Managed detection and response (MDR) is more than just a team of cybersecurity experts sitting in a dimly lit room surrounded by dozens of monitors, tracking cyberactivity across customer environments and the internet at large. MDR services are a partnership between a managed security service provider (MSSP) and the customer—two entities using a combination of advanced technology and human critical thinking to quickly detect, stop, and mitigate the impact of cybersecurity threats.  

While technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) play an increasingly critical role in this defense, it’s really the human element that allows MDR service providers to stay one step ahead of today’s increasingly sophisticated threats. 

But how do humans and technology work together to turn the tide against today’s increasingly sophisticated threat actors? Let’s find out. 

Why is MDR a critical must have given today’s evolving cybersecurity landscape? 

It’s safe to assume that attackers will get into your network, so it’s important to detect them as quickly as possible and mitigate the impact they have on business operations. Relying solely on an internal team of security analysts can hamstring much of these efforts as overworked team members become inundated by dozens of alerts from multiple security monitoring tools. Working with an MDR service provider gives you the peace of mind that you have an army of cybersecurity experts working 24×7, 365 days a year with the right expertise and access to the best cybersecurity tools available to protect your organization from any threat that dares to infiltrate your network. 

How do MDR providers use technology to quickly find and stop cyber threats? 

The goal of any MDR solution is to detect attacks in real time, mitigate the impact of the threat, and return effected systems to their normal operating state as quickly as possible. MDR solutions accomplish this through proactive, predictive security management that includes monitoring an expanding threat surface, centralizing control from a single pane of glass, and automating repetitive tasks. MDR service providers also use advanced AI/ML capabilities to speed decision making, so they can act quickly in a moment of crisis. 

Why are humans still important in detection and response strategies? 

Machines are great at streamlining repetitive tasks and scaling protection across an expanding threat surface, but humans are still required to provide the high-level strategic thinking that helps organizations detect attacks quickly and efficiently. It’s important to remember that technology is not always perfect. False positives can be a problem, and they can distract attention away from more sensitive events. Humans are also able to adapt as the cybersecurity landscape continues to evolve. People need to train machine learning models, identify false positives, and manage critical edge cases. 

How can people and technology best work together in detection and response? 

A robust cybersecurity posture requires careful collaboration and orchestration between humans and their cybersecurity tools. Typically, the MSSP’s security operations center (SOC) team develops a baseline for each client, taking individual organizations’ needs into account to determine the right monitoring, policies, and controls to enact. Internal teams can then apply these signatures to their own environment, ensuring they are being protected appropriately. MSSPs also create playbooks that anyone can follow when an event is triggered—such as abnormal login activity, exfiltrated data, or a confirmed breach. They then use MDR tools to monitor the environment and perform repetitive tasks that free up the internal team’s time and resources. 

Are there any roadblocks or bottlenecks organizations should consider when it comes to choosing an MDR service? 

Keeping up with evasive and adaptive threats is the biggest cybersecurity challenge today. So, it stands to reason that the most important factor to consider when looking for an MDR service provider is the team’s ability to act quickly and decisively. Responsiveness is critical. When an attack unfolds, it’s important that your MDR service provider can galvanize available resources to muster an effective defense. This is where the human element comes into play. Look for a provider that combines the efficiency and effectiveness of technology with the critical thinking of human actors to get the business back up and running as quickly and non-disruptively as possible. 

What is in store for the future of MDR as AI continues to evolve? 

Advanced AI capabilities are going to transform MDR. Natural language processing (NLP) will allow analysts to get answers quickly by presenting information in simple, human readable language. No more clicking around a bunch of charts or poring over event logs. With the help of technology like Bitdefender MDR, less skilled technicians will be able to take on higher level tasks with less training and expertise. This will enable a proactive cybersecurity approach that uses speed and quality analysis to stay one step ahead of threat actors.

Originally published on the Bitdefender blog, May 28, 2024.