Microsoft Defender is an incredibly powerful set of security solutions that offers protection across endpoints, Office 365, user identities and cloud applications. Whether your business already uses a Microsoft Defender solution or those plans are in the pipeline, managing and getting the most from the available capabilities and more advanced features isn’t easy.
This article overviews the key features of Microsoft Defender’s suite of tools and covers some of the main challenges you’ll likely encounter if you decide your security team should manage it on their own. The article concludes with some compelling reasons to augment Microsoft Defender with the outside expertise and intelligence that come from a managed service approach.
There are four main Microsoft Defender solutions: here is a brief overview of each one and what they bring to your security defenses.
Microsoft Defender for Endpoint
MS Defender for Endpoint is a comprehensive, cloud-powered endpoint security solution that offers a wide range of features to protect, detect and respond to advanced threats on endpoint devices. Key features include:
Microsoft Defender for Office 365
Defender for Office 365 is a cloud-based email filtering service that protects against advanced threats such as phishing, malware and other malicious attacks that target users through emails, often with malicious attachments that they open in word processors or spreadsheets. Features include:
Microsoft Defender for Identity
This solution helps identify identity-based attacks and other advanced threats by monitoring and analyzing user activity and other identity-based info like user permissions. Key features include:
Microsoft Defender for Cloud Apps
This is a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) solution that provides visibility, control and protection to ensure your company’s safe use of cloud applications. The main features are:
Integration & Implementation
There are many useful features in each of the various Microsoft Defender products, but it can be daunting to configure, tune and effectively monitor everything. Add a disparate variety of operating systems to the mix, and these challenges become even more pronounced. With hybrid workforces, it’s almost guaranteed that your endpoint inventory contains devices running operating systems like Linux and macOS. Challenges include:
Cross-platform support limitations
While Microsoft Defender has expanded its support to cover macOS, Linux, Android and iOS devices, it may not provide the same level of functionality or ease of use compared to its Windows counterpart. Some features may be limited, which can result in a less comprehensive security solution for non-Windows environments.
Configuring Microsoft Defender for non-Windows environments may require additional steps, including installing agents and configuring policies specific to the platform. This added complexity can be challenging for IT administrators who may be less familiar with the nuances of non-Windows systems like Linux.
Integration with third-party tools
Organizations using non-Windows environments may rely on third-party security tools and solutions. Integrating Microsoft Defender with these tools can present challenges due to compatibility issues, API limitations or a lack of native integration capabilities. This creates a high level of complexity for organizations trying to determine which API and integration options work best.
Inconsistency in security policies
Applying consistent security policies across different platforms can get difficult, as each operating system may require unique configurations or policies. This may lead to potential security gaps and make it difficult to enforce a uniform security posture across your IT ecosystem.
Security Resource Constraints and Shortages
The chronic cybersecurity talent shortage constrains available resources and makes it harder for in-house staff to configure and maintain advanced security solutions across different platforms and environments. These constraints can easily lead to suboptimal security configurations and a slower response to emerging threats, as understaffed security teams may need more knowledge or resources to fully leverage the capabilities of tools like Microsoft Defender.
Given the resource constraints and implementation challenges, it’s common to opt for “off-the-shelf” implementations of Microsoft Defender tools. While this approach gets the basics of each solution in place and minimizes configuration or other tweaks, “off-the-shelf” service implementations may not fully capture the breadth of capabilities that Microsoft Defender can deliver, leaving you with a less than optimal security posture.
For example, an off-the-shelf implementation isn’t customized to your specific needs, network architecture and security requirements. Furthermore, fully utilizing the breadth of features requires in-depth knowledge of the platform and your company’s unique security landscape. Lastly, maximizing value from Microsoft Defender requires continuous monitoring, updates and optimization to stay ahead of emerging threats and adapt to evolving business needs: it can be a struggle to keep up with the swift pace of change while fine-tuning your security solution continuously.
Security teams already experience high volumes of alerts from other tools. Procuring Microsoft Defender solutions can add to the noise and contribute to alert fatigue, particularly with off-the-shelf settings in Defender for Cloud Apps, which is extremely noisy in terms of alerts. When overburdened by alerts, security teams end up ignoring what’s important and overreacting to non-important events.
The complexity and challenges of managing Microsoft Defender in-house make it a good candidate for outsourcing it to a third-party managed security service provider. The benefits of this sort of approach are:
Nuspire’s Managed Microsoft Defender services include two separate offerings: 1) Managed Defender for Endpoint, ID and O365 and 2) Managed Defender for Cloud Apps. Benefits include expert support, 24×7 monitoring, recommendations for continuously improving and refining your security posture through Microsoft Defender, added value through configuring custom alerts, remediating issues and more.