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What Is Managed Detection and Response (MDR)?

Managed Detection and Response (MDR) offers 24/7 services that include threat monitoring, detection and response. The goal of MDR is to assist enterprises with their incident response (IR) needs. It may include a range of automated technologies which can be deployed at both the network and host layers. MDR often employs threat intelligence and advanced analytics in combination with human incident investigation and response experts. 

MDR providers offer a wide range of remote response services, including threat containment and support in bringing systems and networks back to normal operations.

This is part of an extensive series of guides about cloud security.

In this article:

What Challenges Do MDR Services Solve?

Most organizations face several challenges when trying to implement a comprehensive cybersecurity program. MDR offers services that help meet these challenges:

  • Lack of internal security talent—the talent shortage in cybersecurity is making it difficult for organizations to find and keep qualified cybersecurity professionals. This effort is both challenging and costly, and organizations—even enterprises with large budgets—struggle to hire these experts, if they can afford to at all. MDR helps ensure that organizations can augment their security expertise and staff overnight.
  • Advanced threat identification—sophisticated attacks such as advanced persistent threats (APTs) employ tools and techniques that help attackers remain undetected by most traditional security solutions. MDR providers can detect and remediate these threats by implementing proactive threat hunting.
  • Underlying security flaws—bad practices can expose organizations to underlying security flaws. MDR services actively monitor the attack surface of the infrastructure and actively hunt for threats and previously unknown issues. MDR services help organizations identify these issues and provide guidance on how to remediate them. 
  • Slow threat detection—cybersecurity incidents may go undetected for a long period of time. The longer the attack, the higher the cost and impact. MDR providers offer detection and response times that are backed by service level agreements (SLAs). This helps minimize the cost incurred due to a cybersecurity incident.
  • Alert volume—traditional security tools can generate an overwhelming amount of security alerts, including a large volume of false positives. Attempting to handle so many false positives can quickly lead to alert fatigue. This challenge can make organizations stop actively monitoring alerts or only monitor certain activities. MDR services offer the technology and expertise required to efficiently monitor an environment and quickly catch indicators of compromise (IOCs). This can help stop a breach from turning into a large-scale compromise.

Learn more in our detailed guide to MDR services.

MDR Security Features and Capabilities

Here are the core capabilities offered by MDR:


Managed prioritization, or managed Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR), can help organizations sift through massive volumes of alerts and determine which they should address first. Managed EDR services employ automated rules in combination with human investigation in order to distinguish false positives and benign events from real threats. Managed prioritization uses additional context to distill threats into high-quality alerts.

Threat Hunting

Human threat hunters have the skills and expertise needed to identify the most evasive threats. Threat hunters provide the insights needed to catch threats that automated defenses miss.


The goal of managed investigation is to help organizations quickly understand the scope and details of threats. This is typically achieved by providing security alerts that contain additional context. Managed investigation services help organizations completely understand what happened and when, as well as who was affected and how far the attack could go. The information can help organizations plan an effective response.

Guided Response

The main purpose of guided response is to deliver actionable advice on how to best contain and remediate a certain threat. Guided response services provide advice on a wide range of security incidents. For example, advising to isolate an affected system from the corporate network, and providing step-by-step instructions on how to eliminate a threat or recover from the attack.


Remediation is the final step performed during incident response. Managed remediation helps restore your system to its pre-attack state. It may involve cleaning a registry, removing malware, removing any persistence mechanisms, and ejecting intruders. Managed remediation helps prevent any additional compromise and return your network to a known good state.

Learn more in our detailed guide to MDR security.

Choosing the Right MDR Solution for Your Organization

Depending on the size of your organization, you may have different needs (and capabilities), which can best be served by different MDR providers.

Which MDR Is Right for a Mature SecOps Organization?

Large enterprises have a full-time group of information security analysts functioning within a sea of alerts where staying afloat is the only option. Studying raw data 24/7 is not the ideal situation either—however, automated alert validation and automated alert triaging are only one element of the solution.   

