XDR Security: What it is and How it Works

What Is XDR?

XDR is a new method of threat detection and response, and is a key element in modern strategies for protecting infrastructure and data from corruption, unauthorized access, and abuse.

XDR security is an alternative to traditional reactive approaches, which provide attack visibility in layers, using different solutions like endpoint detection and response (EDR), security information and event management (SIEM) and network traffic analysis (NTA). 

Layered security visibility provides important information, but can also cause problems such as:

  • Alerts that are missing key information or context. Research shows that EDR detects only 26% of initial attack vectors.
  • Security analysts spend too much time investigating incidents and investigations require significant expertise. Research shows the mean time to mitigate a security breach is now almost 70 days on average.
  • Traditional layered security focuses on technology and tools rather than business or security needs. There are already too many tools in Security Operations Centers (SOC) and security teams spend a large fraction of their time maintaining tools instead of actual security work.
  • DevOps development practices are dramatically speeding up the release cycle. With every new release, new resources and software components are deployed to production, making it more difficult to establish a consistent security perimeter.

The end result of layered security is an endless stream of security events, more tools and information available for pivoting, longer detection times, and over-budgeted security measures that do not provide enough security benefit.

XDR, by contrast, is a proactive approach to threat detection and response. It applies analytics and automation to visualize data across networks, clouds, and endpoints, while addressing increasingly complex threats. With XDR, security teams can:

  • Proactively identify hidden and complex threats
  • Conveniently track any threats originating from any source or location
  • Improve productivity of security analysts
  • Complete security incident investigations faster and more effectively


How Does XDR Work?


So, what is the difference between operating an XDR solution as opposed to the long list of security solutions that came before it?

The answer is a unified language. An effective XDR should merge all safety signals, data and controls using an abstract, common terminology. The language should clearly state the potential security associations (e.g. the "attack story") that the SOC should focus on

On one hand, the language is intended to deduplicate information and provide only the essential details. On the other hand, it emphasizes real high-risk attacks while removing false positives. The language does not require manual manipulation, eliminating the role of the "translator" army and allowing security teams to focus on the actual work of mitigating attacks. 

So how did this language come about? In fact, this technology didn't exist at all, or it wasn't mature enough 5 or 10 years ago. The advanced technologies currently available that enable effective XDR include:

  • Threat intelligence data that is richer and more up to date.
  • Natural language processing (NLP) algorithms that can be trained to draw conclusions from security rules, security alerts, and security controls within the organization.
  • Multidimensional behavioral algorithms that consider signals from multiple unrelated data sources.
  • Analysis of causal relationships that can connect data points to generate a coherent attack story automatically.

The key to effective XDR is to be able to use this language to decipher the intent of an attacker and identify cyberattacks on the fly, rather than after the damage has taken place. Today's data streams make it possible to instantly enhance data with context so that it can reach the presentation layer in near real time, and can be presented as required, in a simple, unified format.

A unified security language can help XDR break through noise and enter a new era of security that can effectively protect networks and organizational assets.

XDR Security Benefits


Granular Visibility

XDR can help you understand endpoint users, their permissions, the applications they use and the files they download. Combining this information with visibility of local and cross-cloud network and application communications can speed attack detection and prevention, while facing cloud security challenges

Micro Segmentation

XDR solutions can provide micro-segmentation at the workload, application and user level, and implement security policies and access control in bare metal or multi-cloud data centers. This significantly reduces the attack surface and prevents lateral movement.

Effective Response

With the vast amount of data and analytics provided by XDR, security teams can trace the origin of attacks and restructure their attack mechanisms. By blocking the source, rather than just an infected endpoint, a more effective response is possible.

Greater Control

XDR provides process whitelists and blacklists that only allow use of known-good configurations on endpoints. Devices and environments that generate unexpected changes to endpoints can be automatically locked down.

Better Productivity

Rather than forcing overworked security teams to deal with multiple security tools, XDR provides a single unified platform, greatly improving operational efficiency.


XDR is the Future, But What’s Next?


XDR is a new technology that is getting many security experts excited. But as we get ready to scrap previous technologies and make the move, we should all consider what’s next. XDR provides tremendous benefits, but in the translation to a common security language, might lose some of the details that are today essential for teams to prevent and mitigate security incidents. In the future, we are likely to see a balance of unified XDR platforms, working alongside point solutions that are really great at solving specific security challenges.