Cyber-attacks are more complex and more advanced than they have ever been before. It is, therefore, essential that your network is protected with a solution that is equally advanced. As organizations improve their cybersecurity stature, attackers look for new ways to bypass this security, and access company assets and data. Endpoint detection and response (EDR) is the security tool to achieve this as it monitors your endpoints in a granular level of detail, and allows you to enact comprehensive remediation should a threat be detected.
EDR is a cybersecurity tool that protects your systems by gathering data to help identify threats across multiple endpoints. It then correlates this information to provide a complete understanding of threats entering your system. EDR utilizes threat telemetry – this predicts how an attack will evolve, the areas of your network that are at risk, and how to best respond to a threat. You can then use this information to enact precise remediation.
In this article, we break EDR into its key components – threat detection and threat response – to explain how each of these elements work. We’ll also discuss the main features and functions of an EDR solution, its effectiveness, and the benefits of it.
To understand how an EDR works, it is worth considering each of its constituent parts in turn. On the threat detection side of the service, we will consider what an EDR is detecting, the EDR Agent that is used to gather the data, and then how EDR utilizes that info, and turns it into useful intelligence during the analysis stage.
The effectiveness of an EDR solution begins with its deep network integration. The system will gather extensive information from endpoints in real-time. By pulling in such a comprehensive amount of data, EDR has an unrivalled level of visibility over your network, and the threats that it faces.
Endpoints covered by EDR include user devices, firewalls, networks, IoT devices, internet logs, cloud systems, operating systems, and servers. From these endpoints, EDR will monitor performance and ingest logs, file details, and configuration data. This data can then be interpreted in the second step of an EDRs process: analysis.
In order to gather intelligence, an EDR solution will install an “Agent” on each endpoint. This is a lightweight piece of software that can gather data, but also enact rule-based, automated remediation during the response stage. The Agent is responsible for real-time and continuous monitoring of endpoints (both online and offline), collecting and logging data, and signature-less detection.
Once an EDR solution has gathered data from across the network, it will need to analyze the data to turn it into useful, actionable intelligence. In order to do this, an EDR solution will develop a profile of usual behavior and network interactions. This profile will include details of:
- System run time
- File types and sizes
- Network connections
- Process executions
- Registry modifications
- Cross process events
- Usual behavior and statistics
This real-time data gathered from the endpoints can be compared with historical data and with databases of known threats, to identify any anomalous or unusual activity. If something suspicious is detected, the threat can be further investigated, while the “response” side of an EDR solution can take automatic action.
If a breach is detected, the EDR solution will use advanced algorithms to predict the most probable entry point. The EDR tool can trace an attack as it navigates a network and ensure that each area is properly secured.
Indicators Of Compromise
In order to detect a breach, an EDR solution will scan for indicators of compromise (IOCs). These are features of an attack that can be used to identify what the attack is, and may include:
- Web traffic with inhuman behavior
- Geographical abnormalities
- Increased database read volume
- Incorrectly placed data bundles
- Unusual changes in registry and / or system files
- Unexpected patching of systems
As each attack operates in a slightly different way, EDR can work out what the attack is by gathering information on these IOCs. This is a bit like an attack’s fingerprint.
Any of these abnormalities may seem insignificant when identified on one occasion, in one location. If, however, evidence is found across the network, it can be an indication that something more significant (and malicious) is taking place.
By correlating the IOCs and comparing this with database records, EDR solutions will identify what a threat is, and consider the best way to respond. And if the same IOCs are detected in the future, an EDR solution can quickly identify the attack and can “look up” how best to remediate it.
Graphical User Interface (GUI)
EDR solutions are able to gather an inordinate, unmanageable amount of data. It is essential that this is efficiently processed and optimized for admins to make sense of it. Raw and processed data will be presented in a customizable GUI. The interface should be clear and comprehensive to ensure that admins can identify trends and understand the data that has been gathered. It should be possible to highlight information that is particularly relevant to a specific organization.
Through this interface, admins should also be able to add new endpoints, access information on remediation efforts, configure policies, and respond to threats when automatic remediation is not possible. The dashboard will present graphs of processed data, information on endpoints, and real-time IOCs to give admins full visibility into the network.
