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What is Managed Detection and Response (MDR)? Benefits and applications

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Cybersecurity threats are a looming issue for large IT organizations. However, very few companies are equipped with the tools to identify and mitigate these threats. In 2023, only one-third of companies were equipped to identify breaches with their own security tools.

That’s why it’s essential to step up your security measures with managed detection and response (MDR) services. The outsourced service helps organizations rapidly address cybersecurity issues, protecting their data and infrastructure.

Let’s learn what MDR is and explore the benefits, applications, and drawbacks of the service for a business.

What Is a Managed Detection and Response (MDR) Service?

Managed detection and response (MDR) is a remote service that helps organizations actively identify, investigate, and respond to cybersecurity threats. It is delivered as a Security-as-a-Service (SECaaS) offering, allowing companies to use external providers for cybersecurity. 

The MDR service consists of technology like security software, data analytics, and threat intelligence. It also has human factors like security engineers and threat responders. Combined, they cover the network, endpoint, cloud resources, and storage units to ensure complete protection of business and customer data.

Features of MDR

An MDR platform or service may contain the following features:

Threat Hunting

MDR security providers use human and software resources to hunt for potential threats that target your business. This includes external threats like malware and phishing as well as internal threats such as malicious insider activity and unauthorized access attempts. 

Threat Investigation

Some alerts, such as a spike in traffic or a software bug, may not qualify as actual security threats. An MDR service provider will monitor all alerts to determine true threats, which ensures the security resources are focused on the right alerts.

Alert Triage

If there are multiple threats, prioritizing them and allocating the right resources is crucial to mitigate the risks on time. MDR service providers actively organize the alerts, ensuring that high-risk alerts are at the top of the priority list.

Incident Remediation

Each security threat requires different remediation resources. MDR service providers identify the best course of action for a security threat, assign resources, and mitigate them within minimal time. 

Incident Analysis

MDR service also helps identify the cause behind a security threat. They also determine if more vulnerabilities are present in the system that can attract the same type of risk. This helps prevent similar security incidents in the future.

MDR Platform

The MDR platform is the technology stack that is used to deliver the service and maintain communication between the client and the service provider. It is part of the MDR service and consists of:

  • Control panel for clients to view, track, and handle the MDR services.
  • Dashboard to track security metrics such as number of threats, incident mitigation, and analysis.
  • Sensors and cloud network connection to access client data, workloads, and endpoints.

MDR vs. MSSPs

Managed Detection and Response (MDR) has several similarities with Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs). Both are outsourced security services that use technology and human resources to protect an organization’s data. That’s why it’s common for organizations to compare the two when choosing a security service.

While the basic objective of MDR and MSSP is the same, they differ in their focus, technology, features, and applications.

MDR is a proactive service that focuses on prevention. It detects threats and mitigates them before they actually impact the organization’s infrastructure. 

In contrast, MSSP is a service that manages an organization’s security stack. This includes managing firewalls, fixing vulnerabilities, and preventing intrusions. While MDR actively detects and responds to threats, MSSP is more of a passive service that aims to prevent cybersecurity attacks.

Though MSSP provides security, it’s incapable of analyzing risks or determining the origin of a threat. MDR trumps MSSP in threat triage, access to threat intelligence, and proactive response to incidents.

Benefits of MDR

Using managed detection and response (MDR) services for your organization has several benefits:

Access to Expertise

The global cybersecurity sector is facing an acute shortage of workforce. As of 2023, four million professionals were needed collectively to maintain adequate security for all organizations.

In such scenarios, hiring a full-fledged, in-house cybersecurity team is not feasible. However, this does not mean you compromise on your organization’s security. 

Outsourcing to a reliable MDR service gives you access to trained and experienced experts who specialize in skills like cloud security and digital forensics. They can actively work as a part of the security team for your organization or address specific issues as and when they occur.

Round-The-Clock Threat Identification

In-house teams work only at specific times and may not provide the comprehensive security that your organization requires. Outsourcing to an MDR service provider helps protect your organization’s data and infrastructure 24/7. 

The MDR teams have professionals working through multiple time zones or from different geographical locations to ensure round-the-clock availability. This is beneficial for small and medium-sized organizations that can’t hire large numbers of security engineers.

