EDR: The Importance of Endpoint Detection and Response

In light of skyrocketing and increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks, setting up advanced threat protection has become a critical task for most organizations. And this task starts with choosing a robust endpoint detection and response system.

Endpoint detection and response, commonly known as EDR, is a cybersecurity process that gathers and analyzes data collected on the endpoints of an organization — typically the end-user workstations and servers. The goal is to identify active and potential security threats that aren’t caught by traditional antivirus tools, including zero-day and fileless malware attacks, and quickly respond to them.

What Is Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)?

EDR has become a necessity for security teams with the increase in advanced persistent threats (APT) and other sophisticated cyberattacks. The role of an EDR is to proactively monitor, detect and remediate or isolate threats on endpoint devices as they happen. EDR focuses on endpoint security and should be a key part of your overall IT security strategy.

EDR is an advanced cybersecurity tool, or set of tools, that goes beyond traditional antivirus (AV) and antimalware (AM) tools. It continuously collects and analyzes data from all endpoints, giving a bird’s-eye view across these devices. EDR applies behavioral analysis to detect malicious attacks that are already in progress and then remediates or isolates the attack to prevent lateral movement across your IT environment. This is important because it can limit the damage that could be caused by the attack.

Who Created EDR?

Anton Chuvakin of Gartner coined the term “endpoint threat detection and response” in July 2013.

EDR is the successor to the EPP or endpoint protection platform and AV security software. About a decade ago, in the early 2010s, hackers started employing phishing and lateral movement techniques that went undetected by EPP and AV tools. It was then that EDR came to the fore as a solution to the problem. It not only caught activities that were going unnoticed but also used its in-built analytical capability to study and keep a log of unusual activity for future detection and mitigation.

Why Is EDR Important?

Canalys, in its global cybersecurity 2021 forecast report, notes that “Cybersecurity will remain a high priority this year as the range of threats broaden and new vulnerabilities emerge, while the frequency of attacks is unlikely to subside.”

Cybersecurity is the top priority for the majority of IT teams in Kaseya’s 2021 IT Operations report, as well. Driven by the rise in cybercrime, companies are adopting stringent security measures to safeguard their data and reputation.

Modern EDR systems monitor, detect, fix and/or isolate cyberthreats on endpoint devices. One of the crucial advantages of an EDR is the built-in behavioral analysis capability. The tool analyzes the database of data collected from endpoints to identify unusual activity, automatically respond to threats and neutralize similar threats in future.

To put it simply, EDR is a must-have security tool for businesses that are dead serious about their security posture.

Understanding How EDR Works

An endpoint is any device found at the end of a network system. It can be a laptop, desktop workstation or server. Hackers attack endpoints to use as a gateway to enter a company’s network and steal invaluable data, deploy ransomware or initiate other cyberattacks. Hence, it’s crucial to keep endpoint security strong.

An EDR agent is installed on all endpoints and managed by an IT administrator to enforce company security policies. EDR employs behavioral heuristics to not only detect and stop threats but also predict and prevent them. Modern EDRs are cloud-based and can oversee the security of virtual endpoints as well.

What Are Endpoint Attacks?

The all-too-popular ransomware and phishing attacks that have been on the rise in recent times are endpoint attacks. Here, threat actors try to break into fixed-function devices like laptops and tablets that will eventually give them access to the company’s network, servers, shared folders and much more.

Endpoint security is the first line of defense for any organization. Often small and medium-sized companies overlook the need for endpoint security and become prime targets for cybercriminals.

How Does EDR Work?

Advancements in technology have helped the world move forward by leaps and bounds. However, it has also helped cybercriminals improve their game manifold. They are getting smarter and sneakier in their approach, rendering the traditional detection tools useless.

EDR is a tool with capabilities to keep up with modern cyberattacks. EDR tools identify and respond to cyberthreats before they occur or while they are in progress. It is effective at identifying malware with polymorphic codes that can go undetected by traditional security tools. Moreover, EDRs continuously monitor endpoints, collecting and creating high-quality databases. These can be analyzed to identify the root cause of a problem and learn about new malware.

