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From viruses and malware to ransomware, zero-day attacks, and advanced persistent threats (APTs), today's cyber threat landscape is evolving at overwhelming rates. Organizations of various sizes must rely on advanced cybersecurity solutions to keep up and protect their users, customers, data, devices, and systems.

Endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools are an efficient option to safeguard the company network, but many businesses lack the required personnel and expertise to pilot EDR on their own. Luckily, companies with limited resources or staff can partner with managed detection and response (MDR) providers to access the required tools and security specialists to fortify their networks effectively.

MDR focuses not only on monitoring, detecting, and remediating ongoing attacks - it also ensures that organizations won't fall victim to the same cyberattack in the future.

This article will explore MDR: how it works, how it can benefit your business, and how to choose the right MDR offering for your specific industry and preferences.

The Evolution of Cybersecurity

Going into the future, partnering with a managed security services provider (MSSP) may not be enough to counter sophisticated, industry-specific threats. While a managed security service provider focuses on alerts, security management, and monitoring, MDR comprises reactive (24/7 monitoring) and proactive threat protection (real-time threat hunting by a human specialist) to provide smart alerts, alert triage, rapid response guidelines, threat investigation, and remediation actions.

What is MDR?

Managed detection and response (MDR) services combine human expertise with top-tier cybersecurity technology solutions to ensure network and endpoint protection against advanced threats. As the name suggests, companies can access MDR by partnering up with a dedicated MDR provider to outsource some (or all) of their cybersecurity needs. Robust MDR providers house 24/7 security operations centers (SOCs) to effectively protect the target organization's network.

MDR services provide the tools to detect, respond, and remediate increasingly sophisticated threats to counter data loss, minimize downtime, and ensure business continuity.

Managed detection and response (MDR) features

Below are the four primary features of a reliable MDR service:

Proactive threat hunting

Sometimes, traditional threat detection tools fail to intercept sophisticated malicious attempts. MDR services provide advanced methodologies to proactively hunt threats and remediate them before they become a full-blown breach. MDR searches an organization's network or systems for indicators of attack (IoA) and indicators of compromise (IoC) and then applies behavioral analysis to detect potentially harmful threats and either block them via the MDR providers' console or propose remediation steps to your in-house security teams.

Incident investigation

Aside from threat hunting, MDR providers can investigate all incoming security alerts and determine whether they are actual incidents or false positives. Accurately identifying threats via comprehensive data analytics, human expertise, and machine learning can significantly minimize the risk of a breach and optimize downtime while reducing cost, effort, and time spent on threat research and mitigation.

Alert triage

Sometimes, organizations struggle to prioritize larger threat counts, which can significantly affect their detection and response capabilities. A managed service can utilize the required security professionals to boost your in-house expertise and organize all security events to handle the most critical threats first.

Vulnerability remediation

While medium and large organizations typically have the budget to house their own security team, smaller businesses may struggle to employ the required workforce to battle advanced cyber threats. However, an MDR team can ensure a better security posture and vulnerability management without the added expense of additional hires.

MDR providers will offer robust response services and incident remediation as a service. They can leverage advanced technologies to ensure remote security event management within a customer's network.

What Challenges Can Managed Detection and Response (MDR) Address?

MDR services can provide organizations with the required security tools and methodologies to significantly enhance their data security strategy. In addition to ensuring security maturity, MDR providers are seasoned in mitigating common, daily IT infrastructure issues so your security teams can focus on critical projects and business continuity.

Threat analysis

Extensive threat volumes must undergo thorough analysis to determine whether the detected activity is malicious or a false positive. MDR services provide enhanced analytics tools and access to experienced security analysts to quickly and efficiently interpret ongoing events and provide adequate recommendations to improve your company's security posture.

EDR

Many SMBs lack the required budget to train their employees for proper EDR tool usage. MDR solutions include EDR tools in their cybersecurity service offering and can integrate them into threat detection, analysis, and response procedures. This way, businesses don't need to invest in an extensive cybersecurity infrastructure but instead focus on important day-to-day tasks and projects.

