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What is Managed Detection and Response (MDR)?

Managed detection and response, or MDR, is a fully-managed cybersecurity solution that combines security experts, threat intelligence and advanced tools to provide 24/7 threat protection to organizations.

The rising threat that cybersecurity poses to individuals and businesses worldwide is well-documented, but what perhaps is less well-known is just how much some organizations are struggling to maintain strong defenses and response mechanisms.

According to Kaspersky research, 41% of InfoSec professionals say their organization’s cyber security teams are “somewhat” or “significantly understaffed . This means that security professionals are in great demand, and organizations are finding it tougher to attract and retain enough staff with the right skills. This affects every type of business: the World Economic Forum has found that skills gaps are the biggest cyber resilience challenge for 52% of public organizations. At the same time, less than half of smaller organizations say they have the skills to respond to and recover from a cyberattack.

For this reason, many businesses are turning towards managed services to access the solutions and expertise they need to keep data, systems, applications and users safe. One of the most effective ways of achieving this is through Managed Detection and Response (MDR), but only now are organizations gradually waking up to just how important MDR security is to their businesses. Gartner research has found that in 2023, only 30% of organizations were actively using remote threat disruption and containment capabilities from MDR providers - but that is expected to rise to 50% by 2025. And not a moment too soon; Kaspersky MDR (Managed Detection and Response) processed more than 430 security events in 2023, with most of the critical incidents detected in government agencies, industrial and financial organizations. The cyber threat landscape is constantly evolving, and it’s difficult for many organizations to keep up.

How does managed detection and response work?

So, how does MDR work in practice? It’s a form of cybersecurity, provided as a managed service and designed to speed up the identification and remediation of threats, and minimize the scale of the impact they can have on businesses. Human security skills and advanced technology are combined within MDR meaning that substantial cost and resource efficiencies can be generated.

Good MDR services will typically comprise five main functions:

Event prioritizing

The combination of security event inspection by skilled staff, and assessment of events in accordance with pre-set automated rules, identifies which events are more relevant or risky than others. False positives and those unlikely to be an issue are deprioritized, while the biggest issues are put at the front of the queue to be addressed by the other MDR services and assessed in more detail.

Threat search

Automation is an extremely powerful tool for identifying potential threats - but it can’t be relied upon as a catch-all solution. Highly experienced ‘threat hunters’ are well-versed in spotting abnormal activity and the kinds of behavior that cybercriminals engage in when setting up a potential data breach or attack. Between human and digital endeavors, threats can be flagged much faster, which in turn enables speedier remediation.

Threat investigation

After identifying threats, the next stage is to explore them in depth and get to the bottom of the matter. Managed investigation services root out the what, when, and where of an incident, and identify the systems, data, applications, and users that have been - or would be - affected. All this context is vital to informing the most effective and suitable ways to shut the threat down.

Response assistance

Working with a partner for MDR security gives organizations access to advice as well as solutions. Experts can draw on their own experience and the information gathered through threat search and investigation to advise on the best way to tackle the problem. This could be eliminating a threat that could be about to occur, or how to respond to and recover from an attack that has already happened.

Managed remediation

Remediation processes, where required, aim to remove all traces of a threat and return systems, applications and data to the state they were in before the attack happened. This can involve a range of processes, such as malware removal, registry cleaning, rejecting unauthorized access, system restoration, and other measures. Which measures are used will vary depending on the nature of the threat or attack and are chosen in consultation with MDR security professionals.

How does MDR differ from traditional antivirus software?

The biggest difference between MDR services and the traditional antivirus-based security is that MDR is proactive, and antivirus is reactive.

Generally speaking, antivirus systems rely on signature detection, where different variants of malware have their own fingerprints, which the systems then look for. However, more and more cybercriminals are developing unique malware variants that are unlike any others, and therefore, can’t be detected through these fingerprints. And in any case, antivirus can’t detect those variants until they’re already there, by which time it can often be too late to prevent any impact.

Managed detection and response tools, on the other hand, go out of their way to proactively look for malware infections on systems 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and mitigate their effects.

What is the difference between MDR and EDR?

EDR stands for Endpoint Detection and Response, and works with the automated rules used at the prioritization stage of MDR. An EDR deployment will record events and patterns of behavior on all endpoints, which are then assessed against the automated rules established by the security teams. Any suspicious patterns or activities that are detected are then flagged for the security team to investigate further.

For many organizations, EDR is therefore, one constituent part of MDR, working alongside skilled IT security experts and well-established processes and methodologies.

