Extended Detection and Response (XDR) is a security tool that natively merges multiple security products into a unified security operations system that integrates all licensed components. Essentially, XDR allows an enterprise to have a more comprehensive yet simpler outlook of potential threats across the whole technology landscape. The tool is primarily designed to help security teams:
- Identify highly sophisticated and hidden threats.
- Track threats across various system components.
- Boost detection and response speed.
- Investigate threats more efficiently and effectively.
- Lower the costs of security operations.
XDR was an evolution on previous security tools and systems that were limited to only a single security layer or those that only perform event correlation without the response component, such as Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) or Network Traffic Analysis (NTA). As much as such systems are still useful, they often generate a larger volume of alerts, require more time for investigation and response to events and require more management and maintenance. Therefore, XDR offers an alternative solution to point security by providing consolidated tooling and enabling security teams to work more efficiently and effectively.
How Does XDR Work?
XDR solutions feature three key capabilities:
1. Analytics and Security Threat Detection
For XDR solutions to work effectively, they rely on a range of threat detection analytics. Some of the typical analytical features include:
- Internal and external traffic analysis – ensures that compromised credentials, malicious insiders, as well as external attacks are promptly detected. XDR monitors and analyzes both internal and external traffic to identify threats, including those that have already bypassed your system’s perimeter.
- Integrated threat intelligence – consolidates information on known attack methods, sources, tools and strategies across attack vectors. Threat intelligence allows XDR to learn and gain insight from attacks on other systems and utilize that information to detect similar threats in your environment.
- Machine learning-based detection – includes semi-supervised and supervised methods that combine to identify threats based on behavioral baselines. Machine learning technologies allow XDR to detect zero-day and non-traditional threats that occasionally bypass signature-based methods.
2. Investigation and Response
As soon as suspicious threats are detected, XDR provides the necessary tools for the security teams to establish the severity of a threat and respond accordingly. The following features are included in XDR to help with investigation and response.
- Related alters and data correlation – tools automatically group related alerts, put together attacks timelines based on activity logs and prioritize events. Therefore, the security professionals can quickly determine the root cause of the attacks and possibly predict what the attackers intend to do next.
- Centralized user interface (UI) – allows security analysts to investigate and respond to events using the same console. This naturally speeds up response time and makes documenting the responses simpler.
- Response orchestration capabilities – allows response actions to be implemented directly through XDR interfaces, including communication between tooling. For instance, XDR updates all endpoint policies across the entire enterprise in response to an automatically blocked attack on one endpoint.
3. Dynamic and Flexible Deployments
XDR solutions are also built to provide additional perks over time, such as:
- Security orchestration – enables integration and leverage with existing controls for unified and standardized responses. These could also include automation features to ensure that policies and tooling are deployed routinely.
- Scalable storage and compute – XDR utilizes cloud resources that can be scaled to meet your data and analysis needs. This makes sure that historical data remains available, which is useful for identifying and investigating complex persistent threats or long-running attacks.
- Improvement over time – capitalizes on machine learning to ensure that XDR solutions become more effective at detecting a wider range of attacks over time. This, plus threat intelligence, helps to guarantee the maximum number of detected and prevented threats.
Why Do Enterprises Need XDR Security?
Historically, security teams have always been stretched thin, often required to stay at par-if not ahead- of the ever-growing number of potential threats and attacks. Attackers are constantly finding new ways to successfully sidestep and exploit traditional security control, using more complex tactics, techniques as well as procedures (TTPs). Therefore, it becomes increasingly important for Security Operation Centers (SOCs) to build platforms that can intelligently consolidate all relevant security data, and improve effectiveness and efficiency at threat detection and response capabilities.
It follows then that enterprises ever more need a cohesive security operations system to protect their entire landscape of technology assets, including legacy endpoints, mobile and cloud workloads, without overloading staff and in-house management resources. Consequently, enterprise security and risk management professionals should consider the security advantages and productivity value an XDR solution presents to their assets.
What are the Security Benefits of XDR?
