Extended Detection and Response (XDR – EDR was already taken) is a cloud-delivered service that correlates and interprets data from a number of sources across your network to provide advanced threat analysis and remediation. By taking information from areas like email accounts, endpoints, servers, cloud systems, etc., XDR can identify trends and the potential risks that you face. An anomaly that might seem insignificant in one area, if replicated across a network could signify a significant threat or vulnerability.
By using machine learning and AI, XDR can spot trends early on, then enact remediation procedures to keep your network secure. XDR solutions can also share insights from other users, to ensure that your solution is always primed to combat the most urgent security threats.
So, how does XDR work, and should you consider implementing an XDR solution?
How Does XDR Work?
XDR solutions work by combining three key areas: integration, analysis, and response.
Deep API integration is the first, and most unique, element of XDR. This enables XDR to build a holistic and detailed image of your security set up. The more integrations, the more data the XDR will have to effectively identify and combat threats.
XDR collates information from endpoints (smartphones, IoT devices, workstations, laptops, etc.), networks (public, private and cloud), applications (software and SaaS), and cloud services, tools, and databases. This comprehensive integration provides a complete picture of your network and how your users behave. However, this information, whilst being extensive, can only be truly useful once it is analyzed.
Once the data has been ingested by the XDR platform, sophisticated analysis can be run to identify trends and potential threats. XDR uses AI to find outliers in the breadcrumbs of data it collects. Over time, the AI will become more accurate as it builds a clearer picture of your behaviours and your system. This allows it to detect patterns of behavior, that would otherwise go unnoticed by human analysis.
XDR solutions provide a clear dashboard that allows administrators to understand the insights that have been compiled. This ensures admin can make an informed decision regarding the nature of a threat and ensure their security policies are effective.
It is through this analysis dashboard that you can understand current or remediated attacks. Node graphs and timelines clearly explain how an attack entered your system and trace its path through your network. With ongoing attacks, this allows you to protect areas that are not already affected, thereby maintaining network security. If an attack pattern has been replicated, the XDR will flag it and provide insights into how best to counter this attack.
Once a threat has been identified, XDR can make a precise intervention to remedy the issue. This might include blocking an IP, blocking a domain, or quarantining a suspicious asset. XDR can respond automatically, thereby ensuring attacks are stopped as quickly as possible. Automated responses will follow a predefined blueprint to ensure that business-critical infrastructure is not shut down without human oversight. This blueprint can be adapted by the admin but will also act dynamically – the XDR solution will respond to the issue it is facing and react to the behavior of that specific threat.
For example, if an endpoint is infected, it can be locked out of the network immediately, rather than needing a busy IT member to approve this simple step. This prevents the malware from spreading, whilst allowing staff to focus on the most complex and pressing issues.
For more complex attacks, IT staff might need to have more control of the XDR response. By only requiring human intervention when absolutely necessary, dashboard fatigue can be reduced, while ensuring that IT staff can focus on relevant issues. “Alert fatigue” is an issue that 83% of security staff are currently facing – this is where someone responsible for managing remediation is overwhelmed, and subsequently desensitized, to the number of alerts. If the majority of alerts are false alarms, the admin member is unlikely to appreciate the full significance of the threat.
XDR can prevent alert fatigue by automatically remediating many of the threats that your network faces. Admin users can be alerted to the most serious threats, and only when their input is needed. By remediating threats automatically and only alerting the admin in more complex cases, the number of alert notifications can be cut drastically, mitigating the risk of human error.
XDR is designed to incorporate and utilize the pre-existing security features that you have in place.
The important features of an XDR solution are:
- Integration. The solution must be versatile enough to incorporate information from a number of pre-existing sources. The more robust your existing email security, firewalls, and endpoint security are, the more effectively XDR can identify and combat any new threats.
- ML and AI capabilities will ensure that prior knowledge can be used to comprehensively hunt threats and lead remediation efforts. This ensures that protection can work automatically, and continually. As the solution gains more information about your systems, it can intervene accurately and precisely to safeguard your network.
- It is important that an XDR tool has an effective way of communicating the data that it has gathered to the admin so they can assess whether the security infrastructure is sufficient. Some XDR solutions provide prioritized threat notifications and can place warning banners on emails and sites.
