It can take just minutes, if not seconds, for an advanced threat to compromise a company's endpoint devices (laptops, mobile devices, and the like). Legacy security tools that were once adored and worshipped by many no longer cut it. These tools require manual triage and responses that are not only too slow for fast-moving and increasingly sophisticated cyber threats, but they also generate a huge volume of indicators that burden the already overstretched cyber security teams. Needless to say, an overburdened team is an underperforming team.
As part of the emerging lineup of solutions that claim to detect, investigate, and remediate threats on endpoints is a technology that actually walks the talk: EDR, short for Endpoint Detection and Response.
We'll take a deep dive into EDR, why it matters, and how it can help your organization steer clear of cyber threats across endpoints.
What is Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)?
Endpoint detection and response (EDR) is a cybersecurity technology that detects and investigates suspicious activities and other security incidents on network hosts and endpoints.
Providing an extra layer of protection above that of traditional endpoint security, EDR works by continually monitoring the endpoint using indicators of attacks (IOAs). That means it's capable of investigating the entire lifecycle of an endpoint threat in real-time, providing insights into what happened, how it got in, what it's doing now, and how to stop it.
EDR is an advanced, more proactive version of EPP (Endpoint Protection Platform). While EPP primarily focuses on prevention at the perimeter, EDR focuses on countering advanced threats that have already evaded front-line defenses and are deep into the environment.
With EDR tools and endpoint security solutions, security teams can anticipate cyber threats better and use the cyber kill chain more effectively. They can gain complete visibility into zero-day, polymorphic, and advanced threats, allowing for more effective remediation. In other words, security teams won't have to wait for a threat to mature to counter it—they can stop it in real-time automatically and efficiently, without overstretching resources.
How Does EDR Work?
At its heart, EDR technology performs the following key functions:
- Collects network and endpoint data about disk, memory, traffic, account activity, and logins
- Provides security teams with activity logs and network files
- Alerts the security operations center (SOC) as well as security analysts of any anomalies or threats in the target environment
- Assesses the network and endpoint data so that security teams can have the telemetry needed to conduct full triage and remediation
- Performs appropriate remediation tasks, such as running a script, killing a process, or blocking an application to halt malicious activity
Why Should You Deploy an EDR Solution?
Modern malware is way too stealthy and sophisticated for traditional antivirus (or EPP) to contain and remove. It's made in such a way that it can quickly evade firewalls and wreak havoc across the entire network, in minutes. Complex ransomware, for instance, can encrypt sensitive data and hold it hostage from the company until financial ransom is collected. Meanwhile, spyware can leave a business susceptible to data breaches and misuse of private information.
EDR solutions are designed to counter the most sophisticated and persistent of threats. With EDR, you can:
Accelerate threat hunting and discovery
Why spend days hunting down threats when you can do it in minutes? Using an EDR tool, you can track down the root cause of an attack quicker than ever before.
Understand the true intent of activities across your endpoint devices
Most EDR tools incorporate machine learning capabilities, which means you can monitor an unknown file and make categorization decisions based on behavior. In other words, only when the file begins to act similarly to a known malicious activity will it be categorized as such. This saves your organization a ton of resources and money in the long run.
Complete automation of the threat detection cycle
Manual threat detection is time-consuming. Having an EDR security solution allows you to detect cyber threats automatically and contain them as they occur.
Prevent all imaginable cyber threats
Did you know that 99% of cyberattacks can be prevented with the right tools? Security teams can take advantage of endpoint detection and response tools to find, investigate, and stop all manner of threats—from the easiest to execute (such as evasive malware and zero-day attacks) to the most sophisticated and damaging (fileless, low and slow, as well as targeted attacks).
Which Capabilities Should You Look for in an EDR Solution?
EDR is not just about the tools. It’s about the capabilities. That's why it's incredibly important to pay attention to the following EDR capabilities when evaluating vendors:
1. Broad, Real-time Visibility
Real-time visibility is a foundational capability of any robust EDR solution. Look for detection and response tools that collect comprehensive data and provide real-time company-wide visibility.
It is not a matter of whether an advanced threat will strike, it's a matter of when. Any good EDR solution should leverage endpoint data and machine learning capabilities to detect stealthy threats immediately they evade your front-line defenses. That way, you can remove advanced threats before they cause irreparable harm to your network.
To make sure you're walking away with a tool that takes detection coverage and visibility seriously, conduct independent tests such as MITRE ATT&CK evaluation. MITRE ATT&CK categorizes cyber threats by various factors, such as the tactics used to infiltrate a network system, the malware tools used, the type of vulnerabilities exploited, and the criminal groups associated with the attack.
2. Robust Incident Response Capabilities
Low-quality EDR tools tend to struggle with threat hunting and incident response. That means they're incapable of revealing the root cause and sequence of events behind a specific advanced threat.
Look for an EDR solution that does the complete opposite. A solid EDR tool should simplify threat investigations by leveraging root cause analysis, automated risk scoring, and intelligence alert grouping. By gathering the threat intelligence details of alerts from any and all endpoints, you can effectively focus on the events that matter most to you.
3. Next-Level Behavioral Protection
Like we mentioned earlier, modern data breaches are way too complex and advanced. Relying on indicators of compromise (IOCs) to stop them is an exercise in futility. No wonder there are so many incidences of "silent failure" nowadays.
Look for an EDR solution that incorporates behavioral approaches that search for indicators of attack (IOAs) rather than IOCs. That way, you're alerted of suspicious activities way before they escalate and cause extensive damage.
4. Intelligent Filtering
A good EDR solution is fully capable of filtering out false positives. This goes a long way in reducing alert fatigue—and the likelihood of actual threats slipping through unnoticed.
A solid EDR tool should grow alongside your business. Scalability makes it possible to download files from hundreds (or even thousands) of endpoints and store all that data in one central database.
6. Advanced Threat Prevention
Besides being scalable, the best EDR tools should include antivirus and endpoint security tools that prevent attacks the moment they're detected and throughout the life of the threat. Check whether your EDR tool of choice can block malware files by machine learning, stop attacks by technique, and halt even the most evasive of attacks.
7. Cloud-based Management and Deployment
Cloud-delivered security not only scales to handle more data and more users, it also alleviates burdensome on-premises servers and streamlines operations.
XDR: A New, Improved Approach to EDR
Extended detection and response, or XDR, is a new holistic approach to proactive protection against today's sophisticated cyberattacks. Beyond the buzz, the solution has shown tremendous promise to transform the scale and efficiency of EDR.
In the words of Gartner, "XDR is a SaaS-based, vendor-specific, security threat detection and incident response that natively integrates multiple security products into a cohesive security operations system that unifies all licensed products." Simply put, XDR delivers visibility into data across endpoints, clouds, and networks while applying automation and analytics to counter today's increasingly complex threats. With XDR, security teams can:
- Conduct threat investigations more comprehensively.
- Get the most out of their security investments.
- Increase their productivity and of the people running the technology
- Monitor threats across any location or source across the organization
- Pinpoint stealthy, hidden, and sophisticated attacks quickly and proactively
- Eradicate threats without business disruption