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What is Detection and Response in Cyber Security?

by Dallon Robinette | Jan 31, 2024 | Back to Basics

To create an effective cyber security strategy, organizations must first have a good understanding of the practice of threat detection and response. This not only includes tools that fall under the threat detection and response category, like network detection and response (NDR), but also the methodology that informs effective detection and response. This blog post explores the basics of threat detection and response solutions, discusses the difference between detection and prevention, and provides an overview of the NIST incident response cycle.

What is threat detection and response?

Threat detection and response in cyber security is a proactive approach that involves continuously monitoring networks, systems, and digital assets to identify and respond to potential security breaches and cyber-attacks. It encompasses a range of tools, technologies, and processes designed to detect, analyze, and mitigate threats in real-time.

An organization using a strategy centered around threat detection and response recognizes that preventing all cyber threats is not possible. Instead, that organization would use a threat detection and response platform or a combination of multiple systems to detect known malicious and potentially malicious activity and respond accordingly to minimize damage and mitigate the risk of those threats.

We recommend a comprehensive cyber security strategy that supports more than one threat detection and response system to minimize gaps in coverage and increase detection abilities—for example, deploying to NDR and EDR for both network and endpoint visibility.

When reviewing the available threat detection and response options it is important to consider the specific needs of your organization. By carefully evaluating your organization's unique requirements, you can identify the most suitable system or systems to address your specific threat landscape and protect your critical assets effectively. Decision-makers should consider factors such as the level and type of visibility needed, scalability requirements, ease of deployment, integration capabilities with existing security infrastructure, applicability to the organization’s operating model, and the ability to detect and respond to emerging threats.

What are 3 examples of threat detection technology and how do they work?

There are three primary threat detection and response solutions: network detection and response (NDR), endpoint detection and response (EDR), and extended detection and response (XDR). While there is some overlap in certain use cases for these systems, each is unique in how they detect and respond to threats.

Network detection and response (NDR): NDR solutions evolved from legacy intrusion detection/prevention (IDS/IPS) systems to provide comprehensive visibility into network traffic, enabling real-time detection and response to potential threats. In addition to standard IDS features like signature-based detection and deep packet inspection, many NDR systems also leverage advanced analytics, machine learning, and behavioral analysis techniques to detect anomalies, identify malicious activities, and prioritize alerts for efficient incident response.

Endpoint detection and response (EDR): EDR solutions have emerged to address the need for enhanced visibility and control at the endpoint level. These solutions monitor and analyze endpoint activities — including file and process behaviors, registry changes, and network connections — to detect and respond to advanced threats that may evade traditional antivirus solutions.

Extended detection and response (XDR): XDR is the newest threat detection and response system, expanding on the capabilities of SIEM (security information and event management) and SOAR (security orchestration, automation, and response) systems to integrate multiple security components and data sources across networks, endpoints, and cloud environments. XDR solutions seek to leverage advanced correlation and analytics capabilities to provide comprehensive threat detection and response across various security domains.

What is the difference between detection and prevention?

When evaluating different types of threat detection and response solutions, it can be difficult to understand the difference between detection and prevention. Detection is the ability to monitor events in real time to detect novel security incidents. Prevention is the ability to block known threats before they can enter the environment or otherwise do damage.

In the past, there was a greater distinction between intrusion detection systems (IDS) and intrusion prevention systems (IPS). The former could only alert users to known network threat signals, whereas the latter could block the traffic based on user-defined thresholds.

With modern threat detection and response systems, the line between detection and prevention is blurred, with systems like NDR, EDR, and XDR performing both capabilities in addition to providing greater visibility, more advanced response automation, analytics, and threat hunting tools.

What is response in cyber security?

Each of the three approaches to threat detection and response have different incident response tools, however many organizations follow a similar model to incident response regardless of which systems they use.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) developed the commonly used incident response cycle. This process was established as part of the Computer Security Handling Guide of 2012, which separated incident response into four stages:

  • Preparation: This stage involves implementing incident response policies, functions, and preventive measures. This includes tools like threat detection and response systems and practices like securing the network perimeter and training users.
  • Detection and Analysis: This stage includes identifying threat types, categorizing signs as precursors or indicators, employing various techniques for incident analysis, documenting and prioritizing incidents based on impact and recoverability, and reporting incidents internally and to appropriate authorities.
  • Containment, Eradication, and Recovery: This is the most active incident response phase, involving isolating threats, tailoring containment strategies based on the type of attack, researching attacking hosts, gathering legal evidence, eradicating threats by removing malware and compromised accounts, and implementing a phased recovery process.
  • Post-Incident Activity: This step is deemed by NIST to be the most crucial, yet most overlooked, of all the phases. In this stage, the incident response team would hold a "Lessons Learned" meeting to process the incident, preserve data and evidence, revisit their preparation for future threats, create follow-up reports for internal and external use, and evaluate their performance.

Threat detection and response tools primarily support stages two and three in the NIST incident response cycle, using their advanced detection methods, response capabilities, analytics, and threat-hunting tools to assist in discovering, isolating, and eradicating threats.


To learn more about threat detection and response systems and determine which might be a fit for your organization, view our white paper titled “EDR, NDR, and XDR: Exploring Three Approaches to Threat Detection and Response”.

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Dallon Robinette

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