WHAT IS MDR?Managed Detection and Response Explained



As we launch a new year, there’s plenty to worry about in cybersecurity. Most people are aware of the growing threats to our personal and professional data security in general. Many are becoming more aware of specific threats, like the Log4Shell vulnerability now being exploited by both nefarious state and non-state sponsored agents and hackers to deploy ransomware attacks worldwide.

Many of us, including leaders of many targeted organizations, know less about the types of responses and technology we can deploy to defend ourselves and prevent future attacks. 

Part of the problem is that we find ourselves overwhelmed and confused by the terminology used in cybersecurity and how each protocol or technology can help us defend ourselves against cyberattacks. 

Let’s begin the learning process with a commonly used industry term, Managed Detection and Response (MDR). 

MDR is a suite of outsourced services allowing organizations to identify, monitor, respond to, and limit the impact of cybersecurity threats. Organizations can deploy these services without building or significantly expanding internal security operations centers and staff to meet the volume and sophistication of these threats.

Many companies have a problem: cybersecurity threats must be monitored and responded to quickly, and threat purveyors work just as hard to develop and exploit new vulnerabilities. Companies need a constantly aware, consistently improving resource of people and technology to fight this battle. However, most companies have neither the expertise nor the dedicated budget to develop such a resource. As a result, some companies find themselves falling behind and falling prey to intruders and hackers.

MDR is a sensible alternative to scaling security operations to respond to and prevent rapidly evolving threats. 


Managed Detection and Response typically involves planning and applying technology and expertise to the core network and endpoint security responsibilities, including:


Cover an organization’s entire network of endpoints to minimize the vulnerability to threats as soon and as thoroughly as possible.


Continuous, 24/7 monitoring of an organization’s networks and endpoints, often using an endpoint detection and response (EDR) tool and up-to-date threat intelligence data to identify security incidents and instantly notify the right people and systems for triage and response.


Enable the organization’s security team to quickly validate and prioritize detected threats based on the context of each event and its most likely impact.


Notify the security team to take recommended actions and (or) trigger automatic responses to defeat and eradicate each high-priority threat and return the system to its unthreatened status.


Create a detailed report for each incident. It should identify the threat, how (and when) it was detected, steps taken, and how the incident was resolved.


Managed Security Services Providers (MSSP) fill some, but not all, the roles in MDR. MSSPs typically provide detection, notification, and alert services but no response or remediation. Their customers, or other outsourced security services, must respond to those alerts, remove threats, and prevent future intrusions.

How Is MDR Better than Traditional MSSP?

Managed security service providers (MSSP) offer a basic level of cybersecurity monitoring and management, including antivirus, firewalls, intrusion detection, and management of virtual private networks (VPNs).

However, MSSPs typically do not handle incident response, containment and eradication of threats, or active threat hunting. Here are some of the key capabilities MDR provide beyond the basic MSSP offering:

Improved technology

MDR services incorporate the newest technologies in detection and response, including next-gen antivirus, machine learning, and AI-based automation. In contrast, MSS tends to rely on more traditional technologies and methods. Additionally, MDR cybersecurity services may be more accommodating of cloud services and hybrid systems than MSSPs.

Incident Response Expertise

MSSPs are generally not committed to providing a high level of security expertise or guidance. An MSSP typically offers Tier 1 SOC analysts who are focused on supporting automated protection and detection systems.

This is very different from MDR providers, who incorporate whole teams of security professionals of various levels. Rather than simply acting as responsive support staff, MDR professionals proactively monitor systems and take responsibility for threat containment and remediation.

Expanded Service Scope

A standard MSSP is only responsible for monitoring systems and forwarding alerts to in-house teams. They do not necessarily filter alerts by priority or spend time confirming whether a threat is legitimate.

In contrast, an MDR security team is responsible for verifying threats and for responding according to agreed-upon guidelines and service level agreements (SLAs). This extra effort and commitment to detection and response makes MDR solutions more expensive but provides an end-to-end solution for cybersecurity threats.

Why MDR?

Security teams are overloaded with a multitude of security controls that generate too much data, inhibiting their ability to secure their environments in a timely manner. The result: attackers go undetected for too long, free to inflict significant, lasting organizational impact.

  • Analysts need automation to work smarter and faster
  • Investigation of advanced attacks requires specialty skills that are hard to find and maintain
  • Most organizations don’t have enough highly skilled people

4 Business Challenges MDR Services Solve

Most organizations face several challenges when trying to implement a comprehensive cybersecurity program. MDR offers services that help meet these challenges:

  1. Lack of internal security talent—the talent shortage in cybersecurity is making it difficult for organizations to find and keep qualified cybersecurity professionals. This effort is both challenging and costly, and organizations—even enterprises with large budgets—struggle to hire these experts, if they can afford to at all. MDR helps ensure that organizations can augment their security expertise and staff overnight.
  2. Advanced threat identification—sophisticated attacks such as advanced persistent threats (APTs) employ tools and techniques that help attackers remain undetected by most traditional security solutions. MDR providers can detect and remediate these threats by implementing proactive threat hunting.
  3. Underlying security flaws—bad practices can expose organizations to underlying security flaws. MDR services actively monitor the attack surface of the infrastructure and actively hunt for threats and previously unknown issues. MDR services help organizations identify these issues and provide guidance on how to remediate them.
  4. Alert fatigue—traditional security tools can generate an overwhelming amount of security alerts, including a large volume of false positives. This can lead to alert fatigue, in which security staff start to ignore many alerts. MDR services offer the technology and expertise required to efficiently review all relevant alerts, identify breaches and contain them before they do damage.

How can MDR services stop a ransomware attack?

Modern ransomware attacks are multifaceted with multiple outcomes. The combination of practiced SOC analysts and proactive threat hunting accelerates an organization’s ability to find and halt sophisticated threat actors before they deploy debilitating ransomware or extort the victim.


Managed Detection and Response is a comprehensive network and endpoint security service that incorporates all the MDR roles and responsibilities outlined above and offers the following key benefits to its customers:

  • Provides the expertise, systems, threat intelligence, and processes to identify and deal with an up-to-date list of known threats without building an in-house, state-of-the-art security operations center.
  • Reduces or removes the need to dedicate people and systems to identify, track, respond to, and prevent global cybersecurity threats.
  • Reduces or removes the need and expense of attracting, employing, and continuously training new cybersecurity talent.
  • It’s a security solution offering continuous threat hunting, detection, and remediation—you may not need your entire Global SOC team online all the time to provide the security your business requires.
  • It’s scalable to meet an organization’s growing needs, and its capabilities undergo continuous improvement and expansion without additional R & D investment by customers.
  • Its implementation can result in a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) for effective security capabilities.


Hunting threats and responding to them once discovered, Polar Bear Cyber Security Group’s MDR provides a wide array of security services, including investigation, analysis, response and recovery of incidents through a detailed remediation plan. To mention the main benefit of MDR, it helps rapid identification of threats and limits the impact of threats.


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