What Is XDR?
Extended Detection and Response (XDR) consolidates the data and tools necessary to provide enhanced visibility, analysis, and response for all system risks associated with users, endpoints, networks, and other telemetry sources. It helps unify workload and endpoint security processes through improved visibility, automation, and streamlined threat detection.
XDR enables security teams to identify sophisticated threats, improve response time, and investigate threats and vulnerabilities across multiple system components.
In the past, many cybersecurity solutions have been more specialised, with a close focus on specific areas of your operations. While often effective, that approach tends to create data silos that can leave your environment exposed to more sophisticated, multi-pronged attacks. To combat this, the emphasis was placed on analysts to collect and correlate data from these data silos to tell the full story of a potential compromise. This worked in theory but lead to operational bottlenecks when attempting to respond to a threat.
Analysts were tasked with learning and tuning multiple products, moving between consoles, collecting data from varying sources, and then trying to piece disjointed data together in a useful manner. The tools did what they were designed to do, but certainly didn’t make the analyst’s job any easier.
Enter XDR, a more holistic solution that is better positioned to catch modern threats. As XDR continues to evolve, though, there is still discussion on what sources of telemetry it should include, but an ideal XDR solution is one which draws data from endpoints, networks, SaaS applications, IaaS platforms, authentication apps, and more. That holistic view of a business’s infrastructure and data gives complete, layered visibility across an organisation’s entire online environment which greatly improves the likelihood of detecting an intrusion, attack, or breach.
A cross-layered detection and response approach enhances an organisation’s security posture and places them in a position to detect and correlate threats from many different angles. Less time jumping between disjointed consoles allows analysts to shut down security threats before they become a bigger problem.
What Is XDR Not?
To better understand how XDR provides extended service, it’s useful to look at some of the other common cybersecurity tools that it’s poised to replace. Most cybersecurity point products have a relatively narrow focus on a single layer or attack surface. Again, these solutions are often very effective in what they do, but they also tend to be narrowly focused and require supplemental solutions and movement between consoles to create a holistic view of the environment.
By analysing multiple security layers simultaneously, an XDR system represents a significant upgrade over other widely used cybersecurity tools such as:
XDR vs. EDR
Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solutions are focused on threats specific to endpoints in your system, such as laptops, desktops, and servers. EDR is often an effective detection tool, but those endpoints are only one of the surfaces that need monitoring against cyber-attacks. EDR is a great foundational technology to an organisation’s security program, but it cannot exist alone.
For EDR to be truly effective it must be fully deployed to each endpoint within an organisation, a task which many find to be challenging. The benefits of EDR have ensured that it is almost always a vital component of an XDR system, but that data is augmented by multiple other layers.
XDR vs. SIEM
Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) may look like XDR on the surface, in that it combines long-term data collection from multiple sources with analysis and real-time monitoring of events. The downside many organisations face with a SIEM is then centered around its design emphasis on data collection and alerting. This can lead to a high signal to noise ratio, potential for a high rate of false positives, and additional work for security analysts. A well-designed XDR solution is one that incorporates noise reduction to streamline an analyst’s job.
XDR vs. SOAR
Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) is another technology solution that has some overlap with the concept of XDR, but there are key differences.
SOAR solutions were designed to bridge the gap between diverse security stacks and provide a cohesive single pane of glass approach to tool usage. This is a great approach, but many organisations have found that it lacks context. Data from multiple tools may be presented in a single console but using this data to build a holistic picture of what has occurred is still left to analysts.
How XDR Works
XDR breaks down complicated tasks and procedures so that teams face the relevant and critical information they need at any given time. XDR provides three essential security capabilities: detection, analysis, and response.
First, XDR implementations normalise data volumes from all endpoints, users, and workloads, including virtual machines, containers, and more. After ingesting all the data and establishing a baseline of activity, the consolidated tool uses that information to correlate data
XDR uses advanced AI and machine learning to parse data and identify sophisticated threats, bad code, and any other anomalies that threaten your network’s security. The algorithms then prioritise threats by severity level and potential impact so that teams can triage new events and execute automatic investigation and response tasks.
Benefits of XDR
The first key benefit is consolidated threat visibility, as XDR tools deliver information after collecting data across multiple layers. That includes endpoints, cloud workloads, servers, email, and network-level data.
Take email security, for example. An XDR solution can monitor your organisation’s email inboxes for suspicious activity and submit compromised emails to your threat intelligence platform.
Another key benefit is streamlined threat detection and investigation. Analysts can use XDR to weed out outliers to focus on high-priority threats. The result is fewer alerts, less noise, and clearer threat indicators.
The last key benefit XDR offers is response orchestration. XDR solutions come with powerful automation and telemetry to guide the investigation, detection, response, and threat remediation from beginning to end.
XDR Use Cases
XDR solutions support a range of network security responsibilities. Security professionals are typically organised into tiers based on their experience and responsibilities. As such, XDR offers streamlined capabilities for triage, investigators, and threat hunters alike.
Triage professionals can use XDR to help manage alerts and investigate only the critical endpoints. This reduces time wasted on investigating minimal threats and enhances efficiency when it comes to identifying potential threats. XDR in triage forms the foundation for security investigations and can be primary tool for gathering data, monitoring systems, and alerting personnel.
Investigators take the information gathered from triage to inform their actions involved in discovering, investigating, and finding solutions for cyber incidents and vulnerabilities.
In addition, cybersecurity investigators can use XDR as a repository of various events and analyses to inform future events, train security staff, and evaluate remediation responses.
3. Threat Hunting
Threat hunters are involved with proactively detecting, isolating, and eliminating advanced threats that circumvent and evade network scanners and other security processes. XDR solutions offer threat hunters a way to identify baseline activities across all system levels and use new intelligence to strengthen their teams, processes, and policies.
Is Arctic Wolf XDR?
If we ask this question based on the idea of what XDR is designed to accomplish then the answer is a resounding “yes,” but with one important caveat. Arctic Wolf’s mission to end cyber risk has required us to provide XDR-level security by design, even before XDR was a well-known concept.
We were founded on the idea that organisations are not suffering due to a lack of sophisticated tools, but instead due to a lack of talented individuals who can effectively use those tools. To solve this, we designed the Arctic Wolf Platform to integrate with an organisation’s existing technology stack and empower our team of Security Operations professionals to deliver XDR-level security as a concierge service.
More than just another solution to incorporate into your environment, the Arctic Wolf Platform provides our analysts continuous visibility into not only the endpoints, but also the networks, applications, platforms, and servers that make up your data infrastructure. We offer true extended detection and response by extending beyond the limitations of simple tools, and offering the needed expertise and mentorship that places each environment we defend on a path of continuous posture improvement.
In this way, Arctic Wolf has always used XDR, which has allowed us to become the leader in security operations.
Find out more about how the Arctic Wolf Platform and effective Security Operations can keep your online information safer.