What is XDR? | Enterprise Networking Planet

Extended Detection and Response (XDR) is a cybersecurity response strategy that focuses on three core principles:

  • Early detection of indicators of attacks.
  • Fast containment of compromised systems.
  • Rapid eradication of malware from infected systems.

The earlier an attack is detected, the easier it is to contain and eradicate it. The longer it goes undetected, the more time there will be for an attacker to:

  • Steal information.
  • Perform lateral movement within a network environment to infect other devices.
  • Establish command-and-control infrastructure outside of an organization’s perimeter defenses.
  • Worse yet – pivot onto other networks connected to a company’s network.

Also see: Top Zero Trust Networking Solutions 

What is XDR?

Extended detection and response, or XDR, is a collection of cybersecurity tools that detect, prevent, investigate, respond to, contain, and help recover from cyber incidents. The term was coined by the Palo Alto Networks co-founder and CTO Nir Zuk in 2018 at a company event and has since become an industry buzzword. 

XDR provides end-to-end visibility into potential threats to networks, clouds, and applications with continuous monitoring on all endpoints, without disrupting operations. XDR typically includes real-time automated monitoring and scanning, behavioral analysis, host intrusion prevention, email protection and remediation technologies, data leakage prevention technology, endpoint encryption, application firewalls, patch management, vulnerability assessment and management tools. 

Components of XDR

XDR has three parts, they include:

  • Data analysis: XDR collects and monitors data from various security devices, including networks, servers, cloud services, and endpoints. It utilizes a series of automated analytics engines to correlate context from thousands of alerts across various levels.
  • Detection: XDRs can monitor files, directories, and running processes at a level that exceeds the capabilities of traditional antivirus software. This enhanced visibility enables them to detect malicious behaviors earlier in the attack chain before they could affect other parts of the system. The XDR approach is more proactive than reactive, providing protection before an attack is executed.
  • Response: XDR can also isolate, contain and eradicate cyber threat sources and update system security policies to prevent future occurrences. As with any incident response strategy, the goal of XDR is to reduce the impact on business operations.

Also see: Steps to Building a Zero Trust Network

How Does XDR Work?

XDR proactively correlates data across multiple layers of security – email, endpoint, server, cloud workloads and networks – to help analysts identify threats faster. Endpoints include machines in corporate offices, remote workers’ laptops, tablets and mobile devices. 

The infrastructure layer consists of company-owned servers or the public cloud where sensitive company data resides, while the network layer includes routers, switches and firewalls that connect your organization. 

XDR uses artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms that continuously collect contextual information from different sources and apply advanced analytics to it to understand what is happening with your network. Machine learning identifies patterns and anomalies that can’t be detected by human analysis alone while also providing a baseline for understanding what normal looks like on the network. 

When a threat emerges, analysts can quickly detect it using XDR’s automated response actions without waiting for user alerts or manual interventions, speeding up detection times. In addition, this provides continuous monitoring of new threats as they emerge. 

With XDR’s ability to collect critical data across all endpoints, email, servers and networks—including emerging IoT devices – analysts can prioritize issues in real-time, which ensures faster resolution. 

The best part about this technology is that it does all this without being intrusive and with minimal performance impact on endpoints or servers. With XDR, you can identify, contain, and remediate threats before they have a chance to cause significant damage or disruption to your organization’s security posture.

Also see: Understanding the Zero Trust Approach to Network Security

XDR Benefits

The advanced threat landscape is more challenging than ever, with cybercriminals using stealthier and more sophisticated attack vectors to breach networks and stay hidden for a long period. Extended Detection and Response (XDR) solutions play a crucial role in the fight against cyberattacks by increasing IT visibility and automating response processes to reduce the time to detect suspicious behavior, improve time to resolution, and minimize the impact of attacks on critical business functions.

Consolidate threat visibility across all your data

XDR provides access to raw log data from email, endpoints, servers, cloud workloads and networks – giving you one place to analyze activity regardless of where it originates or ends. 

Reduce false positives

You can customize rulesets and thresholds to balance accuracy with prevention and detect intrusions without disrupting day-to-day operations. 

Faster detection of malware and other intrusions

Traditional security technologies rely on pre-defined rules or signatures to identify malicious activity. The problem with this approach is that it becomes exponentially more challenging to keep up with the ever-changing cybercrime landscape.

XDR uses behavioral analysis and machine learning algorithms, which adapt to new attack vectors as they emerge. These methods make XDR more effective at catching unknown malware and defending against zero-day attacks. 

Automated response and investigation

XDR automatically detects stealthy threats and responds by taking corrective action, such as applying automated patches or quarantining suspicious files. In addition, XDR enables real-time forensics and malware analysis via automation capabilities, allowing security analysts to focus on high-priority threats.

Block known and unknown attacks with endpoint protection

XDR blocks malware, exploits, fileless attacks and ransomware before they can cause damage. It also prevents phishing emails from reaching inboxes, stops hijacked sessions and removes advanced persistent threats (APTs)  like industrial espionage.

Boost SOC productivity

Security teams who deploy XDR have reported significant improvements in efficiency, scalability and overall productivity. Security team productivity can be increased by centralizing all network, endpoint, and cloud security policy administration, monitoring, investigation, and response activities into one centralized console.

With a single console and integrated SIEM, security teams can increase operational efficiency and effectiveness by correlating alerts for faster incident response and increased investigation confidence.

