What is Managed Detection and Response (MDR)?

In today’s digital era, where cyber threats loom large, Security Operations Centers (SOCs) have become the frontline defense for organizations seeking to protect their valuable data and infrastructure from would-be attackers. However, the mounting complexity of cyberattacks, the expanding threat landscape, and well-documented shortage of security analysts needed to staff SOCs, have put immense pressure on SOCs, often leaving them understaffed and struggling to cope with the ever-growing workload. This glaring imbalance has left businesses vulnerable to potential breaches and highlighted the urgent need for a transformative solution. Managed Detection and Response (MDR) offers a potential solution for overwhelmed SOCs.

What is an MDR?

Managed Detection and Response (MDR) is a cybersecurity service designed to assist SOCs by expanding capacity to identify and respond to potential cyber threats and incidents. It operates as a service provided by third-party cybersecurity firms or managed security service providers (MSSPs) which augment and extend the capacity of an in-house security operations center (SOC).

Managed Detection and Response (MDR) offers organizations the expertise of a dedicated team of professionals that continuously monitor clients’ endpoints, networks, and cloud environments, ensuring round-the-clock vigilance against potential cyber threats. In the event of any detected threat, the MDR team promptly responds to the incident or escalates the finding to in-house teams for further action.

Key Capabilities of MDRs

Each MDR has a different set of services they specialize in providing to their customers. Several popular services that are often included in MDR portfolios include:

  1. Continuous Monitoring: MDR services provide round-the-clock surveillance of an organization’s IT infrastructure, networks, and endpoints. This constant monitoring enables timely identification of potential threats or suspicious activities.
  2. Threat Detection: MDR leverages a combination of technologies and techniques to identify and analyze various cyber threats, such as malware, ransomware, phishing attempts, and insider threats.
  3. Alert Triage – One of the most common services offered by an MDR is alert triage, where analysts review security alerts to determine if they are malicious or benign. 
  4. SIEM Implementation & Tuning: MDRs may help customers deploy and configure a security information and event management tool (SIEM), and maintain it over time.
  5. Reporting and Compliance: MDR services often provide detailed incident reports and analysis, aiding organizations in meeting regulatory compliance requirements and demonstrating their security posture.

Benefits of MDR

Using an MDR is not for every organization, but for organizations that do choose to use an MDR, some benefits include:

  1. Enhanced Cybersecurity Posture: MDR equips organizations with an added layer of defense against evolving cyber threats. With continuous monitoring and expert analysis, businesses can promptly identify and neutralize potential risks before they escalate into major incidents.
  2. Reduced Dwell Times: Time is of the essence during a cyberattack. MDR’s 24/7 monitoring and swift response mechanisms help minimize the “dwell time” of attackers within the network, reducing the potential damage.
  3. Access to Expertise: Many organizations struggle to hire and retain cybersecurity professionals due to the industry’s shortage of skilled talent. MDR services provide businesses with access to experienced security analysts without the burden of managing an in-house security team.
  4. Relative Cost-Effectiveness: Compared to building and maintaining an in-house security operation, outsourcing cybersecurity to an MDR service can often be more cost-effective for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
  5. Compliance and Reporting: MDR services can assist organizations in meeting regulatory compliance requirements by providing detailed incident reports and analysis to demonstrate their security measures.

Drawbacks of using an MDR

While MDR services offer several advantages, it is essential to consider the potential drawbacks associated with working with an MDR provider. Some of these cons include:

  1. Cost: MDR services can be expensive, especially for small and medium-sized businesses. The ongoing subscription fees, along with any additional incident response costs, may strain the cybersecurity budget of some organizations.
  2. Dependency on External Providers: By outsourcing cybersecurity to an MDR provider, organizations become reliant on an external entity for their security operations. This dependency may lead to concerns about control over sensitive data and potential communication challenges.
  3. Integration and Customization: Integrating MDR services into an existing IT infrastructure can be complex, and customizing the solution to suit the specific needs of the organization may require additional effort and time.
  4. False Positives: Like any security service, MDR solutions are not immune to false positives. The MDR provider may alert the organization to potential threats that turn out to be benign, leading to unnecessary investigation and resource allocation.
  5. Limited Contextual Knowledge: MDR providers often lack deep insights into an organization’s unique business processes, specific industry risks, or other contextual factors about a client’s business, all of which may lead to false positives. Even for correctly identified incidents, this often means that there are lots of back and forths during triage and investigation which can diminish the productivity gains which prompted the use of the MDR in the first place. 
  6. Response Time: While MDR services strive for swift incident response, the effectiveness of the response may be impacted by factors such as communication delays and the need for coordination between the organization and the MDR provider.
  7. Limited Scope – many MDRs focus primarily on alert triage, but leave in depth investigation, containment, and response for in-house SOC teams to complete. This leaves much of the most time intensive work unaddressed. 

Alternatives to MDR

In-house Security Operations Center (SOC)

Building and maintaining an internal SOC allows organizations to have direct control over their cybersecurity operations. An in-house SOC can be staffed with dedicated security analysts and incident responders who continuously monitor the organization’s IT environment, detect threats, and respond to incidents. While this approach offers greater control, it may require significant investments in talent, infrastructure, and training.

AI-based Security Operations Solutions

In recent years software has advanced to a point where AI can be used to build effective tools that offer many of the services and capabilities that security teams purchase MDRs to obtain. One such tool that functions as an alternative to MDR, is Radiant Security’s AI-powered SOC co-pilot. Radiant’s co-pilot helps SOCs boost analyst productivity, detect real attacks through unlimited in-depth investigation, and rapidly respond to incidents.

To learn more about Radiant Security, visit us at https://radiantsecurity.ai.