- Data retention ensures that remediation can be quick and effective. Every time the XDR encounters a threat, it can scan its records to see if it has encountered that threat before. If the XDR solution has a record of it, remediation can be fast and effective. If the threat is novel, it may share behaviors with previously experienced threats, making it easier to combat.
- Although we have already touched on automation, it is worth listing this as its own feature, too. Automation ensures that your network is kept secure – threats can be prevented before your users are even aware that they exist. In essence, as a user, you will have very little interaction with an XDR solution, unless the threat is particularly complex.
EDR, MDR, And NDR
XDR is in the same family of solutions as Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR), Managed Detection and Response (MDR) and Network Detection and Response (NDR). Each of these solutions aims to identify and resolve security threats at a different point of its journey through your network.
EDR (Endpoint Detection And Response)
EDR focuses on preventing threats from entering your systems via endpoints. It has the capacity to monitor and record events across each area it is integrated with, then alert admins if any suspicious behavior is recognized. This actionable intelligence is powered by data analysis and enables EDR to perform specific and targeted remediation.
EDR solutions can identify and respond to threats from an endpoint but do not provide the centralized overview that XDR does. EDR will feed information into an MDR or XDR solution, and can therefore be thought of as a subset or a tool of XDR.
MDR (Managed Detection And Response)
MDR is a way of managing multiple security solutions. It sits somewhere between EDR and XDR. Some describe it as EDR “as-a-service” because it is a threat detection solution that is managed by a vendor. This means that an organization does not need dedicated or technical staff to manage their security. The vendor will deploy and manage the MDR solution, and also assign an SOC team to oversee threat remediation. By using MDR, smaller to midsize organizations are able to protect their networks with a sophisticated service that would be otherwise impossible for them to operate in-house.
Within the range of MDR solutions, there are a number of options and features available, depending on your needs and specifications. Common features include:
- Optimization of existing security stack
- Endpoint protection
- Threat detection and detection
- Incident management and remediation
- Security support from a SOC
- Threat analysis and intelligence
NDR (Network Detection And Response)
In a very similar way to EDR, NDR is focused on a specific area of your security but does not provide overarching visibility. NDR systems use non-signature-based techniques to analyze inbound and outbound traffic, as well as traffic across your network. Once suspicious traffic is identified, NDR solutions will respond to the threat and nullify any danger. NDR is effective at identifying and resolving network-based threats and, like EDR, can feed into XDR to enhance the available data.
Automated Analysis and Remediation
XDR can effectively and precisely investigate any threats that enter your network and respond to less complex alerts without the need for human interaction. This allows your IT team to focus on the rest of their workload and on more critical issues, whilst ensuring your systems are safe. This is also much quicker than waiting for a human to interpret the data, then react. XDR will continue to search out threats and understand the impact of an attack automatically – this reduces workload and enhances security posture.
Frictionless Background Operation
By continually running in the background, XDR ensures that your systems are always being monitored and protected. You do not need to proactively look for threats as XDR does this for you. When coupled with autonomous remediation capabilities, XDR can keep your entire environment secure with little human intervention.
Optimizes Your Security Set-Up
XDR solutions ensure that you get the most out of your cybersecurity capabilities through pulling information together from a range of sources and performing advanced analysis on it. Rather than having multiple security systems operating in isolation, XDR can oversee your systems in their entirety. This ensures that any vulnerabilities or weak points can be identified and dealt with before your organization comes under threat.
XDR is a highly effective and advanced tool that can enhance your security set up through data monitoring and analysis. Its proactive approach ensures that there are no weak points in your set up. By compiling data from a range of areas, data analysis is advanced and accurate, enabling anomalies to be identified before they become threats.
If you are interested in reading more about XDR, read our article on The Top Extended Detection And Response (XDR) Solutions.
XDR is a comprehensive solution to your network security, however, it is not for every organization. The level of security offered might be unnecessary for your organization, the level of technical complexity might be beyond your staff’s skillset, or the price of such an advanced solution might not be viable for your organization at this moment. In these scenarios, MDR and EDR remain effective security solutions that may be better suited to your organization.
If you are interested in finding out more about MDR solutions, read our article here.
If you think that EDR would be more suitable, read our Top 10 Article here.