What Is Microsoft Defender for Endpoint?

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Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, a cloud-based platform designed to defend any device connecting to a corporate network, helps organizations prevent, detect, investigate, and respond to advanced threats. Microsoft Defender for Endpoint uses next-generation endpoint and detection response (EDR) capabilities, namely endpoint behavioral sensors, cloud security analytics, and threat intelligence. In this blog post, we will explain what Microsoft Defender for Endpoint is, from defining what an endpoint and what endpoint security are to explaining how Microsoft Defender for Endpoint works and how it can help protect your networks against advanced cyber threats.

What is Microsoft Defender for Endpoint?

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, formerly known as Microsoft Defender ATP (Advanced Threat Protection), is Microsoft’s cloud-based platform designed to defend any device connecting to a corporate network. Microsoft Defender for Endpoint uses next-generation technologies, namely endpoint behavioral sensors, cloud security analytics, and threat intelligence. These technologies work together to provide real-time protection against known and unknown malware, phishing attacks, malicious websites, and other threats.

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint now includes an antivirus component as well. Independent evaluations conducted by the MITRE Engenuity ATT&CK (Adversarial Tactics, Techniques, and Common Knowledge) group demonstrated that Microsoft Defender for Endpoint had industry-leading optics and detection capabilities.

How does it work?

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint works by constantly monitoring the activity on endpoint devices for any suspicious behavior. If Microsoft Defender for Endpoint detects any suspicious behavior, it will take action to block or quarantine the threat and immediately start an investigation. Microsoft Defender for Endpoint also uses cloud security analytics to detect and investigate threats that have evaded detection by traditional security solutions. Microsoft Defender for Endpoint is constantly learning and evolving to stay ahead of the latest threats.

So Microsoft Defender for Endpoint was designed to provide deep analysis of current threat trends with extensive insights on ransomware, phishing, IoT threats, and nation-state activity. This means Microsoft Defender for Endpoint can help you not only block and investigate current threats but also anticipate and prepare for future ones.

What are its core features?

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint’s core features include the following:

Threat and vulnerability management

To help bridge the gap between Security Operations (SecOps), Security Administration (SecAdmin), and IT Administration (ITAdmin), Microsoft Defender for Endpoint provides the ability to identify, assess, and remediate weaknesses and also discover vulnerabilities and misconfigurations in real time. Among the advanced treats Microsoft Defender for Endpoint can help identify and block are the following:

  • Script-based attacks
  • Network exploration
  • Brute-force login attempts

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint’s vulnerability management capabilities also include the ability to deploy Microsoft 365 security updates across all endpoints in your environment. Microsoft Defender for Endpoint’s built-in core vulnerability management capabilities leverages a modern risk-based approach to discover, assess, prioritize, and remediate endpoint vulnerabilities and misconfigurations.

Attack surface reduction

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint is designed to close any gaps in your endpoint security by leveraging features including the following:

  • Hardware-based isolation
  • Application control
  • Exploit protection
  • Network protection
  • Web protection
  • Controlled folder access
  • Network firewall

Ensuring your configuration settings are properly set and exploit remediation techniques applied, the attack surface reduction capabilities allow you to resist attacks and exploitation by malicious attackers. This set of capabilities also includes network protection and web protection, which are regulating access to malicious IP addresses, domains, and URLs.

Next-generation protection

Through machine learning, big-data analysis, threat resistance research, and the Microsoft cloud infrastructure to protect endpoint devices on your network, Microsoft Defender for Endpoint provides the following:

  • Behavior-based real-time antivirus protection.
  • Near-instant cloud-delivered blocking.
  • Dedicated protection and product updates.

Next-generation protection means that the security tool goes beyond the traditional network perimeter and firewall to encompass today’s wider, hybrid, and decentralized endpoint security environment. Microsoft Defender for Endpoint is designed to be constantly learning and evolving so that it can stay ahead of the latest threats.

EDR capabilities

The tool’s Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) capabilities were implemented to help detect, investigate, and respond to advanced threats. Microsoft Defender for Endpoint’s EDR capabilities include the following:

  • Process tree visualization.
  • Threat intelligence integration.
  • Security graph correlation.
  • Behavior-based hunting and machine learning detection.

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint’s EDR capabilities allow you to see relationships between processes and detect malicious activity, even when attackers are using valid credentials or are masquerading as legitimate users. Microsoft Defender for Endpoint’s EDR capabilities also include the ability to integrate with threat intelligence feeds so that you can receive up-to-date information on the latest threats.

Defender for Endpoint continuously collects behavioral cyber telemetry, providing rich details within a dashboard with forensic abilities for analysts to remediate threats and their affected areas.

Automated Investigation and Remediation (AIR)

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint provides Automated Investigation and Remediation (AIR) capabilities. When adequately installed and configured, these features can help reduce the number of alerts and increase your response time. For instance, Microsoft Defender for Endpoint’s AIR capabilities can be configured to automatically take the following actions:

  • Restart devices in safe mode.
  • Collect process dumps.
  • Take memory snapshots.

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint’s AIR capabilities can also be used to create remediation actions that are specific to your organization’s needs. Microsoft Defender for Endpoint’s AIR capabilities can help you speed up your response time to incidents and reduce the number of false positives.

Microsoft Threat Experts

To help Security Operation Centers (SOCs) identify and respond to threats quickly and accurately, Microsoft Defender for Endpoint features a managed threat hunting service that provides the following benefits:

  • Proactive hunting
  • Prioritization
  • Additional context and insights

Running attack simulations

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint’s “evaluation lab” allows you to run attack simulations. There are three options:

  • Three devices for 72 hours each.
  • Four devices for 48 hours each.
  • Eight devices for 24 hours each.

The Microsoft Defender for Endpoint evaluation lab was designed to spare you the complexities of device and environment configuration, allowing you to focus on the following:

  • Evaluating the actual defending capabilities of the platform.
  • Running attack simulations.
  • Seeing the prevention, detection, and remediation features in action.

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint’s “attack simulations” feature can help you assess the effectiveness of your current security posture and help you identify areas that need improvement.

Although this lab feature can help you improve your endpoint security, keep in mind that this type of exercise can prove time-consuming; also, any automated attack simulation tools could never reach the level of sophistication and results of a penetration test performed by certified professionals.

Does it include an antivirus?

Yes. Microsoft Defender for Endpoint includes Microsoft Defender Antivirus, a real-time protection technology that helps protect your devices against malware and other malicious software. Microsoft Defender Antivirus uses signature-based detection, behavior-based detection, and machine learning to help protect your devices from viruses, spyware, rootkits, and other malware.

How to best use it to protect against threats?

Making the best use of Microsoft Defender for Endpoint could include the following:

  • Device management and configuration.
  • Identity and access management.
  • Information security.
  • Vulnerability management.
  • Application whitelisting.
  • Behavior-based detection.

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint’s “attack simulations” feature can help you assess the effectiveness of your current security posture and identify areas that need improvement. It can also help you fine-tune your Microsoft Defender for Endpoint configuration to better protect against specific types of attacks.

Final words

The Microsoft Defender for Endpoint platform offers a nice arsenal of endpoint security tools to defend your systems against today’s threats. Its attack simulation feature, among others, can help test out and improve your organization’s cybersecurity. But the protection of your business-critical systems shouldn’t rely solely on technology, but rather on a comprehensive strategy that takes into account people, processes, and technology. A robust enterprise security also requires the integration of cybersecurity best practices in a well-balanced, business-driven, and mature cybersecurity program.

Contact us if you need help improving your enterprise security.

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