Threat Detection And Response

What Is Extended Detection And Response (XDR)?

As a relative newcomer in the threat detection and response market, what is an XDR solution and why should you consider investing in one?

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An extended detection and response (XDR) solution is a cloud-based platform that consolidates various threat prevention, detection, and response technologies to provide more unified security, better insight into threats, and improved response times.  

And, while XDR is a relatively recent concept and an emerging technology, it’s becoming somewhat of a buzzword in threat detection and response. But why is it so quickly gaining momentum in the cybersecurity space?

Well, many of the most common issues that security operation center (SOC) analysts and security teams are currently facing boil down to either not having enough time or appropriate resources available to respond to the avalanches of alerts they receive daily, or simply suffering from lack of visibility and integration between security tools. 

XDR aims to address these issues by taking a holistic approach to threat prevention, detection, and response, grouping and integrating various tools to enable security and SOC teams to detect more sophisticated attacks, reduce and prioritize alerts, and take remediation actions more quickly. 

But what exactly is XDR, and should you invest in it?

Throughout this article, we’ll take a look at what XDR is, how it works, which features should come as part of a good XDR solution, and what differentiates XDR from some of the security tools already on the market. 

What Is XDR And What Are Its Key Features?

An XDR platform is a consolidation of various threat prevention, detection, and response tools that facilitate improved threat prevention and detection, better investigation, and quicker remediation. 

And, while not all XDR solutions are made equal and each solution varies from vendor to vendor, some of the tools that might come integrated with an XDR solution include:  

XDR tools are designed not only to prevent threats, but also detect, analyze, and remediate them. To achieve this, an XDR platform leverages its various integrated tools to seamlessly collect and collate telemetry across your entire environment—including data points across your endpoints, email, networks, servers, identity and access management solutions, and cloud. 

It then detects, correlates, contextualizes, and prioritizes data and alerts collected across these various tools using artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and behavioral analysis. This helps to reduce alerts and weed out false positives, enabling security teams to investigate and triage events more easily, as well as quickly respond to and remediate threats—all from one consolidated platform. 

Key Features Of An XDR Solution

Now that we know what XDR platforms are and how they work, let’s take a deeper look into some of their key features. Here are ten key capabilities and features you should look for in an XDR solution:

  1. Threat prevention: The foundation for any solid XDR platform is powerful threat prevention—this means the inclusion of powerful antivirus tools, secure email gateways, firewalls, customizable prevention rules, traffic analysis, and more.
  2. Threat detection: XDR platforms are designed to provide visibility across your entire IT estate, integrating telemetry and better detecting sophisticated threats across a range of sources. 
  3. AI and ML analysis: With more sophisticated attacks making it past traditional detection tools, AI- and ML-based detection and telemetry analysis is vital for spotting more advanced attacks.  
  4. Threat intelligence and hunting: A key feature of any powerful XDR solution is powerful internal and external threat intelligence, as well as threat hunting capabilities. This helps organizations search, detect, and respond to unknown and zero-day attacks, anticipate any attacks headed their way, and automatically analyze threats across silos. 
  5. Alert correlation and validation: With multiple sources of data feeding into an XDR tool, it’s vital for that tool to be able to not only correlate and group related alerts and events but also weed out false positives using contextual data and advanced analysis. 
  6. Alert prioritization: Security and SOC teams are often faced with an overwhelming number of security alerts on a given day. A good XDR solution should not only correlate and validate alerts, but also triage and prioritize them based on urgency and threat level. This means teams can more promptly respond to high-priority alerts. 
  7. Incident investigation: Fewer and validated alerts alongside contextual information allow for faster, highly accurate investigation. A solid XDR tool should enable teams to easily investigate an incident across its entire lifecycle—from when the incident occurred right up to its remediation—and view all related data, such as event logs, registry keys, and more.
  8. Threat response: Once a threat has been validated, analyzed, and investigated, a good XDR solution should be able to either automatically respond to and remediate the threat or provide guidance for admins to do so. 
  9. Data retention: Telemetry data can be vital evidence of an ongoing or long-term planned attack—but failing to retain historical data over longer periods of time can give attackers that are playing the long game an advantage. A good XDR solution should have a strong data retention period, as well as the ability to connect this data with any new related telemetry.
  10. Dashboards and reporting: Last (but not least) in our list, reporting is a vital feature of any XDR solution because it enables admins to see where their organization is performing well, where improvements can be made, and also to track progress over time. This should come in the form of a centralized dashboard that makes summarizing and understanding data a quick and easy task. 

