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What is EDR and why is endpoint security so important?

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Cybersecurity leaders have a daunting task and have needed to increase the scope of their security framework and how to effectively protect their organizations. Many frameworks such as ones provided by NIST, ask departments to think beyond just prevention as protection.

Data breaches, attacks, and exposures are so commonplace that just focusing on preventing attack will leave an organization unprepared if they do suffer a compromise. And the likelihood of that happening is only increasing. A data breach report from IBM recently stated that the average company has a 27.7% chance of experiencing a data breach.

This risk has resulted in an expansion of priorities. In addition to preventing attacks, organizations should also focus on detection, identification, response, and recovery tools that let them know when and how they’ve been compromised, while giving them the necessary tools, data, and analysis.

An endpoint detection and response solution, or EDR, is one of the more effective tools available that ensure you’re monitoring your endpoints while having the capability to respond to any attacks or suspicious behavior.

What is an EDR?

An EDR is a tool that will monitor your endpoints for any suspicious behavior, alerting you in the case of a compromise while providing you helpful data and behavioral analysis that will help you identify your attacker and respond appropriately so you prevent further damage.

This is a crucial component of a mature cybersecurity department as it’s not just focused on preventing an attack but provides mitigation capabilities to reduce the damage of a compromise. Given that endpoints are often the way a hacker compromises a company, it’s a priority for any given organization.

How does an EDR work (and how to spot the best ones)?

Many endpoints work fairly similar and you should look for the following when looking for an EDR security solution.

Endpoint monitoring and data collection: This the bulk of an EDR’s function. It collects data  like activity, processes, connections, access, and more from your various endpoints. The more endpoints the EDR is collecting from, the stronger your detection and response are. The right EDR security solution should have as wide a scope as possible.

Response capabilities: How the EDR alerts you and handles potential breach or compromise scenarios are important. Effective EDRs should be working in real time and provide alerts as well as helpful dashboards that summarize information from the EDR’s continuous monitoring efforts. 

Depending on the EDR solution, there may be automatic actions that trigger depending on the behavior or agent detected. This will ensure that among critical scenarios, your organization’s response or protection doesn’t solely rely on a post-alert action — the attacker may be contained or neutralized by the EDR itself.

Forensic investigation and behavioral analysis: Effective EDR security solutions don’t just stop at detection and alerting. They should also provide forensic investigative capabilities alongside behavioral analysis (this can be done with the help of AI, machine learning, or additional technological advancement) that can provide a complete picture of how an attacker was able to compromise an endpoint and enter your environment.

This is necessary information that will help you spot your vulnerabilities or potentially unknown exposures, giving you an area of priority that will prevent a similar attack or compromise from happening.

Key considerations when looking for an EDR

There are a number of various EDRs with different strengths, capabilities, and features that may or may not be helpful to your organization. The qualities listed above should be considered a baseline — must haves for any EDR to be in the running.

But to make the cut, you’ll also need to choose an EDR solution that is right for your needs. This includes: industry, size, make up of your security department, tools used, other vendors, and environment. Additional questions to ask your EDR provider include:

How is it detecting threats and anomalies?

Simple EDRs just have a list of behaviors or actions that may trigger when detected but if they’re applied en masse across all your endpoints, you may end up with a lot of false positives. Look for EDRs that have more variability in how they detect suspicious behavior and consider those who use specific attack frameworks — they’re likely to be more accurate and result in fewer false positives.

How broad is the coverage?

Organizations today look a lot different than they did years ago. Servers and networks are more disconnected and cloud-based vendors have been incorporated in a major way across most organizations. Distributed teams and the use of personal devices on networks have increased dramatically. You have to ensure an EDR solution is capturing the wide nature of your environment so you’re monitoring all your endpoints.

How much organizational complexity is it introducing?

This is partly an implementational consideration as well as a department-based consideration. Like the example used before, if the EDR floods your team with alerts, it may be sapping precious resources that can be used elsewhere.

How it integrates with your environment also matters here. If you have to drastically change your architecture, you may not be seeing the benefits months down the line.

When you may need XDR or MDR

Depending on your organization’s need or makeup, you may find yourself needing eXtended endpoint detection (XDR) or response or managed detection and response (MDR) services.

XDR expands the scope of, providing organization-level security analytics and security event correlations within the EDR service. This provides a detection and response service beyond endpoints (such as hybrid environments) while still considering the organization and infrastructure holistically.

Security departments are notoriously under-resourced and that may mean organizations simply don’t have the headcount to manage a data-rich tool like an EDR. Managed Detection and Response services, among other things, provide an outsourced cybersecurity team dedicated to your department’s cybersecurity priorities.

An EDR is a crucial component of a comprehensive cybersecurity layer

An EDR is quickly becoming an essential tool for any organization’s cybersecurity department but it takes some careful consideration when choosing the right one. If you’re in the market for one, make sure you’re not buying too much into buzzwords or marketing that promise flashy tech without ensuring it serves your fundamental needs too.

You should also consider an EDR as part of your overall cybersecurity roadmap which means understanding how the vendor may support you 6, 12, 18 months from now. As your organization grows and scales, it may mean an XDR or MDR will be needed in the future, so you might plan ahead and prioritize an EDR vendor with those capabilities.

An EDR is one of the most important solutions available to your organization so make sure you’re taking your time choosing the right one.

Learn more about choosing the right EDR solution.

Additional Resources:

EDR On-Demand Webinar

XDR On-Demand Webinar

XEDR: What is it and how it works demo