Understanding Endpoint Detection and Response in Cybersecurity

Cyber security training

EDR solutions enable security teams to find threats quickly and efficiently. This allows them to mitigate attacks that linger and navigate inside a business’ safe perimeter.

Practical EDR tools combine continuous endpoint monitoring with rigorous data analysis to detect cyber threats before they become breached. This helps organizations prevent breaches that compromise sensitive information and systems.

EDR Definition

EDR is a cybersecurity solution that fills a gap in network protection. It monitors endpoints—such as employee workstations, laptops, servers, mobile devices, and IoT systems—for advanced threats that traditional antivirus software cannot stop.

These solutions use an aggregated data set, machine learning algorithms, and threat intelligence to identify suspicious behavior patterns and alert security teams. Many also use a standard framework called MITRE ATT&CK to categorize and define attacks. The framework identifies tactics, the type of system vulnerabilities exploited, and the criminal groups involved in an attack. This information helps an EDR solution detect similar behavior in real time as it occurs.

Once a malicious file has been detected, an EDR solution must contain the threat to prevent its spread and minimize damage. It may do this by isolating or removing the device from the network. It must also investigate the nature of the attack to develop insights that can bolster future security measures. For example, a forensic analysis might reveal why the threat breached the network—perhaps because of a specific device vulnerability or a flaw in the overall security infrastructure.

Because of the high volume of alerts generated by EDR, IT teams need help managing them efficiently. Managed EDR services can provide outsourced support by reducing the number of signs, conducting additional analysis, and taking action on detected threats.

EDR Functions                   

Most organizations have multiple layers of security, but even a well-designed strategy can only prevent some attacks. Thus, what is an EDR in security? And how does it benefit the organization? By monitoring endpoint behavior, collecting telemetry data, and notifying analysts, EDR is designed to discover threats that dodge prevention. In addition to tracking the endpoint, some EDR tools provide threat intelligence to help identify behavior patterns indicative of specific types of cyberattacks. They may also map suspicious behaviors to Mitre ATT&CK, a publicly available knowledge base of hackers’ cyberattack tactics and techniques, to speed up the identification process.

EDR solutions provide visibility into all activities that occur on an endpoint from a security perspective, including file activity, driver loading, registry modifications, disk access, and memory access. This expanded oversight enables security teams to “shoulder surf” an adversary in real time, observing which commands they’re running and their techniques to breach or navigate an environment.

Unlike traditional antivirus, which relies on signatures to detect malware and other attacks, effective EDR uses behavioral approaches that search for indicators of attack (IOAs), so analysts can be alerted in real-time to suspicious or unauthorized activity. 

EDR Applications

EDR tools analyze endpoint telemetry in real-time to look for traces of malware that traditional security systems may have missed. The analysis also identifies how the threat got through a company’s defenses to reach an endpoint. This information helps security teams determine how to contain, quarantine, and eliminate the malicious file.

Most EDR solutions collect, organize and aggregate data from multiple sources on the network. This information is then analyzed by algorithms, searching for suspicious behavior that matches indicators of compromise (IOCs) or other threat characteristics. Some advanced EDR tools use machine learning or AI to automate this process, reducing the need for human intervention and minimizing false-positive alerts. They may also map observed activity to the MITRE ATT&CK framework, a set of security behaviors that can be used to flag threats.

The system can then use its analysis to identify a threat, including its type and potential response. This is often an automated process triggered by pre-configured rules that recognize the danger and determine the appropriate response, such as sending an alert to log off the endpoint user. Some EDR tools offer the ability to respond directly from the management console. In contrast, others can be integrated with a SOAR (security orchestration, automation, and response) system to automatically execute an incident response playbook that uses other security tools.

EDR Vendors

EDR vendors offer systems that monitor endpoints, servers, cloud systems, and even mobile and IoT devices to collect a wide range of information on system activity. They then analyze that data to detect unusual activity and malicious behavior. They can also help security teams respond to detected threats, from disconnecting compromised processes to wiping and reimaging affected endpoints.

Some EDR solutions use machine learning to establish a baseline of normal system operations and user behavior, then look for anomalies. They also use threat intelligence feeds to introduce context – real-world examples of hacker attacks that the technology compares against network and endpoint data.

Finally, an effective EDR solution includes automated response capabilities that allow it to recognize when incoming data points to a known type of attack and then automatically log off the end-user or send an alert to a security staff member. It should also include a robust analytics engine that can quickly diagnose threats that don’t fit pre-configured rules and support the forensics process.

Because the primary functions of EDR tools vary significantly from vendor to vendor, organizations considering an EDR tool should carefully evaluate its capabilities and how they fit with their overall security architecture. Once they have a clear understanding of their needs, they can focus on researching vendors that offer the best tools for them.