Large organizations may have hundreds of thousands of endpoints. Detecting and isolating malicious activity on these endpoints is important, but it is even more important to correlate malicious activity across the whole network. This lets the SecOps group gain an understanding of the entire context of the attack from the primary access to attack operation goals. 

Consider the following questions to see which vendor solutions suit your environment: 

  • Is the vendor an MSSP, in addition to providing MDR services?
  • Can the vendor generate technique and tactic detections that can markedly reduce MTTR and MTTD?
  • Which vendors offer automated general, tactic, and technical detections? You can use the Technology Comparison tool, paying attention to the substeps your group has prioritized. 
  • Can your analysts like and can easily understand the product interface?

Check if the solution correlates all malicious activity across all endpoints into an attack storyline, deriving from the core cause of the attack to potential attack operation goals. Make sure the solution gives end-users an intuitive and straightforward visual representation of the attack.

Which MDR Solution Is Best for an Organization with Mature Security Operations?

In these organizations, security operation centers (SOCs) tend to have full-time analysts. The more contextual, actionable, and detailed the information presented to them, the more effective they are. SOC analysts generally have enough technical knowledge, but while some analysts may require highly detailed information, others might feel that installing free tools is sufficient. 

Consider the following questions and see if you can narrow down vendor solutions to find one that suits your environment: 

  • Which subsets of security information are your priority?
  • Overlay vendor detection coverage on the subsets you prioritized. Which vendors offer the best coverage?
  • Which vendors provide helpful detection data?
  • Examine every vendor’s user interface and check if your team finds it intuitive and convenient to use.

Which MDR Solution Is Best for Organizations with Low Security Maturity?

Small organizations may have SOCs and IT teams with knowledge of cybersecurity industry terms, but they generally rely on MSSP or MDR because of their limited group of analysts.  

Consider the following questions to find vendor solutions that suit your environment: 

  • Does the vendor have technique or tactic detections?
  • Can the vendor help you identify suspicious behavior?
  • Does the vendor offer telemetry detection? This functionality assists with incident response efforts made after an intrusion occurs. Find out if the vendor provides a data retention service for how long data is retained. This data is critical for handling advanced persistent threat attacks, which may be in your networks for months before getting detected.

Learn more in our detailed guide to MDR solutions.

How To Evaluate a Managed Detection and Response Vendor

Here are a few ways you can evaluate MDR vendors to understand their capabilities and see if they are suitable for your organization.

Industry Analysts

The following analysts cover the MDR sector, and their reports can save you time by providing information about the capabilities, reputation, and market position of MDR providers. For example, see MDR market reports from:

  • Gartner—MDR Magic Quadrant
  • Forrester—Forrester Wave MDR
  • IDC—MarketScape US Managed Detection and Response Vendor Assessment

Pay special attention to the Gartner Magic Quadrant, because it not only reflects the industry, but also shapes it. Vendors in the leader quadrant get major industry attention and become a “safe bet” for purchasing decisions. At the same time, you should not ignore vendors in the other three quadrants, as they could be niche players especially suited to your use case.

However, analyst reports have their shortcomings—they are usually compiled only once per year, can be expensive to obtain, and won’t give you the level of details that a peer review can provide.

Peer Market Review

There are multiple websites that let you view reviews of actual customers using MDR services. These include Gartner’s own PeerInsights, G2 Crowd, IT Central Station, and 

MITRE ATT&CK Evaluation Results

Since 2018, MITRE, a widely recognized security research body, uses its ATT&CK methodology to evaluate security products and services. ATT&CK Evaluations are extremely useful because they:

  • Provide open, transparent data about the actual defensive ability of security offerings 
  • Provide screenshots of the solutions showing how exactly they defend against attacks
  • The evaluation includes a realistic test in which MITRE creates variations of advanced persistent threats (APT) and pits them against security solutions

When evaluating an MDR vendor, take a look at MITRE Evaluations and look for solutions that can detect relevant Tactics and Techniques with no customization or special configuration.

