How Managed XDR Makes the Most of the Latest Endpoint Protection Tools

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Extended detection and response (XDR) has become one of the hottest cybersecurity trends. XDR platforms offer impressive capabilities out of the box with their combination of SIEM, endpoint protection and other tools. But managed XDR services are critical to helping these tools reach their full potential. 

XDR platforms offer three key advantages:

  1. Active monitoring of your entire technology stack (including the cloud) 
  2. Real-time threat hunting and mitigation
  3. A well-integrated security stack built on a single vendor’s tools (Microsoft, in HBS’s case) 

      XDR also gets a lot of attention as the next evolution in managed endpoint protection based on its ability to improve continually through machine learning. But XDR typically reaches its full potential only in a managed XDR setting. XDR needs Security Operations Center (SOC) professionals tuning the SIEM, endpoint protection and other tools in response to ever-changing environments, emerging best practices and the latest threat-defense strategies. You could think of XDR like a race car. It’s fast with anyone at the wheel, but it takes a professional driver to truly tap into the car’s capabilities. In this post, we look at how managed XDR constantly improves threat hunting on its own and how analysts tune the solutions for specific environments. 

      (Read this blog for an overview of XDR’s key components and advantages.) 

      Learning in Real Time 

      As XDR’s threat detection monitors all corners of your data environment with SIEM, endpoint protection, etc., it continually builds profiles of the attack vectors you face. In other words, every attack on your system literally makes it stronger as the XDR solution builds a database of actions designed to see and stop similar attacks in the future. While some of these profiles come built into the solution, a managed XDR provider can tune and create custom learning models specific to your business, data and network. 

      But your XDR solution’s ongoing education isn’t confined to what’s happening in your environment alone. Top managed XDR providers continually analyze security events worldwide and incorporate the insights into your system’s performance. For example, Microsoft reports that it analyzed 1 trillion security events in 2020, up from 300 billion in 2019. Every one of those events rolls up into the XDR’s machine learning, giving it something like the institutional wisdom of an intelligence agent who can personally watch and learn from every crime scene worldwide for years on end. SOC analysts can also build on this intelligence by correlating threat actors that are performing suspicious activity and reconnaissance against your organization’s systems and employees. 

      A managed XDR provider like HBS also strengthens your XDR system based on situations we’ve seen throughout our client base and through our years of customizing rules for SIEM situations. We leverage every lesson learned across all the systems we manage, giving each client a best-in-class XDR installation, regardless of their organization’s size. 

      Tuned by Human Experts 

      Many XDR vendors promote their solution’s productivity right out of the box. At HBS, we agree that XDR can immediately provide a marked step up from a traditional security stack as it extends threat detection and automated response into every area of your technology system and helps tools such as your SIEM and endpoint protection talk to each other. But a lot of XDR marketing understates the significant advantages you can gain from human experts tuning the solution. HBS’s SOC analysts sit between the automated alerts and the customer, reviewing and responding to incidents. A SOC analyst provides a determination and recommendation for each alert, and they can answer client questions or provide additional context when needed. 

      It doesn’t matter how sophisticated the technology is if you aren’t monitoring the correct devices or logging the necessary event data. HBS’s managed services helps clients ensure that their system is monitoring the right devices and delivering the right data so that machine learning and artificial intelligence can effectively do their jobs. 

      HBS clients consistently find that retaining a cybersecurity firm for their managed XDR platform easily pays for itself in increased efficiency and security. Remember that it costs just as much to license a poorly tuned XDR as a finely tuned system. So it makes sense to invest an incremental amount on management to significantly increase your platform’s effectiveness. 

      Start with Proper Provisioning 

      Managed XDR pays off on Day One of provisioning as your organization decides what data to capture. If your configurations send the wrong event information to the system, even the best rules for reviewing login attempts, for example, never get to do their job. Mediocre provisioning is like hiring a 24/7 security team but installing security cameras that can’t see anything at night. 

      Without the support of a managed XDR provider, many IT teams get only halfway there with XDR provisioning. For example, our analysts frequently see systems configured to report only the traffic that gets through the firewall. If the firewall blocked an activity, you don’t need to worry about it, right? But XDR systems also need to see failed activity in order to get the full story and identify unsuccessful attempts. 

      Similarly, we’ve seen IT teams set up monitoring only for failed login attempts. Successful attempts must be legitimate and above review, right? But even successful, legitimate login attempts educate your XDR as it builds a picture of the baseline information that typifies a legitimate login. XDR systems can learn, but only if you’re giving them the necessary data. Think about your own daily routine during the week. You leave home at roughly the same time, take the same route to work, etc. Even if someone was able to steal your car, go to your house and use your garage door opener, they would still be tripping several alarms in XDR’s world by coming home at an unusual time of day, etc. 

      Get The Rules Right 

      With XDR, as with any automated system, humans must continually recalibrate the automatic responses. On the outside, attackers continually devise new tricks. On the inside, an IT team constantly adds and removes devices, services, users and more. Software and firmware get upgrades. As all of those elements change your system, a SOC team ensures that your XDR adjusts properly. 

      For example, an off-the-shelf XDR system might spot someone trying to login with an employee’s credentials from a new geographic location. If XDR deems the login suspicious and shuts it down, it may be locking out an employee trying to check in from the road. Once analysts know the situation, they could create a specific rule that lets the employee log in from that location going forward. But how would you write such rules for hundreds of employees who don’t notify IT every time they take a trip? Realistically, most IT departments would just start ignoring those alerts after a few of them turn out to be traveling employees. Alert fatigue has done its work. 

      Managed XDR analysts can do better. They could program rules to ask things like, How often has this employee logged in from different locations in the last six months? How many of those have been outside the U.S.? Is this attempt using that user’s normal web browser? Instant answers to those questions can help the system decide whether to shut down the attempt. Most XDR systems have these capabilities, but it takes a managed XDR provider watching industry-wide trends to truly tune the tools effectively. 

      Leveraging Data for Constant Improvement 

      Managed XDR also constantly measures how well your security stack is functioning. For example, HBS’s device assessments typically find that the antivirus software on many endpoint devices hasn’t been updated since it was installed or that security tools are misconfigured. XDR can provide visibility to the business based on these security layers and report back how vulnerable the devices are and how much exposure the organization faces as a result. Similarly, XDR can look at how many attempts your firewall is blocking every day, confirming whether it’s doing its job. When aggregated, these metrics provide the business accurate information about its top risks and ways to improve. 

      That kind of insight becomes especially powerful when combined with a consultant’s expertise. Working together, XDR and a consultant provide a full picture of the people, processes and technology (the PPT fundamentals of information security) that make up your organization’s security. While the consultant is assessing the people and processes, managed XDR reviews the technology. With consultants and your SOC working hand-in-hand, you can eliminate gaps that commonly sabotage security stacks. 

      We’re ready to help you review how managed XDR could make your security stack more efficient. Contact us for a free consultation. 

      author avatar
      Carly Westpfahl