Once your EDR solution has identified a threat and checked to see if a response pathway exists, it needs to be capable of remediating the threat. If it is unable to do this, it is unable to keep your network safe. EDR solutions have a number of built-in tools for robustly responding to threats – some of these are listed below.
If an EDR solution encounters a zero-day or fileless threat that it cannot quickly remediate, it should ensure that the infected network region is isolated from the uncorrupted parts. This ensures that the malware cannot spread across your network in its search for vulnerabilities. By isolating specific portions of the network, you allow the rest of your network to function as normal. This ensures that, for the majority of users, normal business operations can be resumed.
Any files that are stored at the endpoints should be securely encrypted to render them useless if stolen. This is important as it takes some of the sting out of an attack. If your network is breached and an attacker locates sensitive documents, the fact that they are securely encrypted means that you don’t need to worry about that data being shared. Endpoint encryption is an effective means of dissuading attackers from attempting to access your network.
If a threat cannot be automatically remediated, and even in the aftermath of severe threats, prioritized notifications should be sent to relevant admin staff. Not only does this ensure they have a good understanding of network incidents, but it also encourages them to make changes to security configuration and policies that can prevent repeat attacks.
While this is not a response that directly engages the threat, it is an important feature of EDR. If SOC or admin involvement is required, it is essential that they are notified in a timely and effective manner. They need to know what the threat is, what remediation has been attempted, and what they can do to improve the situation.
The Benefits Of An EDR Solution
Some of the common threats identified by EDR solutions are listed below.
As an EDR solution collects comprehensive data from across your entire network, it has complete visibility into the threats you face. It can correlate events that seem isolated and benign on their own. When taken together, EDR can uncover evidence of multi-stage attack patterns. This might include evidence of “reconnaissance”, where a series of smaller breaches are used to probe a network and find vulnerabilities. By identifying these indicators early, an attack can be prevented before it comes to fruition, thereby keeping you safer.
The term “zero-day threat” is used to describe a threat that has never been seen before. As such, there is no predefined route to respond to the threat. In these cases, EDR solutions must react proactively to isolate the threat from the wider network and monitor behavior to identify the best way to resolve it. It is important to ensure that the threat has not replicated or hidden, and that the threat is fully resolved.
Fileless malware is a form of malware attack that does not require any new software to be installed on a user’s device in order to carry out the attack. It will modify native, legitimate tools and software on the user’s device. As there is no malicious code being installed, legacy AV, sandboxing, and allow-listing tools may struggle to detect fileless malware. Attackers may use exploit kits, memory-only malware, or stolen credentials to gain access to a device.
It is essential that an EDR solution gathers as much data as possible and analyzes it in an effective way. This ensures that it can provide comprehensive network coverage and respond at the earliest sign of a threat. Understanding how the threat entered your network, and predicting its future movements through behavioral analysis, can help to ensure that remediation efforts are targeted and effective.
With this data ingested and analyzed, EDR is able to perform effective remediation.
EDR is an invaluable part of your security set up as it plays a proactive role in your cyber defense. Rather than acting as a defensive perimeter (that can be breached), EDR monitors the wall, identifies the breaches, then hunts for the intruder. This happens 24/7/365, meaning that your systems are always protected.
The key areas that EDR excels in are:
Uncovering Stealthy Attacks
By integrating with multiple endpoints, EDR can gain an unparalleled level of visibility. This increases the opportunity to identify IOCs and find attacks quickly.
Integrating With Threat Intelligence
Advanced knowledge of malicious tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) can ensure that detection and remediation time is reduced.
The EDR solution can proactively hunt for threats and ensure that there are no duplicates or residual hidden threats.
Real-Time And Historic Visibility
By considering real-time data in relation to historical data, admins can gain a detailed view of security trends and assess how new security infrastructure improves your set up.
Remember Threats And Responses
EDR solutions will log how new threats are dealt with, thereby making them faster to resolve if they attack again.
To find the best EDR solution for your business, you can read our guide to the top EDR solutions on the market today by following this link: