Managed Detection and Response (MDR): The Ultimate Guide

What Is Managed Detection and Response?

Managed Detection and Response (MDR) is a service delivery framework for Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR). It outsources both the functionality and the expertise required to run a modern Security Operations Center (SOC), including continuously monitoring and gathering data from endpoints and active mitigation of cyber threats. Typically, MDR includes 24x7 monitoring and mitigation and provides a cost-effective alternative to EDR and Endpoint Protection Platforms (EPPs).

Benefits of Managed Detection and Response

The key benefits of MDR include: 

  • Access to experienced Security Operations Center (SOC) analysts to bridge internal skill gaps. 
  • Improved incident management, incident response, and remediation processes. 
  • Proactive threat detection and threat hunting. 
  • Better risk management and vulnerability management. 
  • More effective triaging of alerts and notifications. 
  • Improved security and risk posture for employees and customers. 
  • Reduced total cost of ownership compared to traditional EDR. 

The world faces an ongoing cybersecurity skills shortage, one for which there is no end in sight. SOC teams constantly struggle to do more with less, even as they face a threat landscape populated by increasingly sophisticated, organized, and well-funded threat actors. IT personnel are exhausted, overworked, and overwhelmed. 

MDR represents one of several cybersecurity-focused managed services designed to address this climate. It connects organizations with a team of experienced cybersecurity experts, allowing them to bridge the gaps in both their security infrastructure and their security expertise. This significantly reduces the burden on internal security teams, allowing the organization to pursue a mature, effective program that encompasses both cybersecurity and cyber resilience.  

Additional MDR benefits: 

  • Consolidates detection, remediation, and administration into a single console. 
  • Significantly reduces the time spent detecting and responding to threats. 
  • Frees internal resources to focus on other mission-critical processes. 
  • Easier compliance and reporting. 
  • Access to deep security and threat prevention expertise.

Managed Detection and Response Features

According to Gartner’s Market Guide for MDR Services, the core features of an MDR offering include:  

  • A technology stack owned and managed by the service provider which enables real-time threat monitoring, detection, and investigation alongside active mitigation and response. 
  • Expert staff that engages with client data daily.
  • A standardized playbook for security procedures, workflow management, and analytics. 
  • Remote mitigation, investigation, and containment. 
  • Orchestrated, centralized detection, mitigation, and reporting functionality. 
  • A provider that takes full ownership of how threats are detected, identified, and validated. 
  • A focus on reducing the time between detection and mitigation.
  • Generation and collection of security log data and alerts at multiple security layers. 
  • A combination of manual and automated mitigation processes, including account lockout, host isolation, and network blocking. 

Other MDR features include: 

  • 24x7x365 threat monitoring, detection, and response.
  • AI-powered endpoint protection.
  • Incident/event management and response.
  • Exposure, notification, and compliance management.
  • Preauthorized and customizable analyst interactions and interventions. 
  • Advanced orchestration.
  • Tailored triage and filtering methods.
  • Organized, contextualized telemetry.

Gartner also notes that MDR services are expanding to include technologies and coverage beyond traditional EDR, as described by Managed XDR

How Managed Detection and Response Works

Given that MDR is simply a managed services framework layered atop EDR, MDR at a high level serves the same purpose as EDR. It prevents and protects an organization’s network from cyber threats, providing the basic functionality of EDR and EPP and the guidance and expertise necessary to leverage that functionality to its fullest. Said guidance may take many forms but typically includes one or more of the following: 

  • Red Team/attack simulations. 
  • Penetration testing. 
  • Strategic risk management. 
  • Incident reporting, response, and forensics. 
  • Compromise assessments. 

Use Cases for Managed Detection and Response Services

Generally speaking, MDR is used for one of two interrelated use cases.

Augmenting an Organization's SOC

Many SOCs struggle to keep up with cybersecurity demands:

  • SIEM configuration is a logistical nightmare.
  • They’re flooded with notifications from all sides.
  • Visibility is muddied at best.

MDR provides these teams with the relief they need, adding the service provider’s expertise to their own alongside a robust suite of security tools. 

Acting as a Remote SOC

Particularly amongst smaller organizations, SOCs and dedicated security professionals are rare. Unfortunately, we live in a security climate where this is no longer an option. And with MDR, even small organizations can keep themselves safe from even the most advanced threats.  

The best way to describe the relationship between MDR and Managed XDR is to reference the relationship between Extended Detection and Response (XDR) and EDR. The former is effectively a direct upgrade to the latter XDR extends an organization’s cybersecurity capabilities in the same way as EDR while also incorporating advanced threat intelligence and additional protections at the network, server, cloud, and application levels. 

Similarly, Managed XDR enhances the MDR framework by incorporating XDR functionality. 

FAQ

What is MDR?

MDR is a framework through which an EDR solution is delivered as a managed service, complete with 24x7 monitoring and expert guidance.

What’s the difference between MDR and Managed XDR?

Managed XDR is a direct upgrade to MDR. It provides all the same features and functionality of MDR while also introducing new security protections and enhanced threat intelligence.

Is MDR the same as Professional Cybersecurity Services?

While MDR is itself a managed service, MDR providers take a more in-depth approach than typical Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs). With MDR, security professionals directly engage with the client organization on a 24/7 basis. With that said, MDR solutions and MSSP offerings frequently complement one another. 

Why is MDR important?

Organizations face perpetually expanding attack surfaces and more sophisticated threat actors, yet their security teams remain relatively unchanged. And cybersecurity professionals are struggling because of budget and staffing shortages. MDR offers an answer to these problems, providing a cost-effective means of leveraging top-tier security expertise and technology. 

Companies of all sizes must now contend with a growing number of devices, each one representing a new addition to their attack surfaces. And they must do so while balancing skill gaps and resources shortages, all while hoping they don’t end up in an adversary’s crosshairs. This is challenging enough for larger organizations, but for small and mid-sized businesses, it verges on impossible.

As a human-centric subscription-based 24x7x365 MDR with XDR service, CylanceGUARD® provides the expertise and support businesses need. CylanceGUARD combines the comprehensive expertise embodied by BlackBerry Cybersecurity Services with AI-based Endpoint Protection (EPP) through CylancePROTECT®, continuous authentication and analytics through CylancePERSONA, and on-device threat detection and remediation through CylanceOPTICS®. In short, it provides businesses with everything they need to contend with a modern threat landscape—no matter what that landscape throws at them.