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EDR Security: Protecting the Network From Endpoint Threats

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EDR is a subset of cyber security that enables security teams to investigate and mitigate security threats on endpoints. EDR security solutions are a last line of defense against attackers who have already breached endpoints. They can help defend against severe threats like multi stage attacks, fileless malware, and malicious insiders.

EDR solutions aggregate endpoint event data, detect anomalous activity, and alerts security analysts. They can immediately block additional actions by malware or attackers, and allow analysts to investigate an event and directly respond to an attack.

This article is a compilation of everything you need to know about EDR – how it can help your security program, how solutions work, and how to implement EDR in your organization.

Click here to learn how Cynet extends EDR protection with a full XDR platform that provides prevention and detection across endpoint, network and user activities, along with fully automated response actions.

Refer to our detailed guides about related security topics:

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Request for Proposal (RFP) – EDR

  • Thorough mapping of vital operational & security features
  • Deep expertise from seasoned security professionals
  • An easy-to-use design for efficient EDR project and vendor evaluation

What Is EDR?

Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) is a set of technologies and practices that you can use to detect and respond to security threats on your network perimeter. In particular, EDR protects endpoint devices, which are any outwardly facing device in your network. Endpoints can include workstations, smart devices, routers, and open ports.

What Is EDR Security Software?

EDR solutions provide the following main capabilities:

  • Continuous endpoint monitoring—EDR solutions aggregate and log endpoint event data for centralized monitoring and event analysis.
  • Detection engine—EDR security software analyze collected data to uncover anomalies and detect potentially malicious behavior or events.
  • Response capabilities—EDR security solutions provide alerts to detected events and can often initiate automated responses, such as sandboxing or blacklisting.

Why Is EDR Important?

As more aspects of business become digital and more information is stored in the cloud, the potential payouts for successful cyberattacks increase. This drives an increase in attempts and the development of novel attack methods. Protecting your data and systems against these attacks requires an advanced, intelligent, detection and response system.

EDR can provide this protection and is capable of detecting and responding to threats that bypass traditional systems. Traditional tools rely on signature-based detection, matching attack artifacts to known threat patterns or files. EDR instead relies on event and behavior analysis, enabling it to detect suspicious activity regardless of whether it’s a known threat or a zero-day vulnerability.

Applying these capabilities to endpoints is vital to protecting your systems. Endpoints are the gateways to your networks. By using EDR to protect your network perimeter, you can detect and stop most if not all of the attacks that might be made on your systems. This is increasingly important as networks expand.

The integration of Internet of things (IoT) devices, smartphones, and remote workstations all increase the complexity of network protection. EDR can centralize monitoring and control of these additional endpoints, preventing gaps in your defenses.

What Types of Threats Does EDR Detect?

In addition to brute force attacks and other known threats, EDR can protect against attacks that bypass traditional systems. These attacks include:

Multi-stage attacks

EDR’s continuous data collection and analysis enables it to correlate events that may not appear suspicious when considered alone. By correlating these events, EDR solutions can uncover multi-stage attack patterns, such as reconnaissance. These attackers can then be blocked from access at all entry points, sometimes before a penetration attack occurs.

Fileless malware and zero-day threats

Since EDR relies on behavior analysis rather than signatures, it can detect novel and process-based attacks. For example, EDR can identify processes run by fileless malware, which operates in memory. This malware doesn’t write files to disk so antivirus software is unable to detect it.

Insider threats and compromised accounts

When attacks are carried out through the abuse of credentials, the only way to detect the threat is through behavior analysis. Insider threats and attacks with compromised credentials can “legitimately” pass authorization and authentication measures.

However, EDR can detect when credentials are used in unexpected ways, such as accessing networks from foreign IP addresses. The EDR solution can then block these users, stopping the attack.

Learn more about insider threats in our article: Insider Threat Detection: Recognizing and Preventing One of Today’s Worst Threats.

How Does EDR Work?

EDR solutions aggregate endpoint event data in a centralized database. This data is then analyzed and correlated to uncover suspicious events. Suspicious activity is detected through a combination of matching to known threat signatures and comparison of behavior against established behavioral baselines.

