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August 24, 2023 |

Why an EDR solution is not enough

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The ever-expanding cybersecurity market offers many solutions, including:

  • Managed detection and response (MDR)
  • Extended detection and response (XDR)
  • Security information and event management (SIEM)
  • Security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR)

And that's just the beginning. Navigating these options can feel overwhelming, but implementing the right security solutions for your organization is essential for not only protecting your digital assets but having peace of mind.

Endpoint detection and response (EDR) is a popular cybersecurity solution among businesses today. EDR tools provide visibility into threats happening on endpoints and allow for quick detection and response. 

While there's no denying that EDR tools have their fair share of benefits, it's not wise to rely solely on them to protect your valuable IT assets. They're just one piece of a much larger cybersecurity landscape, and you need holistic coverage for effective cybersecurity.

The strengths of EDR solutions

EDR tools are security solutions that continuously monitor and analyze endpoint activities in an organization's network. They detect, assess, and respond to potential security threats like malware or other malicious activities.

EDR tools collect data from endpoints, such as computers and servers, and use advanced analytics to identify suspicious behavior. If the system detects a threat, it takes predefined actions to contain it. It may isolate the infected endpoint and allow security teams to investigate further.

While EDR tools are not the comprehensive cybersecurity solution that most businesses need to properly protect against today's wide range of attack tactics and techniques, it's still important to acknowledge their significant role in cyber defence.

A step up from antivirus software

Businesses used to rely heavily on antivirus software to protect against cyber threats. While antivirus technology can defend against known threats using signature-based detection, it falls short when faced with new, unknown threats. That's where EDR solutions come in.

EDR tools have outpaced their antivirus predecessors thanks to heuristic analysis, a method that does not solely rely on signature-based detection. Instead, it analyzes behavior patterns to better detect threat actors early in their attack and quarantine threats before they can do too much damage. For instance, an EDR tool might flag repeated failed login attempts or sudden, unusual data transfers as indicators of a potential cybersecurity incident. 

EDR solutions enable quicker, more accurate threat detection, reducing the possible impact on business operations. They can provide visibility into stealthy threats that slip by antivirus defenses. EDR tools look at what processes and applications are doing rather than just matching signatures. This heuristic monitoring represents a step forward for endpoint security.

Covers a significant portion of your threat surface

Another benefit of EDR solutions is that they cover endpoints, which comprise a huge portion of any organization's threat surface. Endpoints include all devices connected to your network, including laptops, desktops, smartphones, servers, and more.

Even for relatively small businesses, endpoints can quickly scale into hundreds or thousands when you account for employee laptops, phones, and tablets. These endpoints are a major target for threat actors seeking access to an organization's networks and data.

EDR monitors and fortifies these vulnerable entry points by giving you visibility and control over a massive chunk of your potential attack surface. This protection goes a long way in limiting risk.

Rapidly detects and blocks endpoint-based threats

With the ever-increasing complexity and volume of attacks, quickly identifying and neutralizing threats at the endpoint level has become essential. EDR solutions excel at this. These tools continuously monitor and collect data on endpoint activities, including file execution, network communications, and system modifications. This visibility allows the detection system to recognize deviations from baseline behaviors that may indicate a cyber threat.

Suppose an employee's computer starts to behave unusually, such as executing files in the middle of the night or connecting to a suspicious overseas server. The EDR system immediately flags it as a potential threat. This continuous, automatic tracking of endpoint activities helps identify and block potential threats before they can cause more significant damage to the system.

Once the system detects a threat, sophisticated EDR tools can remedy the situation quickly. Response activities may include isolating the affected endpoint, denying network access to a malicious IP address, or even rolling back the endpoint to a previous state to undo the changes made by an attacker. This swift response helps protect users from further damage.

Why EDR is not enough

While EDR has some compelling strengths compared to traditional antivirus and signature-based protections, it also has some major weak points. Relying solely on EDR leaves dangerous gaps in network visibility and protection. Here are a few key reasons why EDR alone can't fully protect modern organizations from advanced cyberattacks.

It's reactive, not proactive

EDR solutions typically adopt a reactive approach to cybersecurity. They focus on responding to threats during or after the incident rather than preventing said threats from occurring in the first place.

While post-incidence response is crucial, it isn't always sufficient, as it allows little room for proactive threat hunting, vulnerability identification, or predictive threat analysis. A compromised endpoint could permit a cyber attacker to access sensitive data or harm the system before the EDR tool detects and responds to the issue.

Let's consider ransomware, one of the prevalent threats facing businesses today. When dealing with a ransomware incident, being reactive would mean the threat has already infiltrated your system and potentially encrypted your files before the EDR solution could respond. Businesses need a proactive stance that prevents the execution of such threats right from the beginning.

Unfortunately, these are beyond the scope of traditional EDR solutions.