An XDR platform can offer the following advantages to your enterprise:
1. Improved Prevention Capabilities
Using threat intelligence and adaptive machine learning, XDR can help ensure that solutions can solidly protect your assets against the widest variety of attacks. Furthermore, endless monitoring, plus automated response, block threats as soon as they are detected to prevent damage.
2. Granular Visibility
XDR offers full user data at an endpoint, banding together with network and application communications. It includes information on access permissions, specific applications in use and the exact files accessed. Getting full visibility across your entire system, including on-premises as well as in the cloud, allows you to detect and block attacks faster.
3. Effective Response
Robust data collection and analysis enable you to follow the trail of an attack path and reconstruct attacker actions. This offers the information needed to track down the attacker wherever they are. It also presents valuable information that can be applied to bolster your defenses.
4. Greater Control
With an XDR platform, you can both blacklist and whitelist traffic and processes. This guarantees that only approved actions and users can access and enter your system.
5. Better Productivity
A centralized system reduces the number of security alerts and vastly improves alerting accuracy. This translates to fewer false positives sort through. Additionally, it’s also easier to maintain and manage an XDR solution since it’s an integrated platform rather than a combination of several point solutions. Finally, it equally minimizes the number of interfaces that the security professional must access during a response.
XDR Use Cases
XDR platforms support an expansive range of network security responsibilities. They can also help to support specific use cases, based on the maturity of your security team. The following three use cases correspond to the tiers used for classification by security professionals.
- Tier 1: Triage – An XDR platform can be used as the primary tool for collecting data, monitoring systems, identifying malicious events and alerting the security team. Therefore, the XDR forms the foundation for further efforts, including a hand-off to higher-level teams.
- Tier 2: Investigation – Security teams use XDR solutions as repositories for analysis and information on events. The information obtained, combined with threat intelligence, allows the teams to investigate relevant events, evaluate viable responses and train security staff.
- Tier 3: Threat Hunting – The data collected from the XDR can be applied as a baseline for executing threat hunting operations. The operations are meant to proactively look out for evidence of threats that might have been missed by systems and analysts. The data used for and collected during these processes is equally useful for threat intelligence since it improves on the preexisting security policies and systems.
What Should You Avoid with XDR Platforms?
As much as XDR platforms are a substantial improvement over traditional security tools and several EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response) systems, they’re not foolproof. That said, they still present the most robust and tightest protection for your investments, particularly when the implementation is executed effectively. To get the highest level of security from your Extended Detection and Response solution, ensure you avoid the following three common mistakes:
1. Complexity of Integration
For XDR solutions to be effective and efficient, they have to integrate smoothly with the preexisting solutions. If integrating with XDR requires too much work or custom plugins, you’ll end up losing out on a chunk of the productivity gains. Furthermore, you might have to forgo some of the control and visibility that set XDR apart from its alternatives.
Taking advantage of native integration allows you to implement a new XDR platform quickly and offers immediate protection enhancements. Therefore, it might be worth the trading off not getting all the preferred features but then not having to maintain or build the integration from scratch.
Similarly, when you need to integrate extra tooling with your platform, it’s best to prioritize those that come compatible. Generally, it would help if you always were cautious of applications, tools or services that need additional integration work.
2. Lack of Sufficient Information
Automation is a big part of why XDR is highly efficient by automating tracking, alerts and responses, thus reducing your security team’s workload. That said, automation needs to accomplish more than simply sandboxing processes or blocking all traffic. A solid XDR platform should include automation that adjusts to current system conditions and provides appropriate responses based on multiple parameters. This allows the platform to monitor unknown devices more closely and promptly restrict potentially malicious access.
3. Operational Complexity
Ideally, XDR platforms are meant to ease the efforts of security and response teams. Therefore, a capable platform extends beyond interfaces and dashboards to configuration and maintenance requirements. That means the ideal XDR does not include native services and functionalities (that don’t need external add-ons) but also allows for settings to be easily set, changed and updated.
Jacky Chou is an electrical engineer turned marketer. He is the founder of Indexsy, Far & Away, Laurel & Wolf, a couple FBA businesses , and about 40 affiliate sites. He is a proud native of Vancouver, BC, who has been featured on Entrepreneur.com, Forbes, Oberlo and GoDaddy.