Is managed detection and response the same as XDR?

Not quite. The simplest way of putting it is that XDR - which stands for Extended Detection and Response - takes the principles of MDR to the next level. XDR integrates a huge amount of data collected from a range of different sources to make threat hunting and investigation even more informed and proactive. It also leverages more advanced tools, including data loss prevention and Identity and Access Management (IAM), to gain full visibility of the threat landscape across an entire business.

What are the key benefits of MDR?

Managed detection and response services can transform the security approach of an organization in a number of different ways, and sharpen up performance in almost every area of security operations. The benefits of MDR security include, and are by no means limited to:

Reduced detection time

Some organizations take several months to detect a security incident, during which time untold havoc might have been wreaked on systems, applications and data, sometimes without the business even knowing. MDR can reduce this not only to days or even hours but to minutes so that the potential scope of an attack’s impact can be vastly reduced.

Improved security posture

MDR services can make a business stronger and more resilient in the event of an attack, as the chances of a breach having a major effect will be much lower. It also helps ensure that the overall security configuration of the enterprise is better optimized and remains so even as business needs and attack profiles evolve.

Continuous threat detection

The ability for managed detection and response tools to search for threats 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year ensures that threats and malware can’t ‘hide’ in systems, ready to be activated in the future. Data patterns and behavior can be analyzed on a constant basis, so that anomalous activity can be flagged even before anything malicious has occurred.

Faster threat response and remediation

All three points above contribute to threat response and remediation far speedier than would otherwise be possible. Knowing about a problem earlier allows for threat response to be formed quicker under MDR, meaning that the right remediation activities can be applied to the affected area and in a much timelier manner.

Lower security staff burden

When there’s already a shortage of security staff, lumbering them with several different security technologies can put even more pressure and stress on their valuable time. It can lead to incidents falling through the cracks, as well as a lack of proper utilization of the tools at their disposal because they just don’t have time to do so. Handing much of this burden over to managed services and skilled third-party experts can relieve this pressure and maximize the effectiveness of the in-house team day-to-day.

Minimized risk of alert fatigue

Using security technologies massively expands the number of alerts and incidents the security team is aware of and has to deal with. As well as being mundane, repetitive and prone to human error, this also makes it difficult for security staff to identify which issues are the most pressing and need resolving before others. The prioritization processes within MDR services resolve that problem by analyzing and flagging the most urgent problems and dealing with event triage on behalf of the security team.

What should you look for in managed detection and response services?

The marketplace for MDR services is strong: Gartner’s research suggests that the MDR market is growing at a rate of 48% and is set to reach $2.2 billion by 2025. This means there are many different providers of managed detection and response tools available, which can make it difficult to identify the right one for your specific needs and requirements. As part of your selection process, we recommend looking out for these four attributes:

Additional MDR skills

You’re likely to already have a considerable skill base within your security team, but as the global skills gap suggests, you may well also have some areas to strengthen. You should identify those gaps at the start of your vendor consideration process and look for a vendor that specializes in those skills and maturities so that they can augment and complete your team.

MDR security knowledge and capabilities

Well managed detection and response services will have up-to-date knowledge of the current security landscape. They will know of the latest emerging threats to be aware of and will understand many of the underlying factors driving cybercrime, including any geopolitical and cultural circumstances involved. This knowledge - allied to their security skills and capabilities - will add value to most in-house security teams.

MDR service provision and collaboration

You may be happy with the expertise and skills that a prospective MDR security service can provide, but they still need to be a good fit with your existing team, technologies and wider organization. They should be able to demonstrate a strong commitment to clear communication so that information and insights can flow easily between both parties. This will help the in-house security team get up to speed with the new approach much more quickly. They should also be able to showcase a commitment to 24/7 protection, which can help keep systems safe outside of the security team’s normal working hours.

Comprehensive solutions

Ultimately, you should be looking for MDR security that covers all the bases. A solution like Kaspersky Managed Detection and Response delivers advanced protection technologies, proactive threat hunting, automated and guided response, and globally recognized expertise that you feel comfortable tapping into. This can ensure that not only is the risk of cyber-threats minimized, but also that your IT security investment into MDR is maximized.

Kaspersky Managed Detection and Response and Kaspersky Incident Response were ranked among 2023’s technology leaders by Quadrant Knowledge Solutions, an endorsement of the high level of effectiveness of these solutions in protecting enterprises from cybercriminals.

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