MDR vs. EDR vs. XDR vs. MSSP vs. SIEM

Let’s dive into the differences between MDR and some related security offerings – endpoint detection and response (EDR), extended detection and response (XDR), security information and event management (SIEM), and managed security service providers (MSSP).


MDR services continuously monitor your IT assets. The goal is to enable quick detection and effective response to true security threats. 

MDR service providers employ their own human expertise and technologies, which may include a variety of capabilities. The technology stack of each provider determines the scope of attacks each provider can detect. 

Ideally, an MDR service should provide multiple layers of protection that contribute towards a comprehensive defense-in-depth. The goal is to protect against as many attack vectors as possible through the use of various technologies. 

Here are several technologies a MDR service may employ:

  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)
  • Network Traffic Analysis (NTA)
  • Intrusion Detection System (IDS)
  • Endpoint Protection Platform (EPP)


Endpoint detection and response (EDR), formerly known as endpoint threat detection and response (ETDR) platforms are designed especially to protect your endpoints. EDR solutions monitor activity occurring on endpoint devices, such as servers, laptops, and point-of-sale (POS) systems. Note that EDR does not offer complete coverage and must be adopted into the entire security stack.

Learn more in our detailed guide to EDR vs. MDR.


Extended detection and response (XDR) solutions offer a layered approach that detect and respond to threats on networks as well as endpoints. XDR tools aggregate and correlate telemetry from multiple security controls in order to provide holistic defense across the IT ecosystem.


Managed security service providers (MSSPs) can handle a broad scope of security needs on behalf of organizations. MSSPs have their own fully-staffed security operations center (SOC) and a stack of technologies, which may include SIEM, EDR, and EPP. MSSPs may also offer centralized log management for compliance reporting as well as investigative reports. 


Security information event management (SIEM) platforms centralize the ingestion of data generated across the entire IT infrastructure. SIEM tools can accept a wide variety of log data types and feeds. For example, logs including records of application and user activity, as well as output from security devices. 

SIEM platforms provide a complete view of all data from a single plane. This type of visibility enables organizations to analyze all data and find indicators of compromise (IOCs) across the entire enterprise. SIEM platforms often allow users to configure rules triggered by certain data and may provide several types of analysis, sometimes powered by machine learning (ML).

Cynet MDR Services

Effective breach protection must include a combination of prevention and detection technologies along with deep cybersecurity oversight and expertise. CyOps, Cynet’s managed detection and response team, ensures Cynet technology is optimized by continuously monitoring your environment and proactively contacting you when further attention is required. CyOps ensures that all appropriate and necessary detection, investigation, and response actions are conducted accurately and thoroughly

Whether your organization already has deep cybersecurity expertise and just lacks the time or staff, or whether your organization just doesn’t have the expertise necessary to ensure you’re always protected – CyOps is there to help 24/7. You don’t have to do it alone. CyOps is ready to extend your resources and expertise in the ongoing fight against cybercrime.

And, you receive all of the benefits of CyOps Managed Detection and Response (MDR) services as part of the Cynet platform – at no additional cost.

Learn more about Cynet MDR services.

See Our Additional Guides on Key Cloud Security Topics

Together with our content partners, we have authored in-depth guides on several other topics that can also be useful as you explore the world of cloud security.


Learn about SaaS Security Posture Management (SSPM), a new security category that helps organizations identify misconfigurations and security issues in SaaS applications and automatically resolve them.

Cloud Monitoring

Authored by NetApp

Learn how to monitor cloud-based VMs, databases, web applications, storage, and virtual networks to prevent security incidents and production issues.

See top articles in our cloud monitoring guide:


Authored by Tigera

Learn about eBPF, a technology that is promoting cloud security by enabling development of hyper fast monitoring and observability applications that operate directly in the Linux Kernel.

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