Managed Detection and Response (MDR) is a cybersecurity solution that gathers data from your endpoints, then analyzes it to lead automatic and targeted remediation capabilities
In our recent interview with eSentire’s Founder, Eldon Sprickerhoff, he explains that the MDR space came into its own seven years ago, in response to a boom in ransomware attacks. He goes onto explain the importance of using technology “to do the heavy lifting when you’re doing analysis”. This is a principle known as “high tech/high touch”.
Interview: No SOC? No Worries! How Businesses Can Tackle Cyberthreats With MDR
So, how does MDR combine the technical with the human? How can it protect your network from ransomware attacks? How can it help to improve your network security?
In this article we’ll explain how MDR works, before breaking it down into its components to highlight its key features and illustrate how they can improve cybersecurity hygiene.
What Is MDR?
The technology in an MDR solution works in the same way as an Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) or Extended Detection and Response (XDR) solution – but the key difference is the “M”. In the acronym, this stands for “managed”. In other words, an external cybersecurity professional will install and manage your security set up, as well as facilitate the remediation of any cyberthreats detected by the technology. This means that your organization can benefit from enhanced cyber security, even if you don’t have the technical resource to detect and respond to threats in-house.
How Does MDR Work?
We can break MDR down into its two named components – detection and response – to gain an understanding of how it works. First, MDR will integrate with your endpoints to gather data that can be contextualized and compared with a baseline of expected behavior. This will highlight any anomalous activity that could indicate an attack. MDR uses several tools to effectively gather this intelligence – including static malware analysis, whitelisting, sandboxing, network traffic analysis, and heuristics.
Once the MDR solution has identified a threat, it can enact automated – and human led – remediation. The first action will usually be to isolate an affected device from the network to prevent the malware from spreading. The MDR solution will then use tools to eliminate the threat from your network. For less complex threats, this will involve using automated remediation workflows to fix vulnerabilities and block malicious activity. For more complex threats, the MDR provider may offer you support from a 24/7 SOC or analyst team, to help you investigate and remediate the attack. Throughout this process, the MDR platform will ensure that there is no residual or hidden – perhaps dormant – malware that can become an issue further down the line.
For more information on how an MDR solution works, read our article:
What Are The Benefits Of MDR?
There are some key reasons why your business might consider implementing an MDR solution. Let’s take a look at them.
Advanced Level Security
Just because you don’t have the turnover or technical expertise of a larger organization, that doesn’t mean attackers won’t target you. With MDR, you can adopt the same security tools that are used by much larger enterprises, thereby enhancing your cybersecurity disproportionately. This ensures that your network can be protected, however large or small it is.
Some of the security features commonly offered by an MDR solution include:
- Endpoint data gathering
- Information analysis and threat telemetry to predict attack behavior
- Proactive threat hunting
- Alert triage and prioritization
- Device isolation and network segmentation
- Vulnerability intelligence and insights
- Automatic, facilitated, and managed remediation options
- 24/7/365 service
- Support team on hand to offer advice and assistance
By adopting these tools into your security set up, you can protect yourself from a wide range of threats, including malware, ransomware, credential compromise, phishing, and business email compromise.
MDR solutions use sophisticated filters to prevent the majority of malware attacks by blocking them from entering your network. Each filtration layer will focus on identifying a different indicator of compromise (IOC). This results in a comprehensive filtration system that can identify a broad spectrum of threats.
Any threats that go undetected and make it onto your network will become the focus of an MDR solution’s built-in threat hunting features. These can identify unusual behavior, such as applications making suspicious requests, larger than expected files, or anything else that is untoward. While this process is driven by your MDRs technical capacity, it is enhanced through human-led SOC teams. They, too, will analyse the data collected to identify threats and enact remediation. This is the best of both worlds. You have the speed and databases of computers, with the nuance and ingenuity of human, SOC teams.
These threat detection capabilities will effectively remove a threat and ensure that there is no evidence of replication or malware hiding, thereby ensuring that the threat is comprehensively dealt with. You can then work with your MDR provider to decide if any policies need changing, or any settings need reconfiguring.
For more information on How To Choose An MDR Solution, you can read our dedicated article, here.
Technical Support And System Management
MDR allows you to implement an advanced level of security, even if your organization doesn’t have the technical resource to effectively install or manage an EDR or XDR solution.
Across the cybersecurity process, you will be supported in three key areas: set up and installation, attack remediation, and tailoring.
