What Is Managed Detection and Response?

Modern hybrid and multi-cloud environments are complex, making them inherently vulnerable. Managed detection and response (MDR) solutions allow teams to proactively identify and quickly mitigate threats. They combine the best technology with human expertise to optimize threat hunting, monitoring, and response. With MDR, even resource-limited companies can effectively protect their digital assets without having to hire additional staff.

As the sophistication of cybercriminals and their ability to inflict serious damage grows, MDR levels the playing field, providing organizations with access to advanced tools and highly trained data security professionals. In this guide, we’ll explore what MDR is and the important role it plays in supplementing an organization’s in-house security team. We’ll also look at how MDR compares to other outsourced security solutions and explain how integrating a data security platform into your MDR strategy will boost its effectiveness.

What Is Managed Detection and Response, and How Does It Work?

Managed detection and response is a cybersecurity service designed to supplement in-house capabilities, using advanced tools and technical expertise to handle threat hunting, monitoring, and response. In addition to helping businesses secure their digital infrastructure, detect active threats, and execute remediation efforts, MDR enables teams to maximize the effectiveness of their existing data security solutions such as endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions. In today’s complex threat environment, MDR is crucial for reducing the number and severity of data security incidents.

What Challenges Does MDR Address?

Managed detection and response enables businesses to keep pace as the complexity and volume of cyber and data threats continue to grow. An MDR solution helps teams resolve six critical security deficits.

1. Supplement In-house Technical Expertise

Many small and medium-sized businesses lack the resources to assemble a robust security team capable of adequately managing data risks. With a lack of available talent, many larger organizations also struggle to fill job openings with qualified professionals. Even well-staffed data teams may face issues: 46% of data engineers report being overwhelmed by data management complexity, and 39% feel burned out and ready to change jobs. MDR plays an important role in a comprehensive data security strategy, filling gaps in critical technical expertise. In addition, some MDR services provide 24/7 monitoring, ensuring active threat detection and response activities are continuously running.

2. Prioritize Security Alerts

Security technologies generate a never-ending stream of alerts, which can quickly overwhelm IT and security staff. Sifting out false positives and low-priority alerts from those that require immediate attention can be a resource-intensive process. MDR uses automated rules, manual inspection, and correlation of events to differentiate between harmless patterns and those that may indicate the presence of a threat. This process converts a torrent of incoming noise into a prioritized list of alerts that need to be acted upon.

3. See In-depth Analysis of Security Events

Once a potential threat is identified, the organization must pinpoint its origin and scope of impact in order to adequately address it. Managed detection and response solutions give teams insight into the context of a security event, providing details such as where and when the incident occurred, and exactly which assets were compromised. This is beneficial not just for resolving the threat at hand, but also for identifying potential points of failure in the broader data environment to bolster future data risk management efforts.

4. Access Advanced Threat Hunting Capabilities

Not all threats can be detected using automated tools. Threat hunters are specially trained security professionals who dig through security data and track down persistent threats that have evaded existing security measures. Undetected, malicious actors can persist for months, waiting for the right opportunity to attack or advance deeper into the network. The longer these threats go undetected, the greater opportunity they have to cause harm. Threat hunters take the offensive, using advanced tools and experience to catch and expel threats that have gained a foothold in the environment.

5. Receive Expert Recommendations for Remediation

A managed detection and response team does not just identify breaches. They also guide the business through the recommended steps for containing, remediating, and recovering from a security incident. With comprehensive support from the MDR team, in-house staff can implement an expert plan of action to return the business to a pre-attack state and address any security gaps that the breach may have exposed. In addition, MDR experts will recommend organizational changes designed to strengthen the business’s data security posture management, helping to shore up existing vulnerabilities and avoid future breaches.

6. Free Security Teams to Focus on More Strategic Work

Outsourcing time-consuming data monitoring and detection tasks allows in-house data security teams to focus on longer-term, high-value projects, such as researching and implementing security-focused structural and operational changes to the business. These projects may also include vetting and implementing new security tools that can future-proof the organization as its security needs evolve over time.

How Does MDR Compare to Other Cybersecurity Services?

Organizations have several options for protecting their digital assets, ranging from technologies that provide individual security components to a comprehensive MDR solution. Here’s what you need to know about the various available cybersecurity services.

Managed Security Service Providers (MSSP)

Managed security service providers (MSSP) help businesses with the security basics such as log management, monitoring, analysis, and perimeter-based control management. In general, MSSP focuses on known threats such as high-volume attacks and recurring malware, and does not include more advanced features such as extensive threat-hunting activities. Unlike managed detection and response solutions, when threats are detected via MSSP, businesses are typically responsible for managing their own response, remediation, and recovery.

Managed Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)

A security information and event management (SIEM) system is a powerful tool that brings together data from networks, web apps, data security platforms, privileged identity management systems, and other sources, often into a security data lake, for analysis. Potential security threats and vulnerabilities are flagged and alerts are sent to security staff for further investigation. In the right context, a SIEM system is a valuable tool. But the operational complexity of a cloud SIEM and the expertise required to accurately interpret the results can limit its usefulness for under-resourced security teams. For these organizations, a comprehensive MDR solution is required to sufficiently protect digital assets.

Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)

Endpoint detection and response (EDR) is a security solution that actively monitors, collects, and analyzes data from endpoints in real-time to detect and investigate suspicious activity. These endpoints include mobile devices, virtual machines, desktop computers, and IoT devices. Using advanced technologies such as behavioral analysis and machine learning, EDR tools supplement indicators of compromise (IoC) and signatures, sending automated alerts to the security team when anomalies are detected. Many MDR services include EDR, adding the benefit of an MDR team’s expertise in interpreting and responding to flagged activity.

Strengthening Your MDR Strategy with a Data Security Platform

As storing, accessing, and sharing sensitive data has become more common, so have the challenges involved in keeping that data secure. A modern data security platform serves as a vital part of a comprehensive MDR strategy, helping businesses better manage risks and providing them with advanced tools for sensitive data discovery, access control, and activity monitoring. Here are four key value-adds a data security platform delivers.

Advanced Behavioral Analytics

A data security platform leverages user behavior analytics to provide enhanced insights into how data is accessed and used, including user activity, queries over time, sensitive data indicators, and configuration and classification changes. Behavioral analytics acts as an early warning system, helping organizations identify problematic insider activity, and more quickly respond to threats and cyberattacks.

SIEM Integration

SIEM systems are more effective when they have access to all security-related data. Armed with contextual data, organizations can more readily recognize potential security threats and vulnerabilities before they have a chance to disrupt operations.

Sensitive Data Views and Indicators

Data security platforms enable businesses to accurately inventory and continuously monitor access behavior and risk across cloud platforms and on-premises systems. Detailed analysis provides a fine-grained view of activity across the organization, including time frame, data access events categorization, most active data sources, and sensitive data indicators.

Risk Severity Scoring

Some data, like personally identifiable information (PII) and protected health information (PHI) is highly sensitive and subject to strict data compliance regulations, requiring enhanced security safeguards to protect it. Risk scoring helps security teams prioritize sensitive data protection needs, making it possible to accurately assess data’s sensitivity level and risk profile to better understand the mechanisms needed to mitigate threats.

Protecting Sensitive Data and Critical Systems with Managed Detection and Response

As the complexity of the modern data stack increases, so does its vulnerability to compromise. Managed detection and response solutions give businesses of all sizes access to the technical skill sets and advanced security tools essential for protecting digital assets.

Read our Data Policy Management Report to learn how the growth of the data privacy function is shaping today’s data teams and what to look for when choosing a data security platform for your team.