Microsoft Defender for Endpoint Review

Automated Investigation and Response reduces workload of our SOC analysts, but lacks integration customization

What is our primary use case?

We use it for endpoint detection and response.

The agent is installed on the endpoint, on the laptop or desktop, but it's a SaaS solution.

How has it helped my organization?

One feature that has proven beneficial is the Threat and Vulnerability Management module of Defender for Endpoint, which provides information on the vulnerability of all the endpoints. We don't have to run active scans via network scanners. It is built-in. That has proven to be helpful, although we're still in the early phases. We have identified vulnerabilities that were in our organization for too long and nobody knew about those machines and the vulnerabilities on them. From a vulnerability remediation point of view, it has been quite helpful to us.

What is most valuable?

One of the features which differentiates it from other EDR providers is the Automated Investigation and Response, which reduces the workload of SOC analysts or engineers. They don't have to manually investigate each and every alert on the endpoint, since it does so automatically. And you can automate the investigation part.

In addition, there are several features that have helped to improve our security posture at the prevention level, such as the attack surface reduction controls and the exploit prevention control. The attack surface reduction comes with the solution, out-of-the-box. There is Application Control as well, which is kind of difficult to implement, but once you are through the pain of designing and implementing it, it is one of the very good features to have. These tools are some of the things that are missing from other vendors' products, as I have worked with McAfee, Symantec and Carbon Black.

What needs improvement?

One area for improvement is that, because it comes out-of-the-box, it does not interact well with many applications we have developed in-house. There is no way to exclude them because it interacts with everything on the endpoint. One of the issues is lagging: the in-house-developed applications suffer from this and they become slow. For a big enterprise, it is important that they include a feature so that we can exclude these applications.

Another area where it could be improved is that, while it collects a lot of data, it misses some data, which is important, such as the hardware version of the endpoint and the AV signature version. I think this improvement is in the Microsoft pipeline already but it is not in the solution yet.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using Microsoft Defender for Endpoint for around one and a half years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It has been quite stable up until now. It does not break. Microsoft is developing on it quite frequently and more and more features are coming in, but overall it is quite stable. It does not break that often.

As we have moved away from Microsoft Defender Antivirus and to the EDR solution, we have seen very few issues so far that users have faced with this. There have been very occasional performance issues for some users, but they have been very rare.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability is one thing which, I think, Microsoft is working on, because it is not yet very scalable. What it provides out-of-the-box is all it has. Any big organization needs customization, but the customization of it and running customized things on top of it are areas where it is lagging. That something Microsoft needs to work on. Examples include running custom playbooks or customizing the events which it is collecting.

We are protecting 100,000 endpoints with this solution. We may increase usage, but there is no plan for that as of yet.

How are customer service and technical support?

Microsoft technical support is good.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Before Microsoft Defender for Endpoint we had Carbon Black. But when I came onboard, Defender for Endpoint had already been chosen.

How was the initial setup?

The setup process is not very complex, but it is also not very straightforward. It depends what solutions you have. If you have everything set up, which is usually the case for big organizations, then it is pretty smooth. But if there are some things that are not set up properly in the organization, like certain parts of the infra or the cloud onboarding, then it becomes cumbersome, not the installation part, but in setting up the backend which it needs.

Our implementation strategy was that we started with a few pilot machines, to onboard Defender for Endpoint. We noticed that we had around 70 to 80 percent failures. It was a learning phase and we identified the root cause of those failures. There are some settings in Defender AV that need tweaking when you want to onboard Defender for Endpoint. We struggled to tweak those settings, but once that was done, it went pretty smoothly for the next couple of pilots. Then we encountered another roadblock which was related to an OS version dependency.

Overall, it took us about one month to onboard the solution, but we are weak in infra.

What about the implementation team?

We had our consultant from Microsoft for the implementation. The engagement went on for three to four months. But one thing we noticed from this project was that it did not need a consultant. It was not that difficult to do. Maybe we did not get an expert consultant because, for solving issues, he also took time.

In addition to doing onboarding, we wanted our third-party integrations, but that was something they could not do because they were Microsoft. We had to do that ourselves. Over that three or four months, we realized that we didn't need them.

Microsoft consultancy is good and bad. If you get good consultants, they are really good. But sometimes you get consultants who are not expert enough in their domains and you don't get enough from them.

What was our ROI?

We have not seen ROI yet, but we are hopeful that in the future it will provide that.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

One of the differences between other solutions I have used and Microsoft Defender for Endpoint is that the latter is not yet enterprise-ready to the same extent that the other vendors are. Other vendors provide a lot of customization when it comes to integration, which every big organization requires. No big organization depends on one particular tool. Defender lacks that at this point.

What other advice do I have?

Defender for Endpoint is marketed as an endpoint detection and response tool, but for others who are looking at onboarding it, they should take it as a holistic tool that provides AV, EDR, and vulnerability management all in one. However, it does not provide very good integration with third parties.

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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