What is Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)?

5 min. read

Endpoint detection and response (EDR) is a technology platform that detects and investigates threats on endpoints. It helps security teams find suspicious endpoint activity to eliminate threats quickly and minimize the impact of an attack. EDR tools typically provide detection, investigation, threat hunting, and response capabilities.

EDR provides protection against endpoint attacks, but it's limited to analyzing endpoint data. XDR has evolved from EDR, and extends protection by analyzing multiple data sources and combining SIEM, UEBA, NDR, and EDR tools to simplify investigation and response.

What is Endpoint Security?

The growing number of remote workers and the increasing use of IoT devices have significantly expanded the number of endpoints in a network. This expansion has created more potential entry points for cyber attacks, making endpoint security a critical component of an organization's overall cybersecurity strategy.

Endpoint security refers to the practice of protecting the various endpoints or entry points of end-user devices, such as desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones, from being exploited by malicious actors or attacks. These endpoints serve as access points to an enterprise network, making them vulnerable targets for cyber threats. Endpoint security aims to secure these points of entry to prevent cybersecurity threats from gaining access to the network.

Key Components of Endpoint Security

  1. Antivirus and Anti-malware: Traditional and next-gen solutions to detect and eliminate malicious software.
  2. Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR): Tools that provide continuous monitoring and response to advanced threats.
  3. Data Encryption: Protects data on endpoints by converting it into a secure format.
  4. Firewalls: Software or hardware that blocks unauthorized access to or from private networks.
  5. Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS): Monitors network traffic to detect and prevent vulnerability exploits.
  6. Access Control: Ensures only authorized users and devices can access the network.
  7. Patch Management: Regularly updating software and systems to fix vulnerabilities.

Several endpoint security solutions are available in the market, ranging from standalone antivirus software to comprehensive platforms that integrate various security measures. These solutions often include features like centralized management, threat intelligence integration, and automated response capabilities.

Evolution of EDR: Extended Detection and Response (XDR)

XDR, or Extended Detection and Response, represents a significant evolution from traditional EDR solutions. While EDR focuses on protecting endpoints from attacks by analyzing data specific to those endpoints, XDR takes a more comprehensive approach. It goes beyond endpoint protection by analyzing data from multiple sources, such as SIEM (Security Information and Event Management), UEBA (User and Entity Behavior Analytics), NDR (Network Detection and Response), and EDR tools.

Endpoint Evolution to EDR: A Good Start, but Not Enough

By leveraging data from these various sources, XDR is able to detect and protect against a wider range of attack techniques. It correlates and integrates this diverse data to provide a more holistic view of potential security threats. This integrated approach allows XDR to group related alerts together in a single interface, simplifying the process of investigating and responding to potential security incidents. This consolidated view not only streamlines security operations but also provides a more comprehensive understanding of the organization's security posture.

Deep dive into XDR’s comprehensive capabilities and extended protection: What is Extended Detection and Response (XDR)?

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How EDR Works

EDR security solutions analyze events from laptops, desktop PCs, mobile devices, servers, and even IoT and cloud workloads to identify suspicious activity. They deliver a range of protective functions by generating alerts to help security operations analysts uncover, investigate, and remediate issues.

EDR tools also collect telemetry data on suspicious activity and may enrich that data with other contextual information from correlated events. Through these functions, EDR is instrumental in shortening response times for incident response teams and, ideally, eliminating threats before damage is done.

Endpoint detection and response first emerged in 2013 to help forensic investigations that required very detailed endpoint telemetry to analyze malware and understand exactly what an attacker did to a compromised device. It evolved to incorporate broader features and now typically offers endpoint protection or antivirus capabilities.

Compare the security layers provided by EDR and XDR: What is EDR vs. XDR?

Benefits of EDR

EDR is crucial for modern cybersecurity due to cyber threats' increasing complexity and frequency. It provides real time monitoring, rapid response capabilities, comprehensive visibility, and detailed forensic analysis, all of which are essential for protecting against sophisticated attacks and ensuring the security and integrity of organizational assets.

