A Close Look at Endpoint Detection and Response

The growing dependency of many businesses on technology for important tasks opens a lot of opportunities for consumers, but it also opens doors to cyberattacks. The advanced technologies that have made life easy for us have also made it easy for unscrupulous minds to do their dirty work.

The good news is that many companies have developed cybersecurity systems and tools to combat these malicious threats and increase data security. One of these is Endpoint Detection Response, or EDR.

What is Endpoint Detection and Response?

In a nutshell, EDR is the name of the technology that provides real time continuous monitoring, threat identification, and, in some systems, immediate response. In contrast with security systems that identify malware and threats within a network, EDR tools provide security to endpoint devices—office workstations, laptops, mobile devices, and the like. Endpoints are typically the most vulnerable in terms of security, as they are often the easiest for hackers and phishers to target.

The term EDR encompasses a broad range of products, and different services provide different levels of protection. Strictly speaking, the primary purpose of EDR systems is to identify threats in endpoint devices by analysing system behaviours and responding to them. However, there are EDR solutions today that offer more advanced protection for end users.

One of the major advantages of EDR systems is the ability to identify advanced persistent threats (APT). Though the security capabilities of EDR do not necessarily extend to blocking these APTs, an early alert about a potential APT may help administrators in taking the required preventative steps to block malicious activity. ATPs are especially dangerous because they can lurk in a network for a prolonged period of time before being detected.

Importance of EDR

In 2013, Anton Chuvakin of technology research and consulting firm Gartner introduced the term “Endpoint Threat Detection and Response” to refer to a new modern set of digital tools that aim to monitor endpoint and host devices for suspicious activities. In 2015, this term was shortened and is now commonly known as “Endpoint Detection and Response”.

Chuvakin described EDR tools as “primarily focused on detecting and investigating suspicious activities… [and] other problems on hosts/endpoints.”

Because of the growing number of both threats and end users, demand for cybersecurity solutions such as EDR is increasing exponentially. As the “Endpoint Detection and Response – Global Market Outlook (2017-2026)” estimated, the EDR market should reach more than US$7 billion by 2026, from US$916 million in 2017. According to this report, the increase in end-user devices such laptops, smartphones, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices contributed to this forecast. However, they also reported that a general lack of understanding about cybersecurity threats and its effects may hamper market growth as well.

Because hackers are constantly developing new threats and malware, it is important to program a security system to detect even unknown threats, and threats that are difficult to catch through traditional antivirus solutions. And with large companies utilising thousands of end user devices every day, it is crucial for their IT departments to have good endpoint visibility for monitoring threats. Good EDR systems have this capability, allowing companies to track and record system behaviours in real time, spotting suspicious activity before it poses a real danger.

How Do EDR Tools Work?

EDR systems and tools work by providing continuous, real-time visibility of endpoints across a network. This allows the system and the administrators to monitor unusual or suspicious behaviour in the network. Paired with data analytics and forensics, it becomes a powerful threat detection tool. If the threat intelligence is excellent, it can flag and investigate even small traces of dubious activity. It’s a significant function against emerging threats.

A good EDR system will provide contextual information about potential threats to the administrator, to have as much relevant data as possible for a proper incident response. Security teams receive the intelligence that EDR tools collect to further analyse and investigate red flags if needed. The system can also use an automated response to keep human intervention at a minimum. This is important for larger organisations whose security teams often oversee thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of endpoint devices.

Some systems also implement testing security strength through processes such as penetration testing, where simulated attacks determine security effectiveness and weak spots in the network. This is a good way to test the strength of an EDR system and see your network through the perspective of a hacker.

Differences Between EDR and EPP

Endpoint Protection Platform, or EPP, is another tool to protect endpoints from known and emerging threats through signature matching and malware scanning. There are many definitions for both EPP and EDR, with EPP being a first-line defence, a more passive form of protection; and EDRs being the next step in endpoint security by actively analysing and enabling responses for these threats.

EPP can prevent attacks from malware, while EDR tools can collect important data about threats for an appropriate response. While both tools offer some form of security, it is ideal to have both; in fact, many cybersecurity vendors integrate components of both EPP and EDR in one package for maximum endpoint security and protection, so the differences may not be as relevant today as before. These integration services usually ensure optimised security operations by providing a thorough assessment of a company’s security capabilities and determining what they need.

Key Components of EDR Security to Look For

Because different organisations have different security needs, EDR vendors offer many products that feature various components of an advanced security system. It is beneficial to have managed security services that will allow your organisation to operate the EDR system that is suitable for your needs.

A good EDR security system will more or less have the following key components that you should look for:

Real time continuous monitoring

EDR tools must provide continuous visibility in real time for endpoints. This assures users that EDR tools monitor and record pertinent security data. Comprehensive and continuous visibility means that it’s less likely to miss potential threats, and they can stop threats before they can penetrate the system further.

 

Threat database with analysis

Context is key to effective data interpretation and subsequent actions. Good EDR systems must be able to collect and transmit endpoint data to a central database that can identify potential threats. Then, threat intelligence can recognise and analyse unusual system behaviours and the corresponding actions.

An EDR system can also use a combination of real-time data analytics and forensic tools for a more advanced investigation, threat hunting, or analysis of a successful breach for future prevention.

 

Advanced threat protection

This can include protection against advanced threats such as ATPs, which can sometimes overwhelm weaker systems. It can also include protection against multiple threats that attack at once. Today, we cannot underestimate the sophistication of hackers, and the ways they can circumvent existing malware detection systems.

An EDR must also be able to use behavioural analytics to detect threats. Traditional antivirus software use signature tracking to detect malware, but this is inadequate against new and more advanced threats. A behavioural approach allows an EDR to detect indicators of attack (IOAs) aside from the usual indicators of compromise (IOCs) and are consequently more effective.

 

Timely response

EDR is useless if the response is slow or inadequate to stop a potential breach. According to the Verizon Data Breach Report, 82% of breaches happened within minutes. An immediate response to detected threats would ensure the continued security of the affected endpoint devices.

 

Cloud-based

It only makes sense for an EDR solution that can monitor endpoints remotely to be cloud-based. This has virtually no impact on the endpoint users but can still perform basic capabilities that allow effective and efficient threat detection and investigation.

 

Adopting EDR Solutions

With the surge of remote work policies around the world because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you should not underestimate the importance of having good EDR solutions.

It is also a good idea to conduct security training for employees and staff in order to prepare for any cyberattacks on endpoint devices, or even emergency situations that require human response. EDR will function best if the end users and IT teams are also well equipped with information on threats.

At the same time, adopting EDR solutions helps your organisation integrate proper cybersecurity measures to comply with government regulations. Non-compliance may mean hefty fines, not to mention exposing the organisation to a breach that may cost more.

For these reasons, EDR solutions are rapidly making their way to companies’ IT systems, for good reason. EDR tools come in a variety of forms—as a mostly standalone tool designed for a specific purpose, as part of your company’s overall security monitoring system, or as several separate detection and response tools. You simply cannot overstate the value of EDR at this point. It is advanced threat protection for vulnerable end users, bringing peace of mind to both companies and individuals.

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