Endpoint Detection and Response: Modern Weapons Against the Cybercriminals

You do your best to keep customers safe from cyberattacks. You patch regularly. You’re strict on password management and access. You employ email and web protection for each client. These layers each play a role in reducing your customers’ risks.

However, antivirus (AV) often can’t stand up to some modern threats. To deal with this, many businesses are shifting to endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions. EDR products can protect against a broader range of threats against endpoints—and do a lot more in the process. Before we get to that, let’s examine AV.

AV Evasions

Legacy AV programs use signatures to detect threats. When malware gets discovered, AV vendors add information—a signature—to their database of known viruses, then push that information to their customers. This requires users to keep their AV signatures up to date.

The time it takes to identify and develop a signature then push the update to the endpoint leaves a gap in coverage. If an endpoint contains malware that either lacks a known signature or if its AV is out of date, the user won’t be protected from its effects. Beyond that, cybercriminals have taken steps to evade AV detection to cause damage. For example, AV programs can have a hard time handling:

  • Weaponized documents: Microsoft Office documents or PDFs can contain dangerous macros or scripts. Often, the AV program checks only the initial document, and won’t take action if it launches a script to download malware. The malware could then lurk in the background undetected, do damage to the endpoint, or hop across the network.
  • Fileless malware: One major, recent security trend has been the use of fileless malware. These attacks run in working memory, typically using internal system tools instead of malicious software. The endpoint trusts these internal components, so it won’t suspect them when it starts doing damage. Plus, if there’s no file to scan, the AV can’t detect the issue.
  • Polymorphous malware: Another trend in malware is increasing use of polymorphic techniques. Polymorphic malware changes behavior until it finds a gap in the signature database. Typically, polymorphic malware continues changing behavior on a set basis to further evade detection. In other words, the antivirus program tries to shoot a moving target and can’t rest even it scores a hit.

This is only a small sample of techniques that bypass AV protection. Endpoint detection and response solutions can help with these.

What is endpoint detection and response?

Endpoint detection and response solutions go beyond antivirus solutions. Instead of using traditional signatures, EDR solutions collect data on multiple activities across an endpoint and correlate that information to detect and respond to threats. Instead of waiting for a signature to be discovered and pushed to the AV solution, EDR tools use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to monitor for threats. Additionally, the right EDR solutions will act on your behalf to deal with a potential attack quickly.

Let’s consider weaponized documents. Someone receives a convincing-looking phishing email and downloads an attached PDF. The PDF lands on the endpoint and tries to launch a script to reach out to a command and control server to download a ransomware payload. The EDR solution will log the strange behavior and continue to monitor the process. Based on configuration settings, a solution like SolarWinds® Endpoint Detection and Response can spring into action by quarantining the ransomware, automatically rolling the endpoint back to a known safe state, or by raising an alert with the MSP technician.

Additionally, a strong EDR solution helps protect the wider network. Most legacy antivirus solutions emphasize defense against external threats. This is common with traditional network firewalls as well. However, many modern threats use lateral movement to infect a network. In laymen’s terms, if an endpoint gets infected, it will attempt to spread to other parts of the network.

Many corporate networks are designed to support productivity and enable sharing between devices. These networks rarely expect an attack to come from the inside. If an EDR solution detects suspicious behavior, like an attempt to establish communications with another endpoint, it can block this communication and prevent the attack from spreading across the network. The ability to act autonomously helps deliver an appropriate response to threats quickly before it can spread to the full network.

How this helps MSPs

MSPs using endpoint detection and response gain several key advantages. First, it allows you to offer more robust security services. Security has grown in importance over the years, and will only continue. With modern endpoint protection, you can better meet market demands.

Second, EDR solutions help reduce the risk of a major breach. A breach can be catastrophic for the end customer and can seriously damage an MSP’s reputation. An effective EDR solution can help keep your customers safe and your reputation untarnished.

Finally, EDR solutions can help you provide a better customer experience. Since it can act on your behalf without sending data to the cloud or waiting for a response, you are better positioned to resolve security issues before they become catastrophic. For example, if ransomware attempts to encrypt files on a customer’s machine, a product like SolarWinds EDR can kill and quarantine the offending process and quickly recover the endpoint by replacing encrypted files with pre-attack, healthy versions. This helps prevent downtime, lost productivity, and angry phone calls from your customers.

Is EDR the future?

An average of 350,000 new malware variants are discovered each day. With this volume, it’s hard for AV solutions to keep up. Plus, as cybercriminals continue using techniques to evade AV, antivirus may increasingly become less relevant. Businesses may need to move to EDR to round out their security.

To see how it can help, try SolarWinds Endpoint Detection and Response, available in SolarWinds RMM and N-central®. You can learn more here and see it in action by starting a free trial.

Andrew Miller is senior product marketing manager at SolarWinds MSP.

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