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Managed Detection and Response (MDR)


What Is Managed Detection and Response (MDR)?

Managed detection and response (MDR) is a service that helps organizations better understand the cybersecurity risks they face and improve how they identify and react to threats.

The ways companies detect and respond to threats differ, as do the tools used. But there are some key elements that all MDR programs have in common.

What Are the Characteristics of MDR?

Focused on Threat Detection Rather Than Compliance

The aim of MDR is to handle threats, as opposed to making sure a company is following the most recent compliance regulations. However, a company can be brought into compliance after using an MDR because of the enhanced security measures.

Services Are Delivered Using the Provider's Own Set of Tools and Technologies

Even though the tools used are set up on the client’s premises, they are provided and managed by the service provider. This alleviates the need for an organization to source its own threat detection and response resources.

Relies Heavily on Security Event Management and Advanced Analytics

MDR focuses on security events and analyzing data gathered during an event. The data is then used to make the organization safer going forward.

MDR Usually Involves Humans

Even though MDR tools use automation, human involvement is necessary for some of the most crucial facets. These include around-the-clock monitoring, analyzing security events, and communicating with the client.

MDR Service Providers Also Perform Incident Validation and Remote Response

MDR service includes specific steps needed to address security concerns, such as ascertaining which alerts require the most attention, sandboxing, malware, and troubleshooting security vulnerabilities.

Top 5 Most Common Challenges That MDR Solves

With MDR, security teams can improve their cyber resilience and quickly mitigate damage. Here are a few of the problems that MDR services can solve.

1. Alerts That Lack Clear and Material Aim

Accurately identifying threats and prioritizing them based on severity is vital to maintaining an organization's cybersecurity environment. MDR technology helps by detecting critical threats and reducing the number of alerts that require no remediation.

2. Resource Limitations

Automated advanced threat detection with endpoint protection creates a managed security service. It does the work of several IT professionals, freeing up resources across the board.

3. Threat Indentification

Security alerts are common, but how you handle threat detection and response at the highest priority level is what really matters. MDR security uses threat intelligence, which relies on machine learning, to proactively hunt threats. With its constant scanning, MDR technology remains up-to-date so it can identify the latest threats.

4. Slow Responses

Delayed security threat notifications can result in significant damage. The quicker you identify and respond to threats, the less impact your organization experiences. MDR helps minimize the effects of security events by immediately notifying you of threats. 

5. Difficulty Staffing a Full Team of Security Experts

Maintaining a cybersecurity environment requires proper talent who is constantly available - unless you use MDR. This service removes the need for extra staffing and can take the guesswork out of your cybersecurity approach.

Benefits of MDR

According to Gartner, 50% of businesses will be using MDR by 2025. Some common use cases include:

  1. Stop malware: Malware often tries to hide its communications with command-and-control (C&C) servers, which are used to exfiltrate data and download more malware to a targeted machine. By integrating MDR, you can intercept these communications and prevent them from happening in the future. An MDR can also incorporate an endpoint protection platform (EPP) to shield specific endpoints from malware.
  2. Stop lateral movement: A threat's lateral movement is the primary way attackers compromise series of machines in a network. MDR can detect lateral movement, allowing the organization to stop a threat from spreading.
  3. Stop security policy violations: An organization can use MDR services to prevent users from accidentally—or intentionally—violating internal security policies. If a violation does occur, the MDR service provider can investigate what happened and why, reporting their findings back to the organization.

24/7 Monitoring and Improved Communications Mechanisms with Experienced SOC Analysts

With MDR, your system is monitored around the clock by seasoned security operations center (SOC) professionals. This enhances your security and provides you with up-to-date communication regarding issues.

Proactive Threat Hunting

With an MDR managed security service, you can assume a proactive stance when it comes to going after threats, as opposed to simply reacting after your organization has been impacted by a threat.

Improved Threat Response

An MDR can enhance your threat response capabilities, regardless of the resources on your network. If needed, an MDR can be used in conjunction with an endpoint detection and response (EDR) system, which addresses threats by installing sensors on specific endpoints.

Extended Detection and Response (XDR) gorilla guide

Explore how Extended Detection and Response (XDR) can help solve some of the complex security problems and how it is different from Managed Detection and Response (MDR)

Download the Gorilla Guide

Is MDR Better than MSSP?

An MDR and a managed security service provider (MSSP) have similar qualities, but some key differences may move you to choose one over the other.


With an MSSP, coverage is often more comprehensive, similar to SOC-as-a-Service (SOCaaS). The client makes the decision as to which data gets sent to the MSSP. With MDR, the service provider uses the event logs their tools provide.

Compliance Reporting

Compliance reporting is a common facet of an MSSP, but it is rarely performed by MDR.

Human Touch

MDR involves more interaction with human analysts, whereas MSSPs typically involve electronic communication, such as through emails.

Incident Response

With MDR, you may have easier access to on-site incident response by simply adding it to your retained services for a fee. Also, you tend to get remote incident response included in the service package. With MSSP, you need a separate retainer for both on-site and remote incident response.

MDR vs. XDR vs. EDR / What Are the Differences Between MDR, XDR, and EDR?

  1. MDR: Managed Detection and Response is a security approach that focuses on individuals and their behaviors. It prioritizes endpoint protection.
  2. XDR: Extended Detection and Response takes MDR to the next level with a software-based practice that protects an enterprise's entire infrastructure.
  3. EDR: Endpoint Detection and Response acts like an alarm system for an organization. When it detects a threat, it immediately alerts the company.

MDR, SOC or SIEM: How To Choose the Right Option

When you are ready to improve the security profile of your organization, it can be difficult to choose between an SOC, MDR, or security information and event management (SIEM)

With a SOC, you get an in-house team dedicated to protecting your organization, but for some companies, the cost may be prohibitive. With a comprehensive MDR solution, you are very well-covered, but you have to trust that the MDR’s tools are sufficient for your needs. 

A SIEM gives you a large collection of logs that can be useful for in-depth analysis or pattern recognition. An MDR, on the other hand, seeks to identify only the most meaningful logs, which may be limiting for some IT teams’ goals.

How Fortinet Can Help

Fortinet and the FortiGuard Managed Detection and Response (MDR) service can help customers with advanced threat identification and remediation. The FortiEDR and FortiXDR advanced endpoint security platforms offer around-the-clock monitoring. Work to protect your organization at every level, using technology at the forefront to proactively hunt and mitigate threats before they materialize.  


What is managed detection and response (MDR)?

MDR refers to a service that helps organizations better understand the cybersecurity risks they face and improve how they identify and react to threats.

What are the characteristics of MDR?

MDR has the following characteristics:

  1. Aims for threat detection as opposed to compliance
  2. Makes use of the service provider’s tools
  3. Relies on security event management and advanced analytics
  4. Involves human interaction and analysis
  5. Includes incident validation and remote response

What are the benefits of MDR?

With MDR, you get 24/7 monitoring by SOC analysts, better threat detection and detection coverage, proactive threat hunting, and overall improved threat response.

Is MDR better than MSSP?

For some organizations, MDR may be a better choice than MSSP, but the opposite may also be the case. An MSSP gives you more comprehensive coverage, but MDR provides you with more human interaction. Also, MDR comes with incident response services, whereas with an MSSP, you may have to add remote and on-site incident response to your retainer.