EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response), MDR (Managed Detection and Response), and XDR (Extended Detection and Response) are either security softwares, technology stacks or services offered by providers that aim to detect threats and facilitate response to security incidents.
In this article, we’ll lay out uses, capabilities, and benefits of each so you will know choose which is best for your organization’s security.
What Is EDR?
EDR security works by monitoring the activity on an organization’s endpoints—such as laptops, desktops, servers, and mobile devices—in real time. It uses a combination of techniques such as signature-based detection, behavioral analysis, and machine-learning algorithms to detect and respond to security threats.
This is a more advanced detection of threats beyond what may be caught by traditional antivirus. EDR can’t detect vulnerabilities like zero-day or advanced persistent threats, but they can attempt to detect the behaviors or tactics, techniques, and procedures that threat actors use to take advantages of vulnerabilities. It allows for security measures like endpoint protection, threat hunting, and incident response to be executed at the endpoints.
Monitoring and hunting for threats at these “points” is vital and the foundation of securing any organization’s security ecosystem. Endpoints contribute to the most activity on the network, and therefore a business would stand to gain the greatest visibility here.
However, the intelligence available from only devices within your network lacks contextual data. It must be paired with other activity within the network or cloud to understand what a true abnormal alert is, like correlating alerts of activity between an EDR and other log sources within a SIEM, like activity from a firewall, email security, proxy, etc. The giant tasks of investigation, data correlation, and alert triage for a security team amongst new and old tools make outsourcing essential to make security possible.
- Focuses on visibility and remediation of endpoints (personal computers, servers, etc.).
- Provides a play by play of what a user, application, or script did on the endpoint (what commands did they run, what files did they make or modify, what network connections did the host try to make).
- Has the ability to search for granular artifacts like a file name or process running a command across the environment.
- Can take remediation actions like isolating a host, banning a hash, and deleting a file on an endpoint.
What Are the Benefits of EDR?
- Enhanced visibility across the environment, including alerting, using granular endpoint data. In the event of ransomware running on a host in the environment, an EDR could tell you where the infected file was downloaded from, what files it encrypted, and what other hosts in the network it communicated with to spread all from one screen.
- Remediation for endpoints can be taken, but it has to be done manually. Additionally, security operators can use an EDR solution to isolate the host from the network to reduce spreading, kill the process encrypting the files, and remove the infected file from the host.
What Is MDR?
MDR is a service that provides continuous monitoring and threat detection of an organization’s network, often focused around endpoints. A managed detection and response (MDR) provider uses its technology stack that includes detection technology in a partnership with a customer to monitor or detect threats, provide alerts with greater context than you’d see from a traditional MSSP solution, and possibly go a step further and help with response to threats.
The extent to which providers respond to threats can vary from one to another. You’ll find different levels of management when it comes to alert triage or investigation, analyzing security data from various sources, and responding to any incidents that are detected, but an MDR will most always fall short of performing digital forensics.
- Provides turnkey detection and response
- Offers a vendor-defined tech stack, many of which are cloud based and easier to deploy
- Potentially provides threat hunting
- Requires customer-led remediation
Benefits of MDR
- Easiest to set up and start using, but can be limiting in technologies.
- Good for customers that need to check a box for compliance reasons.
This option is very dependent on the capabilities of both the service provider and tech stack. Best-case scenario, your provider does all of the analysis and actions detailed in the ransomware scenario above.
What Is XDR?
XDR is a category of a security technology stack that brings together data from multiple sources and provides a comprehensive view of an organization’s security posture. This may include data collected from endpoints, SIEMs, network devices, cloud services, and threat intelligence feeds. The goal of XDR is to detect and respond to threats across an organization’s entire attack surface, including both known and unknown threats. It can also involve the managed detection and response aspect of MDR, where a provider handles threat monitoring, alert triage, and response on your behalf. XDR’s response capabilities should include security automation for tasks by deploying content from playbooks.
- Combines EDR with other technologies like network traffic analysis and SIEM for comprehensive visibility.
- Places heavier emphasis on automation between different technologies. Things like firewall blocks and user password resets in active directory can be performed in addition to EDR automation.
Benefits of XDR
XDR allows for a more customized technology stack than MDR and more comprehensive automations across tech stack for specific scenarios. For example, for a phishing alert with a malware download, the impacted endpoint could have the host isolated and file removed while the firewall/proxy could block the download URL and the impacted user’s password could be reset via Active Directory.
EDR vs MDR
Figuring out your need for EDR versus an MDR is a matter of integrating the foundational security of monitoring endpoints vs an outsourced service that will manage threat detection and response on your behalf, including at endpoints. Endpoint detection and response is software to detect and respond to threat at endpoints. This is a vital necessity to visibility into vulnerabilities and threats as end users are the target for very common and pervasive tactics used by threat actors. MDR is an outsourced service you need to help manage reactive and proactive security operations in your network security by continuously monitoring the network, detecting and responding to security threats. It will have its own threat detection technology and tool stack which will need to be adopted by your security team.
MDR vs XDR
As we mentioned above, an MDR provider often requires you to adopt its software and technologies as part of the service. This presents problems in the future if you need to evolve or change directions with your security approach, which is quite common. XDR is typically a platform or technology security stack that seeks to solve problems like disparate security stacks, having to rip and replace when switching providers, and even the skills and talent shortage in the industry and within organizations through unification and communication of many tools, data correlation, security automation beyond just endpoints but between SIEM, email security, SaaS applications cloud applications, and more. BUT, most XDR providers’ software only works with its own products. An Open-XDR or vendor agnostic XDR platform seeks to truly negate the problems brought on by the security vendor sprawl.
You can sometimes find a managed security service provider or MDR that uses an XDR approach that does include a service or management or threat detection and response, but most typically a software provider.
EDR vs XDR
While you cannot make security possible without an EDR, to effectively use it and tune it to your security environment is requires integration or to be used with other tools, especially a SIEM in making sense of security events and if you want to efficiently hunt and automate.
EDR integration with other tools is necessary if you are wanting to reduce alerts and false positives, in turning your security operations into an automated beast from detection to investigation to incident response.
That’s where XDR can help. It combines the capabilities of multiple security tools, such as Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR), Network Detection and Response (NDR), and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM), by integrating and correlating data from these sources.