Alert fatigue

Hybrid and BYOD work environments have expanded the potential attack surface to include home, IoT, supply chain, remote devices, etc. The extensive amount of endpoints connected to a company network nowadays translates to massive volumes of incoming alerts; determining the status of each alert requires more resources and extensive forensics than are typically employed in-house.

MDR services can help organizations manage the challenging volume of incoming alerts. This way, you can avoid overwhelming your on-premises team so they can focus on business-critical issues more efficiently.

Staffing/Skills shortage

Organizations of all sizes can adopt innovative security technologies to counter the current threat landscape. However, investing in top-tier detection and response tools can break a business if said tools aren't deployed, optimized, and piloted properly.

MDR services can assist companies by providing IT professionals to monitor the target network 24/7, consult with your cybersecurity team, or handle the security process independently.

Network visibility

Unlike traditional managed security service providers (MSSP), MDRs focus on detecting events and activity within the client network rather than the network perimeter, which grants enhanced network visibility to complement timely security operations.

What Do MDR Services Offer for Security Teams?

A managed detection and response service can streamline numerous critical MDR aspects for customers. Those include but are not limited to:

Key Components of MDR

MDR vendors typically provide the following service components:

Endpoint Security via EDR

EDR comprises security tools that monitor and collect endpoint data from PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones, servers, etc. EDR security leverages advanced analytics and machine learning to monitor, detect, investigate, and provide response and remediation suggestions to mitigate threats in real time.

EDR solutions provide enhanced visibility across all endpoint activity, aiding security professionals to detect and counter known threats (or zero-day exploits) before they can damage the target network.

Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR)

SOAR are tools and processes that streamline security operations via automation. SOAR can enable an MDR vendor to automate routine, repetitive tasks - incident response, threat hunting - to allow security analysts to focus their efforts on high-level threats and optimize response times.

Network Monitoring

MDR services provide the required technology to ensure remote data, telemetry, and relevant log management. MDR tools monitor the target network and collect a treasure trove of information to analyze it via advanced analytics, threat intelligence, and human investigation to ensure continuous threat detection, containment, and remediation.

Threat Intelligence

Threat intelligence services collect, analyze, and purvey information regarding known and emerging threats. An MDR security team uses threat intelligence data to understand an attacker's tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to detect and remediate attacks more efficiently.

Incident Response

Upon detection and prioritization, MDR services can quickly block threats in real-time, either via their own technology or by suggesting remediation actions to on-premises security professionals to contain and completely remediate potential incidents.

How Does MDR Compare to Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) and Extended Detection and Response (XDR)?

 
EDR
XDR
MDR
FUNCTIONS
Endpoint monitoring to block threats that have avoided detection from traditional antivirus solutions.
Complete environment (threat-centric) monitoring via data integration from various implemented security tools to enhance visibility and reduce data loss risk.
Traditional EDR capabilities with added advanced features, such as 24/7 managed monitoring, mitigation, containment, and threat remediation.
COMPONENTS
Real-time endpoint monitoringGraphical threat databaseBehavioral analysis (including IoCs and IoAs)Threat containmentRemediation recommendations
All EDR capabilities plus:·Autonomous threat hunting, analysis, and response·Cross-domain correlation·Cloud-based data ingestion·Automated threat investigation and prioritization·Smart threat alerts with actionable recommendations·       Advanced threat hunting, threat detection, and incident response
All EDR capabilities plus round-the-clock managed services to enable:·Proactive human threat hunting·Threat intelligence, analysis, and investigation·Guided threat response·Swift remediation·       Centralized communication and coordination console for in-house teams and MDR specialists
TECHNOLOGIES AND METHODS
Software-based EDR tools
·Next-gen firewalls·Email security·Network analysis and visibility (NAV)·Identity and access management (IAM)·Cloud access security broker (CASB)·Cloud workload protection platform (CWPP)·       Data Loss Prevention (DLP)
Endpoint Protection Platforms (EPP)
PROTECTION
A core protection component to enable advanced cybersecurity solution implementation.
High-tier network protection via traditional EDR and automated integration tools to safeguard the entire target environment by eliminating silos and security vulnerabilities that can expose the organization to advanced threats.
A combination of real-time monitoring, detection, and response capabilities and highly skilled security professionals to proactively secure the target network via threat hunting, threat intelligence, and managed detection and response.
NETWORK VISIBILITY
Endpoints
All users, endpoints, cloud workloads, network assets, email, critical data, and other digital resources
Endpoints

