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| 8 minutes read

What is MDR and How Does it Fit Into Your Security Strategy?

The global cyber threat landscape is rapidly evolving. The number of attacks, threat vectors, and endpoints continues to grow exponentially alongside the average time to detect and respond to a security incident. Today, organizations that are compromised can be exposed for longer periods of time, adding to the sizeable costs that result from a successful attack. At the same time, the availability of cybersecurity talent is scarce, and the complexities of maintaining an active defense posture are increasing. Managed detection and response (MDR) is a solution that helps organizations address all of these challenges.

What is Managed Detection and Response (MDR)?

MDR, or Managed Detection and Response, is an outsourced, always-on security service that provides 24/7 threat monitoring and detection, as well as real-time incident response services. The best MDR providers use a combination of human and machine intelligence to proactively monitor an organization’s infrastructure and endpoints for threats. MDR services are designed to serve as an organization’s 24/7 security operations center (SOC) or augment an existing in-house team.

How does Managed Detection and Response (MDR) work?

MDR services are delivered through a 24/7 security operations center (SOC) team. MDR providers deploy and/or manage a combination of advanced tools, detection techniques, and experienced analysts to monitor an organization’s network for potential threats. MDR providers use a variety of methods for threat detection, including:

  • Live endpoint threat monitoring: Collecting, retaining, and analyzing events and activities executed on all network accessible hosts including laptops, desktops, servers, and IoT devices.
  • Cloud/SaaS platform activity monitoring: Performing continuous analysis of cloud platform events and user activities, including access patterns, impossible travel, and behavioral analysis.
  • Network traffic analysis: Analyzing network traffic data to look for anomalies that could indicate a cybersecurity threat.
  • Device log analysis: Reviewing log data from devices such as routers, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems to look for signs of a security breach.
  • Security event orchestration, correlation, and intelligent response: Analyzing security events from multiple sources using machine learning algorithms and live analyst assessment to identify and investigate patterns that could indicate a cybersecurity threat.
  • Threat intelligence: Leveraging detailed threat actor behavior profiles and observed attack information from a variety of sources to identify trends and patterns that could indicate a cybersecurity threat.

What challenges can Managed Detection and Response (MDR) address?

Insufficient resources to perform threat-hunting and response operations

Organizations that rely solely on existing IT staff for their 24/7 cybersecurity needs are at a disadvantage. Alert fatigue, distraction caused by competing responsibilities, and other inefficiencies can impact an organization’s ability to effectively detect threats and can impair their response capabilities. A quality MDR partnership will help to overcome these limitations by providing a team of full-time, dedicated experts that know your environment and are continuously trained to detect the threats you are most likely to face.

Finding, attracting, and retaining cyber talent

One of the biggest challenges facing cybersecurity teams today is finding, attracting, and retaining top cyber talent. The cybersecurity skills shortage is a global problem, and it is only getting worse. A recent study found that there are more than three million unfilled cybersecurity jobs worldwide. By engaging an MDR partner, you transfer the challenge of staffing to them. One indicator of a quality MDR provider is their ability to attract and retain talented analysts.

Maintaining stable cybersecurity budgets

Cybersecurity is often seen as a cost center, rather than an investment that brings efficiency and scale to business operations. As a result, cybersecurity budgets are often limited until a breach occurs and significant ransoms are demanded. An MDR partner can help overcome this challenge by providing a fixed-cost solution that does not require a significant upfront investment in technology and talent and that will scale with you predictably as you grow. Moreover, allowing an internal team to focus on technology issues that do help accelerate the business can have a massive benefit to the bottom line.

The difference between MDR and other security solutions

Managed Detection and Response (MDR) vs Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP)

MDR is a cybersecurity solution that engages in proactive threat detection and hunting and responds in real-time, while MSSP (Managed Security Service Provider) is a service that more broadly manages an organization’s security technologies and operations including managing firewalls, email and web security, and more. For many MSSPs, “threat detection” is little more than registering and forwarding machine-generated alerts, leaving it to you to formulate a response – or even to decide whether a response is needed. An MDR service includes alert-based monitoring but goes beyond it by deploying a full suite of extended detection and response (XDR) tools and maintaining customized watch-lists and behavioral-based threat profiling overseen by an experienced analyst who knows you and your environment. Most importantly, an MDR provider is entrusted and empowered to actively respond to an observed threat in order to rapidly contain and suppress an attack BEFORE it can impact operations.

