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Get More from Microsoft Defender with a Managed Service Approach

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.

Microsoft Defender Suite and Security Features

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:

  • Threat & Vulnerability Management: Identifies vulnerabilities and misconfigurations in your environment and provides actionable insights to remediate them.
  • Attack Surface Reduction: Helps minimize the attack surface on systems using a rule-based approach to control applications, network connections and potentially malicious scripts.
  • Next-Generation Protection: Uses advanced machine learning algorithms, behavior analysis and real-time cloud-based threat intelligence to detect and block known and unknown malware.
  • Endpoint Detection & Response (EDR): Monitors endpoints for suspicious activities, provides in-depth investigation capabilities and offers automated response actions.
  • Secure Score: Provides a security score that rates your endpoint security configuration’s strength and offers recommendations to improve it.
  • Cross-platform Support: Microsoft Intune offers protection for other endpoint operating systems apart from Windows, including macOS and Linux, ensuring comprehensive coverage across various platforms.

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:

  • Safe Attachments: Scans email attachments for malicious content and uses machine learning algorithms to detect and block known and unknown malware.
  • Safe Links: Rewrites and analyzes URLs in emails and documents to protect users from malicious websites, phishing attacks, and other web-based threats.
  • Anti-Phishing Policies: Utilizes machine learning models and impersonation detection algorithms to protect against phishing attacks and domain spoofing.

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:

  • User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA): Monitors user and entity activities to detect anomalous behavior and potential security risks.
  • Advanced Threat Detection: Uses machine learning algorithms and heuristics to identify advanced attacks, including pass-the-ticket, pass-the-hash and other credential theft techniques.
  • Lateral Movement Detection: Identifies lateral movement attempts within the organization’s network, helping to prevent attackers from gaining access to sensitive resources.
  • Account Compromise Detection: Detects compromised accounts and provides alerts to your security team for prompt remediation.

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:

  • Cloud App Discovery: Discovers and catalogs cloud applications in use across the organization, helping to identify shadow IT and assess potential risks.
  • Risk Assessment: Provides risk scores for discovered cloud applications, allowing you to make informed decisions about their use and potential security implications.
  • Data Protection and DLP: Offers data loss prevention (DLP) capabilities to prevent sensitive data from being shared, stored, or accessed inappropriately in cloud applications.
  • Access Controls: Implements granular access controls and conditional access policies based on user, device, location and other factors to safeguard cloud application usage.

Pain Points with Microsoft Defender

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.

Configuration complexities

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.

Maximizing Value

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.

Alert Fatigue

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.

Benefits of a Managed Microsoft Defender Approach

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:

  • Customization: Get tailored configurations to meet your organization’s unique security needs and requirements based on a best practice review of current settings.
  • Expertise: Access to skilled cybersecurity professionals with in-depth knowledge of Microsoft Defender and how to configure it on multiple operating systems.
  • Optimization: Ongoing fine-tuning of security settings and policies to adapt to evolving threats and business needs.
  • Resource Efficiency: Free up your internal IT and security staff to focus on core business operations.
  • Scalability: Managed services can scale with your organization’s growth, ensuring continuous protection.

Nuspire’s Managed Microsoft Defender Services

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.

Contact us today to learn more.