Saturday, June 15, 2024

What Is Managed Detection and Response (MDR)? Ultimate Guide

Datamation content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

Managed detection and response (MDR) adds an additional layer of protection and elevates the security postures of organizations relying on legacy solutions.

Managed detection and response is becoming more popular as organizations look to outsource some elements of their cybersecurity approach. As bad actors become more adept at bypassing traditional network security platforms, managed services like MDR play an important – and growing – role in protecting the enterprise.  

How Managed Detection and Response Works

When enterprises partner with MDR providers, they can expect a service that includes continuous network traffic monitoring. MDR, often a part of a broader endpoint detection and response (EDR) platform, is built to manage tasks like threat hunting, monitoring, and response from the outside. Managed services like MDR can be thought of as a security guard station where different parts of a property are being monitored around the clock. Instead of security guards, MDR is managed by advanced cybersecurity analysts.

Much like other popular cybersecurity platforms, MDR employs techniques like supervised and unsupervised machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to crawl across networks in search of suspicious behavior. When threats are uncovered, advanced analytics and forensic data are sent on to human analysts, who triage risks and determine appropriate responses.

Organizations have varying tolerance levels for cyber risk, which should be reflected in the MDR service agreement. Some enterprises may prefer detailed analytical reports about network traffic, while others feel comfortable with a more hands-off approach.

Ultimately, the goal of MDR is to find and respond to threats before they cause damage. Core MDR functions include:

Managed Prioritization

Offsite MDR partners configure their security platform to apply automated rules to help prioritize which risks are most urgent. Human analysts review alerts according to priority, sorting benign events and false positives from authentic threats.

Threat Hunting

Threat hunting is the primary function of MDR, through both automated, AI-driven methods and human analysis. An ideal MDR partner company includes cybersecurity experts who are at the top of their field — access to these high levels of expertise are one of the main draws to investing in MDR.


MDR usually includes detailed reporting about security events with additional context to help companies understand and mitigate vulnerabilities. With MDR, enterprises can better understand what happened, when, who was affected, and the extent of infiltration or damage or loss.

Guided Response

This MDR component includes the actionable advice given to the organizations being managed on the most effective ways to contain and remediate specific threats. Together with investigative background information, guided response from an MDR provider gives organizations specific steps to follow. In the event of an attack, the guided response will include step-by-step instructions on recovery.


Remediation is the recovery support an organization can expect from an MDR provider. Arguably, this is the most critical component of an MDR partnership. After all, if remediation is not handled well, an organization’s entire investment in endpoint protection could be at risk.

MDR partners should be able to help an organization recover to a pre-attack state by removing malware, cleaning the registry, ejecting network intruders, and mitigating vulnerabilities throughout a network.

Why Use MDR?

There are many benefits of MDR, but perhaps the chief benefit is that MDR offers protection that is both preventative and reactionary in nature. Not only does MDR provide insights into network behaviors that might develop into full blown problems, but it is also capable of quickly knocking down attacks that do occur. MDR platforms scan for possible breaches and eliminate issues as soon as they occur to minimize damages.

AI Plus Human Intelligence is the Best of Both Worlds

MDR platforms make use of both artificial and human intelligence, a significant advantage when it comes to mitigating the risks of the modern cyber threatscape. Today, attacks are becoming more and more complex. Often, it’s not just a matter of recognizing threats but making a judgment call on the next best step.

That’s where humans come in. The expert cybersecurity analysts who manage MDR platforms are experienced in dealing with a wide array of threats in multiple environments. That means they are well-equipped to help organizations bat down sophisticated attacks and to offer insight informed by real world experience. Automation is a must, but expert human analysis adds measurable value.

MDR: Proactive Approach, Not Just a Reactive One

While MDR providers offer different levels of services, with some focusing more on the “right of boom” scenarios (after an attack has occurred), a comprehensive MDR platform is also proactive.

AI-enhanced MDR is especially well-equipped to monitor potentially problematic network behavior, since these platforms continuously review systems, searching for known threats as well as potential threats.

MDR-provided reports often reveal potential problem areas not only for cybersecurity worries, but compliance issues. Regulatory guidance for data management, especially, often dictates that companies have a comprehensive view of where data is stored, how it is accessed and used, and how it is protected. MDR reports can add insights to help enterprises make proactive decisions about regulatory compliance adherence.

MDR is Quick and Methodical

Today’s cyber threats are sure to evolve into tomorrow’s, and that’s why MDR is a powerhouse network monitoring approach. MDR as part of EDR is a unified approach, where endpoint management is centralized, making quick work out of team-based threat hunting and mitigation. Legacy cybersecurity approaches are much slower, a marked disadvantage when it comes to reducing damage when an attack occurs.

Another efficiency advantage lies in the fact that MDR can drastically reduce false positive alerts, freeing up agent time for true threat hunting and response.

Top 5 Features of MDR

While MDR providers often offer more than one level of service with associated features, these five features are typical to most MDR platforms.

Intrusion Detection and Prevention

Every MDR platform includes some version of intrusion detection and prevention. Some service providers use MDR platforms in addition to the network security in place at a given organization, while others provide almost complete network protection off-site.

Some MDR platforms can monitor a mix of endpoints, including cloud-based and connections to field sensors and other IoT devices. In any case, intrusion detection and prevention is a must.

Data Analytics

As MDR hunts for threats across a network, it gathers data along the way. Information gathered includes insights into network behavior, including how employees are accessing the network; which endpoints are open and closed; where traffic originates and travels; and a whole host of other data points.

MDR providers offer different levels of data analytics as part of their service packages. Not only are these analytical reports helpful for improving an enterprise security posture, but they can help enterprises make more informed operational decisions.

Round-the-Clock Support

Continuous monitoring is a key feature for MDR and a big reason many enterprises opt for these managed services. An off-site security team is on standby at all times, ready to jump in and tackle issues even when they occur outside normal business hours.

Staying Current on Evolving Threats

It can be challenging for SOCs to keep every element of a network security approach updated to the latest parameters. New viruses and malware emerge constantly. A managed approach takes away much of this burden, since part of MDR oversight agreements include keeping systems up-to-date.

For more information, also see: Why Firewalls are Important for Network Security

Top MDR Providers

These 10 MDR providers are among the most popular and best rated.

  • Cynet
  • SecurityHQ
  • Rapid7
  • Cybereason
  • SentinelOne Vigilance
  • CrowdStrike
  • eSentire
  • Expel
  • Secureworks
  • Fidelis Cybersecurity

Improve Network Security With Managed Detection and Response

It’s become the norm that enterprises are dealing with sprawling, complex networks that include a mix of on-premises, cloud-based, IoT endpoints, and more. Outsourcing at least some of the oversight of these networks in terms of cybersecurity can help alleviate staffing concerns, connect enterprises with high-caliber cybersecurity professionals, and greatly increase network security.

A comprehensive MDR solution will include round-the-clock coverage, modern tech enhanced with AI, data analytics, and a mix of features that fit a given enterprise’s unique needs.

For more information, also see: Artificial Intelligence in Cybersecurity

Subscribe to Data Insider

Learn the latest news and best practices about data science, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, data security, and more.

Similar articles

Get the Free Newsletter!

Subscribe to Data Insider for top news, trends & analysis

Latest Articles