Advanced Security Resources

As cybersecurity technology advances, cybersecurity threat mechanisms are also improving to surpass traditional detection methods like firewalls. 

For example, advanced persistent threats (APTs) are new-age threats that gain unauthorized access to an organization’s network and remain undetected on traditional antivirus and firewall software.

Such sophisticated threats can only be detected and mitigated by continuously updating your security stack. MDR service providers ensure that you always get access to the latest, most up-to-date security infrastructure to safeguard your data from modern cybersecurity issues.

Improved Analysis

Analyzing a cybersecurity incident is crucial in determining the root cause and addressing it to prevent the reoccurrence of similar threats. MDR gives you access to advanced analytics tools, including AI and ML-powered software.

These tools can study data from previous incidents to identify vulnerabilities and suggest areas where you need to step up security measures.

Ready-To-Access Services

Setting up an in-house security team might take anywhere from a few days to years, which is considerable time if your business is already live. An MDR service provider gives you access to a fully prepared team and tech stack that can start protecting your data within a minimal time.

Though MDR service providers also take some time to onboard new clients, it’s much less compared to hiring an internal team.

Cost Savings

According to IBM, an average data breach cost USD 4.45 million in 2023. While this data is for enterprise organizations, small and medium businesses, too, face considerable loss in revenue due to cyber threats.

MDR enhances your organization’s cybersecurity measures, making it less vulnerable to malware, data loss, and other cyberattacks. This saves millions of dollars in revenue by implementing preventive measures.

Moreover, the cost of outsourcing to an MDR service provider is far less than hiring an in-house team of the same capacity. You get access to advanced resources and technology at a fraction of the price of maintaining them within your organization.

Drawbacks of MDR

The advantages of MDR make it a great investment in terms of business security. However, depending on the type of application, MDR also has a few drawbacks:

Off-Premise Service

MDR is an outsourced service. That means the technology and expertise are located outside the organization. This brings up limitations like communication gaps and inconsistencies that are generally associated with any third-party services.

However, choosing a trustworthy MDR service provider helps eliminate these issues. For example, Proact keeps you in the loop by providing user-friendly dashboards that help you track the security status of your organization.

Insufficiency

MDR only focuses on detecting threats and responding to them. While threat detection is crucial, it’s not sufficient to maintain comprehensive business security. You’ll need to supplement MDR services with other cybersecurity offerings like Content Disarm & Reconstruction (CDR) and Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR). 

You can also enhance particular areas of security if your data is more prone to certain cybersecurity threats. For example, NetApp’s Ransomware Protection service implements additional security features like end-to-end encryption and increased data visibility to protect businesses from ransomware. 

Privacy Concerns

While MDR is meant for data security, organizations may not be comfortable sharing sensitive data with third-party service providers. This may especially be an issue for organizations in the healthcare and legal sectors as they deal with industry compliance laws.

Integration Challenges

If your organization already has some in-house security tools, integrating them with new MDR solutions might be a challenge. Depending on the type of technology, you might need to migrate existing data to new software environments or implement entirely new security technology for your business.

Where Can You Use MDR?

Within an organization, MDR finds various applications:

Cloud Security

As more organizations migrate their data to the cloud, cloud security plays a crucial role in safeguarding company data. The cloud environment has its own nuances when it comes to security.

It is a large multi-tenant network, which means your data may be exposed to unauthorized access by malicious tenants. Cloud networks are also prone to unique cybersecurity risks like DDoS and brute force attacks. 

With MDR, you have a fully-equipped security stack that specializes in the security of cloud environments. This includes data protection, access management, and compliance monitoring. 

Endpoint Security

Network endpoints, such as laptops and mobile devices, are easy targets for malware, ransomware, and other cybersecurity threats. Endpoints also bring the risk of internal security threats like suspicious insider activity.

In addition to the servers and the network, endpoints need continuous protection for business safety. You can implement MDR to scale up security by monitoring end-point activity, detecting malicious behavior, controlling unauthorized insider access, and escalating threat incidents. 

Critical Infrastructure Protection

Legal, government, healthcare, and other sensitive sectors have critical infrastructures to hold private data. These organizations require advanced cybersecurity measures that go beyond traditional firewalls, encryptions, and authorizations. 

