelligence allow security personnel to contextualize incidents in a better manner. Security analysts can also make better decisions, while accelerating the process of threat response and detection.

Improving the Efficacy of Operations Without Downtime

The need to oversee multiple security technologies with different metrics of their own can put a significant strain on your security personnel. Not only do systems require constant monitoring to ensure their ongoing health, but the thousands of alerts generated by disparate security systems can lead to alert fatigue, eventually creating gaps for actual cyber attack alerts to go through unnoticed.

Constantly switching between different networks can also make situations worse than they actually are. Constant switching can cost time and effort and can also elevate the risk of mistakes.

SOAR solutions and tools can help CSOCs semi or fully automate some of the mundane tasks performed by security personnel on a day to day basis. SOAR tools provide solutions through a single glass window, utilizing both, machine learning and AI, to give automated real time alerts and responses. Security analysts often waste a lot of their time during the day on context switching and SOAR solutions can stop this wastage of time through unified results on a single dashboard.

The solution also helps ensure that security threats are managed in a more efficient and timely manner, improving the organization’s productivity and capacity to operate without any major cyber attacks. Additionally, the system ensures that more incidents are managed without the need to hire more staff members on your security team. SOAR helps security staff perform smarter rather than harder, by giving them the means to streamline their efforts.

Enhancing Incident Response

Data breaches and cyber attacks have become extremely common in today’s world. Rapid response is extremely vital for minimizing the damage caused through these breaches and cyber attacks. Two key vectors used to gauge performance here include mean time to detect or MTTD and mean time to respond (MTTR). SOAR helps organizations reduce the mean time to detect and respond by qualifying and remediating security alerts in a matter of minutes, rather than weeks or even months.

SOAR also enables and helps security teams automate the procedures for incident response. Automated responses include the immediate blocking of an IP address on the IDS system or firewall. This helps suspend infected user accounts and other endpoints on a given network.

Streamlining the Reporting Process

In most cyber security operation centers or CSOCs, frontline workers waste a significant amount of their time trying to manage impending cases, creating reports, journaling and preparing documents for the incident response procedure. Manually reporting processes and cyber attacks can waste time and requires attention to detail, taking focus away from the mitigation of other follow up attacks.

SOAR can come in handy in the reporting process as it aggregates and compiles intelligence from a wide range of sources before presenting it in a visually appeasing format. SOAR helps organizations reduce the paperwork and hassle that goes into the reporting process, while simultaneously improving contact between the corporate heads and frontline workers.

Through the use of automation, SOAR can also help codify knowledge and prevent the loss of institutional memory from cyber attacks. Since organizations face difficulty in otherwise retaining security talent, institutional memory from within the system can come in useful in the future.

SOAR allows you to perform tasks faster and reduce time to resolution. The longer your threats go unaddressed, the greater the chances of disruption and damage.

A cyber security consultant can help improve your transition towards SOAR. I’m a certified information security manager with extensive experience in helping organizations from various industries devise cyber security protocols and measures to ward off sophisticated and invasive cyber threats.