Understanding MDR Security: Benefits and Core Technologies

What is Managed Detection and Response (MDR)?

Managed detection and response (MDR) service providers offer detection of malicious activity in an organization’s network and rapid incident response. MDR vendors deploy advanced technologies in the organization’s infrastructure, which typically include endpoint detection and response (EDR). Via these technologists, MDR security analysts analyze and respond to threats remotely.

Learn more in our guide: What is MDR?

What Security Challenges Can MDR Address?

In-house security requires training, setting up dedicated security hardware and software, and hiring skilled experts to manage security and perform certain roles. However, setting up full-time threat hunting, monitoring, and incident response in-house is not feasible for many organizations.

MDR vendors provide the tools, expertise, and knowledge needed to cover these security gaps. Instead of struggling to find skilled personnel, organizations can leverage MDR providers’ skilled personnel. These experts already know how to work with the tools needed to achieve visibility into the organization’s security posture and locate security vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

Typically, MDR vendors integrate various tools into their security stack, deploying endpoint detection and response (EDR) agents within the client organization’s infrastructure to achieve visibility. They work with tools that enable remote monitoring and threat hunting and provide guided incident response.

MDR vendors also help minimize alert fatigue. The vendor utilizes advanced tools and human analysts to determine the severity of events. They analyze many alerts, determine their severity, and present the client organization with prioritized alerts that truly require the organization’s attention.

How Does MDR Compare to Other Managed Security Services?

Managed security services take charge of an organization’s security responsibilities — the entire IT infrastructure or specific security areas. A managed service can work in-house or as an outsourced vendor providing remote security services that cover some or all of the organization’s responsibilities.

Here are key services offered by managed security vendors:

  • Around-the-clock monitoring and management of firewalls and detection systems

  • Patch management and upgrades

  • Security assessments and audits

  • Response to threats and emergencies

  • Vulnerability and penetration testing

  • Routine security scans


Managed security services aim to support organizations’ security efforts, freeing up internal staff to focus on security program oversight and other activities. It helps ensure organizations remain protected despite any shortage of tools and staff, providing the expertise and technologies required to keep up with today’s chaotic and dynamic threats landscape.

Related content: Read our guide to managed security services.

MDR vs. MSSP

Managed security service providers (MSSPs) continuously monitor network security events to detect anomalies. MSSPs send alerts when anomalies are detected. However, they do not investigate anomalies to eliminate false positives or respond to threats.

MDR vendors perform proactive threat hunting and detection and initiate response actions on behalf of the organization. These services typically employ a detection and response stack, using endpoint protection agents to monitor the environment actively.

MDR vs. EDR

Endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions offer next-generation endpoint security, providing threat detection, response, and prevention within a single solution. Organizations can deploy EDR to protect endpoints.

MDR services provide security monitoring and management across the entire IT environment. They employ various tools to protect the organization and often integrate EDR solutions with their toolkit.

MDR vs. SIEM

Security information and event management (SIEM) tools ingest and aggregate data from multiple sources, such as user and application activity logs and security devices output. It helps organizations analyze all data sources and types that may contain indicators of compromise for threat detection. SIEM tools often employ machine learning for intelligent analysis.

MDR vendors apply a proactive approach to investigate threats across various attacker activities. They often employ SIEM solutions to collect and analyze logs as part of their toolkit. Organizations using SIEM typically use insights from the tool to perform various security actions. MDR vendors enable organizations to outsource these responsibilities.

MDR Security Technologies

Here are some of the key technologies provided as a service as part of MDR solutions. If an organization does not have any of these technologies in house, MDRs will typically provide it. If they do, an MDR service should be able to integrate with and operate them.

Log Detection and SIEM

Log detection collects and processes log files created by operating systems or applications on protected systems, as well as logs generated by devices like switches, routers, and firewalls. These logs provide data that can be used to execute static rules or more advanced machine learning algorithms to identify malicious or unexpected behavior.

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) captures data and alerts in a variety of formats from numerous security tools and IT systems. Operators can define complex logic to correlate and alert on events relevant to their organization.

Endpoint Detection and EDR

Endpoint detection agents run on endpoints (such as mobile devices, laptops, and workstations), and provide the ability to monitor for malicious activity and respond to it.

Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) is a system that collects and analyzes information from endpoints related to security threats, detects security breaches as they happen, and enables rapid response. This can be either manual response by human security experts, or a fully automated response.

Network Detection and NIDS

Network detection software provides the ability to collect network data, monitor activity, and respond to it. Network-based Intrusion Detection Systems (NIDS) help organizations monitor for suspicious events that may indicate vulnerabilities in cloud, on-premises, and hybrid environments. This includes policy violations, port scans, and unknown source and destination traffic.

NIDS is a passive security technology, meaning it is only used to alert on suspicious activity and cannot block or prevent the activity. For this reason, they are often deployed with active security solutions such as intrusion prevention systems (IPS).

Honeypots and Deception Technology

A honeypot is a system or software that emulates a device or service, designed to entice an attacker to interact with it. This allows security experts to better understand the behavior of attackers through attack detection and intelligence gathering. Honeypots use the concept of honey tokens — fake data that attracts attackers. When attackers touch a token, the honeypot generates a signal to warn security teams.

Deception technology is a class of security tools and techniques designed to detect and evade lateral movement of an attacker on a network. It allows defenders to identify attack methods without relying on known attack signatures.

Automation and SOAR

Security automation involves automating the initial triage of an event and, if possible, handling the incident automatically. Automation improves alert prioritization to reduce the need for manual review of alerts.

Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) is a technology that enables organizations to collect data about security threats and respond to them using automated playbooks, without human assistance. When used by MDR services, SOAR can enable large scale, effective response against known or easily identifiable threats.

Security Data Analytics

Data analytics leverages data mining, machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to identify and extract insights from security data. This data can be used to enhance other security processes and detect malicious activity. It is often part of the threat intelligence management activities offered by an MDR provider.

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