What Should Your MDR Solution Include?

Technology is evolving. Remote work is here to stay. Businesses across all industries are reaping the benefits of new and convenient ways of getting work done. Yet, these advances come with drawbacks. Cybercrime is also evolving, and all types of businesses are a target. As businesses and individuals become more interconnected, cybercriminals recognize more points of access to enter networks and carry out an attack. These advanced attacks can't be avoided by outdated security options that react when an attack is already in progress. To stay ahead of sophisticated cyber attacks that occur daily in today's interconnected business world, businesses must invest in a cybersecurity solution that continuously protects against threats on the horizon and offers automated solutions to minimize the effects of active attacks.

Cybersecurity Budget

For most businesses, the only effective way to achieve this level of protection comes in the form of Managed Detection and Response (MDR). MDR services provide customers with remotely delivered modern security operations center (MSOC) functions. These functions are provided through a variety of customized services that allow organizations to rapidly detect threats, analyze the danger, investigate the damage, and respond to contain and mitigate the threat. MDR service providers offer a turnkey experience, using a predefined technology stack and providing businesses with access to assistance from cybersecurity professionals.

While MDR is a clearly defined service by certain objectives and services, all solutions are not created equal. With a variety of technology offerings and different types of security vendors, finding a complete MDR solution can be confusing. Some vendors might supply endpoint protection that doesn't extend to your entire network (EDR), or refer to a security stack without a connection to an off-site SOC as MDR or XDR. You can learn more about the differences in these services in our EDR, XDR, and MDR comparison guide.

Why Adopt MDR?

There are several types of security options to help businesses, organizations, and individuals protect sensitive data. However, not all cybersecurity tools are effective against modern sophisticated threats. MDR is designed to provide specific cybersecurity benefits that address future risks and limit the impact of threats without the cost of additional security staff members. MDR services address these current concerns.

Limited Staffing Options

For most organizations, the cost of an effective in-house SOC is too prohibitive to consider. Furthermore, an ongoing talent shortage in the cybersecurity field makes it difficult to recruit qualified professionals. The evolving threat landscape means that SOC teams must accomplish more with available resources. MDR utilizes a variety of tools and an off-site SOC team to provide a complete security solution. 

Avoid Alert Fatigue

When systems address every issue that arises within a network, many false positives interrupt daily responsibilities. Even worse, they desensitize professionals to the occurrence of actual threats. As new technology, remote devices, and forms of IoT are added to organizations, false alerts increase. MDR solutions combine customizable tools and 24/7 access to expertise. These experts provide a professional installation of software and optimization for high-quality results that decrease the instance of false alerts.

Eliminate Repetitive Tasks

IT teams and other tech professionals are faced with a variety of time-consuming manual tasks that limit the amount of effective work they can complete daily. Automated services included in your MDR security stack take care of repetitive data collection and incident response tasks to free up your IT team for more strategic projects.

Effective Threat Response

Outdated cybersecurity tools used reactive methods to respond to existing and active threats. MDR utilizes continuous managed threat hunting to identify and stop hidden, sophisticated threats. With the use of threat intelligence and UEBA, security specialists are more likely to recognize threats before they become active attacks and cause damage to the network.

Essential Services Your MDR Solution Should Include

A comprehensive MDR solution has specific objectives and combines the use of cybersecurity tools with the professional services of a remote security operations center (SOC). An effective MDR offers a variety of advanced tools and services to provide your business or organization with a comprehensive cloud-based security solution with continuous support from cybersecurity professionals. MDR works as a service instead of a tool and should include these capabilities.

Threat Intelligence

Practically all businesses use and store sensitive data that could prove valuable to cybercriminals with malicious intent. This means businesses continually face advanced attacks that are covertly carried out with little or no warning. To keep your data safe from zero-day attacks and advanced persistent threats, your MDR solution should include threat intelligence that utilizes specific tools and practices. 

Cyber threat intelligence is a cycle that helps businesses better understand who attackers are, where they can access the network, and specific actions that can be taken to strengthen defenses against a future attack. 

Effective threat intelligence can be divided into these three sections:

  • Tactical: This is the day-to-day protection used to recognize and halt suspicious behavior. It may include log collection, data analysis, endpoint protection, and other tools or services. Common components of tactical threat intelligence include SIEM, professional data analysis, EDR, and network firewalls.
  • Operational: Data collected and utilized through the investigation of specific threats provides threat intelligence for effective responses. This is carried out by both tools and cybersecurity specialists. Some components of operational threat intelligence may include threat hunting, SOC analysis, vulnerability management, and incident response.
  • Strategic: By focusing on high-level trends and specific motives, strategic threat intelligence helps form long-term strategies for cybersecurity policies, tools, and procedures. Strategic threat intelligence may include UEBA, herd immunity through crowdsourced intelligence, focused investigation by senior SOC professionals, and vulnerability awareness. 

Threat intelligence is one way that MDR works to address threats on the horizon instead of simply reacting to attacks or vulnerabilities as they become known. By using investigative tactics to understand the motives and methods of cyberattackers, businesses and their security teams can focus on multiple threats and address potential risks before they occur. 

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24/7 Coverage

Cyberattacks don't only occur during business hours. In fact, the most sophisticated attacks typically take advantage of nights, weekends, holidays, and vacations. The technical definition of MDR services includes the promise of 24/7 threat monitoring, detection, and lightweight response, making it an essential part of any service defined as MDR. This is important not only for businesses using off-site MDR as a complete cybersecurity system but also for companies with an in-house SOC. Since companies with an in-house cybersecurity team usually operate during business hours, they may supplement their system with outsourced MDR for 24/7 coverage.

To effectively provide 24/7 threat monitoring, detection, and response, your MDR solution will combine the use of software and human expertise for adequate protection during the hours your company will likely need it most. A highly capable MDR solution will include these components during all hours.

  • Threat monitoring and detection through professionally installed software customized to recognize the normal behavior of your organization
  • Response services that include automated alerts and remediation and on-call incident response to remove malware and halt intrusions
  • Human response for investigation and response to issues that require immediate remedy through specific activities
  • Constantly updating threat intelligence repositories to address new threats and vulnerabilities
  • Restoration through automated and human response to reduce the impact of an attack

It's important to consider that MDR providers might offer different levels of 24-hour protection. For instance, software used for log collection and automated alerts could check the boxes of threat monitoring, detection, and response. However, those actions might not provide the level of response your organization needs for adequate 24/7 protection.

Incident Investigation

A security incident includes everything from a false alarm to a full-scale attack, and investigation into these incidents are the only way to understand the severity of the attack and potential methods for complete remediation. A successful incident investigation combines the use of technology for automated responses and the professional knowledge of highly trained security specialists for a thorough investigation and the addition of new information to the threat intelligence cycle.

An alert is the first step in the process of an incident investigation. When your SIEM software is optimized for your organizational network and normal behavior, an active alert will launch an investigation. Even as the alert is sent to professionals in your organization and your vendor's SOC team, information about the breach is gathered by the system. At the same time, an automated set of pre-defined responses can be launched to help contain the threat and further investigate other parts of the network.

While the automated actions of your SIEM and SOAR systems are working, highly trained security professionals are also responding to the alert. Data analysts will comb through the data provided by the system alerts and log collection data to determine exactly how and where the hacker accessed the network. The most immediate task will be to determine whether the attacker is still affecting the system. After a complete timeline of the attack is established, analysts can determine the amount of damage that occurred and the steps necessary to close security gaps and avoid similar attacks.

Threat Containment

There are a variety of ways that threat actors access networks. Not surprisingly, most of the entry points don't provide cybercriminals with access to the most sensitive (valuable) information within an organization. Sophisticated attacks are often designed to be discreet to help threat actors carry out their objective while posing as normal network activity. These attacks may be carried out by gaining access through an endpoint vulnerability or a phishing email that provides low-level access. If the breach mimics authorized activity, the attack can continue without triggering an alert. Threat containment is designed to stop an attacker from moving laterally through the system and gaining access to higher levels of data throughout the network. Since MDR uses multiple tools and services, it typically aims to contain threats without taking business systems offline and resulting in costly downtime.

Like many MDR security methods, threat containment can begin with automated actions tied to SIEM software. Automated actions may mean disconnecting an affected device or system from the network to isolate the threat without file corruption or downtime. Immediate threat containment actions from your SOC team may follow as necessary. These actions might include tracking the attack pattern to identify stolen usernames and passwords and blocking further access. Analysts also utilize log collections to identify malware sources and block them to limit damages. Additional threat containment tasks may include closing specific ports and servers, changing passwords. relocating website home pages, and creating a full recovery and prevention plan.

Threat Monitoring

Continuous monitoring of your network for potential threats is one of the most crucial parts of an effective cybersecurity system. Simply put, if your organization works online, you're at risk of a cyberattack. Threat monitoring provides your organization with options to identify and stop potential threats before they become attacks that can cause costly downtime and damage. Effective threat monitoring as part of an MDR solution uses tools and professional analysts to continuously monitor entire networks including endpoints for signs of security threats like intrusions or data exfiltration.

An effective threat monitoring system begins with the proper installation and optimization of your SIEM software by cybersecurity professionals. The system should be set up to monitor your entire network and recognize normal user behavior in your organization. Threat monitoring software collects and correlates information from network devices, operational technology, endpoints, and IoT devices. Your SIEM system then takes this data and forms a complete picture of all logs, applies analytical data to them, and discovers patterns that relate to hostile actions. This data is relayed on dashboards visible to your organization and your off-site SOC team. UEBA takes your software to another level by establishing a baseline of normal behavior. By recognizing normal behavior, UEBA can help your system recognize covert threats like insider attacks and stolen passwords. UEBA is often an add-on that may not be a part of your MDR solution. However, Securonix SIEM integrates UEBA into SIEM for a complete solution.

