Why EDR is Not Enough

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Endpoints are critical to the success of cyber attacks. While the definition what an endpoint is, exactly, has shifted over time, the threat has remained the same: Threat actors need a device to spread malware, encrypt assets, and harvest application credentials — they need an endpoint.

For example, if a threat actor, looking to launch a ransomware attack, enters a network, they’re going to search for the endpoint that contains critical data or critical function to let their ransomware strain run wild. It all ends up on endpoints. That’s why, as cybersecurity evolved, the endpoint became a focal point, particularly with endpoint detection and response (EDR), a technology that allows organisations to monitor, detect, and react to endpoint intrusions or threats.

For years, EDR has been the bedrock of many security strategies and in the process has stopped countless threats. And while this solution still provides value and is often considered table stakes, as threat actors evolve, cyber infrastructure changes, and even the fabric of business operations transforms, EDR can’t continue be seen as the end-all-be-all for detection and response — EDR is no longer enough.

The Value of Endpoint Detection and Response

Fundamentally, EDR enables security teams to detect security incidents, investigate them, and remediate them on endpoints.

When a suspicious action occurs, the EDR agent installed on the endpoint will trigger an alert, letting an organisation’s security team know that something has occurred. The solution allows the security professional to act once detection has happened, be it through endpoint isolation or another measure that will stop the potential threat from spreading. In addition, EDR can detect unknown threats through forensics tools that detect anomalous behaviour on given endpoints.

If an internal user, say, has fallen prey to a phishing email, allowing malware to start multiplying on their work laptop, EDR would be able to detect that, allowing the security team to isolate and shut down the endpoint before the malware jumps devices or a threat actor gains access to network-connected applications and begins to move beyond a single endpoint and infect other devices or parts of the network.
EDR adds a layer to the reactive security structure by allowing organisations to detect threats in real time and respond to them. If a firewall or an anti-virus solution is the chain link fence around a perimeter, then EDR is the guard towers and the flood lights, ready to shine on any suspicious movement.

In today’s world where thousands of breaches are reported a year and cybercrime has turned into a trillion-dollar industry, detection and response is not just valuable — it’s essential.

Other Endpoint Tools

Before there was EDR there was endpoint protection platform (EPP). EPP provides protection across endpoints by leveraging firewall, port, and device control. While EPP works as safeguard against intrusion, it has no detection and response capabilities, and as such, it’s looked at as a traditional, but limited solution. It’s a good tool to have in the toolbox, but it won’t fix everything.

Antivirus is another endpoint tool that’s been around for decades. Also known as anti-malware software, this piece of endpoint protection can identity and block known malware strains from infecting endpoints, often scanning the endpoint automatically. Like EPP, antivirus is a known and good tool, but when it comes to protecting a large network of endpoints at an enterprise level, it falls short.

EDR vs. MDR

As an evolution of EDR technology, managed detection and response (MDR) has gained popularity over the years for its ability to help organisations respond to detected threats. With MDR, there are security professionals who manage the detection and response tool, including interpreting alerts and acting on behalf of an organisation. This tool combines humans with technology to allow for rapid response to detected incidents.

MDR is not managed EDR. While the endpoint is one component an MDR solution will monitor, MDR usually monitors the environment more broadly and includes multiple sources of telemetry for detection and response.

Four Reasons Why EDR Is Not Enough

While the endpoint is a critical component of any network, utilising EDR solely may have more risks than benefits for modern, digitising organisations.

There are four main reasons organizations should re-evaluate their EDR and look elsewhere for more comprehensive cybersecurity solutions. All these reasons are connected and highlight why relying on a single tool doesn’t solve all security problems.

1. There is a lack of visibility. While all cyber attacks originate on the endpoint, many don’t begin there. Even if we consider the traditional, “user downloads malicious file from email” scenario, that attack still began through social engineering, not endpoint intrusion. EDR only focuses on the endpoint, obscuring visibility into the rest of an organization’s system.

This means EDR …

2. Doesn’t always stop early-stage threats. In today’s world of cloud computing, hybrid work, and interconnected networks, many cyber attacks originate outside the endpoint. From business email compromise (BEC) to ransomware to cloud misconfiguration exploits, all these avenues for threat actors start elsewhere, or avoid endpoints in early stages. For security teams, this means that by the time EDR detects an incident, it may be too late to isolate it or prevent initial damage.

Because an organisation is catching a threat so late in the game it may …

3. Lack security staffing to respond to threats. It’s no secret that the security skills gap is only widening, and while EDR can be a powerful tool, it’s solely a tool, meaning the responsibility lies with the organisation to staff, fine-tune, and work with the tool. This means the organisation could not only lack bodies, but the expertise needed to swiftly response to detections.

Having an undertrained, overwhelmed security staff can …

4. Can create alert fatigue and false positives. Alert fatigue, where security personnel are so overwhelmed with alerts, they start missing vital ones, is a serious, and costly problem. Considering how many endpoints an organisation may have, especially in rapidly digitising industries like healthcare and manufacturing, the sprawl can significantly increase alert volume. In addition, the sheer volume of endpoints and the limitations of EDR tools can create false positives, which take away valuable time from overworked security engineers and put them in a cycle of reacting to all alerts.

Explore the evolving Managed Detection and Response market with the Gartner® Market Guide for MDR Services.
See how solutions that extend beyond the endpoint can detect and respond to threats in minutes.

Arctic Wolf

Arctic Wolf

Arctic Wolf provides your team with 24x7 coverage, security operations expertise, and strategically tailored security recommendations to continuously improve your overall posture.
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