Endpoints—or network-connected devices—provide cyberattackers with entry points into organizations’ IT environments. If left unprotected by cybersecurity measures, such as endpoint detection and response tools, organizations will find themselves contending with a significant increase in successful breaches.
The Top Endpoint Detection and Response Tools
The number of network connections that current organizations utilize to execute daily tasks means that endpoint detection and response (EDR) is a critical cybersecurity measure. Unfortunately, every endpoint an organization connects to its network increases the complexity of its attack surface and increases the need for sophisticated EDR.
Breaking down the top EDR tools requires knowledge of:
- EDR platforms and solutions
- EDR functions
- Sophisticated capabilities
- Complementary cybersecurity measures
Enlisting the help of an expert managed security services provider (MSSP), such as RSI Security, will help your organization navigate endpoint detection and response.
What are Endpoints, and Why Do They Need Dedicated Tools?
Endpoints consist of every device that connects to an organization’s network, whether the IT environment is hosted on-premises, in the cloud, or operates as a hybrid of the two. Employees utilize the majority of endpoints to complete their responsibilities, including:
- Workstation PCs
- Issued laptops
- Issued and personal smartphones
- Printers and scanners
However, the proliferation of connected devices and the “Internet of Things” (IoT) has exponentially increased organizations’ endpoints. Devices such as ID badge readers and even speakers count amongst endpoint devices if they connect to an organization’s network. As a result, many organizations must manage hundreds—if not thousands—of endpoints, which makes manual oversight impossible.
Each endpoint that an organization manages adds another entrance that cyberattackers can exploit to gain access to a network, complicating cybersecurity complexity further. Additionally, if an organization adopts a “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy, security teams must also contend with varied hardware, operating systems, and other considerations affecting endpoint management.
Endpoints can be exploited via viruses and malware, an intruder gaining physical access to secure areas where endpoints are kept, lost or stolen devices, and numerous other methods.
Endpoint Detection and Response Tools and Platforms
Endpoint detection and response tools are typically implemented as part of a comprehensive cybersecurity solution. One way to consider EDR is as another iteration of security information and event management (SIEM) systems. However, there is an inherent focus on endpoints with EDR compared to SIEM’s monitoring and incident response applied to broader network security.
Selecting the right endpoint detection and response tools for your organization depends on the specific functionalities required. For example, some EDR solutions may be exclusive or more compatible with certain operating systems or more attuned to cloud environments. Similarly, EDR tools should integrate with complementary cybersecurity measures your organization has already implemented. If your SOC team utilizes Windows BitLocker to encrypt device hard drives, you want to ensure that your EDR solution monitors and reports on its status.
Endpoint Detection and Response Functions
Endpoint detection and response monitors endpoints for any signs of malicious or suspicious activity and, when discovered, initiates predetermined incident response measures to mitigate the threat.
EDR must be able to:
- Monitor and collect data – Generally relying on agents installed on endpoints and hosts, EDR solutions must continuously monitor devices and user activity, collecting and transmitting data to a central database for analysis. Agents allow EDR solutions to operate both online and offline.
- If an EDR system is agentless, it cannot provide offline protections, as its functionality is initiated by a centralized system that executes scanning and, therefore, requires network connectivity. When a device is offline, EDR agents continue to scan and monitor, initiating responses when appropriate and transmitting data to the central database when network connectivity resumes.
- Analyze data – EDR solutions need to analyze data to function. While endpoint detection and response will leverage known threat signatures to identify attacks, extensive data analysis compiles new signatures to look for, detects suspicious activity, and determines normal activity patterns to function as a baseline for comparison.
- Respond to threats – EDR solutions notify security teams about a threat’s presence, but also must act while they investigate suspicious activity. Endpoint detection and response removes or quarantines threats to prevent them from spreading or wreaking further havoc.
- Provide forensics and root cause analysis – Following threat mitigation, EDR solutions must enable security teams to conduct root cause analysis and determine the threat’s method and nature, the exploited vulnerability, and how to prevent further attacks from succeeding.
Endpoint Detection and Response—First Steps
The first step of setting up an EDR solution following implementation is to discover and inventory all endpoints. Monitoring cannot occur without identifying the quantity and extent of the endpoints that will be protected. Scanning—which may be native to the EDR solution, conducted by an MSSP, or performed by another tool—will assist with endpoint discovery.
Organizations must review all findings during the discovery stage to ensure that the network-connected endpoints are authorized and legitimate. Any unauthorized endpoints indicated an active threat or vulnerability that may be exploited in the future. The collective endpoints comprise the organization’s inventory and a comprehensive list of what must be monitored.
Periodic endpoint scanning should be conducted, both to identify unauthorized connections in the future and update the recorded inventory.
EDR—Types of Detection
An EDR solution should be able to identify threats via different methods:
- Indicator of compromise (IOC) – IOCs are the known signatures and patterns of existing attack methods.
- Configuration anomalies – Changes to system components, cybersecurity configurations (e.g., automatic updates), and file metadata may all indicate threat presence (if not an activity that violates the organization’s security policy).
- Behavior anomalies – Activity that stands out from normal and expected behavior requires further investigation or outright denial.
Endpoint Detection and Response for Sophisticated Threats
Organizations rely on endpoint detection and response tools for the same reason they employ tier-three threat hunters on their security and operations (SOC) teams: sophisticated cyberattacks. Cyber Attackers continually refine and develop new intrusion techniques to evade monitoring, seeking new exploitations and methods to stay ahead of advancing cybersecurity tools and commonly recognized threat patterns.