Threat monitoring provides security professionals with the data to complete these tasks:

  • Continuously monitor real-time information across network activity
  • Understand how network usage aligns with policy requirements
  •  Meet compliance standards
  • Uncover network vulnerabilities and poor security behavior

Remote Response Services

Advanced cybersecurity software and tools provide many valuable benefits that help security professionals and organizational IT teams collect, analyze data, and recognize suspicious behavior. The ability to automate rapid responses for remediation helps to limit the damage of attacks that do happen. However, it takes human intuition to make decisions during an emergency.

To be officially considered an MDR service provider, vendors must give organizations access to 24-hour response. Yet, the form of response provided by your off-site MDR service can come in different forms. Some providers offer generic automated responses based on the alert generated by SIEM. The most effective MDR solutions offer an emergency response from an on-call security professional with specific knowledge about your unique organization. When your SOC team receives an alarm, security professionals determine the severity of the threat and the steps needed to neutralize the threat as soon as possible. These rapid responses help to provide an immediate solution that will limit the damage as much as possible.

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Advanced Analytics

Automated responses provided by your cybersecurity programs can provide proactive network security functions including detection, monitoring, and analyzing security events. Your security analytics platform allows administrators and analysts to customize existing threat models or create new ones based on the threat environment and your organization's specific needs.

MDR security analytics tools include:

  • SIEM: Automated collection and real-time analysis of routine traffic and security alerts generated by network devices and applications
  • Behavioral Analytics: By examining normal behavior and establishing a baseline, UEBA can automatically recognize abnormal behavior that indicates a threat
  • Forensics: Tools used to investigate past or persistent ongoing attacks can determine how attackers gain access, damage or compromise systems, and uncover security vulnerabilities
  • Network Analysis and Visibility: A collection of tools that analyze end-user and application traffic as it flows across the network
  • SOAR: Analysis of gathered data and the launch of automated response tuned to each specific threat and your unique work environment

MDR vendors have various tools that make up a complete security stack. These tools and the results they provide can differ considerably from one vendor to the next. When choosing the right MDR services for your organization, it's important to get all the details about the data analytics services provided by the security stack.

Human Expertise

Cybersecurity software and advanced tools take care of a variety of cumbersome tasks and provide security specialists with the time they need to take care of vital jobs that must be accomplished. Cybersecurity programs can collect, categorize, and analyze data in a way that would be impossible for humans to accomplish. Yet, human expertise plays a vital role in your complete MDR service package.

One of the most important facts that make MDR stand out from other cybersecurity solutions is that it is a service instead of a tool. Your MDR service package includes the ongoing assistance of an off-site SOC team that manages the tools and software in your security stack as well as providing emergency responses for active security incidents. As a part of your MDR services, cybersecurity professionals should offer some or all of these services.

  • Proper installation of your cybersecurity software 
  • Optimization of programs to limit false alarms and address threats most likely to affect your organization
  • Continuous updates of software and patch application to eliminate new vulnerabilities
  • Ongoing education to grow and change security systems to stay ahead of the threat landscape
  • Integration of security systems with new devices as technology advances and companies grow
  • Anticipate the human behavior of threat actors to provide cyber threat hunting services
  • Emergency response to make decisions about a cybersecurity incident based on facts and intuition about an organization's inner workings
  • The coordination of multiple AI-enabled programs for a complete defense
  • Communication with the individuals who work in your organization so you always know what's happening and how you should respond.

Incident Validation

Out-of-the-box cybersecurity software doesn't provide accurate threat responses. Without optimization for your organizational environment, hundreds or thousands of false alerts can be generated daily. False positives make it difficult for IT professionals to get important tasks accomplished, and cause alert fatigue. When your system cries wolf all day, you quickly become desensitized and are more likely to miss real threats when they occur.

Your MDR services should leave your employees with less work, not more. For this reason, the best MDR providers perform alert validation to minimize the number of false positives that reach your team. Incident validation means the alerts that reach your team will have a high level of detail that determines the threat is likely valid. These alerts/reports should also include concrete steps for remediation. To determine whether your MDR provider offers incident validation, ask for details about the information provided in threat reports.

Detailed reports should include:

  • Specific options or arguments used to launch a process
  • Details on the conditions and department where the threat indicator can be observed
  • Information regarding a chain of suspicious activities or dependent activities
  • The lifecycle of noted indicators to explain why the indicator is relevant in the modern threat landscape

Choosing an MDR provider is an essential task for many businesses of all sizes across all industries. However, making the wrong choice can limit the effectiveness of MDR, or even create more work for your team. By using this guide as a checklist, you can learn more about the depth of services offered by your MDR provider. For a complete MDR system that provides a single turn-key solution for managed detection and response that goes above and beyond traditional MDR services, get started with Bitlyft MDR. Get in touch with our cybersecurity experts to learn more about our full range of cybersecurity services.

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