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Strengthening Endpoint Security: Managed Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)

Lorna Jones

Lorna Jones, Senior Cyber Security Consultant
Jan 20, 2024

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The New Gold Rush: Protecting Black Gold with Managed EDR

The oil flowing from the ground may be black gold, but the data generated by the oil and gas industry is just as precious. Cyber threats are increasingly becoming more complex and targeted in an increasingly connected world. Like an old Western flick, the bad guys want to ride into town, access all the valuable assets, and wreak havoc.

Luckily, there's a new sheriff keeping watch - managed endpoint detection and response. With advanced AI and human expertise, worked EDR is protecting endpoints and securing the next generation of grizzled, hard-working oil rigs—time to saddle up and see how managed EDR tools can reinforce defences for those protecting liquid gold. 

Showdown at the OT Corral: Attacks on Oil & Gas Infrastructure

Before diving into solutions, understanding the problems facing the oil and gas industry is vital. Hackers increasingly set their sights on critical infrastructure, with potentially devastating impacts.
In 2021, Colonial Pipeline was infamously forced to shut down operations for nearly a week due to a crippling ransomware attack. The disruption led to fuel shortages and price hikes across the Eastern US. This attack was a wake-up call for oil and gas companies.
Other recent cyber events, like Russia's attacks on Ukraine's energy sector, compound fear. Adversaries are even weaponising "wiper" malware intended to destroy systems permanently. The stakes are incredibly high for keeping oil and gas infrastructure secure and resilient.
With operational technology (OT) and industrial control systems (ICS) running drilling, pipeline transport, refining, and distribution - a successful breach could be catastrophic. Like bandits plotting to infiltrate a wealthy boomtown, attackers are drawn to the crown jewels.

Riding Into the Sunset: The Limits of Legacy Security

Many oil and gas firms rely on legacy antivirus, firewalls, and other perimeter security tools. But against modern attacks, those defences often prove ineffective.
Once attackers penetrate the outer walls, they move laterally across networks. With remote access and credential theft, adversaries easily reach critical systems. Those bandits are hiding in the saloon, playing poker with the sheriff.

Legacy tools also need more visibility into OT environments and ICS protocols like Modbus or DNP3. Attempting to shoehorn these industrial assets into IT security frameworks is an uphill battle.
Response times are fast with proper endpoint visibility and early detection protocols. Security teams may only discover breaches for a short time. By then, hackers already rustled the data cattle away.

High Noon: The EDR & MDR Showdown

Luckily, a new dynamic duo has arrived to secure better those rough-and-tumble OT frontiers - endpoint detection and response (EDR) platforms coupled with managed detection and response (MDR) services.

EDR software provides continuous monitoring of endpoint activity and behaviours. Advanced techniques like AI and machine learning can identify early indicators of compromise like unusual processes, registry changes, or network connections.
EDR alerts security teams to these real-time anomalies, allowing rapid investigation and response. EDR tools also provide essential visibility into OT infrastructure behaviour and vulnerabilities.

But EDR alone is still just a shiny new badge. The natural muscle comes from deputising managed service providers. MDR services, like Red Sheriff for CrowdStrike or SentinelOne's Vigilance MDR, integrate their in-house experts and security operations centres (SOCs) with client EDR tools.
24/7 threat hunting from these SOCs acts like an elite posse, meticulously combing through alerts and indicators to isolate and escalate serious incidents. Compliance reporting, dedicated infrastructure monitoring, emergency response, and full-service remediation provide complete oversight.

With MDR, overburdened small-town security teams gain an army of cybersecurity deputies. This amplification allows faster threat detection and response while the in-house Marshal focuses on strategy.

Wanted Dead or Alive: Use Cases to Round Up Risks

MDR's threat-hunting expertise goes far beyond checking the Most Wanted lists. Here are critical use cases for strengthening oil and gas endpoint security:

Asset discovery -

Pinpointing every endpoint, server, system, and component across IT and OT. Critical for managing and monitoring infrastructure.

Vulnerability management -

Continuous scanning to identify unpatched systems, misconfigurations, and exploitable weaknesses before criminals infiltrate.

Policy enforcement -

Ensure critical assets have proper logging, behavioural monitoring, and security controls applied automatically.

Micro-segmentation -

Isolate and control lateral movement between endpoints through strict access controls and protocol filtering.

ICS monitoring -

Decode OT behaviour and communication to spot anomalies in pumps, generators, pipelines or other control systems.

Incident response -

MDR experts handle containment, eradication, recovery, and forensic analysis to shore up defences.

With rigorous endpoint hygiene enforced, attackers have no place to hide. MDR services provide the insights, expertise, and speed to react in real-time across expansive OT environments.

