What Is Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)?

Endpoint detection and response (EDR) is among the latest breed of security software designed to keep emerging and sophisticated cyberthreats like ransomware at bay. It provides high-level endpoint security beyond what conventional antivirus (AV) and antimalware (AM) solutions offer, making it a tool you should seriously consider for your security stack. Our blog provides all the information you need about EDR. We have covered its features, benefits and capabilities and compared it with other popular endpoint security solutions. Give it a read.

What is EDR?

EDR is a modern security solution that protects endpoints from advanced cyberthreats like ransomware, AI-powered attacks and phishing scams. It secures not only your traditional endpoints but also frequently overlooked and unsecured assets, like Internet of Things (IoT) devices and remote endpoints. A cloud-based EDR can also help you oversee the security of virtual endpoints without compromising performance or availability.

The key feature of EDR is its state-of-the-art threat detection and remediation capability that protects you from ransomware-level attacks. How does an EDR stop ransomware and other threats of that kind? It does so by monitoring endpoints 24/7 and collecting and analyzing data for all signs of malicious activity.

Since EDR monitors endpoint behavior round the clock, it can nip threats in the early stages. It also has an excellent incident investigation function that helps identify the root cause of a threat and prevent it from occurring again.

Due to its ability to detect new-age threats, like zero-day and fileless malware, that are stealthy enough to bypass conventional AV and AM solutions, EDR is a must-have in today’s increasingly dangerous cybersecurity environment.

Why is EDR important?

Endpoint security is the first line of defense for any organization. For that, you first need to get visibility into all your endpoints because you cannot protect what you cannot see.

According to a security report, 58% of organizations are aware of fewer than 75% of the assets on their network. An EDR solution remedies this by discovering all the endpoints in your IT environment and providing complete perimeter security.

Does an EDR really make a difference? The 2023 Cost of a Data Breach report revealed that EDR can help reduce the financial impact of a breach by a significant $174,267 from the average total cost of $4.45 million. Not only security, EDR can also help with managing the associated costs.

How does EDR work?

With cybercriminals using advanced exploit kits and generative AI to launch almost undetectable cyberattacks, businesses need to beef up their defenses by investing in new-age tools that are faster, smarter and can put up a good fight.

EDR is one such tool. Here’s how it works. An IT administrator will install an EDR agent on all endpoints to monitor them continuously and enforce company security policies. The agent observes processes, applications, network connections and files on the endpoint to set a behavior baseline. It flags any behavior or pattern outside the established guideline and immediately reviews it for signs of a threat. For example, if an EDR agent detects suspicious file execution on an endpoint, it’ll immediately quarantine or contain the file and raise an alert for experts to review it.

What happens during multiple alerts? EDR tools triage alerts based on severity to ensure that security teams can address the most urgent ones first. Round-the-clock monitoring and real-time alerts notify security experts of suspicious behavior at the first sign so they can prevent it from escalating into a crisis.

Post remediation, EDRs perform forensics to understand the root cause of any incident and take the necessary measures to prevent similar incidents from occurring again. Thanks to built-in machine learning and advanced analytics capabilities, EDR only gets better at detecting and responding to threats with time.

What are EDR capabilities?

This section looks at the essential features of EDR that make it a must-have endpoint security tool:

  • Data collection and analytics: EDR solutions collect a variety of endpoint data, such as process creation, driver loading, registry changes, disk accesses, network connections and more, for analysis. Then, it applies built-in threat intelligence to identify Indicators of Compromise (IoC) and Indicators of Attack (IoA) in the gathered data that point to a cyberattack in progress.
  • Behavioral analysis: EDR leverages behavioral analysis to actively detect and neutralize malicious attacks. It creates a behavioral baseline for each endpoint so that any activity or pattern falling outside the established norm, which could indicate an ongoing threat, can be addressed immediately.
  • Threat detection: EDR enables security teams to detect and respond to complex threats, such as fileless malware and ransomware, in real-time. Instead of waiting for a threat to surface, EDR actively hunts for it, helping businesses stay two steps ahead of cybercriminals.
  • Visibility: EDR agents collect and analyze data on every endpoint to ensure none can serve as a doorway for cybercriminals to exploit.
  • Automated response: EDR tools can take several different steps to remediate or contain an attack, such as:
    • 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: Top-of-the-line EDRs have advanced reporting capabilities that help technicians create customizable and easy-to-understand reports in minutes. This feature enables companies to demonstrate compliance with security regulations and build customer trust. Providing real-time alerts with contextual information on severity level and recommended action is another crucial feature of an EDR solution. Security teams are more effective at managing incidents when they can respond to alerts on a priority basis.

What type of threats does EDR protect against?