Threat signatures are characteristics used to identify vulnerabilities or attacks. For example, known malware hashes or outdated software versions. Behavioral baselines are datasets created from events deemed to be safe. For example, normal log-in times or acceptable file access patterns.

Once an event is determined to be suspicious, EDR alerts to the event and can block further events or stop running processes. Security analysts can then respond to these alerts to determine if an event really is an attack. Log data collected by EDR helps analysts determine exactly what happened and correlation data helps them take appropriate action.

Get The Definitive Template

Request for Proposal (RFP) – EDR

  • Thorough mapping of vital operational & security features
  • Deep expertise from seasoned security professionals
  • An easy-to-use design for efficient EDR project and vendor evaluation

EDR vs EPP: Comparing Endpoint Solutions

Endpoint protection platforms (EPPs) are integrated security solutions that you can use to detect and block threats on devices. EPP platforms focus on the prevention of attacks and typically use signature-based methods. Endpoint protection platforms incorporate a range of technologies, including:

  • Antivirus and anti-malware
  • Encryption protocols
  • Network and application firewalls
  • Intrusion prevention systems (IPS)
  • Data loss prevention (DLP) solutions

The main difference between EPP and EDR is that EPP is intended as a first line of defense against attacks. In comparison, EDR is intended to detect and respond to attacks that manage to bypass first-line measures. However, it is becoming common to combine EPP and EDR solutions into a single platform, making the distinction less clear.

You can learn more in our guide: EPP vs. EDR: What Matters More, Prevention or Response?

Features to Consider When Choosing an EDR Solution

EDR is still a relatively new technology with expanding options and capabilities. When choosing an EDR solution, you have a variety of options to choose from but not all are created equal. To ensure that you are getting the best possible protection, make sure to look for the following capabilities:

  • Visibility—solutions should provide real-time visibility across your endpoints. This includes the visibility of communications, applications, and processes. Solutions should also provide centralized access to logs for forensic analysis both during and after events.
  • Threat database—solutions should include a threat intelligence database. This database should incorporate information from external databases and be able to add details specific to your network.
  • Behavioral protection—solutions should include behavioral analysis engines. These engines need to enable you to track lateral movement across your network and resources.
  • Speed—solutions should operate in real-time, provide accurate alerting, and automate threat response. This requires detection engines that produce minimal false positives and the ability to set automated response policies.
  • Cloud-based—solutions that are cloud-based can protect your network without affecting the performance of endpoints. These solutions should smoothly integrate with current systems and provide intuitive remote access to controls.

EDR: Common Mistakes to Avoid

When adopting EDR solutions, refining your implementation can be a challenge. To ensure that you’re optimizing the defense your solution can provide, make sure to avoid these common mistakes.

Overemphasizing prevention

When adopting an EDR solution, you should not focus too heavily on prevention capabilities. Although combined EPP and EDR solutions exist, most are not yet mature and cannot provide the same level of protection as dedicated solutions.

Instead, you are better off choosing independent but complementary solutions. Focusing on finding solutions that integrate smoothly provides you with reliable prevention and protection without sacrifice.

If you must choose a combined solution, make sure to evaluate exactly what it’s capabilities are. You need to understand what a solution can protect against and how preventative capabilities compare to your existing solutions. For example, does the solution provide a replacement for existing antivirus or just additional prevention?

Additionally, make sure you understand how the solution you choose is scheduled to evolve. If preventative features are not supported in planned releases, these features won’t benefit you.

Learn about EPP solutions in our guide: EPP Security: Prevention, Detection and Response at Your Fingertips.

Not creating triage or response processes

EDR tools can automate much of the work that is necessary to protect your endpoints but these solutions are not magic. You still need to manage tools, triage alerts, and respond to threats once solutions are implemented.

While you can rely on security teams to address these tasks dynamically, doing so leads to inconsistency and oversight. Instead, you should create policies and procedures defining how solutions are managed and how teams perform investigation and response tasks.