Benefits of Managed Detection and Response (MDR)

MDR adoption provides several significant benefits for organizations:

Quick incident response times - MDR services focus on detecting and responding to threats in real time, which can significantly reduce containment and remediation times.

Specialized expertise - MDR vendors provide companies access to cybersecurity specialists and high-grade technology to ensure a robust, up-to-date security posture.

Cost-effectiveness - Relying on a managed service to handle detection and response means your company won't have to invest in multiple solutions or waste time and effort coordinating and managing them. Moreover, SMBs can outsource all security processes to the provider, eliminating the need to employ an extended IT security team on-premises.

Compliance benefits - Maintaining compliance with numerous industry standards and regulations can be challenging. MDR services can expertly navigate the regulatory landscape, ensure your cybersecurity service is implemented in line with the required standards, and provide regular, detailed reports to satisfy compliance audits.

Benefits of MDR Security for Your Business

In addition to the general benefits of MDR, adopting such a service can bring business-specific advantages, including the following:

Who Needs an MDR Solution?

From SMBs with a limited cybersecurity budget to global enterprises with a dedicated SOC team, MDR services can enhance your security posture and ensure business continuity. Depending on their budget and preferences, companies can choose from three primary MDR models:

  • The MDR service alerts your security team and provides remediation suggestions.
  • The MDR team cooperates with your workforce to co-manage the threat response process.
  • The service completely manages the detection and response process on your behalf.

In addition to the MDR operations model, businesses can choose from three primary MDR service types:

Dedicated vendor infrastructure
Bring-your-own-technology (BYOT/BYOD)
A fully comprehensive solution
In the first MDR type, vendors provide MDR services for their own cybersecurity products. They leverage integrated technology tools, but the MDR service requires customers to replace their existing security infrastructure; otherwise, they can only take limited threat response actions. 
In the second type, MDR security providers collect telemetry and threat data from numerous sources. However, they typically only provide alerts, with the customer handling all remediation actions. Such an approach is also limited regarding the depth and speed of the provided insights. 
The third MDR vendor type leverages the advantages of both previous approaches. They can combine your existing security infrastructure with integrated solutions to reduce deployment costs while providing deep and swift threat response capabilities. 

How Managed Detection and Response Works: The Process

MDR monitors, detects, and responds to cyber threats remotely. A dedicated MDR solution ensures the required visibility into endpoint activity to provide human MDR analysts with relevant threat intelligence, enhanced analytics, and forensics data. The analysts then perform alert triage to determine the adequate response to reduce the potential impact and risk of security incidents on the target network.

Lastly, the security experts leverage machine and technology capabilities to remove the threat and restore all affected endpoints to their pre-infected (clean) state.

  • Prioritization and Analysis

Managed prioritization aids companies in sifting through the enormous volume of potential threat alerts daily. It uses automated rules, principles, and human expertise to distinguish real threats from false positives. The result provides an enriched, highly contextualized stream of high-priority alerts.

  • Detection (threat hunting) and threat investigation

MDR specialists understand the human factor behind every cyber threat. While they attempt to detect malicious activity, on the other side, a threat actor tries to avoid detection. By combining machine learning with a human expert, MDR can identify highly sophisticated threats that automated defenses would otherwise miss and prevent unauthorized attempts on the target network.

