White House Executive Order – Improving Detection of Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities

Tips & Advice

This is the third in a series of blogs on the Cybersecurity EO, and I encourage you to read those you may have missed. (Part 1, Part 2).

Between the initial publication of the Executive Order (EO) for Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity on May 12 and late July, a flurry of activity by departments and agencies continues to occur on how best to understand and address potential security gaps. Once identified, these analyses will facilitate plans to fulfill the requirements and further augment agencies’ existing preventative measures to improve their cybersecurity posture. Due to numerous far-reaching cybersecurity breaches that have occurred throughout the past year, one of the primary areas of emphasis in the Executive Order is enhancing the Federal Government’s ability to be more proactive in detecting vulnerabilities and preventing cybersecurity incidents throughout an agency’s network. By introducing an Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solution into an enterprise environment, the Government will be able to empower agency SOC teams to engage in active cyber hunting, containment, remediation, and incident response activities more universally.

How Does McAfee’s MVISION EDR Improve an Agency’s Security Posture?

The potential loss and impact of a cyberattack is no longer constrained to a single silo within an agency’s network or a small subset of devices. It can quickly escalate and impact the mission of an agency in seconds. That is why the Executive Order states it is crucial a government-wide initiative is undertaken to begin to get ahead of malicious actors by developing a comprehensive security strategy to prevent attacks before they happen.

Many cyberthreats use multiple attack mechanisms, requiring a different approach to keep our enterprises secure from malicious actors. Endpoint protection platforms still play a critical role in defending agency assets, but they are only one component of a multilayered approach to a robust cybersecurity strategy. Fortunately, McAfee Enterprise’s endpoint protection platform offers a threat detection capability that allows incorporating a next-generation solution (EDR) to track down potential threats if they break through the first layer of countermeasures.

By incorporating endpoint detection and response (EDR), organizations have granular control and visibility into their endpoints to detect suspicious activity. As a cloud service, EDR can incorporate new features and services in much more agile fashion than other solutions. MVISION EDR can discover and block threats in the pre-execution stage, investigate threats through analytics, and help provide an incident response plan. Additionally, by leveraging AI and machine learning to automate the steps in an investigative process, more experienced threat hunters can focus on in-depth analysis of sophisticated attacks, and other members of the SOC team can discover key findings to triage potential threats much faster and with less experience. These new capabilities can learn an agency’s baseline behaviors and use this information, along with a variety of other threat intelligence sources, to interpret findings.

Is Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) Enough?

As the attack surface continues to evolve, a far more holistic approach to detection is needed. Although EDR is crucial to surfacing anomalous threats and malicious behavior for workstations, servers, and cloud workloads, their area of influence is confined to the telemetry provided by the endpoint. Realizing EDR is network blind and SIEM is endpoint blind, we integrated McAfee Enterprise EDR and SIEM technologies to enrich investigations. Still, more telemetry sources are needed to reveal all potential threat vectors an enterprise may encounter. This is where Extended Detection and Response (XDR) comes in, supporting agencies in a journey beyond the endpoint and allowing them to close even more gaps. 

Why Should Agencies Be Focusing on an Extended Detection and Response (XDR) Strategy?

XDR isn’t a single product or solution but rather a journey, as it refers to compiling multiple security products and technologies that comprise a unified platform. An XDR approach will shift processes and likely merge and encourage tighter coordination between different functions like SOC analysts, hunters, incident responders and IT administrators.

SIEMs are largely data-driven, meaning they need data definitions, custom parsing rules and pre-built content packs to retrospectively provide context based on the data they have ingested. In contrast, XDR is hypothesis driven, harnessing the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence engines to analyze high-fidelity threat data from a multitude of sources across the environment to support specific lines of investigation mapped to the MITRE ATT&CK framework.

Technically speaking, an XDR is a converged platform leveraging a common taxonomy and unifying language. An effective XDR must bring together numerous heterogeneous signals and return a homogenous visual and analytical representation. XDR must clearly show the potential security correlations that the SOC should focus on. Such a solution would de-duplicate information on one hand, but would emphasize the truly high-risk attacks, while filtering out the mountains of noise. The desired outcome would not require excessive amounts of repetitive manual work. Instead, it would allow SOC teams to focus on leading investigations and mitigating attacks. XDR’s presentation of data would be aware of context and content, be advanced technologically, yet be simple enough for analysts to understand and act upon.

As many organizations begin to adopt EDR solutions with the capability to embrace XDR, they also must consider how these solutions enable them to migrate toward a Zero Trust architecture. The wealth of information that will be available in a platform capable of distilling threat telemetry not only from endpoints, the networks they are accessing, and the cloud services they consume will create real advantages. It will greatly improve the granularity, flexibility, and accuracy of the policy engines granting access to enterprise resources and using that degree of trust to determine how much access is granted within the application.

The ideal solution must provide enhanced detection and response capabilities across endpoints, networks, and cloud infrastructures. It needs to prioritize and predict threats that matter before the attack and prescribe necessary countermeasures allowing the organization to proactively harden their environment. The ideal solution also must incorporate Zero Trust, and it should be built on an open security ecosystem.

McAfee Enterprise recognized early on that a multi-vendor security ecosystem is a key requirement to building a defense in depth security practice. One of the key building blocks was the Data Exchange Layer (DXL), which was subsequently made available as an open-source project (OpenDXL) for the community to further develop innovative use cases. This enabled our diverse ecosystem of partners from threat intelligence platforms to orchestration tools to use a common transport mechanism and information exchange protocol, thereby encouraging participating vendors to not only communicate vital threat details but also inform them of actions that all connected security solutions should take.

When you combine XDR and an open security ecosystem for XDR capabilities, agencies will have a solid foundation to advance their visibility and detection capabilities across their entire cyber infrastructure.

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