In addition to several high-level threats, EDRs effectively detect polymorphic malware, which traditional security tools easily miss. In this section, we’ll look at some of the top threats that EDRs can address:

  • Multistage attacks: A multistage attack unfolds progressively, with each subsequent stage building upon the previous. In the initial stage, threat actors conduct surveillance of the target company’s IT environment, seeking vulnerabilities to exploit. Following this, they deploy an exploit kit or a sophisticated phishing scam to breach security and establish a foothold within the IT infrastructure. Subsequently, they can leverage this position to steal data, launch a ransomware attack or undertake any other malicious activity detrimental to the business and security of the company. Cybercriminals can even exploit multiple vulnerabilities at a time and launch a big-scale attack.
  • Malware and ransomware: Malware (malicious software) is an intrusive piece of software that enables cybercriminals to access and severely damage computing systems and networks. The infection can be a virus, trojan horse, worm, spyware, adware, rootkit or the infamous ransomware. Ransomware is a type of malware that relies on encryption to hold the victim’s sensitive information (files, applications, databases) at ransom. The global cybersecurity community in 2023 is witnessing waves of cybercriminal activity that have placed thousands of organizations in peril. Within the first two quarters, bad actors extorted a little under half a billion dollars from their victims — a 64% increase from 2022.
  • Zero-day threats: A zero-day vulnerability/threat is a flaw in a network or software that hasn’t been patched or for which a patch isn’t available. The software or device vendor may or may not be aware of this flaw. The results are less than pleasant once the vulnerability becomes public knowledge or if cybercriminals get to it before the company’s security team. Exploiting a zero-day vulnerability enables hackers to install malicious software, exert remote control over the target’s IT infrastructure, eavesdrop on confidential communications or even disrupt operations entirely.
  • Insider threats and malicious insiders: An insider threat is a security issue that arises within an organization due to a rogue employee or employees’ negligent use of systems and data. It may not always be malicious. On the other hand, a malicious insider is often a disgruntled employee misusing intimate information of the infrastructure to launch a cyberattack or to profit by selling credential information on the dark web.
  • Phishing and email threats: About nine in 10 cyberattacks start with phishing, making it one of the most effective attack vectors. A phishing email is a specially crafted email designed to deceive recipients into divulging sensitive data, such as passwords, financial data or PII. While a phishing attack targets employees en masse, a spear-phishing attack targets top-level executives of a company with the aim to steal highly confidential and business-critical information to which only the highest-ranking executives have access.
  • Advanced persistent threats (APTs): Often, the actors behind APTs are nation-state or nation-state-aligned hackers with access to a wide range of resources to launch sophisticated attacks. These incidents can go undetected for extended periods, allowing threat actors to commit espionage, data theft or spread malware. As nation-state cybercrime grows more common, every business is at risk from APT threat actors who are more than happy to exploit vulnerabilities to do the dirty work that enables them to strike at government and infrastructure targets.

How is EDR different from other endpoint security solutions?

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

EDR vs. antivirus

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, uncataloged threats where EDR thrives.

Threat mitigation should never disrupt your business processes. With an EDR system, suspicious files are promptly quarantined or isolated within sandboxes, preventing them from infecting other files or compromising your data. EDRs can also auto-remediate certain threat activities, saving you time and effort.

Lastly, AV solutions run checks at scheduled intervals, whereas an EDR performs round-the-clock monitoring to ensure complete security.

EDR vs. EPP (endpoint protection platform)

While an EDR is a threat detection tool effective at identifying and responding to advanced threats, an EPP solution takes preventive measures to guard against a threat from entering an endpoint in the first place. An EPP is an integrated suite of security technologies, such as antivirus/antimalware, intrusion prevention, data loss prevention and data encryption, to enhance security measures.

EDR vs. MDR (managed detection and response)

EDR is a powerful endpoint protection tool, while MDR is a full-service cybersecurity solution a third party provides. Also known as a security operations center (SOC), MDR is a cybersecurity service where security experts club their years of know-how with advanced tools and security strategies to provide complete IT protection. EDR is one of the tools found in their toolbox.

EDR vs. XDR (extended detection and response)

XDR is built on EDR to provide monitoring, detection and remediation of not only endpoints but the complete IT environment. It monitors the entire IT infrastructure by collecting and analyzing data from several other security and monitoring tools. For example, XDR will collect and analyze data from your network, cloud environments and even email security systems to give you the complete picture. By providing advanced threat detection and mitigation like an EDR, but at a complete IT environment level, XDR is a formidable tool for those in the security business like managed security service providers (MSSPs), enterprise-level organizations and those overseeing critical infrastructure and sensitive data.

What are the benefits of EDR?

Traditional security solutions struggle to detect advanced threats that EDR detects. As a new-age solution, it has features and capabilities that go beyond merely detecting and mitigating risks, also looking into the why, how and when of an attack to keep improving itself.

While EDR is sufficient as a standalone endpoint security solution, it works best when clubbed with your AV/AM, firewall, network intrusion detection and other security solutions for a layered and comprehensive protection of your endpoints.

With EDR in your security arsenal, you can secure your endpoints from becoming doorways to cyberthreats that can cause havoc on your business, setting you back by millions while damaging your reputation.

Secure your endpoints with Kaseya VSA

Looking for an advanced endpoint management solution that prioritizes cybersecurity? Look no further than Kaseya VSA. It has powerful capabilities focused on keeping you ahead of the endpoint curve as well as safe from cyberthreats. Some of the security-related features of VSA are:

  • Patch every endpoint automatically with best-in-class automation and the most extensive software catalog on the market.
  • Leverage policy-based configuration hardening to keep bad actors at bay.
  • Detect, quarantine and remediate ransomware before it becomes a problem.
  • Enhance threat detection with integrated AV, AM, EDR and Managed SOC.

Get a demo of Kaseya VSA and beef up your security in a jiffy.

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