Moreover, managed threat investigation can help businesses understand each threat more quickly by providing additional context to active threat alerts. This way, organizations can know what happened, when it occurred, which systems or users were affected, and how deep the threat reached before detection. Comprising all of that information can streamline and ensure an effective threat response.

  • Response

Guided (managed) response provides actionable remediation suggestions to contain and remove an active threat quickly. MDR can advise companies on fundamental or highly complex actions to counter a potential threat, such as isolating an infected system from the primary network (a fundamental principle) or completely removing a threat and recovering from an ongoing attack via a step-by-step plan (advanced remediation).

  • Recovery (remediation)

The next phase aims to recover from a contained incident. This is a crucial step in any organization's endpoint protection program. MDR can restore systems to an uninfected (pre-attack) state by removing malicious software and any persistent (advanced) threats, cleaning the registry, and blocking access to unauthorized actors.

Essentially, managed remediation can ensure the target network is returned to a verified good state and prevent further compromise.

  • Ongoing Monitoring

The last element of a robust MDR process is continuous monitoring. A dedicated MDR provider ensures 24/7 remote monitoring to ensure all potential vulnerabilities are remediated. Moreover, MDR can detect and fix emerging security flaws before they become full-blown breaches.

How to Choose the Right MDR Service Provider

Businesses, no matter how big or small, must take the time to choose the most suitable MDR service for their unique preferences, needs, and budgets. Regardless of these variables, however, your chosen MDR solution must leverage two fundamental elements of any sensible MDR program:

  • Security expertise in the form of human professionals (including a 24/7 SOC, threat response specialists, and cross-platform protection).
  • Dedicated MDR tools (be they provided by you or the vendor) to ensure complete visibility into the target network and allow in-depth data analytics and rapid response to potential security threats.

Additional factors to consider when choosing an MDR partner include the following:

Additionally, you can ask the following five questions when inspecting an MDR service to determine if it's the right fit for your organization:

  • Does the vendor provide MDR services 24/7?
  • Does the service bring new skills and security expertise without hiring additional staff?
  • Does the service support real-time data access to ensure an effective threat detection and response process?
  • How will the MDR teams communicate with your own teams? (here, it's recommended to opt for a single, centralized console to ensure communication doesn't hinder day-to-day processes)
  • How does the MDR expert team stay informed about the most current threats targeting different organizations? (here, it's best if the MDR specialists comprise geopolitical, cultural, and linguistic factors to enrich the threat detection context and outline potential attacker TTPs effectively)

Future of MDR and Security Events

Managed detection and response are the core offerings of robust MDR. MDR services have proven their worth against malicious threats like ransomware, web application attacks, supply chain attacks, APTs, BEC, and more. However, the rapidly evolving threat landscape and digital transformation require vendors to expand their MDR capabilities.

Below are ten emerging trends expected to affect the evolution of MDR in the near future.

  • The emerging multi-cloud MDR

Cloud adoption has spiked significantly since the pandemic's start, with more and more organizations relying on multiple cloud providers to deliver their services.

A modern business may leverage Microsoft Azure for its "traditional" day-to-day processes. However, they may also implement Microsoft 365 as a SaaS and add Google Cloud Platform (GCP) workloads. Such a hybrid environment requires 24/7 threat monitoring for multiple clouds via a centralized, single pane of glass.

Organizations must adopt solutions capable of detecting and remediating multi-cloud and SaaS threats without affecting performance. Moreover, they'd benefit from a unified, automated framework to deploy, discover, and monitor AWS, Azure, and GCP cloud resources.

  • The crucial role of AI

Generative AI bots can significantly boost MDR if implemented adequately. AI can help security analysts scour enormous datasets, perform root cause analysis for complex incidents, and automate rapid response.

If designed and integrated correctly, generative AI can address the global shortage of security specialists and reduce the burden on cybersecurity experts in the SOC.

  • The search for an ultimate solution

We can view cybersecurity as a fragmented field comprised of numerous niche technologies designed to address specific threat landscape aspects.

