Corporate networks are complex, and so is the myriad of cybersecurity solutions that protect them. Trying to manage all the security tools in a comprehensive way can leave security teams overwhelmed.
Extended detection and response (XDR) solutions are a new attempt to unify all those security tools. They’re designed to consolidate multiple products into a unified security solution that provides automated monitoring, analysis, detection, and remediation. The goal is to increase detection accuracy while simultaneously improving remediation and security operations efficiency. The advantages of XDR are considered to be so promising that Gartner named XDR the number one security trend to come out of 2020.
What is XDR?
One of the main goals of XDR solutions is enhanced detection and response capabilities. XDR unifies visibility and control across all endpoints, the network, and cloud workloads. This improved visibility provides contextualization of these threats to assist with remediation efforts. Not only does it help protect against modern attacks, but also future unknown attacks as they emerge.
XDR also provides integration between data sources and security operations. By collecting and analyzing data from multiple sources to validate threat alerts, it is able to reduce the occurrence of false positives and the overall number of alerts. When security teams can focus their efforts only on real threats, they save precious time.
XDR shares SIEM‘s ability to pull together data for a unified view of security, but unlike SIEM, XDR is an actual collection of products merged into a single solution. You can expect all XDR products to include Endpoint detection and response (EDR), threat intelligence and analytics, antivirus software, firewalls and data encryption, among other technologies.
Palo Alto Networks was the first to introduce the concept of XDR in 2018 with Cortex XDR. The company’s goal was to provide security teams with a higher level of threat awareness and the tools to eliminate vulnerabilities beyond what EDR could offer. Cortex XDR comprises an assortment of capabilities, including the following:
- Next-generation antivirus: This advanced antivirus software can block the latest malware, ransomware, exploits and fileless attacks.
- Endpoint protection: A combination of device controls, host firewalls and disk encryption secure all endpoints in a network.
- Detection and response: Cortex XDR uses AI-driven analytics to pinpoint the location of vulnerabilities, identify the root cause of the issue and coordinate response efforts.
- Managed threat hunting: With help from Palo Alto Network’s Unit 42 experts, you can uncover complex and advanced persistent threats (APT).
- Threat intelligence: Cortex XDR can collect data from a global community of researchers and organizations to extend visibility and enrich investigations with in-depth contextualization.
EDR vs. MDR vs. NDR vs. XDR
From the birth of EDR as a security solution space in 2013 by a Gartner analyst, three generally accepted offshoots exist.
As EDR became a more widely accepted security service, it was a matter of time before managed service providers (MSP) would offer their expertise for a price. MDR vendors can provide clients with traditional EDR security, SOC resources, and IDPS capabilities. One can expect MDR vendors are en route to adding more XDR features to their managed IT solutions.
Unlike EDR, which focuses on endpoints at the network perimeter, an alternative solution dubbed network detection and response (NDR) by Gartner in 2020 manages the internal network data and workloads. While NDR might be less familiar, it plays into how XDR improves upon its predecessors and covers end-to-end infrastructure segments.
The following graphic touches on some of the critical differences between the detection and response family of solutions.
The broad umbrella of solutions encompassed in XDR solutions provides a holistic perspective over a network’s security. An XDR product collects and correlates data across email, endpoints, servers, cloud workloads and networks. It then applies situational security context to reduce noise and expedite identification of the root cause of the threat.
Benefits of XDR
There are many benefits to implementing XDR into your security infrastructure. Ultimately, you’ll gain improved protection, detection and response capabilities. Even with large investments in security, detection and response times can still be slowed down due to a large number of data streams from different products that must be analyzed. XDR tools can centralize all of this data into a single repository, making it much easier to get a holistic view of potential threats.
Properly maintaining network security requires constant attention. This can leave security teams stretched thin, executing time-consuming tasks that take away from more important work. But they must be carried out nonetheless. XDR tools were designed to improve the efficiency of security operations with extensive automation capabilities, such as monitoring for abnormalities, pulling information from relevant data sources, sending out alerts, and even implementing remediation efforts.
If your security budget is a concern, XDR may be a good option. Without the need to pay for multiple licenses and SaaS subscriptions, you may ultimately see a lower total cost of ownership and reduced overhead.
Elements of XDR
The elements of XDR can be boiled down to three main components:
Robust analytics that combines endpoint data collection with a growing list of security controls means XDR software can identify more advanced threats.
A highly contextualized view from XDR tools makes identifying the root cause of issues a much quicker process.
XDR tools can provide query recommendations to security teams to help further an investigation. They can also offer counsel on responding to threats and remediation.
Risks of XDR
As with any new product that enters the market, there is potential for unseen consequences, the biggest of which in this case is vendor lock-in. Organizations often use a combination of vendors to fill out their security infrastructure. But if all the security solutions you need are wrapped up in one product from a single vendor, then you’re locked in. This isn’t a major issue if you’re a happy customer, but if you find that one aspect of the product is not working for your business needs, or the tech support offered by the vendor is less than satisfactory, there may not be much you can do about it.
Efficiency is a cornerstone principle for XDR products. They automate certain processes, grant high-visibility to security teams and free up time for them to work on other projects. But if you focus too much on efficiency and how quickly teams are getting things done, you risk sacrificing efficacy in the process. Don’t get too caught up in streamlining all security tasks. You should still regularly review the efficacy of your XDR solution.
XDR platforms are increasingly showing up in vendors’ catalogs, but they are by no means commonplace yet, so there are currently limited XDR vendors to choose from. But given all of the issues they can resolve if pieced together and operated properly, you will likely see more options available in the near future.
Top XDR vendors
Because XDR is a newer industry, the vendor who do offer it are powerhouse names in the industry. Some of the vendors to make our list of top XDR solutions this year include:
- Trend Micro
- Palo Alto Networks
Learn more about the emerging, comprehensive technology and the budding XDR market in our Top XDR Solutions of 2021.
This article was updated by Sam Ingalls on July 17, 2021.