What is XDR? Extended Detection and Response Defined
Extended detection and response (XDR) is a security tool that enhances an organization’s security visibility, and threat detection and response capabilities. XDR collects data from across an organization’s security architecture, analyzes it, and offers automated remediation of identified threats.
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What Problems Does XDR Solve?
XDR offers the potential to streamline and scale an organization’s security program. Some common problems that can be addressed with XDR include the following.
Fragmented Security Visibility
As cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT), and remote work have grown more popular, many companies have deployed point security products to monitor and secure their diverse IT environments. As a result, security teams struggle to maintain consistent visibility into their IT and security architectures.
Unified security visibility is a key capability of XDR. XDR solutions connect to an organization’s diverse point security products and collect data from multiple sources for analysis. This approach to security monitoring and management enables security personnel to centrally monitor and respond to threats across their entire environment.
Another major impact of the growth of point security products is alert fatigue. Each system and cybersecurity solution will generate its own logs and alerts, burying security personnel in more data than they can effectively review and analyze. As a result, real threats slip through the cracks as security personnel focus their time and attention on weeding out false positives.
XDR uses the context provided by data centralization, threat intelligence, and advanced analytics to filter and refine alert data. This enables it to provide security personnel with higher-quality alerts with built-in context.
Slow Threat Detection and Response
The process of identifying and responding to a potential threat is a slow process for many organizations. For example, it takes an average of 277 days to identify and contain a data breach.
XDR enhances and expedites both the detection and response components. Its data collection and analytics enable security teams to more quickly identify and understand potential threats. XDR also integrates response capabilities, including the potential for automated responses or a coordinated response across multiple security solutions.
Lean Security Teams
Hiring and retentaining employees is a common problem for security teams. Security operations centers (SOCs) and incident response teams (IRTs) require analysts with specialist and in-demand skills. Attracting and retaining personnel with the necessary skills and experience can be difficult, which is why many security teams are understaffed.
XDR helps to address the cybersecurity skills gap by increasing the efficiency and productivity of an organization’s existing security team. By automating data collection, analytics, and response, XDR reduces load on security personnel and enables them to handle more duties.
Key Capabilities of XDR
XDR provides several valuable capabilities for corporate security teams. Among the key features are data correlation, advanced analytics, and automated detection and response.
A primary advantage of XDR is its integration with various security systems across an organization’s IT environment. XDR solutions collect data from all of these systems, providing them with greater context and insight than they can achieve individually.
XDR solutions correlate data from its various connected systems. With greater access to data, XDR can more accurately identify threats and eliminate false positives. This contextual data also enables XDR solutions to build timelines of an attack, enabling security personnel to more quickly understand it and identify impacted systems.
XDR solutions have a wide range of data analytics capabilities built in. In addition to statistical analysis, they commonly use machine learning to extract trends and identify anomalies within security data. These advanced capabilities enable XDR solutions to sort through mountains of security data and generate useful insights. XDR enhances analysts’ capabilities by drawing their attention to those events most likely to indicate a potential threat to the organization.
Automated Detection and Response
In addition to their data aggregation and analysis capabilities, XDR solutions offer support for automated and coordinated responses to cyber threats. Through their integration with an organization’s security solutions, XDR tools can perform automated incident response operations throughout an organization’s environment.
Automated threat detection and response capabilities enable SOC teams to close the gap between the moment an attack occurs and the time of its remediation. By reducing the time that an attacker has access to a system, XDR helps security teams limit the damage that can be caused by the attack.
How Does XDR Work?
XDR provides integrated security visibility and incident response capabilities across an organization’s entire IT environment. Some of the key steps it takes when performing threat detection and response include:
- Data Collection: XDR integrates with the various security solutions in an organization’s IT environment. It collects data — logs, alerts, etc. — from these systems and processes it into a single data lake.
- Threat Intelligence Ingestion: XDR solutions also consumes threat intelligence feeds. This information is combined with collected data to enable the organization to identify known threats and ongoing attacks.
- Analytics: XDR solutions use advanced analytics and machine learning to identify potential anomalies and trends in the collected data. This enables them to identify and prioritize potential threats for further action.