Set Up And Installation: While MDR solutions are designed to be easy to install and integrate with your existing network, for users with very little experience, this can still be a daunting prospect. What would be a quick and simple job for someone who knows what they’re doing, might take a team without the required skillset much longer. Your MDR provider will support you through the installation process to ensure that your service is set up effectively, and that cover is where you need it. This will help to ensure that there aren’t any network vulnerabilities or loopholes that can be exploited.
Attack Remediation: Whilst an attack is active on your network, trained security professionals will work with you to remediate the threat in an effective and timely manner. This tactic is the best of both worlds – you benefit from the extensive databases, analysis, and speed of technology, as well as the insight and experience of security professionals. As new attacks are constantly being devised by malicious actors, it can take human creativity to understand particularly unique attack techniques.
Tailoring: Once your network is free from attack, security professionals can use the data gathered by your MDR solution to ensure that it is set up as effectively as it can be. The data will illustrate where an attack came from, and what vulnerability it exploited. Armed with this intelligence, your MDR provider can ensure that this threat is dealt with, and that your solution is providing the most comprehensive cover possible.
You can be sure that this will be configured effectively thanks to the technical expertise of the security staff who manage your security tools. By ensuring that the technology is configured correctly, your network will be as protected as is technically possible. Policies will be optimized for your network, rather than relying on generic, “out-of-the-box” protocols.
As MDR solutions have such a deep integration with your network, they can gain a valuable insight into the granular details of network activities. It makes sense, then, for you to utilize this insight as part of your auditing and compliance procedures.
Auditing is often one of the thankless, but necessary, tasks that must be done. Rather than doing this manually, MDR solutions can log network activity and response actions automatically. By aligning the logging capabilities with relevant regulatory framework, you can streamline the auding process, while ensuring that all processes and policies are within the guidance. This automates a whole job, allowing your valuable staff to focus on other areas.
MDR solutions are well placed to monitor compliance. As they are designed with a target market in mind, providers will make them as useful as possible. This includes incorporating relevant compliance features. If an MDR solution was acting in a way that was not inline with relevant framework, it would not be widely adopted.
Tailored To Fit Your Organization
Although many MDR solutions are designed to work “out-of-the-box” with minimal set up time, they are very adaptable solutions. Depending on the threats that your network faces, and the way that you operate, your MDR can be reconfigured to provide the best service. MDR solutions are designed to provide robust security coverage for a range of use cases, and therefore have customization built into the heart of them.
By liaising with your provider, you can ensure that your MDR solution is correctly configured to provide your organization with the appropriate cover. Every organization is unique, and will have its own security assets, vulnerabilities, and weaknesses. It is only right, then, that your MDR solution can respond to this, and provide effective cover where it is needed.
As you gather data and intelligence from thwarted attacks, you can ensure that policies are effective, and tailor any that need to be adjusted. This is an ongoing processes, which keeps you one step ahead of the attackers.
We have already touched upon the fact that MDR providers will implement new technologies and services to protect against the latest threats. They are also well suited to evolve as your business grows.
If, for example, your organization’s public profile grows drastically in a short period of time, you might become the target of an increased number of attacks, this will increase the workload of your firewall. MDR solutions will be able to cope with the increased level of traffic and respond to the threats, and ensure your network remains secure.
Cheaper Than Alternatives
By outsourcing your technical security needs, you can save on staffing costs, whilst ensuring your network security is not compromised. While MDR solutions are not cheap, they are more cost-effective than employing someone to manage security full time.
It may be the case that there are individuals within your organization who have the right knowledge and skillset to implement a raft of cybersecurity tools. Perhaps with some additional training, you could manage your cybersecurity in-house. However, for the majority of organizations, a more effective (and safe) solution is to invest in MDR, and the trained SOC team behind it.
On top of needing to employ and retain trained cybersecurity staff, without an MDR solution, you will need to invest in the technology itself. Across a whole network, product licensing and subscriptions can quickly add up. If these tools are all separate, your accounts team will spend additional time ensuring that services are paid for at the right time.
By using an MDR service, you can reduce all these worries. The MDR provider will ensure your security stack is comprehensive, while only accounting for one bill to pay. This means that your service will be tailored for your organization’s size, whilst making it easy to manage from your point of view.
For organizations without the technical resource to implement advanced cybersecurity infrastructure, an MDR solution can be an indispensable tool. They enable organizations to implement a level of security that is beyond their own in-house capabilities. And, hopefully, beyond the capabilities of any attackers, too.
As they are managed externally, you don’t need to worry about the details, but can be assured that someone else is. Your security stack will be technically advanced, and continually updated. New threats will be addressed, and SOC teams will be knowledgeable on emerging trends and tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to respond to these threats.
If you want to learn about the top MDR products and their features, we’ve compiled a concise and clear overview, which you can find via the link below: