What is threat detection and response?

Lacework EditorialJanuary 25, 20237 min read

Abstract architectural photo shot from the ground. Features a lot of modern windows and steel.Threat detection and response, commonly abbreviated to TDR, is the process of identifying cyber attacks that are intended to cause harm in an organization’s environment — either on-premises or in the cloud.

Whether you’re facing a sophisticated phishing attack or a form of never-before-seen malware (also known as an “unknown threat” or “unknown unknown”), threat detection and response solutions can help you find, address, and remediate the security issues in your environment.

Threat detection and response (TDR) definition

Unfortunately, the relentless pressure from cyber criminals, combined with many high-profile attacks, has increased the need for security teams to streamline their detection process and elevate their threat response. Security teams need better visibility and integrated threat intelligence, as well as a structured approach to reduce attacker dwell time. The longer an attacker lurks unnoticed in an organization’s system, the greater the damage that attacker can cause. This is especially true with modern tactics like cryptomining attacks (i.e., cryptojacking) and data exfiltration.

For years, security teams wrote “rules” to detect new threats based on the identified signatures of previously known threats. Now, detection has evolved beyond just signatures to include behavioral analysis. This approach looks for both signatures and anomalous activity in order to uncover threats — both known and unknown — before they can be exploited. With a TDR tool, organizations can scan large data sets (like activity logs), look for possible threats, analyze the information with meaningful context, and receive actionable next steps.

We’re all too aware of the security personnel shortage that has plagued the cybersecurity industry for years. By using tools to automate previously manual efforts, a TDR solution helps you speed decision-making and keep your organization safe from damaging attacks, without the need to add additional headcount.

Threat detection

Unsurprisingly, TDR begins with effective threat detection, which is key to a strong and healthy security posture. But threat awareness is not enough on its own — once you’ve identified a threat, you also need to understand its impact on exposed resources so you can respond accordingly. A successful program helps you automatically find threats and understand the criticality based on your unique environment, which reduces the burden on strained security teams.


Once a threat has been identified, threat detection and response moves to the remediation phase. Response speed is critical when it comes to remediation, and not all solutions are created equal. The market has many threat intelligence platforms with features that vary from vendor to vendor.
Some TDR solutions can automatically remediate a threat, while others notify you if a device has been used for malicious purposes, placing an asset at risk. Though auto-remediation features can be convenient, many cybersecurity experts remain rightly skeptical about these capabilities, given the elusive nature of modern threats.

Response tools can be installed on endpoint devices like servers and laptops for continuous analytics and tracking purposes. This enables administrators to monitor their networks and infrastructure plus resolve security risks from potential threats, often from a centrally managed dashboard or console.

The majority of response solutions feature the following capabilities:

  • Data analysis
  • Network monitoring and reporting
  • Alert management
  • Risk prioritization
  • Risk mitigation
  • Speed remediation

By automatically sifting through data including activity logs, to identify possible exposures, these solutions help administrators contain threats, respond to red flags, and prioritize remediation efforts to address the biggest issues first. TDR solutions may also provide security guidance to help streamline the sea of alerts and improve communication between different teams.

What does TDR protect against?

Threat detection identifies and analyzes the following types of threats so that security teams can formulate strategies to mitigate risk. Here are some of the most common threat types.

Malware is malicious software that infects a machine or network. Malware detection is becoming increasingly difficult as this software has become more sophisticated and evasive. Modern malware attack campaigns employ polymorphism — or the ability to constantly change identifiable features — to evade signature-based detection systems. These polymorphic attacks use unique malware samples for each target organization.

Types of malware include viruses, trojan horses, ransomware, and spyware. If not detected, malware can cause downtime and security breaches. Malware can also infiltrate applications, leading organizations to lose time and money, plus face stiff compliance violations or penalties.