Cyber attackers may develop a zero-day attack to exploit unknown vulnerabilities in apps or systems if they have enough resources. However, effective threat prevention tools can automatically stop over 99% of all attacks. These tools use multiple analysis engines to assess the reputation of the source and the signer of a file, as well as the byte code distribution and functions in an executable to block the attack.

Complexity of Modern Cyber Threats

Traditional antivirus solutions often struggle to defend against sophisticated threats like advanced persistent threats (APTs), fileless malware, and zero-day exploits. EDR's advanced detection capabilities are crucial for identifying and neutralizing these complex threats. Cybercriminals continuously refine their strategies, and EDR utilizes machine learning and behavioral analysis to stay ahead of these evolving tactics.

Real-Time Monitoring and Response

Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) systems provide continuous surveillance, monitoring endpoint activities around the clock for immediate threat detection. This real-time oversight is crucial for early intervention and damage prevention.

Enhanced Visibility

EDR provides in-depth endpoint insight, offering detailed visibility into endpoint behaviors, including process executions, file modifications, network connections, and user activities. This comprehensive view aids security teams in thoroughly analyzing incidents.

Furthermore, EDR facilitates centralized data collection by aggregating data from various endpoints into a centralized repository, enhancing the overall visibility and control over the organization's network.

Additionally, EDR tools enable rapid response actions, such as isolating infected systems, terminating malicious processes, and blocking harmful network connections, which significantly reduce the impact of attacks.

In-Depth Incident Investigation

EDR tools gather and store extensive forensic data, allowing security teams to perform thorough investigations. This capability aids in understanding the specifics of the attack vector, the full scope of the breach, and its overall impact on the organization. By offering detailed timelines and correlating events, EDR plays a critical role in identifying the root cause of incidents, which is essential for preventing similar future occurrences.

Active Threat Hunting

EDR enhances proactive threat hunting, enabling security analysts to seek out and identify hidden threats that may not trigger conventional alerts. This forward-looking approach helps uncover and address concealed risks. Moreover, EDR tools leverage machine learning to detect behavioral anomalies and deviations from normal patterns, allowing potential threats to be identified and mitigated before they escalate into serious security incidents.

Adherence to Compliance and Reporting Standards

Compliance with GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI-DSS regulations often requires comprehensive, solid security measures, including continuous monitoring and incident response capabilities. EDR solutions assist organizations in meeting these regulatory requirements. Additionally, EDR provides detailed logs and reports on security incidents and responses, which are crucial for regulatory audits and demonstrating adherence to security policies.

Since many zero-day attacks use known techniques, the right security tools can stop them even if they have never seen a specific attack before. However, the most sophisticated and potentially damaging attacks require detection and response. These attacks, such as insider threats, low and slow attacks, and advanced persistent threats (APTs), may require manual verification from a security analyst. Often, the only way to identify these attacks is by analyzing activity over time and across data sources with machine learning.

These advanced attacks can rarely be identified in real time. Often, a security analyst must try to understand the activity's intent to determine whether or not it’s malicious. So, while few attacks require detection and response, they can be highly destructive. Security teams need EDR solutions to find, investigate, and stop them.

Why Do We Need Endpoint Detection and Response?

EDR’s Key Detection and Response Capabilities

When evaluating an EDR solution, look for the following essential features:

Broad Visibility and ML-based Attack Detection

Rich data is the foundation for EDR. Look for detection and response tools that collect comprehensive data and provide enterprise-wide visibility. Ideal solutions offer a comprehensive set of machine learning and analytics techniques to detect advanced threats in real time. Check out independent tests such as the MITRE ATT&CK Evaluation to assess the breadth and accuracy of detection coverage.

Simplified Investigations

Choose security tools that provide a complete picture of incidents with rich investigative details to reduce response times. They should simplify investigations by automatically revealing the root cause, sequence of events, and threat intelligence details of alerts from any source.

Customizable incident scoring allows you to focus on the events that matter most. By grouping alerts into security incidents, you can reduce the number of individual events to investigate by 98%, speeding incident response.