Riding Off Into the (More Secure) Sunset

Many oil and gas firms rely heavily on legacy antivirus, firewalls, and perimeter security tools. However, these defences are often ineffective against modern, sophisticated threats that evade point solutions. Once attackers penetrate the outermost security layers, they pivot laterally across networks targeting critical systems.
With remote access attacks and credential theft, adversaries easily reach vital operational targets after the initial breach. Legacy tools lack visibility into abnormal behaviours and threat patterns inside the network that signal compromise. Attempting to shoehorn critical OT and ICS assets into rules meant for corporate IT networks also poses challenges.
Response times are slow with legacy security, as threats go undetected for longer without continuous endpoint monitoring and behavioural analytics. Security teams typically only uncover breaches after the damage is done and data exfiltrated because of dependence on periodic scanning rather than real-time threat hunting.
The growing use of encryption, polymorphic malware, zero-days, and file-less techniques complicates detection for signature-based defences. And legacy tools often need help providing forensic data and workflows for efficient incident response.
Against today's attacks, the reactive nature and limited visibility of legacy antivirus, firewalls, and gateways leave oil and gas firms highly exposed. More advanced behavioural analytics and continuous threat hunting are imperative for protecting highly targeted OT environments.

Highlights from the Most Wanted Lists: Top MDR Providers

As MDR services gain popularity, the market has exploded with vendors offering various capabilities and approaches. Choosing the right partner is critical for organisations to strengthen endpoint security through 24/7 threat hunting and response. Here are key attributes to assess top MDR providers:

Proven experience in specific industries like oil and gas, domain expertise in ICS protocols, and OT behaviours are vital. Ask for case studies showing experience serving similar clients.
Top-tier threat intelligence that combines industry-specific IOCs with global intelligence to customise detection for client environments. Staying on top of emerging threats in your sector is critical.
Your company’s breadth of visibility across endpoints, networks, clouds, identities, and custom applications must be vast and predictive. Cross-stack visibility is crucial for detecting sophisticated multi-vector threats.
Advanced analytics utilise machine learning, user behaviour analysis, and log correlation to identify threats missed by rules and signatures. The engine behind threat detection requires constant tuning.
Your business must possess efficient investigations with built-in workflows for collecting forensic artefacts, tracing malware origins, and assessing the scope of compromise. Responding quickly and thoroughly matters.
Regulatory support with audit-ready reporting that tracks compliance issues and progress. MDRs should understand regulations impacting client industries like NERC CIP.
Proactive threat hunting that scours systems and data to identify risks before they become incidents. Hunting separates essential monitoring from actual expertise.
The most effective MDR partners offer a fusion of round-the-clock vigilance, industry-specific understanding, and advanced analytics tailored to each organisation's needs. Evaluating providers based on these criteria can help identify the best fit.

The Next Step on the Cybersecurity Trail

With great innovation comes great responsibility. The oil and gas industry has led the way in powering society's advancements for over a century. It's time to take the next step on the cybersecurity trail.
As the stewards of critical infrastructure that fuels the world, we must guard these vital assets from disruption. Our operational technology and industrial control systems require specialised protection to match their unique risks.

The legacy security tools were designed for something other than the modern threat landscape. Perimeter defences are penetrated all too easily while attacks grow more sophisticated. We can no longer rely on a worn-out Sheriff clinging to dated tactics.
The Wild West frontier beckoned explorers with boundless opportunity. But lasting settlements required more than temporary tents. They needed sturdy structures, complex fortifications, and, most of all – evolvement.

The moment has arrived for oil and gas leaders to build the next generation of cyber defences. Join over 2500 organisations, including industry partners and competitors, in implementing managed EDR to protect your most vital assets.
With Managed EDR, your company monitors vulnerabilities around the clock. Threats are isolated immediately, no matter how stealthy the bandits are. Patient adversaries are rooted out before they can cause harm. Not only are assets protected, but insights are continuously generated to inform strategy.
MicrominderCS utilises top-rated EDR software and expert threat hunters to provide complete coverage.
We've helped secure many major oil companies, refineries, pipelines, and more. Our MSSPs live and breathe OT – it's in our blood.
Take action before taking action before the following headline of disruption. Connect with our Marshals today to finally get the advanced security needed to protect what matters most. The train is leaving the station. It is the moment to secure your assets for generations to come. Seize the opportunity and lead.

So for all those seeking to lock down their liquid gold, ride into town with managed EDR today. With the bad guys getting bolder, the clock is ticking - so schedule a standoff at noon with top MDR providers before it's too late. The train is leaving the station, and advanced persistent threats are on board. Will your data cattle be aboard as well?

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