When creating these processes, make sure to account for:

  • Alert prioritization
  • Assignment of responsibilities
  • Investigation workflows
  • Remediation procedures

Allotting insufficient time and resources

To work effectively, EDR solutions must collect significant amounts of data. This can take substantial bandwidth and storage resources. Also, although systems are designed to do most of the processing, analysis, and correlation work for security teams, some manual work is still needed.

Once a possible event is detected, analysts must evaluate data related to the alert and respond accordingly. Depending on the complexity of the event, this can take a significant amount of time. Added to this, EDR systems can produce alerts faster than teams can manage, particularly if you haven’t devoted enough time or resources to security teams.

To ensure that you’re not undermining the effectiveness of your EDR, make sure you’re accounting for the following:

  • Your security team understands the average time needed to triage alerts and has the staff necessary to respond in a timely manner.
  • Your team understands the average volume of alerts that will be generated in a given period and can prioritize alerts effectively.
  • You can devote at least one full-time employee to managing your solution. If not, you should consider adopting a managed solution. These solutions can enable you to outsource efforts, making EDR solutions workable for smaller organizations.

Discover open source resources in our article: The 7 Best Open-Source Incident Response Tools.

EDR Security Best Practices

In addition to avoiding the above mistakes, there are several best practices you can use to improve the effectiveness of your EDR implementation.

Don’t ignore users

Users, often unintentionally, present significant risks to your systems. They may unintentionally share files, unknowingly modify data, or fall victim to credential theft. Users also frequently undermine security efforts by working around systems. For example, when security solutions require multiple login steps, users are more likely to share credentials.

To prevent users from introducing additional risk, make sure that they are educated on security measures and why those measures are important. Restrict users from manipulating security configurations or settings and ensure that solutions are as transparent as possible. Ideally, users shouldn’t even be aware that security solutions are in place.

Integrate your tooling

EDR solutions are designed to protect your network perimeter, not your entire system. To achieve comprehensive security you need to integrate EDR with other solutions, such as authentication and encryption tools.

If possible, try to ensure that your tools integrate in a centralized way. Centralization can improve the efficiency of your security efforts and increase system visibility and control. In particular, consider integrating EDR with a system information and event management (SIEM) solution.

SIEM solutions enable you to aggregate data from across your systems and environments. These solutions provide centralized alerting, visibility, and often include intelligent analysis engines that can help you optimize systems and incident response.

Segment your network

Network segmentation is a strategy that isolates data, services, and applications based on priority level. It enables you to layer protections and to granularly control who and what has access to your various assets. Segmentation also enables you to limit the ability of attackers to travel laterally across your network, restricting the damage that attackers can cause.

While some EDR tools enable you to isolate endpoints in response to attacks, this is not as effective as segmentation. This type of isolation is designed to trap attackers where they are after detection. Segmentation, however, can slow attackers down prior to detection.

When implementing segmentation, consider including ethernet switch paths (ESPs). You can use ESPs to conceal the structure of your network, making it harder for attackers to move once inside.

Define an incident response plan (IRP)

An IRP is a plan that enables you to effectively implement the information that is provided by EDR solutions and other security tools. IRPs can ensure that prevention, detection, and response processes are comprehensive and effective.

These plans help you clearly define who is responsible for incident response in your organization and what steps they need to take when an incident occurs. During plan creation, you should take inventory of your assets, tooling, and existing policies and procedures. This information can then be applied to creating robust processes.

Learn about incident response in our guide: Incident Response SANS: The 6 Steps in Depth.

Take proactive measures

Security tools like EDR are designed to help you respond to attacks as quickly as possible and mitigate damage. However, this doesn’t mean that you should rely on solutions alone. Instead, you should take proactive measures to reduce your system vulnerabilities and eliminate pathways for attack.

Periodically audit your systems for known security issues, such as out-dated software or misconfigurations. Check if you have open ports that are not being used or credentials that are no longer needed and eliminate these when possible. Ideally, these audits should be part of your existing security policies and procedures, which should be enforced consistently.