Coordinated Response Across Enforcement Points

Flexible response options such as script execution, direct access to endpoints, host restore, and “search and destroy” let you quickly eliminate threats and recover from attacks. Tight integration with security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) tools enables you to automate playbooks and extend responses to hundreds of security and IT tools. EDR solutions can even restore damaged files and registry settings if ransomware encrypts endpoint data.

Ironclad Endpoint Threat Prevention

The best EDR security also includes antivirus and endpoint security capabilities to block every stage of attack. Evaluate whether endpoint security solutions can block exploits by technique, block malware files using machine learning, and stop malicious behavior. With effective endpoint threat prevention, you can shut down the most evasive attacks, such as the SolarWinds supply-chain attack. Review third-party tests like the AV-Comparatives Endpoint Protection and Response (EPR) Test to validate that anti-malware solutions are effective.

Endpoint Protection Suite Capabilities to Reduce Attack Surface

Ideal endpoint security tools should block attacks and ransomware and prevent data loss and unauthorized access with features such as host firewall, device control, and disk encryption. Look for an EDR tool that provides granular control over USB access and firewall policies.

A Single, Lightweight Agent

Instead of installing bulky agents that continually scan your endpoints for attack signatures, opt for one end-to-end agent for endpoint threat prevention and EDR.

Cloud-delivered Security

Cloud-based management and deployment streamline operations and eliminate burdensome on-premises servers. It also quickly scales to handle more users and more data.

Optional Managed Services

EDR solutions should offer managed threat hunting and managed detection and response (MDR) to provide 24x7 monitoring, threat hunting, and triage. MDR services can be provided through managed detection and response partners.

Compare capabilities and discover the differences: What is EDR vs. Antivirus?, What is the Difference Between EDR vs. SIEM?, What is the Difference Between EDR vs MDR?

Rewire Security Operations with Cortex XDR

Security teams are drowning in alerts, but still can’t find threats quickly. Siloed tools and data sources lead to complex investigations and missed attacks.

Cortex XDR from Palo Alto Networks changes all of that. Cortex XDR is the industry’s first extended detection and response platform that integrates network, endpoint, cloud, and third-party data to stop modern attacks. Cortex XDR has been designed from the ground up to protect your whole organization holistically while simplifying operations. It delivers best-in-class next-gen antivirus (NGAV) to stop exploits, malware, ransomware, and fileless attacks.

The cloud-native Cortex XDR service uses behavioral analytics to find unknown and highly evasive threats targeting your network. Machine learning and AI models uncover threats from any source, including managed and unmanaged devices.

Cortex XDR accelerates investigations by providing a comprehensive view of each incident. It consolidates various data types to reveal the root cause and timeline of alerts, enabling analysts to easily prioritize alerts. Its seamless integration with enforcement points allows you to contain threats across your entire infrastructure.

Additionally, its Search and Destroy feature offers real-time endpoint sweeping to identify and eliminate threats. Cortex XDR provides complete EDR and endpoint security capabilities, along with threat intelligence and forensics, to combat advanced attacks, ransomware, insider threats, and more.

Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) FAQs

EDR solutions protect against all of the following:

  • Malware Infections
  • Ransomware Attacks
  • Fileless Attacks
  • Zero-Day Exploits
  • Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)
  • Endpoint Compromise
  • Data Exfiltration
  • Insider Threats
  • Command and Control (C2) Communication
  • Phishing and Credential Theft
EDR is a cybersecurity solution designed to detect and respond to advanced threats on individual endpoints. Unlike traditional antivirus software, which primarily focuses on signature-based detection, EDR employs a broader range of techniques, including behavior analysis, anomaly detection, and threat intelligence, to identify and respond to sophisticated threats. XDR solutions go even further, employing heuristics, modeling, analytics and automation to increase security visibility and productivity compared to siloed security tools.
EDR solutions may have some measurable impact on system performance as they continuously monitor and analyze endpoint activities. However, today's advanced EDR solutions are designed to minimize this impact through optimized algorithms and efficient resource utilization. Organizations can further minimize performance impacts by selecting EDR solutions with minimal resource requirements, proper configuration, and periodic performance tuning.