MDR, XDR, and security information and event management (SIEM) platforms have continuously attempted to define the Golden Standard, but the answer may lie in an even deeper integration. One potential solution to the problem may be Cybersecurity Data Mesh Architecture (CSMA).

CSMA is an architectural framework that effectively links disparate data sources via centrally managed data sharing and governance guidelines to integrate various solutions and ensure optimal security outcomes.

  • MDR industry verticalization

Historically, MDR has offered a horizontal "one-size-fits-all" service across all industries. However, modern cyber-attacks are far from generic. On the contrary, sophisticated threats are industry-specific, so every organization must secure its unique set of devices, apps, and use cases. To achieve optimal protection, MDR services must integrate industry-specific characteristics into the detection and response of verticalized deep attacks.

  • DRPS integration

Digital Risk Protection Services (DRPS) is a quickly evolving approach to understanding the complex threat exposure of a target organization. The method comprises digital asset discovery, VIP (executive) monitoring, dark web monitoring, exposure assessment, and brand protection. Essentially, DRPS can provide a 360-degree view of an organization's exposure to assist MDR in identifying threats within the protected network, be they internal or external.

  • The rapid evolution of Edge Security

Edge security leverages a decentralized security infrastructure to solve latency-related use cases that dedicated cloud workloads can't address. Rather than being cloud-based or centrally located, the approach operates at the "edge" of your organization's network computing.

As AWS, Azure, and GCP have all released edge solutions, MDR services must be able to monitor edge components to detect and provide guided responses against threats. MDR can integrate into edge components, such as containers, storage, APIs, and dedicated edge apps, to ensure complete threat visibility and rapid response.

  • The need to eliminate communication gaps

As mentioned, modern cyber threats are becoming increasingly industry-specific. This requires security teams and board members to communicate potential threat impacts as precisely as possible. Eliminating the communication gap between security specialists and the board may require shifting from a traditional security dashboard to a unified, real-time business risk visualization.

For example, suppose a factory uses Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices, and those devices fall victim to a cyberattack. In that case, the board must be able to quickly visualize the potential business impact associated with production delays and financial losses.

  • Exposure management as a beneficial element of MDR

Exposure management requires MDR to understand the potential exploits available to cybercrime syndicates to ensure high-grade detection and response.

MDR solutions can calculate exposure via DRPS to detect security flaws due to externally exposed or improperly managed assets, exposed customer/payment data on the dark web, exposed code on collaboration code-hosting platforms, and more.

  • API security monitoring

The application programming interface (API) is becoming the go-to approach to integrating heterogeneous software. API links various software components to form a web application, making it a critical element of all modern applications. MDR services can counter API threats by combining their own capabilities with Web Application API Protection (WAAP) capabilities and dedicated API security solution integrations to ensure regular vulnerability scans, API discovery, and threat anomalies detection.

  • Post-incident recovery as a critical element of MDR

Traditionally, MDR focuses more on detection, response, and containment to manage ongoing attacks. However, post-remediation, businesses still need to perform various recovery actions to get business operations up and running normally. Providers can aim to automate common recovery operations (e.g., reimaging, patching, workload restoration) to ensure a complete MDR offering for their customers.

Conclusion

In a time of ever-evolving threats, organizations must proactively protect their data and other digital assets. Managed detection and response (MDR) services combine advanced technology, human specialist analysis, and rapid incident response capabilities to identify, detect, analyze, and remediate both common and sophisticated cyber threats.

As the threat landscape has become highly industry-specific, businesses must take the time to choose the right MDR solution for their specific use cases to minimize the organization's exposure, reduce downtime, optimize costs, and ensure business continuity.

About Acronis

Acronis is a Swiss company, founded in Singapore. Celebrating two decades of innovation, Acronis has more than 1,800 employees in 45 locations. The Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud solution is available in 26 languages in over 150 countries and is used by 20,000 service providers to protect over 750,000 businesses.

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