Integrates with other security infrastructure

XDR integrates seamlessly with network defense tools, including next-generation firewalls, web application firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, anti-malware tools and cloud infrastructure platforms—reducing costs associated with third-party products by eliminating vendor lock-in while increasing flexibility around deployment options.

Also see: Best Network Automation Tools 

Key XDR Requirements

Offers extensive, contextual, and enhanced telemetry

Unlike traditional security tools, XDR solutions encompass a comprehensive suite of technologies spanning an extensive lifecycle. These technologies include:

  • Endpoint detection and response (EDR)
  • Enterprise protection platforms (EPP)
  • Identity and access management (IAM)
  • Network firewall (NGFW)
  • Network analysis and visibility (NAV)
  • Cloud workload protection (CWP) to cloud access security broker (CASB)
  • Web application firewalls (WAF)

As such, organizations using XDR-enabled capabilities have a wider aperture than their counterparts regarding monitoring and protecting their networks, devices, applications and data. The result is more contextually-relevant data that enables more detailed analysis and richer forensics – all with reduced false positives. 

Cloud-native architecture

XDR solutions are optimized to run on cloud-native architecture and can be deployed on any infrastructure. This enables enterprises to operate with less expenditure and complexity while maintaining high-security levels. XDR solutions seamlessly integrate with other enterprise applications through APIs that offer a flexible approach to the data flow. They also incorporate best practices around governance, risk management and compliance to ensure data is always secure. 

Threat hunting

XDR solutions enable threat hunting by identifying vulnerabilities, malicious activity and insider threats as they emerge. It does this by analyzing raw data inputs like file systems, endpoints, email traffic and server logs. 

Analyzing these inputs provides insights into how attackers behave and how they might breach systems or steal information. XDR solution must display capability in this area because it addresses one of the most critical needs of today’s cybersecurity landscape – preventing new breaches before they happen.

Automated analytics and orchestration

Modern cyberattacks are incredibly complex and sophisticated, often involving multiple components and layers across different IT environments. To address these challenges head-on, XDR solutions employ automated analytics to provide intelligence about incidents and automate tasks based on predetermined policies. Orchestration capabilities allow customers to coordinate responses based on criticality level so that personnel only need to focus on high-priority situations. This reduces the risk of dealing with low-priority issues, which could lead to system downtime and delays.

Also see: Best Network Management Solutions 

Use Cases of XDR

Threat hunting

Threat hunting effectively identifies new attack vectors and malicious activity using pattern-matching algorithms on massive volumes of unstructured data to find anomalies and outliers. By conducting proactive threat hunting across all your data, including network, endpoints, cloud workloads, email traffic, documents, and SIEM events, you’ll be able to detect attacks more quickly and take action before data is lost or stolen. 

Triage

After an incident has been identified, the next step is triage to determine whether it needs immediate attention or can wait until later. If a response must be given immediately, there are three main types of tasks: contain, eradicate and remediate. 

The goal of containment is to stop the attack’s spread as quickly as possible with minimal impact on services and environments. Eradicating malware involves identifying its process, finding where its roots are located (to ensure it doesn’t come back) and cleaning any existing infections. Remediation refers to determining which parts of an environment were compromised by malware so that you can clean them up appropriately. 

Investigation

XDR solutions provide powerful investigation capabilities for responding to incidents. They also offer visualization tools that enable security analysts to create custom dashboards to monitor their networks visually. XDR solutions allow analysts to sift through millions of files at lightning speed and pinpoint anomalous behaviors, such as unusual file activities or network connections. 

Forensics analysis

XDR allows organizations to leverage machine learning to automate and expedite time-consuming workflows to reduce turnaround time and increase efficiency. Organizations will have access to expert knowledge that they wouldn’t usually have due to high costs, limited expertise and geographical distribution – all without incurring high costs. 

Security Operations Centers (SOC)

A SOC is responsible for gathering, processing, correlating and displaying large amounts of structured and unstructured data — including log files, IDS alerts, system configuration changes, and firewall configurations — in real-time to spot trends and emerging threats in near real-time. 

This data can then be used to trigger alerts and defensive measures. To achieve this, the SOC gathers data in one place and applies advanced analytical techniques to identify connections between disparate sources of evidence.

Also see: Top Managed Service Providers

Types of Detection and Response

There are various types of detection and response solutions.

  • Network Detection and Response (​​NDR): Network Detection and Response (NDR) is a cybersecurity solution that detects and responds to attacks on enterprise networks, whether from external or internal sources. The NDR system looks for behavior patterns overtime on the network, which can help it identify suspicious activity more quickly. 
  • Managed Detection and Response (MDR): Managed Detection and Response (MDR) is a service model that provides companies with an additional layer of cyber security protection. With MDR, detection and response services are performed by an externally managed security service provider who utilizes advanced technologies to detect, analyze, and respond to cybersecurity threats.
  • Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR): Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) is a service that identifies, detects, analyzes, and responds to malicious activity on endpoints. The goal of this is to make it possible to better protect an enterprise from cyberattacks by identifying vulnerabilities or suspicious behavior that may indicate a potential breach.
  • Identity Threat Detection and Response (ITDR): Identity Threat Detection and Response (ITDR) is a solution that protects your organization from credential theft and accounts takeover attacks. It monitors all network traffic, alerts on suspicious activity, and blocks threats to help organizations achieve higher security. 

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