What Are The Benefits Of Using An XDR Solution?

The term “XDR” was coined by co-founder and CTO of Palo Alto Networks Nir Zuk in 2018, and first emerged as a product designed to help organizations more effectively detect sophisticated attacks, investigate alerts, and respond to threats. Today XDR technologies aptly address many of the key challenges that SOCs and security teams face on a daily basis. 

Let’s take an in-depth look at three key benefits that come with using an XDR platform, and the specific challenges they can help organizations to solve.

Reduce Tool And Vendor Sprawl

With such a breadth of innovative, advanced, and powerful security tools on the market, organizations today often find themselves drowning in their use of various tools by multiple vendors and struggling to find the resources to keep on top of them. 

In fact, a 2022 study commissioned by Orca Security found that 57% of organizations currently use five or more public cloud security tools alone across their environments—with approximately 22% using ten or more. And there was a clear correlation between not only the number of tools an organization used and the number of alerts they received, but also the number of their employees suffering from alert fatigue. 

Gartner predicts that by 2027, up to 40% of end-user organizations will use XDR to reduce the number of security vendors they have in place. By consolidating various tools, providing vendor-specific solutions, and correlating alerts, XDR tools can help reduce the strain on teams, as well as provide better visibility across environments, helping teams to spot more sophisticated threats that might get lost between silos. 

Generate Consolidated And Accurate Alerts

The consequences of heavy product and vendor sprawl are that organizations often suffer from an overwhelming number of disconnected, irrelevant alerts and false positives. And this is a big problem when it comes to security.

In fact, a 2022 study found that 59% of organizations receive more than 500 cloud security alerts alone per day. This means that not only are SOCs and security teams often left overwhelmed (with 83% of organizations agreeing that their employees often experience alert fatigue) but also some of the most critical alerts can go undetected (with 55% of organizations admitting to having missed critical alerts due to ineffective prioritization).

Another issue is that a large number of alerts are often inaccurate (with 43% of organizations agreeing that more than 40% of their alerts are false positives) due to lack of coordination and context shared between siloed tools.

XDR addresses these issues by integrating security tools together from the very beginning, combining and correlating alerts to verify their relevance and weed out false positives, determine signals of malicious intent, and contextualize events. 

This means that, instead of an organization receiving multiple related alerts from siloed tools, they’ll receive one condensed, contextualized, and prioritized alert from the XDR platform. This helps teams not only identify the most critical alerts, but also to respond to them more quickly and effectively.

Improve Productivity Through Automation

With such a high number of alerts coming through to SOC and security teams daily, productivity is often at the forefront of an organization’s concerns. But with tool sprawl and overwhelming alerts being a prominent issue, staying productive can be challenging. 

In fact, 56% of organizations agree that more than 20% of their day is spent on reviewing and prioritizing alerts, while 46% say that it can take 3 days or more to remediate an alert. 

Automation can go a long way in helping ensure productivity organization-wide. And the stats reflect that—a massive 92% of organizations agree that the best way to deal with large volumes of security alerts is via automation.  

XDR helps boost productivity by automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks, prioritizing alerts based on threat level and criticality, and providing all the context that teams need to address issues—all on one platform.

XDR also detects threats automatically using AI and ML, and can automate incident response workflows. Some XDR solutions might even have the ability to automatically remediate basic/common issues, without the need for manual involvement, or alternatively, provide weighted guidance on how to best resolve issues. 

Who Is XDR Best Suited For?

We recommend XDR for security teams that are particularly struggling with addressing an overwhelming volume of alerts, lack of visibility due to product and vendor sprawl, and those struggling to efficiently and effectively address security issues and events.

Research company Gartner also suggests in its 2021 Market Guide For Extended Detection and Response that XDR tools are particularly useful for teams that are currently struggling to manage a large portfolio of security tools, or aren’t quite getting enough value from their security information and event management (SIEM) and security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) tools. They also recommend these solutions for smaller teams that might not have the resources available to manage larger portfolios and more complex tools.

If you’re already using detection and response tools such as endpoint detection and response (EDR), SIEM, or SOAR and are wondering what differentiates XDR, take a look at our article: XDR Vs EDR, SIEM, And SOAR: Is XDR One Tool To Rule Them All?

Summary

Extended detection and response solutions are designed to enable SOCs and security teams to better detect sophisticated threats, analyze and prioritize alerts, and more efficiently respond to security incidents—and come with a wealth of benefits alongside those. 

If XDR sounds like it would benefit your organization, take a look at our guide: The Top Extended Detection And Response (XDR) Solutions