By |Published On: March 11th, 2024|14 min read|Categories: Cybersecurity, MSP|

MDR vs EDR: What Differences Must Firms be Aware of?

All firms should now understand the importance of effective security defenses. Threats such as ransomware are the biggest worry for organizations in 2024, ahead of business interruption, natural disaster and economic uncertainty.

However, putting in place solutions to address these issues is no easy task. Many companies will find it difficult to devote the necessary resources to this area in-house, especially when IT teams are already facing high demands. Therefore, firms are likely to turn to managed service providers to help protect their critical networks and data.

Solutions such as managed detection and response and dedicated endpoint protection platforms will therefore be a priority for many enterprises this year. So what should businesses know about these solutions in order to make the best decision for their circumstances?

The Importance of Managed Security Services

Turning to managed services to provide assistance with meeting the challenges of an evolving threat landscape is often a must. This is not only cheaper than attempting to build up an effective cybersecurity team from scratch, but provides access to much more advanced technologies and ensures firms are fully protected immediately.

Managed services aren’t just for small firms either. Many larger enterprises rely on these solutions to take their defenses to the next level, while also freeing up their own IT experts for other activities.

What are the Key Cybersecurity Threats of 2024?

One of the biggest cybersecurity threats to businesses in 2024 and beyond will continue to be ransomware, but these attacks are likely to continue evolving as hackers adjust to new defenses. In recent years, for example, we’ve already seen traditional attack methods  – encrypting files or systems and then demanding a ransom in exchange for the decryption key – supplanted by double extortion attacks that also exfiltrate data.

Attacks that threaten to expose data unless payments are made are now the norm. This also means that many hackers are shifting their attention to organizations that would suffer the greatest damage from data leaks, such as healthcare organizations, government agencies and other groups that hold highly sensitive data. 

This means there is a growing focus on data that may have little commercial value if hackers were to attempt to sell it on the dark web, but is of huge personal value to the owners of the data, whether this is an organization or its customers.

What are the Consequences of Falling Victim to a Cyberattack?

The most obvious consequence of becoming the victim of a hacking attack is financial. When it comes to ransomware, the amount being demanded by cybercriminals is higher than ever. According to one study, ransomware demands jumped hugely last year, up from $812,380 in 2022 to $1,542,333 in 2023.

For most firms, however, ransom payments themselves are only a small proportion of the total costs involved in an attack. Even if firms do pay up, they will still face huge bills for investigation and remediation to prevent future attacks, as well as the prospect of ongoing reputational damage. For those that refuse to give in to demands, (or those that do pay up but still do not recover all their data), the expenses involved in downtime and disaster recovery can be immense.

Understanding EDR and MDR

There are a range of third-party security services that businesses can use to protect their devices from cyberthreats, but two of the most common are endpoint detection and response and managed detection and response tools. These might sound similar, but they should not be confused, as they offer different approaches to security.

Any business exploring options for data protection services is likely to come across these terms frequently, so it’s essential they understand what each involves and what the similarities and differences between them are before they commit to any investments. 

What Is Endpoint Detection and Response?

Endpoint detection and response (EDR) covers all solutions that provide protection against cyberthreats directly on a firm’s endpoints. This includes desktop and laptop PCs, mobile devices, servers, switches and other items such as Internet of Things sensors. All threats require an endpoint to infiltrate a network and, later, to exfiltrate data, so safeguarding these must be a critical part of any cybersecurity strategy.

An EDR solution will include a range of tools to achieve this goal. Common elements of these defenses include:

  • Endpoint monitoring and event logging
  • Suspicious activity detection and triage
  • Data analysis
  • Real-time visibility into activities
  • Swift isolation and containment of infected endpoints

The use of machine learning is also increasingly important in endpoint security solutions in order to build up a picture of what normal endpoint activity looks like. This helps these tools to spot anomalies and respond to emerging threats earlier.

What Is Managed Detection and Response?

Managed detection and response, or MDR, refers to a security-as-a-service offering that encompasses a firm’s entire cybersecurity strategy. For smaller firms, this will often replace the need for an in-house team of specialists, though larger enterprises may also use these services to supplement their own efforts or fill any gaps in capabilities.

A managed service provider (MSP) will be able to provide a full suite of threat detection tools and expertise to offer firms 24/7 protection for their networks. Importantly, they also have the knowledge to respond quickly to any flagged activity, conduct thorough investigations and take a proactive approach to spotting cyberthreats.

Some of the key features of a good MDR solution include:

  • Threat intelligence
  • Continuous monitoring and protection
  • Incident investigation and remediation
  • Threat hunting

Is MDR the Same as EDR?

Despite the similarities in names, MDR and EDR perform very different functions. Although there is some overlap in capabilities, MDR will typically offer a more wide-ranging set of functionality, whereas EDR is a more targeted solution.

How do MDR and EDR Compare?

When firms are considering EDR and MDR services, it’s therefore critically important for them to have a full understanding of the similarities and differences between the two. This Is essential in making an informed decision about which services will be best-suited to the current needs and security situation of the business.

What are the Main Differences in Functionality Between MDR and EDR?

The primary difference between MDR and EDR is the scope of the technologies. In principle, MDR should be able to provide protection across an entire network, whereas the solutions on offer with EDRs are directly tailored to defending endpoints against threats.

Beyond this, MDRs typically offer access to a full security operations center (SOC) that is able to analyze, prioritize and respond to potential threats accordingly. This can cut down on the number of alerts and false positives that your in-house team has to deal with, as much of the work is taken care of by the managed service provider.

What are the Limitations of EDR Compared to MDR?

While EDR solutions provide all the tools a business should need to protect its endpoints against threats, it is often up to the firm’s IT team to deploy and manage them within the business. Companies will still require a significant degree of in-house expertise to achieve this, which can be a challenge in an environment where there remains a major cybersecurity skills shortage.

By contrast, the more full-service offerings provided by MDR technology take much of the day-to-day work out of the hands of the business, as they will be the responsibility of the managed service provider. This can be especially important when the tools detect a threat, as they are more likely to have the skills and experience to respond quickly before the intrusion has a chance to steal data or otherwise inflict damage.

As well as the cost and resource overheads, a more basic EDR solution may also come with a higher risk of false positives, in which legitimate activity is incorrectly flagged as suspicious. Not only does this create more work for an in-house IT team, as they will have to investigate more issues, but it can also negatively impact the overall performance of the business, if employees find their work is being interrupted by unnecessary security alerts. 

Tools such as MDR and other advanced endpoint protections address this with solutions such as machine learning that can develop a clearer picture of what constitutes unusual activity on an endpoint.

What are the Disadvantages of MDR?

One potential issue when it comes to choosing an MDR solution is that the term can cover a wide range of capabilities. While advanced solutions will come with the latest technologies and be constantly updated to fight new threats, there remain a range of more traditional tools available that, while still under the banner of MDR, provide limited functionality when it comes to areas such as threat intelligence

This means that firms will need to do their research carefully in order to understand the capabilities of their chosen solution and be certain it will provide them with up-to-date protection against the latest emerging threats.

It’s also important for firms to maintain their own internal awareness and visibility into their security system. When solutions have been handed over to an external cloud security provider, it can be easy to fall into an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ position where firms become fully dependent on the service and assume they are protected. 

However, even with the most advanced solutions, ultimate responsibility remains with the organization and there may be situations, such as malicious insiders who have knowledge of the security tools’ capabilities, that MDR software cannot account for.

EDR vs Managed MDR: Which is Right For You?

Choosing the right EDR or MDR solution could well be the difference between successfully defending against cyberattacks or facing major operational disruption and financial costs. In extreme cases, a ransomware attack or other security incident could put the company’s entire future at risk. Therefore, making sure that decision-makers fully understand the options available will always be time well spent.

How do MDR and EDR Address Security Threats Differently?

Among the key questions to ask is how the solutions search for and identify a potential threat. Do they rely on techniques such as signature matching that only spot known threats, or do they engage in proactive threat hunting and deploy tools such as machine learning to provide extended detection and response capabilities?

Another major difference between EDR and MDR is how they handle incident response. While an EDR tool can alert businesses to an issue at a particular endpoint and take steps to isolate it, it lacks the proactive managed response that an MDR alternative provides. With only EDR technology, it will still be up to an in-house cybersecurity expert to assess potential security threats and formulate the correct response.

A good MDR security solution, on the other hand, should come with comprehensive Security-as-a-Service capabilities to respond automatically to any potential threat. It can determine what malicious activity looks like compared to normal behavior in order to reduce the risk of false positives and prevent disruption to legitimate business activity.

How do MDR and EDR Impact Overall Security Posture?

Both EDR and MDR tools can play an important role in defending businesses against the latest cyberthreats, such as ransomware and data exfiltration, and they shouldn’t be treated as a binary ‘either/or’ decision. A strong, defense-in-depth approach to security needs to include multiple layers, so there’s no reason why EDR and MDR options can’t be deployed side-by-side to provide a more holistic view into activities across an organization.

Between them, managed EDR and MDR services give a security team critical tools to combat the advanced threats of 2024. Technologies that focus on endpoint protection are especially important in an age where data exfiltration is one of the biggest cyberthreats facing all businesses. 

This is not only about guarding against infiltration. Being able to block a threat before it can steal data is a critical last line of defense against threats such as ransomware. Therefore, regardless of whether a business opts for EDR or MDR – or a combination of both, it’s vital that their security solution also includes dedicated anti data exfiltration (ADX) technology. 

A good tool must be lightweight enough to be used across every endpoint – including mobile devices – and intelligent enough to identify and block suspicious traffic in real-time, without running the risk of false positives.

Adding an ADX layer to a firm’s defenses alongside EDR and MDR technology will be especially important in an environment where double and triple extortion ransomware is now a leading cyberthreat. As part of a comprehensive, defense-in-depth approach, this ensures that a business’ security position will be well-placed to deal with whatever hackers target them with in 2024 and beyond.

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