MDR can be used in these sectors to ensure high-level protection of sensitive data. This includes protecting control panels and internal networks not only from external cyberattacks but also from insider threats.

Remote Workforce Security

Many companies have switched to a fully remote or hybrid work setup for most of their employees. This means employees work from various locations and, in turn, access company data from these locations.

These companies need additional security measures that spread across geographical locations to ensure the data stays within the organization’s network. MDR services have security solutions tailored to remote workspaces that monitor and track remote data access.

Vulnerability Management

Every organization requires vulnerability management to assess cybersecurity risks and fix them before a threat escalates. With MDR, organizations get proactive vulnerability detection through which they can identify risks within the company’s network. 

These services also help with patch management, risk analysis, and preventive measures to reduce the risk of exploitation from potential security and data breaches.

How To Choose an MDR Service Provider for Your Business

1. Determine Your Security Goals

It’s essential to determine your organization’s security goals to get a fair idea of what you are looking for in an MDR service provider. If you’re unsure about how to assess your business requirements, here are a few questions to consider:

  • What are the weakest security areas of the organization?
  • What is the organization’s security budget?
  • Should the organization outsource all its security requirements?
  • Which security areas need immediate focus?
  • If there’s an in-house security team, what is it capable of handling?

2. Select the Right Metrics

Once you’ve determined the security goals, you need to find an MDR service provider who aligns with your requirements. Almost every service provider claims to provide 100% secure and high-quality service. 

However, certain metrics can help assess the quality and commitment of an MDR provider. You can follow the “1-10-60” rule to assess a service provider’s performance metrics:

  • They should detect a threat within the first minute.
  • They should identify it within 10 minutes.
  • They should be able to mitigate it within 60 minutes.

In addition, you can also refer to their portfolio to understand the type of clients they have worked with in the past.

3. Choose an Area of Expertise

Depending on your organization’s current security stack, you can either outsource to an MDR provider who is a generalist or one who specializes in certain areas of cybersecurity. 

These specializations can include threat intelligence, endpoint security, and experience with critical infrastructure. 

Consider identifying what areas of cybersecurity you need to currently focus on. For example, if most of your team works remotely, you need a service provider that specializes in remote workforce security.

If you’re outsourcing all your cybersecurity requirements, a generalist MDR service provider may be your best option.

4. Understand the Built-in Features of the Package

Every service provider has their own MDR packages or tiers. They might vary based on budget, industry, and company size. However, some key features are non-negotiables when choosing a package. These include:

  • 24/7 threat monitoring
  • Quick incident response time
  • Incident data analysis
  • Integration with existing security tools

In addition, you should also look at any advanced and automated technologies included in the package. For example, Proact offers backup and recovery services with MDR as an additional layer of security.

5. Balance In-House and Service Provider Workload

For small and medium businesses, outsourcing the entire cybersecurity workload may not be financially feasible. Large organizations and enterprises may also want a dedicated in-house team in addition to outsourced MDR services.

In such cases, strategize the level of involvement your organization will have in managing security. Consider factors such as budget and available internal resources. 

For instance, the MDR provider can isolate and quash an impending threat while also identifying the vulnerability that caused it. However, patching that vulnerability may be the responsibility of your organization.

6. Check for Tangible Assurances

An MDR provider will promise high levels of security. However, when dealing with company data, you’ll also need tangible assurances in the form of SLAs, past performance, and certifications to determine if a service provider is reliable. 

Protect your organisation through MDR with Proact!

Looking for a trusted managed detection and response (MDR) service provider?

Then you should contact Proact. Our team of experts offers round-the-clock protection against cybersecurity threats with early threat detection and swift response times. 

Whether you’re looking for MDR services for a small-scale business or an enterprise, Proact has services that cater to all business needs. We’ll first assess your requirements by closely working with your in-house security team.

Next, we’ll build an MDR strategy that addresses all your requirements to ensure complete security for your business. As the final step, we implement our MDR strategy for you and continue providing support and maintenance services to handle all your security requirements.

Ready to take the first step towards security? Talk to our team today for a free demo.

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