Minimize your perimeter

It is not possible to eliminate every endpoint in your perimeter but you can restrict how many you include. Including only necessary endpoints reduces the number of options available to attackers as well as the burden on your security team.

If you find endpoints that you can eliminate, make sure that you also disable any connections endpoints are using. Additionally, clean up any retained data or network information from devices to ensure that it cannot be accessed locally. If you find endpoints that are not in active use but cannot be eliminated, consider disabling devices. You can always re-enable endpoints when needed.

Cynet 360: EDR Security and More

EDR solutions exclusively attend to the process behavior that triggers alerts. Organizations can use EDR tools in response to certain areas of common Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP) attackers use.

However, EDR products are blind to other types of attacks, like credential theft and lateral movement. When threat actors deploy attacks that don’t rely on anomalous activity, it can get past the typical EDR solution. Another problem is that most EDR tools are limited to endpoints and cannot help mitigate attacks or restore operations at the network or user level. This is where Cynet 360 comes in.

Cynet 360 holistic cybersecurity solution 

Cynet 360 platform is a comprehensive cyber solution that is created to run in the entire environment of an organization and not only its endpoints. To do so, Cynet 360 safeguards all attack surfaces by tracking the three planes; network traffic, process behavior, and user activity. Attackers often manifest themselves on one or several of these three planes.

Continuous monitoring to detect and stop threats across this triad offers increased threat visibility. Organizations can have the chance to monitor more stages in the attack’s lifecycle so they can more effectively identify and block threats.

As a subset of these capabilities, Cynet employs a market-leading EDR solution:

  • Advanced endpoint threat detection—full visibility and predicts how an attacker might operate, based on continuous monitoring of endpoints and behavioral analysis.
  • Investigation and validation—search and review historic or current incident data on endpoints, investigate threats, and validate alerts. This allows you to confirm the threat before responding to it, reducing dwell-time and performing faster remediation.
  • Rapid deployment and response—deploy across thousands of endpoints within two hours. You can then use it to perform automatic or manual remediation of threats on the endpoints, disrupt malicious activity and minimize damage caused by attacks.

Cynet 360 threat protection is not limited to attack detection and prevention. Using Cynet organizations can proactively monitor their entire internal environment, including endpoints, network, files, and hosts. This can help organizations reduce their attack surface and the likelihood of multiple attacks.

Cynet’s platform also provides the following endpoint protection capabilities:

  • NGAV—providing automated prevention and termination of malware, exploits, Macros, LOLBins, and malicious scripts with machine learning based analysis.
  • User Behavior Analytics (UBA)—detecting and preventing attacks using compromised credentials through the use of behavioral baselines and signatures.
  • Deception technology—planting fake credentials, files and connections to lure and trap attackers, mitigating damage and providing the opportunity to learn from attacker activity.
  • Network analytics—preventing and detecting network-based attacks through assessment of credential use, lateral movement, and risky connections.
  • Monitoring and control—providing asset management, vulnerability assessments and application control with continuous monitoring and log collection.
  • Response orchestration—providing manual and automated remediation for files, users, hosts and networks customized with user-created scripts.

An organization’s response to active attacks should work to enclose the capabilities of the attacker to eradicate the presence of the attacker completely. This requires disabling compromised users, deleting malicious files and processes, blocking traffic controlled by the attacker, and isolating infected hosts.

Learn more about the Cynet 360 security platform.

Want to dive deep into EDR? Here are some resources
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RFP Template

The Definitive RFP Template for EDR Projects

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The Dark Side of EDR

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Learn More About EDR

There’s a lot more to learn about EDR. To continue your research, take a look at the rest of our blogs on this topic:

Understanding XDR Security: Concepts, Features, and Use Cases

Extended detection and response (XDR) security solutions provide threat detection and protection that go beyond usual EDR solutions. XDR applies proactive measures by providing visibility of data across network, endpoint, and system components along with automation and analytics.  XDR was designed as an alternative to responsive endpoint protection solutions. Responsive solutions provide one layer of visibility or event correlation without response. For instance, network traffic analysis tools, or endpoint detection and response.