Known and unknown threats

A known threat is exactly that — a threat that has been previously identified in the wild. To identify threats, threat intelligence looks at signature data from previously seen attacks and compares it to enterprise data. Unfortunately, however, not all threats are known; these are often referred to as unknown unknown or unknown threats.

Signature-based threat detection gets harder by the day, especially as attackers change their tactics. As mentioned, modern bad actors often evolve their malware at such a fast rate, using existing code with little tweaks here and there to make themselves more evasive to traditional security approaches. This is one of the many reasons antivirus software, network filters, and intrusion detection and prevention systems are no longer enough to keep organizations safe.

Other evasive malware threats

Evasive malware is any kind of malware that avoids detection by antivirus software, EDRs (endpoint detection and response solutions), XDRs (extended detection and response solutions), and other types of cybersecurity solutions.

How is one type of malware more evasive than the next? Typically, evasive malware uses sophisticated tactics to circumvent cybersecurity tools — tactics like sandbox evasion, process injection, time-based evasion, Microsoft Office macros, or obfuscation. Evasive malware typically buys attackers more time by doing a better job of hiding. The longer the malware remains undetected, the more damage it is likely to cause the organization in terms of downtime, compliance violations, and breaches — not to mention damage to the organization’s reputation.

Safeguard your organization with a TDR solution

For threats that an organization is unable to prevent, the ability to rapidly detect and respond to them is critical to minimizing damage and cost. Some solutions offer a standalone option. Others sell “threat detection” as a feature of an existing security product, portfolio or platform.

The list is long, but here are the most common tools that utilize some form of TDR to help secure your data, personally identifiable information (PII), customer information, and other important information.

  • Security information and event management (SIEM) systems. A SIEM solution is a centralized place to amass cloud log data. Security teams can then query this vast amount of cloud log data to find items of concern. However, relying on traditional SIEM systems for threat detection and response can be costly and inefficient.
  • Threat intelligence platforms. These solutions provide organizations with transparency and visibility into all attack vectors. Security teams can then know what is happening across multicloud environments, the network, email, cloud-based applications, mobile apps, and more.
  • Intrusion detection systems (IDS) and intrusion prevention systems (IPS). These solutions analyze network traffic for patterns and recognize malicious attack patterns. Intrusion prevention systems combine the analysis functionality of an IDS with the ability to intervene and prevent the delivery of malicious packets.
  • Endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions. These solutions identify malware attacks using artificial intelligence and sandbox-based content analysis techniques that are not easily fooled by evasion tactics.
  • User and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) solutions. These solutions use algorithms and machine learning to detect anomalies in the behavior of not only the users in a corporate network but also the routers, servers, and endpoints in that network.
  • Cloud access and security brokers (CASB) solutions. These solutions provide an additional protection layer for company employees accessing cloud-based applications. They also enforce security policies and serve as a gateway between cloud applications and users, enabling organizations to deliver on-prem security controls beyond their local infrastructure.
  • Cutting-edge data analytics solutions. Enterprise networks are growing more and more complex and include a wide variety of different endpoints. This means that security teams have access to more security data than they can effectively process or use. Cutting-edge data analytics are a critical component of distilling this mass of data into usable insights to differentiate true threats from false positives.
  • Threat intelligence integration. Threat intelligence feeds can be an invaluable source of information regarding current cyber campaigns and other aspects of cybersecurity risk. A TDR solution should allow the direct integration of threat intelligence feeds, which can be used as a source of data when identifying and classifying potential threats.

Threat detection and response FAQs

What are two methods that detect threats?

Two methods that detect threats are signature-based detection and anomaly-based threat detection (i.e., behavior-based threat detection). The latter can identify threats previously not seen in the wild, as opposed to the former, which relies on previously seen attack signatures.

What does a detection and response team do?

A threat detection and response team relies on TDR tools to identify threats and quickly remediate. Any company, regardless of industry or size, can benefit from threat detection and response solutions, as modern threats can exist anywhere in your environment: from your cloud to your data center to your endpoints.

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