Extended detection and response (XDR) is a cloud-based, vendor-specific technology that consolidates and integrates numerous threat prevention, detection, and response technologies all on one platform. This provides organizations with more unified security, better visibility and analysis of threats, and faster responses to events.
But, as a relative newcomer in the threat detection and response market, XDR naturally holds many similarities to existing tools and technologies that you might already be using—and in some cases builds upon their capabilities.
Its proximity to endpoint detection and response (EDR) is a prime example, but XDR is also closely related to security information and events management (SIEM) and security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR). So, we can’t blame you for asking: Well, what differentiates XDR, and why should we consider investing in it if we already have EDR/SIEM/SOAR?
Throughout this article, we’ll take a look at what extended detection and response is and what the key differentiators are between it and EDR, SIEM, and SOAR.
Let’s start with the basics.
What Is XDR?
XDR is a combination of various cloud-based threat prevention, detection, and response technologies (including endpoint protection platforms, email security tools, firewalls, threat intelligence, and more) all consolidated and integrated on one comprehensive platform.
XDR is designed to enable security operation centers (SOC) and security teams to have greater visibility over their IT environments, detect more sophisticated attacks hiding between silos, battle alert fatigue with consolidated alerts, and more quickly and effectively respond to events.
So how does XDR work?
First, XDR collects telemetry across an organization’s entire IT environment (including endpoints, networks, servers, email, cloud, and more) using its various integrated tools. Then, using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) it correlates multiple related alerts and pieces of information to produce one contextualized, condensed, and prioritized alert.
Most XDR solutions can then automatically remediate common issues and set incident response workflows into motion, but some might only provide recommendations on how best to manually address incidents.
To find out more about how XDR works, as well as its key features and benefits, take a look at our article: What Is Extended Detection And Response (XDR)?
XDR Vs EDR
If you’re wondering why the word “extended” is represented by an “X” rather than an “E” in the abbreviation “XDR”, that’s because “EDR” is a technology that already exists. And, in fact, XDR is commonly seen as “the next evolution of EDR.”
EDR stands for “endpoint detection and response”, and is a type of software that enables security and SOC teams to more easily both detect endpoint threats (such as malware, viruses, and fileless attacks) and respond to security incidents. It does this by monitoring endpoints in real-time and either automatically initiating a response when a threat is detected, or providing suggestions for manual remediation processes.
But the drawback with EDR is that it focuses solely on endpoint telemetry—so organizations looking for a more holistic view of their attack surface must invest in additional technologies and tools, driving up costs and spreading resources more thinly.
XDR, on the other hand, extends the capabilities of EDR beyond endpoints to additional types of telemetry—including email, identity, networks, servers, cloud, identity, and more. XDR also adds the ability to investigate an attack throughout all stages of its lifecycle, whereas EDR provides a limited view of only the actions taken on endpoints.
So, while EDR is where XDR finds its roots, XDR is destined to be its successor—as agreed by experts at Forrester.
Learn more about EDR in our article: What Is Endpoint Detection And Response (EDR)?
XDR Vs SIEM
Security Information and Events Management (SIEM) tools are designed to collect, aggregate, and analyze events and alerts in real-time across a range of sources—including networks, host systems, infrastructure, applications, and endpoints—to enable SOC teams to better detect threats and investigate alerts. But what differentiates SIEM from XDR?
SIEM platforms were originally designed for compliance reporting and first served as log collection tools, later evolving into security analytics and threat detection tools—with 79% of security organizations currently leveraging SIEM solutions for threat detection and investigation. But while more than half of organizations view SIEM as one of their most effective threat detection and response tools, they do come with their challenges.
The key challenges with SIEM tools are that, while they act as a central repository for log and alert data, they generate an often-overwhelming number of alerts (with 38% of SIEM users struggling to filter out and prioritize noisy alerts), and do not provide contextual information to aid SOC teams in addressing those alerts (with 33% struggling to correlate and contextualize telemetry from core security controls). These tools are also poor at detecting unknown threats and can be difficult for more junior analysts to use due to their complexity.
XDR tools, on the other hand, can deliver meaningful insights and more advanced analytics with the use of threat hunting, powerful automation, AI, and ML—consolidating telemetry from a range of sources, using its integrated tools to provide context on the entire attack lifecycle, and automating analysis. XDR solutions are also masters at detecting unknown and zero-day threats, leveraging AI, ML, and threat intelligence to spot and thwart attacks before they reach an organizations environment.
But we should note that while XDR tools provide far greater threat detection and analysis capabilities—and despite 33% of organizations saying they would implement an XDR solution that could supplement or replace their SIEM tools—they cannot currently replace SIEM entirely because they lack SIEM’s log management, data retention, and compliance features.
So, for now we recommend choosing an XDR tool that can integrate easily with your existing security controls. However, Forrester does predict that XDR will “usurp SIEM in the long run.”
Learn more about SIEM in our article: What Is SIEM?
XDR Vs SOAR
Security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) platforms are generally an extension of SIEM, and are designed to add orchestration, automation, and response capabilities for SIEM tools. SOAR platforms are most commonly used by mature SOC teams to enrich event data (collated from SIEM, EDR, firewalls, secure email gateways, and more), create playbooks, and automate workflows and response actions.
But the challenges with SOAR tools arise in the complexity involved with integrating a large number of siloed tools. This means that, for a SOAR tool to be configured and to work properly, it needs to continuously be supported by highly skilled employees—a resource that many organizations either might not have or might not be able to dedicate, and a problem made more difficult by the current cybersecurity skills gap.
Additionally, because of the siloed nature of the tools feeding into a SOAR platform, this can cause disconnect and disruption to data feeding into the tool, resulting in false positives and large numbers of low-priority alerts.
XDR tackles these challenges head-on by breaking down siloes and integrating tools together from the very beginning, as well as providing far more advanced analytics for threat detection and response, greater visibility across environments, and better scalability. XDR can also provide more focused insights by correlating and combining alerts to weed out false positives and enable security teams to more efficiently prioritize and respond to threats.
But where XDR fails to measure up to SOAR is in its lack of ability to orchestrate response actions using playbooks, or to automate actions outside of incident response—it’s for this reason that XDR is unlikely to replace SOAR any time in the near future.
However, 58% of organizations do see XDR having a role in integrating with SOAR for security process automation. This means combining XDR’s advanced analytics with SOAR’s automation and orchestration—perhaps giving us the best of both worlds.
Learn more about SOAR in our article: What Is SOAR?
So, is extended detection response one platform to rule them all? Perhaps not. But that doesn’t rule out its future potential.
XDR needs to go a long way to be able to replace the likes of SIEM—and even further still to overshadow SOAR. But XDR is still a fantastic option for organizations looking for more advanced detection, alert aggregation and prioritization, and efficient response.
To find the right XDR, EDR, SIEM, or SOAR solution for your business, take a look at our in-depth guides to help you make the right choice: