Managed Detection and Response vs. Managed Security services: The difference and how to choose

The world of managed security services is changing rapidly, expanding with Managed Detection and Response (MDR) services. According to Gartner’s 2018 Market Guide for Managed Detection and Response Services, 15 percent of organizations will be using MDR services by 2020, up from less than 5 percent today. This new turnkey approach is designed to accelerate threat discovery and response time, but what is MDR? How is it different from traditional services provided by managed security service providers (MSSPs), and how do you know if you need it?

The difference between MDR and traditional security services

While most enterprises are familiar with MSSPs, many professionals are still familiarizing themselves with MDR. Reaching beyond traditional services (including technology management and threat monitoring), MDR adds advanced threat detection, threat intelligence capabilities, and incident response.

Some analysts simplify it as the difference between ordinary monitoring services that simply hand the customer a list of prioritized alerts with suggested action items and an extended service where the provider is actually taking an active role inside the customer’s environment.

The key element here is the response. With a team of outside experts “fighting battles” on your behalf, the upside is clear: When existing internal IT resources can’t monitor threats in real-time and lack the responsiveness needed to act on those risks, MDR is the solution.

How it works

Using a combination of technology and human resources, MDR services focus on advanced threat detection and mitigation. MDR partners look for attackers that have infiltrated the perimeter of the IT environment—cloud or on-premise. It’s an all-encompassing solution that typically includes:

  • 24/7 monitoring
  • Threat intelligence
  • Network traffic analytics
  • Machine learning and behavioral analytics
  • Cloud security
  • A team of experienced security analysts who do everything from proactive threat hunting to investigation, validation, containment, and mitigation

Filtering security noise to identify what’s real, what’s important, and what’s the most dangerous, MDR partners leverage best practices in response and work collaboratively with the customer to build shared playbooks that enable continuous improvement.

Key benefits of MDR

MDR can take enterprises from overwhelmed to empowered with:

  • Accelerated threat discovery
  • Faster response time
  • Reduced dwell tim—the amount of time an attacker has inside your IT environment before being detected (average dwell time is 6+ months for a given breach)
  • Additional security personnel, analysts, and expertise

While an improved security posture might be enough to sway your investment, another benefit surfaces when you consider the cybersecurity skills shortage and cost of employee churn. Building in-house security teams presents serious challenges. According to a recent Ponemon Institute study, 57% of companies are unable to hire the appropriate staff to deal with cyber attacks.

Knowing if MDR is right for you

MDR is particularly helpful for IT leaders who:

  • Are struggling with an overwhelmed IT staff without 24/7 security monitoring
  • Have a siloed approach to security with multiple products that are not working together
  • Are considering building an in-house security operations team
  • Need to fulfill compliance requirements
  • Are using unmonitored cloud services and apps (Amazon Web Services, Office 365, etc.)