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Arctic Wolf: XDR Before XDR

If you’ve been exploring your cybersecurity options recently, you’ve probably come across the concept of Extended Detection and Response, or XDR.

XDR as a solution has generated a lot of buzz recently as a more comprehensive approach to threat detection, but how it differs from other common solutions may be somewhat confusing to the layperson.

Let’s take a brief look at what XDR is, what it is not, and how Arctic Wolf answers the question “are you XDR?” 

What is XDR?  

As an emerging technology there is still some debate among vendors about what the actual definition of XDR is, with some vendors even offering varying explanations of the acronym itself. Some product vendors define XDR as “cross detection and response,” where others see the X as a variable and define the acronym as any or all Detection and Response. The most common definition however is based around the idea of XDR being eXtended Detection and Response.   

The key word then is rooted in “Extended” and taking detection and response beyond a single source to telemetry.  

The advantage of an XDR solution is that it monitors data from multiple layers of your business’s infrastructure to identify and respond to potential threats.

In the past, many cybersecurity solutions have been more specialized, 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.  

Security analysts in a data center. An abundance of screens and complexity.

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 organization’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 organizations 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 analyzing multiple security layers simultaneously, an XDR system represents a significant upgrade over other widely used cybersecurity tools such as: 

  • 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 organization’s security program, but it cannot exist alone. For EDR to be truly effective it must be fully deployed to each endpoint within an organization, 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. 
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) may look similar to 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 organizations 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 in an effort to streamline an analyst’s job.  
  • 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 organizations 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.  

Can XDR Save Money? 

Even when it comes to an issue as important and all-encompassing as cybersecurity, protecting the bottom line is always front of mind for most businesses.

With many organizations now looking for ways to enhance their security posture while also saving cost, the question is asked “Can an XDR solution save us money?” with the answer being an unfortunate “maybe.”

Investing in an XDR solution can help an organization save money by eliminating some of the costly intermediary steps involved with other cybersecurity measures. By applying continuous monitoring and threat response across an organization’s entire environment, XDR can be much more effective in cutting off attacks before they can do damage at any level. That helps protect your business against not only the cost of repairing and recovering your systems after a breach, but also against costly data privacy compliance violations, potential lawsuits, and loss of reputation.In this way, XDR has the potential to save an organization a great deal of money.  

Closeup of coding language on a computer screen

With that being said, we should be cautious of the potential for any new trends in technology to overpromise. At the end of the day, XDR solves many of the problems associated with disjointed detection and response tools, but let’s not forget that XDR itself is also still a tool that will aide but not replace your analysts.

Just as the most sophisticated modern cordless drill provides numerous improvements over a traditional screwdriver, they both require a human to use them effectively.

When we accept that XDR is the next evolution of detection and response tools, then we also accept there are some expenditures that we will not be able to eliminate. Implementation or the idea of “ripping and replacing” an existing security stack with new technology can lead to increased expenditure.

We also must account for the human element. The headcount of analysts who can not only operate the tool but operate it effectively. This means the cost of training, and the potential for a delay in response times due to the learning curve associated with the implementation of a new tool. These are unavoidable costs for an organization that plans to solve their security concerns themselves.  

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 organizations 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 organization’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 you 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. 

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