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What is Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)?

Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) is an endpoint security solution that includes real-time monitoring and collection of endpoint security data with an automated threat response mechanism.

Endpoint Detection and Response is a term suggested by Gartner to describe a class of emerging security systems that detect and investigate suspicious activities on both hosts and endpoints, which can be achieved by utilizing a high degree of automation that informs security teams and enables rapid response.

Endpoint Detection and Response systems provide five primary functions, which are to:

  1. Actively monitor endpoints and collect data from activity that may indicate a threat
  2. Perform analysis of collected data to identify any known threat patterns
  3. Generate an automatic response to all identified threats to either remove or contain them
  4. Automatically notify security staff that a threat has been detected
  5. Utilize analysis and forensic tools to perform research on identified threats which could lead to other suspicious activities

Why is Endpoint Detection and Response important?

The threat landscape is constantly changing, with new viruses, malware, and other cyber-threats appearing on the horizon daily. To meet this evolving threat, real-time collection and detection of possible anomalies becomes increasingly important.

These challenges are amplified by the increasingly mobile workforce. When employees are connecting remotely – which has been accelerated by the Covid pandemic, endpoints being used for access to an organization’s digital assets are often employee-owned. These BYOD devices may be shared by, and on networks shared by, the employee’s family and thus may be infected with malware without the knowledge of the employee.

By employing EDR, an organization can help ameliorate these challenges by:

  • Identifying and blocking executables that could perform malicious acts
  • Preventing USB devices from being used for unauthorized data access or downloading confidential or protected information
  • Blocking fileless malware attack techniques that could infect endpoint devices
  • Controlling the execution of scripts
  • Preventing malicious email payloads from detonating their attachments
  • Protecting from zero-day attacks, and preventing them from doing damage

EDR can also work with third-party threat intelligence services to improve the effectiveness of their endpoint security solutions, since their collective intelligence can increase the EDR’s ability to identify zero-day attacks and other multi-layered exploits. Many EDR solutions are now incorporating machine learning and artificial intelligence (ML/AI) to further automate the process by ‘learning’ the baseline behavior of the organization and using that information to interpret findings when attacks are detected.

How does Endpoint Detection and Response work?

Endpoint Detection and Response works by monitoring traffic on the network and endpoints, collecting information that could relate to security issues into a central database for later analysis, and facilitates reporting and investigation into threat events.

All EDR solutions are not created equal – the breadth of the activities they perform can vary from vendor to vendor. Key components of a typical EDR solution include:

  • Data collection agents. Installed on endpoints, these agents monitor and perform data collection on processes running, connections to networks and devices, activity volume, and data transfers
  • Central Hub.  This integrated hub collects, correlates, and analyzes collected endpoint data. The central hub also coordinates alerts and responses to immediate threats
  • Response Automation. An EDR system utilizes rules – usually preconfigured – that recognize when collected data is indicative of a known threat and triggers an automatic response such as alerting security staff or logging a user off the system
  • Forensics and Analysis. EDRs can include forensic tools to help root out threats or perform after-the-face analysis, and real-time analytics assist in the rapid discovery of threats that do not match existing pre-configured rules

What is the difference between EDR and Antivirus?

EDR solutions can be considered a superset of traditional antivirus programs, which are limited in scope as compared to newer EDR solutions. In this way antivirus is part of an EDR solution.

Antivirus performs basic functions like scanning, detection, and removal of viruses, where EDR performs many other functions. Beyond antivirus, EDR may contain several functions including monitoring, white/blacklisting, and others, all designed to provide a more comprehensive protection against known and emerging threats.

Since the digital network perimeter has expanded to be anywhere, traditional antivirus can no longer protect all the various devices used to access corporate resources. EDR systems are better suited to protect against advanced cyberattacks and EDR automated response helps ensure that IT teams are not overloaded trying to keep organizations safe from attacks.

This is increasingly important due to the rapid evolution of the threat landscape. Since bad actors are improving their attacks and utilizing advanced threats to gain entry to networks, simple signature-based antivirus will not detect zero-day or multi-layered threats in a timely manner, where EDR systems can detect all types of endpoint threats, providing a real-time response to those that are identified.

What are the benefits of Endpoint Detection and Response?

Endpoint Detection and Response systems have taken their place as a checklist item for modern security teams. EDR protects the digital perimeter from known and evolving threats and security issues in a number of key ways.

First, the comprehensive collection of monitoring data enables EDR systems to compile a complete view of potential attacks. Continuous monitoring of all endpoints – online and offline – eases the analysis and incident response. This enables in-depth analysis and insight so professional can gain an understanding of the anomalies and vulnerabilities of the organization’s network to better prepare for future cyber-crime events. Detection of every endpoint threat goes beyond the traditional antivirus, and the ability of EDR to provide real-time response to a broad array of threats lets security teams visualize potential attacks and threats even as they evolve, all in real time.

This can prevent loss by cutting off attacks in their initial stages before critical losses or compromises occur. Real-time response also lets an organization uncover suspicious or unauthorized behavior on the network, getting to the root cause of a threat before it can impact operations. Finally, EDR systems can integrate with other security tools, enabling the correlation of data from endpoint, network, and SIEM to develop a richer understanding of the practices and techniques being applied by bad actors trying to gain unauthorized access to digital assets.

Related Topics
Enterprise Security
End-User Computing
Endpoint Protection Platform
Unified Endpoint Management (UEM)
Zero Trust
Zero-trust Security

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