EDRs also come with machine learning and built-in analytics tools that can identify and neutralize a threat in the early stages of an attack. This feature powers EDRs to study the behaviors of new and emerging threats and prepare for them in advance. You can rest assured that any unusual activity won’t go unnoticed by an EDR system.

EDR solutions typically provide the following capabilities:

  • Data Collection and Analytics
    • Collects a wide range of security-related event data from each endpoint, including data such as:
      • Process creation
      • Drivers loading
      • Registry changes
      • Disk accesses
      • Network connections
    • Performs behavioral analysis on the data to uncover both potential threats as well as malicious activity that is already in progress. The analysis may make use of threat intelligence built into the EDR solution to provide context for the endpoint data that helps identify a threat. The analysis looks for Indicators of Compromise (IoC) and Indicators of Attack (IoA). The objective is to find threats that slip past signature-based AV methods of detection.
  • Detection – Detects advanced threats, such as fileless attacks, zero-day exploits and others, in real time.
  • Visibility – Gives you real-time visibility across all your endpoints, enabling you to see the attack path and take immediate action.
  • Automated Response – EDR tools can take a number of different steps to remediate or contain an attack, including:
    • Deleting files and blocking the spread of suspicious files
    • Terminating processes
    • Isolating the endpoint on the network to prevent lateral movement of the attack
    • Automatic or manual execution of suspicious payloads in a sandbox
    • Remote script execution on the endpoint
  • Reporting and Alerts – Use real-time dashboards and get alerts to take action when a threat is detected.

EDR vs. Other Common IT Security Measures

In this section, we will demystify some of the confusion surrounding EDR and other security tools.

What Is the Difference Between EDR and Antivirus?

While there are overlaps between the security checks run by an EDR and an antivirus tool, there are vast differences as well. EDR runs more comprehensive checks and is a cut above a traditional AV tool when it comes to detecting and containing cyberthreats.

An antivirus tool typically follows a signature-based system of threat detection, where it matches a file identified as a threat with a database of malicious files. It works well for identifying and stopping known malware and viruses like Trojans and worms, but not so much for newer, uncatalogued threats. Unlike round-the-clock monitoring undertaken by an EDR system, AV tools scan and run checks at scheduled intervals.

EDR systems check for threats round the clock and hence offer more comprehensive security against breaches. Data collection and forensic capabilities are some of the advanced features of EDR that make it a formidable tool in an organization’s security arsenal. EDRs create a database on each endpoint and analyze it to spot new threat patterns. In case of an incident, it can use its forensic tools to determine the root cause of the problem.

Threat mitigation shouldn’t put your business process on hold. The EDR system quarantines or sandboxes suspicious files, preventing them from infecting other files or data. It can also automate remediation of certain threat activities, saving time and effort.

What Is the Difference Between EDR and EPP (Endpoint Protection Platforms)?

EPP is the predecessor of EDR. They both offer endpoint monitoring and security. While EPP is good for tackling traditional security issues, EDR takes security procedures a step ahead with data analysis and forensic capabilities.

What Is the Difference Between EDR and SIEM (Security Information and Event Management)?

SIEM is an abbreviation for system information and event management. It runs SIEM security detection and analysis at an enterprise level while EDR offers endpoint detection and response capabilities. SIEM and EDR are often paired as complementary security tools.

The Need for an Effective EDR Solution

An EDR system gives organizations and managed security services providers visibility into all endpoints along with the ability to mitigate advanced threats in real time.

The various analytical algorithms of an EDR are better suited to combat advanced persistent threats when compared with traditional tools. EDRs help put up a more resilient front against cyberattacks that look to gain entry through the various endpoints. It can help fix common security lapses that can cost millions in losses and leave a black mark on a company’s reputation that is hard to erase.

Securing Endpoints With Kaseya

Kaseya VSA is a unified remote monitoring and management solution that helps secure your endpoints even when your workforce works remotely. Some of the security-related features of VSA are:

  • Automated software patch management
  • Deployment and management of AV/AM and EDR solutions
  • Integrated backup and disaster recovery (BDR) management

Learn more about Kaseya VSA and beef up your security in a jiffy.

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