EDR vs EPP: What is the Difference?

EDR vs. EPP: What is the Difference?

Published
January 09, 2022

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Reading time
6 mins

Whether it’s getting phished, downloading shady software from a not-so-reputable website, or any of the other myriad ways endpoints get compromised, the fact is that they will get compromised!

You need to protect endpoints from becoming a hacker’s gateway into your corporate environments, but you don’t want to create additional work maintaining signatures, definitions, and updates. Luckily, there are many solutions available in the market to help us protect these assets and automate the constantly changing threat intel and response process. The endpoint space has become very crowded, and each vendor has their own proprietary solution to the endpoint security problem. According to Gartner, the two leading categories of technology in the advanced endpoint security space are EDR and EPP. So what are EDR and EPP, how can they be used to help secure endpoints, and which one do you need? Or do you need them both?

Endpoint protection platforms (EPP) prevent endpoint security threats like known and unknown malware. Endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions can detect and respond to threats that your EPP and other security tools did not catch. Many modern endpoint security platforms combine these two approaches, but you can also choose one of these types of security instead of both. 

In this article, you will learn what is EDR, what is EPP, how they differ, and how to choose the security type that suits your systems and network. 

What is EDR?

Endpoint detection and response is a type of security solution that provides real-time visibility into endpoint activities. This is done by detecting malicious behavior, monitoring and recording endpoint data, and responding to threats. Security teams proactively prevent threats by manually analyzing endpoint data received from EDR solutions.

Threats like advanced persistent threats (APTs) and fileless attacks threaten to damage organizational networks. An EPP solution alone cannot deal with these advanced attacks. There are commercial and open source options available for EDR deployment, like those offered by Cynet, Symantec, and RSA.

EDR Capabilities

Most EDR solutions provide four main capabilities:

  • Security incident containment – EDR solutions block security incidents at network endpoints to prevent attacks from spreading across the entire network.
  • Threat detection – the ability to detect malicious activity and anomalies on endpoints instead of just looking for file-based malware
  • Incident response – EDR solutions offer incident response capabilities like security incident prioritization to help security teams respond to attacks faster.
  • Incident investigation – EDR simplifies the forensic investigation of incidents by building a central repository of endpoint data and preparing it for analysis. 

What Is EPP?

Endpoint protection platforms aim to prevent traditional threats like known malware and advanced threats like fileless attacks, ransomware, and zero-day vulnerabilities. 

Some EPP solutions include EDR capabilities. This article focuses on pure EPP security capabilities, without EDR. 

An EPP detects malicious activity using several methods:

  • Signature matching – detecting threats using known malware signatures
  • Sandboxing – testing for malicious behavior of files by executing them in a virtual environment before allowing them to run
  • Behavioral analysis – determining the baseline of endpoint behavior and identify behavioral anomalies, although there is no known threat signature
  • Static analysis – analyzing binaries and searching for malicious characteristics before execution using machine learning algorithms
  • Allowlisting and denylisting – blocking access or only permitting access to specific IP addresses, URLs, and applications

EPPs typically provide passive endpoint protection using the following tools:

  • Data encryption, potentially with some data loss prevention (DLP) capabilities
  • Antivirus and next-generation antivirus (NGAV)
  • Personal firewall protecting the endpoint

EDR vs EPP: What’s the Difference?

Many vendors combine EPP and EDR into one system. However, there are still a few differences between their capabilities.

EPPEDR
Does not require active supervisionActive threat detection
Prevents known threats and some unknown threatsEnables immediate response to incidents that EPP could not detect
Passive threat preventionHelps investigate and contain breaches that have already occurred.
Does not provide visibility into activity on endpointsHelps security staff aggregate event data from endpoints across the enterprise
First-line threat prevention solutionUsed actively by security teams to respond to incidents
Protects each endpoint by isolationProvides context and data for attacks spanning multiple endpoints

Comparing EPP and EDR Solutions

EPP solutions detect signatures and other indicators of intrusion by known threats. EDR solutions add an extra layer of defense by using threat hunting tools for behavior-based endpoint threat detection. 

EDR does not make EPP a redundant security tool, although EDR may sound like a more powerful solution. Organizations that need robust endpoint security measures should take a holistic approach that addresses traditional and advanced security threats. 

Both EPP and EDR require aspects of each other’s functionality to be considered a holistic endpoint security solution. As a result, the endpoint protection market has become somewhat vague, leading EPP vendors to addEDR capabilities to their products, and vice versa. 

EDR requires active investigation and analysis by security experts to properly respond to threats. In contrast, EPP software runs with minimal supervision needed after its initial installation and configuration.

These two types of endpoint protection systems complement rather than replace each other. Modern organizations and enterprises should combine both EDR and EPP in their cybersecurity strategy. 

EPP vs. EDR: Which should you choose?

Security experts recommend using a combination of EDR and pure EPP for endpoint protection. EDR is based on the assumption of breach, while EPP can prevent threats before they hit the endpoint. You should not take it for granted and assume that your organization is completely protected. You must always have the means to effectively respond to an attack.

But which one would you choose if you were forced to decide between them?

  • EPP does not prevent attacks, but makes it much more difficult for hackers to penetrate your perimeter. Hackers prefer to attack easier targets and avoid the major effort involved in overcoming EPP security.
  • EDR provides visibility and operational tools that enable security teams to react to an attack. Advanced attacks like APTs focus on endpoints as a weak link of the security perimeter. EDR can significantly reduce the time required for successful endpoint attack detection by identifying them and containing the full kill chain.

Conclusion

Traditional EPP tools provide basic security capabilities like anti-malware scanning, while EDR tools provide more advanced features, such as security incident detection and investigation. EDR solutions are also able to revert endpoints to a pre-infected state. Organizations can combine both tools to provide a more holistic security solution. 

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