EDR's partial coverage leaves gaps in security

As cybersecurity threats evolve, businesses need more security than an EDR tool offers. By design, EDR solutions protect against threats capable of infiltrating their host systems through endpoints. They can monitor, detect, and block endpoint-based threats such as unauthorized software, signs of malware, or suspicious registry changes.

However, EDR tools typically lack the functionality to extend this protection level to other network and cloud areas. This partial coverage creates numerous blind spots in an organization's security posture, leaving critical portions of IT infrastructure unprotected.

These blind spots in external network traffic, cloud services, and the Internet of Things (IoT) become vulnerable to breaches and cyberattacks. With the increasing adoption of the cloud and IoT in many operations, these areas present essential access points for malicious actors. For example, a compromised cloud account could allow the threat actor to access, encrypt, or exfiltrate sensitive company data.

Modern threats often find their way into a network not through endpoints but via email links or attachments, the network, or cloud applications. These tactics can bypass endpoint detection, exploiting the gaps left unaddressed by EDR solutions. Without this visibility, organizations will struggle to determine if and how an attacker has accessed their system.

EDR solutions also rarely offer more advanced services such as threat hunting, vulnerability identification, and threat intelligence.

Noisy alerts and high false positives

Another challenge with EDR platforms is that their endpoint-only visibility results in a greater number of false positive alerts. More holistic platforms are able to apply context and correlate events across endpoints, networks, and cloud services for more accurate threat alerting. EDR’s limited visibility means it can only see one part of the threat surface.

As a result, EDR tools will often flag normal user or admin actions on endpoints as potential threats simply because they match heuristic profiles broadly for "suspicious activity." Without complete context, EDR alerts make it extremely difficult to pinpoint actual incidents versus false alarms.

With such noise, security teams waste valuable time chasing false alarms while real threats slip through cracks in visibility. Excessive false positives make it harder to identify real threats in a timely manner. Over time, it can also lead to alert fatigue, potentially leading analysts to ignore alerts or disable EDR agents altogether—putting organizations at heightened cyber risk.

Requires significant expertise to manage

An often-overlooked limitation of EDR solutions is the level of expertise required to effectively deploy, tune, and manage them. EDR solutions are not set-it-and-forget-it tools; they need an advanced understanding of cybersecurity concepts, the threat landscape, and evolving hacker methodologies. They also require a deep knowledge of the EDR platform itself.

You can't just purchase an EDR solution and expect it to safeguard your business automatically. It requires the right people with the right skills to be in charge. Typically, this would be a team of cybersecurity professionals to deploy the tool, configure it precisely, and understand and interpret the alerts. And most importantly, it's this team that responds rapidly when the system detects the threat.

Maintaining a dedicated cybersecurity team to handle EDR systems is difficult for small and mid-sized businesses due to budget constraints. The growing shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals only adds to the challenge. In the U.S., there is a severe shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals, resulting in over 700,000 cybersecurity positions remaining unfilled.

EDR limitations for managed service providers

Managed service providers (MSPs) are the trusted cybersecurity vendors. However, they grapple with unique challenges while managing client environments that go beyond the limitations imposed by standard EDR solutions.

Complex to manage

MSPs that deploy and oversee an EDR solution for hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of customers may find it quickly becomes unmanageable. EDR solutions are notoriously hard to manage and difficult to tune—even more so for businesses that don’t have the time, effort, or expertise.

Layering security tools, such as NDR or SIEM, to achieve comprehensive coverage adds complexity and costs—not to mention the additional resources needed to oversee these tools.

Limited protection

EDR gives MSPs more insight into what’s happening on their clients’ endpoints, allowing them to resolve threats quickly. But this arrow focus on endpoint telemetry can negatively influence threat detection. Abnormal endpoint activity paints an incomplete picture.

Often MSPs add more tools to cover other components of the threat surface, but with each tool producing its own alerts, staff can overwhelm quickly.

To provide an effective cybersecurity solution, MSPs must move beyond EDR tools and adopt a holistic approach.

Move beyond EDR with holistic solutions

While EDR solutions are a step up from traditional antivirus and legacy protections, they have major blind spots across networks, cloud environments, and IoT. They can't ensure comprehensive cybersecurity, and relying solely on EDR leaves dangerous gaps in your cyber defense that attackers may exploit.

To ensure business continuity, modern businesses need total visibility and control across the entire digital attack surface and capabilities to prevent and respond to threats. That's where Field Effect comes in. Our Covalence solution offers the holistic protection you need. It goes beyond EDR's capabilities with end-to-end protection for your entire IT infrastructure, providing 24/7 monitoring and threat hunting, accurate alerts, vulnerability identification, and a professional team to manage everything.

Remember, the foundation of robust cybersecurity lies in a well-rounded, comprehensive strategy that caters to all possible threat avenues. Don't settle for half-measures. Contact us today to experience Covalence's unparalleled visibility, protection, and support.