Read more: Understanding XDR Security: Concepts, Features, and Use Cases

Endpoint Detection and Response: The Ultimate RFP Template

EDR is a key part of any endpoint protection strategy and can help you investigate and respond to attacks in real-time. When evaluating EDR security solutions, you should have a well organized list of required capabilities, and ask each vendor what exactly their solution provides.

This Request for Proposal (RFP) template provides just that – a list of capabilities you can submit to your vendors, to get a detailed comparison of their comparative offerings.

Read more: Endpoint Detection and Response: The Ultimate RFP Template

What Does EDR Stand For? Endpoint Detection & Response 101

EDR is a security category defined by Gartner in 2013. It is designed to protect endpoints, help security teams gain visibility into malicious activity, and remotely control endpoints to mitigate and contain attacks.

This article explains the core capabilities of EDR, how it differs from EPP and antivirus solutions, and how it can help you secure your organization from the growing threat of endpoint-targeted attacks.

Read more: What Does EDR Stand For? Endpoint Detection & Response 101

EDR Cybersecurity: Unlocking the Black Box of Endpoint Protection

Modern networks often have a large number of endpoints, including virtual and physical workstations, cloud machine instances and servers. Each endpoint is potentially vulnerable to attack. However, security teams have limited visibility into malicious activity, limited access to endpoints, and limited ability to investigate and contain an attack

Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) provides visibility into security incidents occurring on endpoints, so you can prevent damage and prevent future attacks. This article explains how EDR can help expose what is happening on an endpoint, detect attacks that other tools can’t stop, and help you contain and prevent them.

Read more: EDR Cybersecurity: Unlocking the Black Box of Endpoint Protection

Top 6 EDR Tools Compared

EDR tools are technology platforms that can alert security teams of malicious activity and enable fast investigation and containment of attacks on endpoints. An endpoint can be a laptop, an employee workstation, a cloud system, a server, a mobile or IoT device.  This article reviews  6 top EDR tools, their solution scope, delivery, and EDR features.

Read more: Top 6 EDR Tools Compared

EPP vs. EDR: What Matters More, Prevention or Response?

EPP solutions are designed to prevent attacks from traditional threats such as known malware and advanced threats like ransomware, fileless attacks, and zero-day vulnerabilities. Many modern EPP platforms offer both threat prevention and EDR. You can choose which components to deploy on which endpoints and there may be separate pricing for different parts of the EPP package.

This article explains the differences between EDR and EPP, and why both are critical to endpoint security.

Read more: EPP vs. EDR: What Matters More, Prevention or Response?

See Our Additional Guides on Key Security Topics

We have authored in-depth guides on several other security topics that can also be useful as you explore the world of Endpoint Detection and Response.

Endpoint Security Guide

Endpoint security is a strategy designed to protect your network perimeter and the endpoints located on that perimeter.

See top articles in our endpoint security guide:

Network Attacks Guide

A network attack is an attempt to gain unauthorized access to an organization’s network, with the objective of stealing data or perform other malicious activity. Once inside, hackers will combine other types of attacks, for instance compromising an endpoint, spreading malware or exploiting a vulnerability in a system within the network.

See top articles in our network attacks guide:

Advanced Threat Protection Guide

Advanced threat protection (ATP) is a set of solutions and practices you can use to detect and prevent advanced attacks or malware. Typically, ATP solutions include a combination of malware protection systems, network devices, endpoint agents, email gateways, and a centralized management dashboard.

See top articles in our advanced threat protection guide:

Incident Response Guide

Incident response is a growing priority at organizations. Technology platforms are essential for making incident response efficient and effective. Incident response platforms help security teams quickly identify and investigate incidents, manage their work on a case until closure, and automate incident response tasks to provide a faster response.

See top articles in our incident response guide:

Incident Response Services Guide

Incident response services can help you detect and respond to cyber-attacks. These services generally operate based on an incident response retainer that specifies a fixed monthly cost and a certain scope of security services.

See top articles in our incident response services guide:

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