Managed Detection and Response (MDR) vs Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)

An EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response) tool is a powerful security solution that focuses on ingesting host-based activity and continuously analyzing telemetry to detect active threats in real-time. MDR solutions include EDR but go beyond the endpoint to add telemetry and detection playbooks built around extended detection and response (XDR) technology covering a much broader range of activity from all available sources including network traffic and cloud activity. To be sure, EDR technology is a key component to a holistic MDR solution, but the other components of XDR telemetry helps an MDR provider gain full visibility across your environment.

Managed Detection and Response (MDR) vs Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)

A SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) platform is a complex security solution that ingests, stores, and analyzes log and event data from a wide range of sources such as firewalls, Windows event collectors, network devices, and more to give organizations the ability to correlate disparate events and detect anomalous behavior patterns. Poorly configured and improperly tuned SIEM platforms are often more trouble than they are worth as they can generate voluminous false positives and distract a security team from what is most important. However, properly deployed and actively managed SIEMs can add tremendous value to an MDR solution by enabling advanced threat detection engineering and behavioral analytics. Only MDR providers with highly experienced experts in SIEM technology are able to successfully include this powerful component in their offerings.

How does MDR fit your security strategy?

When it comes to cybersecurity, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The best way to safeguard your organization is to implement a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that includes multiple layers of protection. MDR can be a key component of that strategy, providing peace-of-mind that comes from knowing you have an experienced team on patrol 24/7 providing an advanced defense against everything from careless user activity to sophisticated threats. An MDR solution should be designed to help you accelerate your business growth without sacrificing the defensibility of your data and systems from cyber threats. MDR should supplement and complement your existing cybersecurity team, tools, and processes – not replace them. When implemented correctly, an MDR solution can help you detect and respond to cybersecurity threats more quickly and effectively, giving you a critical edge in the ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape.

A trusted Managed Detection and Response (MDR) partner can strengthen your cyber resilience

A trusted MDR partner will consist of a team of seasoned professionals with decades of experience who can seamlessly integrate into your security operations. The team will work with your organization to understand your business and cybersecurity goals and objectives. MDR providers manage all aspects of the detection and response process for their clients, from identifying potential threats to investigating and remediating incidents. Using a third-party provider can have the following added benefits, among others:

  • Around-the-clock Network Monitoring – One of the biggest benefits of MDR is that it provides 24/7 monitoring and real-time response to threats to your network and endpoints. This is a critical requirement in today’s cybersecurity landscape, as attacks can happen at any time, and every minute counts when responding to a rapidly expanding threat such as ransomware.
  • Proactive Threat Detection and Accelerated Response – Another benefit is overall improved detection of sophisticated malicious threats that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. This is because MDR solutions are specifically designed to look for red flags and unusual activity that could easily go unnoticed by automated solutions alone. Experienced MDR analysts armed with the very best threat detection technology are the winning combination that will keep you safe.
  • Reduced False Positives – One of the major benefits of implementing an MDR system is the reduced amount of false positives that your internal staff will need to sift through. By outsourcing the work of threat detection and triage to a team of experts, internal staff can focus on business-critical priorities instead of chasing false leads.
  • Adaptive Service Scope – A major advantage of partnering with a flexible MDR partner is the ability to adapt the service to your changing IT infrastructure and risk profile. No longer will you suffer the risk of “lock-in” that can result from outsized investments in security technology that could become obsolete as your organization evolves. Leading MDR providers will offer guidance and access to experts that can help you expand safely and minimize expenditure on software.
  • Incident Response Expertise – One of the biggest benefits of working with a provider is having priority access to an expert incident response team, which is highly trained in responding to threats faced by organizations like yours. Even if you never need them, the confidence that comes from knowing they are there is invaluable.
  • Improved Technology and Best Practices – As long as your MDR partner is technology-agnostic, you can be confident that you will benefit from the best available cybersecurity technologies and tools. An MDR provider’s interests are 100% aligned with yours when it comes to deploying the most effective technology and response service to tackle the most evasive threats.
  • Expertise to Guide You When the Unexpected Happens – Even the best MDR provider can not anticipate every challenge your business may face. Nevertheless, an MDR partner should have the expert resources to help you respond to any unexpected challenge that arises, whether it is meeting a new requirement from your cyber insurance carrier or responding to an unanticipated targeted attack.

If you are considering adding MDR to your cybersecurity arsenal, it is important to partner with an established provider who can tailor a solution to your specific needs and demonstrate a strong ability to grow and scale as your business expands and pivots to new markets. Look for a provider with broad and deep experience across core cybersecurity domains and a proven track record of helping organizations like yours.

© Copyright 2023. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of Ankura Consulting Group, LLC., its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals. Ankura is not a law firm and cannot provide legal advice.


cybersecurity & data privacy, data privacy & cyber risk, data & technology, managed data protection, article, content-team

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