Brand new threats are termed “zero-day threats.”
On the personnel side, threat hunters review and analyze network scan results to identify any user, system, and application account or agent activity that seems out-of-place. Sophisticated EDR tools perform similar actions and may be used to assist threat hunters in their responsibilities.
EDR vs. Traditional Antivirus and Antimalware
Traditional antivirus and antimalware software rely on signature recognition (i.e., comparing indicators and patterns of known, existing cyberattack techniques present in potentially malicious links and data). The challenge faced by this traditional approach is that it cannot adapt to unknown signatures and fails to detect them.
In addition to pattern recognition, EDR observes user, device, and network activity conducted on endpoints to identify anything abnormal. Data collected by EDR agents or a central solution will be analyzed and used to determine normal activity baselines. Generally, most users and network activity follow consistent patterns:
- Employees work according to set schedules.
- Employees’ role responsibilities often require utilizing the same systems, applications, data storage locations, and other network resources.
If a network account begins operating outside of normal parameters, EDR tools notify administrators or SOC teams so that they can start investigating whether the activity is legitimate. EDR solutions offer more than notification, however, and can immediately inform users that their device has been attacked. Following the alert, EDR can automatically execute or prompt users to initiate preventative actions (e.g., logging out of and locking accounts).
Fileless Malware—Sophisticated Endpoint Attack Example
One of the most dangerous and sophisticated endpoint threats to have recently emerged is “fileless malware.” Fileless malware attacks start with attempting to convince users to click on links that appear legitimate—the method most commonly exhibited by known social engineering phishing attempts—but rely on computer memory and command line alterations (e.g., executed via PowerShell).
By avoiding any harddrive writing, fileless malware attacks become extremely difficult to detect.
Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)
In addition to attacks such as fileless malware and zero-day threats, EDR solutions must contend with advanced persistent threats (APTs). APTs are:
- Advanced – Attacks leverage up-to-date cyber threat intelligence and intrusion techniques to evade detection.
- Persistent – Hackers plan for a specific objective rather than rely on the opportunistic efforts that characterize most cyberattacks.
An APT that successfully breaches an organization’s network defenses may reside within a network for months at a time as hackers execute or pursue their objective.
Endpoint Detection and Response Tools—Top Capabilities
As many EDR tools are provided via comprehensive solutions, an evaluation of top tools must consider the most desired capabilities. Each solution will offer its specific iteration of these combined tools and suit different organizations accordingly.
Top EDR capabilities include:
- Centralized management (with remote capabilities) – Managing EDR on individual endpoints is an impossible task when they can number in the hundreds or thousands. Centralized management (and utilizing agents) allows organizations to streamline detection, analysis, and response. SOC teams and admins require remote access if they cannot execute response plans in person.
- Automatic updates – Like other platforms, vendors will release periodic updates to patch discovered vulnerabilities and add new threat signatures and patterns for the EDR solution to recognize. Configuring automatic updates ensures an EDR implementation incorporates the most current threat intelligence and performs optimally.
- Immediate incident response – The gap between threat detection and response is critical, especially because security teams may require time for analysis. Immediate incident response removes or quarantines the threat to prevent the situation from exacerbating and buys time for security teams to best address the issue.
- Data exports – Exporting data will keep broad efforts synchronized if your EDR solution integrates with other cybersecurity platforms and tools. Similarly, if an organization outsources cybersecurity responsibilities to an MSSP, the latter will require exports of extensive monitoring data for analysis.
- Web and email filtering – Some EDR solutions and other cybersecurity platforms will proactively filter all web traffic and email deliveries. The most sophisticated tools can remove or neutralize malicious lines of code hidden within phishing links and attachments.
- Safelisting – Strict EDR configurations may falsely identify legitimate activity as suspicious, particularly following implementation. Establishing safelists to allow normal network behavior that is flagged continually by EDR tools will minimize false positives.
Consulting with an expert MSSP, such as RSI Security, will help your organization narrow down the most essential tools it needs an EDR solution to deliver. MSSPs can also assist with implementation and configuration efforts.
Complementary Cybersecurity for Endpoints
EDR may provide organizations with sophisticated cybersecurity, but additional platforms, tools, and services should be evaluated for more comprehensive protection. These may be considered endpoint prevention and response tools. Organizations may choose to complement EDR endpoint detection response with:
- Virtual private networks (VPNs) – VPNs allow organizations to securely extend network access over public internet connections to portable devices. This is accomplished via strict authentication, “tunneling,” and encryption to restrict access and render any captured data unreadable.
- Disk encryption – Some EDR solutions may include disk encryption among the provided tools. If not, organizations should consider adding this security measure to render devices’ data unreadable without the proper cryptographic key should they become lost or stolen.
- Phishing training solutions – These services will send employees fake phishing attempts (e.g., email, SMS) to train them on recognizing threat indicators. Suppose an employee clicks on a link or attachment included in the fake phishing attempt. In that case, notice and relevant data will be sent to management for review and incorporated into future security training.
Implementing Endpoint Detection and Response
Endpoint protection and response is a critical component of organizations’ device security and management. A wide variety of monitoring, collection, analysis, response, and investigation capabilities must be included to implement quality EDR. However, because available tools are typically confined to platforms, determining which solution fits your organization proves challenging.
Consulting with RSI Security, an MSSP and cybersecurity expert, can help your organization narrow down the options and find the best solution for your needs.
Contact RSI Security today to start securing all of your endpoints.