Traditional threat detection and response solutions often operate within specific segments of an organization’s IT infrastructure, such as endpoints, networks, or applications, leading to siloed visibility. However, cyber-threat actors deploy various methods which might not be detectable within these isolated domains. Keeping up with threat actors necessitates a holistic, extended approach to threat detection and response that goes beyond the visibility provided by traditional tools.

What Is XDR?

The Extended Detection and Response (XDR) approach is a holistic, integrated methodology designed to improve threat detection, investigation, and response (TDIR) across an organization’s entire security environment. Unlike traditional security tools that may operate in silos, an XDR approach unifies data from various sources into a singular platform.

What Is an XDR Platform?

An XDR platform plugs into all the tools in a security ecosystem to provide organizations with centralized location from which to perform investigations and initiate response. By plugging into all these other security tools and pulling data from all of them, an XDR solution can provide a comprehensive view of an attack’s breadth and depth, enabling a more informed response strategy. This integration enhances an organization’s ability to detect multifaceted threats and respond to them more effectively.

While Managed Detection and Response (MDR) and XDR both focus on enhancing an organization’s ability to detect threats across its digital environment and act effectively, an MDR is usually provided as a service. MDRs provide organizations with external expertise to monitor endpoints, networks, and cloud environments. On the other hand, XDR is a technology platform that organizations can use to integrate and analyze data from various security tools themselves.

XDR Platform Key Capabilities

If you’re considering implementing an XDR platform, it’s important to understand the core components and capabilities you should be looking for. We’ve broken down the most important ones below.

1. Integration and Openness

XDR platforms should be “open” and integrate with a range of security tools—such as firewalls, email security solutions, and threat intelligence feeds—regardless of vendor, as well as the wider IT infrastructure. Today’s IT environments are diverse, and can include data stored on-premises, in the cloud, or within hybrid environments. This diversity presents a complex challenge for traditional security solutions, which can often struggle to provide comprehensive visibility across disparate environments.

2. Data Aggregation

An XDR platform collects and normalizes data from various sources, which typically operate in silo. This data is enriched with contextual details, improving the accuracy of threat detection and the effectiveness of responses.

3. Detection

The detection engine of an XDR solution combines traditional approaches like signature-based and rule-based detections with advanced technologies including machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), and behavioral analysis. This combination enhances a security team’s ability to identify and respond to cyber threats across their organization’s infrastructure. Unlike traditional security tools, which may target specific types of threats or operate within limited domains, XDR offers a comprehensive approach to detection.

4. Correlation and Analytics

Data aggregation serves the purpose of centralizing data for ease of access and analysis. However, correlation and analytics go a step further to extract meaning from that data. Correlation specifically refers to finding relationships between different data points, while analytics encompasses various techniques, such as ML, to understand the data and identify trends. XDR platforms use both correlation and analytics to provide security teams with the actionable intelligence needed to make informed decisions.

5. Response Automation

XDR platforms are equipped with response orchestration capabilities that allow for predefined response actions without manual intervention. Actions such as isolating infected endpoints, blocking malicious IP addresses, or revoking compromised user credentials can all be initiated directly from the XDR platform.

This is where Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools differ greatly from an XDR solution. While both play vital roles for integrating various parts of a security ecosystem, a SIEM lacks the ability to respond to threats. However, by collaborating with an XDR, a SIEM can contribute to a more comprehensive threat containment and mitigation strategy through a layered defense approach.

6. Threat Hunting and Investigation

XDR solutions are equipped with advanced threat hunting and investigation capabilities designed to proactively search for and analyze potential security threats across an organization’s environment. These capabilities enable security teams to identify, understand, and mitigate threats that evade standard detections. An XDR platform enhances threat hunting beyond what SIEMs and other security tools offer by delivering more comprehensive and contextual data and supporting real-time automated responses.

What Are the Benefits of an XDR Platform?

Utilizing an XDR solution brings several benefits to an organization’s security operations. By integrating with a range of data sources, leveraging advanced analytics, and providing comprehensive threat detection and response capabilities, XDR addresses many of the limitations of traditional security tools. Some of these key benefits include:

  • Improved visibility: The integration provided by XDR solutions ensures that all parts of an organization’s environment are being monitored, providing a holistic view that traditional, siloed security tools cannot achieve. This visibility is not only a matter of monitoring and collecting more data, but also making sense of it, from endpoints and networks to cloud environments.
  • Unified operations: By consolidating multiple security functions into a centralized platform, XDR reduces the need for security teams to manage and switch between disparate tools.
  • Real-time threat detection: Using ML and AI, XDR can identify patterns and signal potential threats. The ML models continuously learn and evolve, improving the accuracy of threat detection and reducing false positives.
  • Improved response times: By automatically executing response actions when a threat is detected, the window of opportunity for attackers is significantly reduced. Also, with its integrated approach, XDR can orchestrate responses across an organization’s environment from one platform, eliminating time spent swiveling between tools.
  • Reduced alert fatigue: An XDR platform helps prioritize alerts by eliminating false positives, surfacing only high-priority alerts, automating response when possible, and proactively addressing potential threats so that security teams can focus on other, higher-priority tasks.

Considerations Before Choosing an XDR Platform

Before investing in an XDR solution, organizations should consider several factors to ensure that they choose one that aligns with their security needs, infrastructure, and goals. When looking at XDR platforms, consider these questions below to evaluate its compatibility and configurability:

1. Is it compatible with what I have now?

Consider how well the XDR solution integrates with your current security tools, IT infrastructure, and cloud environments. Compatibility is crucial for seamless data aggregation and effective threat detection across diverse digital landscapes. Ideally, adopting an XDR solution shouldn’t require replacing your current set of tools. Instead, aim to maximize your existing investments by choosing an XDR solution that can work with any technology, regardless of vendor.

2. Can the platform scale with me if I switch vendors, acquire a company, or get acquired?

Consider its scalability and flexibility in various scenarios. It should be able to maintain the same technology functions, such as detection and response, that you currently have, regardless of vendor. Also, consider XDR platform that can handle increasing volumes of data and a growing number of endpoints as your organization expands.

3. Will I be locked in to a vendor?

Choosing an XDR platform may lead to a degree of vendor lock-in, which could impact future security and IT decisions. This can limit an organization’s flexibility to adopt best-of-breed technologies and adapt to new security challenges, and it may lead to higher operational costs. To mitigate this, you should choose an XDR platform that can integrate with multiple vendors, ensuring a more adaptable security infrastructure.

4. Can it configure to how my environment works?

An XDR platform should adapt to your organization’s specific workflows, operational processes, security policies, and IT infrastructure.

Choosing the right XDR solution ensures it can support your organization’s evolving security needs and maintain a stronger defense against existing and emerging cyber threats.

ReliaQuest GreyMatter: Built on an Open XDR Architecture

The ReliaQuest GreyMatter security operations platform is built on an open XDR architecture. Unlike many other solutions, its technology-agnostic approach enables you to fully leverage your technology stack and maximize your existing security investments. It’s designed to help security operations teams increase visibility, reduce complexity, and manage risk across the full security ecosystem—across cloud, on-premises, and hybrid cloud architectures.

With its bi-directional APIs, GreyMatter can ingest data from security tools and stitch it together to provide a unified detection, investigation, and response process, ultimately empowering security teams with the comprehensive understanding they need to swiftly respond to threats.