- Reporting: XDR solutions can make threat data available to human analysts for investigation and response. This includes correlating collecting data with threat intelligence and building timelines for identified attacks.
- Automated Response: XDR can perform automated and coordinated incident response to identified threats. Its connections to solutions across the organization’s security architecture enable it to address multi-pronged threats at scale.
XDR Vs Other Security Solutions
XDR has features and capabilities that overlap with several different cybersecurity solutions and service offerings. Some common examples include EDR, MDR, SIEM, and SOAR.
XDR vs. EDR & MDR
Endpoint detection and response (EDR) and managed detection and response (MDR) share XDR’s focus on enhancing an organization’s threat detection and response capabilities. However, they have different scopes and methods of doing so.
Like XDR, EDR is designed to collect, analyze, and respond to security data. However, an EDR solution’s scope is limited to an endpoint rather than an organization’s complete IT environment. Often, EDR is deployed as a component of an XDR solution. MDR enhances threat detection and response by partnering with a third-party provider. An MDR solution provider may use XDR — which is a specific tool — as part of its overall security services offering.
XDR vs SIEM
A security information and event management (SIEM) solution is focused on data collection and analysis. Like an XDR solution, SIEM tools will collect security data from various sources across an organization’s environment and analyze that data to extract useful threat intelligence. These insights will be fed to security personnel, who can act on the identified potential threats.
In general, XDR provides greater data collection capabilities and more advanced analyses than SIEM solutions. Also, XDR integrates threat response capabilities, which SIEM solutions lack. XDR can be used as an enhancement to an organization’s SIEM solution. The security data and alerts generated by XDR can be fed into a SIEM and integrated into a security team’s existing workflows.
XDR vs SOAR
Security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) solutions enhance the effectiveness of a security team through automation. SOAR solutions are used to automate repetitive tasks and common processes, removing these burdens from security personnel.
XDR solutions are more independent, self-directed, and data-driven than SOAR tools. SOAR solutions need to be instructed on how to perform a particular task and are triggered by certain events. XDR solutions automatically collect and analyze data, and can automatically respond to threats based on their discoveries.
Best Practices for XDR Adoption
XDR has the potential to dramatically enhance the effectiveness of an organization’s security program if implemented correctly. Some best practices for XDR adoption include the following:
- Develop an XDR Strategy: XDR is most effective when it has access to high-value security data. Identifying security goals and developing an XDR strategy based on these goals ensures that XDR has the data that it needs to be effective.
- Integrate with Security Infrastructure: XDR solutions are designed to collect data from, and manage point security solutions. Integrating XDR with existing infrastructure enables it to streamline and scale security operations.
- Educate Security Teams: XDR solutions expose various capabilities to security personnel. Educating SOC analysts on the new solution and how it can be used enables them to unlock its full potential.
- Automate Where Possible: XDR solutions enable automated threat detection and response at scale. Leveraging these capabilities where appropriate removes the burden of common and repetitive tasks from security analysts. Additionally, XDR can be used to perform coordinated, automated incident response across an organization’s IT infrastructure.
- Perform Regular Updates: Corporate IT environments change regularly, which can impact how XDR connects to security solutions and handles various threats. Performing regular reviews and updates ensures that the XDR solution is properly configured to support and secure an organization’s IT environment.
CATO Networks and XDR
XDR is focused on achieving centralized visibility and management of an organization’s IT environment. With environments distributed across on-prem and cloud-based architectures, this can be difficult to achieve.
Cato SASE Cloud makes XDR easier and more effective by converging security at the network level. All traffic flowing over the corporate WAN passes through SASE solutions, which perform security inspection and policy enforcement.
By converging a full network security stack in a single solution, Cato SASE Cloud eliminates many of the challenges of integrating XDR with the corporate security architecture. Cato SASE Cloud offers a single interface for connecting to and communicating with a range of network security solutions. Cato also offers MDR services, enabling organizations to scale and augment their in-house security capabilities with Cato’s expertise. With SASE, companies can more easily achieve centralized visibility and management of the corporate WAN.