What’s the Difference between XDR and EDR?

What’s the Difference between XDR and EDR?

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Charles Ho
5 min read
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The cybersecurity market is unfortunately loaded with acronyms that can make selecting the right security service confusing. Some of these acronyms overlap, while others have ambiguous meanings that differ depending on who’s providing them.

The reason for this disparity in meanings is partly due to marketing hype—as a term becomes popular, marketing teams jump on the bandwagon, adding features to an existing service so they can say they have the same popular offering when, in reality, not much has changed.

Another reason for the confusion is that cybersecurity isn’t as cut-and-dry as it used to be. For example, the goal of having threat detection and response now requires a suite of tools that all fall under the umbrella term of “detection and response.” While this is much different than having “detection and response” 10 years ago, not every provider has updated its services.  Consequently, Company A might offer one service that differs significantly from what Company B offers yet both still call it “detection and response.”

This muddle of terms and definitions is why organizations and cybersecurity leaders need to educate themselves on these services so they can make informed decisions throughout the vendor procurement process. In this article, we’re tackling detection and response, EDR, and XDR, common solutions many vendors provide.

What is detection and response?

Antiviruses and firewalls no longer offer sufficient protection against modern threats. These tools typically work on a blocklist/allowlist principle, acting like a club bouncer, checking names to see who’s allowed or not allowed on a device or network.

While adequate in the past, today that methodology isn’t enough for comprehensive cybersecurity. Threat actors have found ways to bypass the guest list and sophisticated methods allow them to evade traditional AV/Firewall solutions.

One popular way for cybercriminals to gain access is through social engineering. This was the case with the notorious Twitter Bitcoin Scam hack, which resulted in over $121,000 of stolen Bitcoin from 400 users. The hackers made phone calls to Twitter employees, impersonated Twitter’s tech support, and told the employees they were debugging a VPN issue. One of the employees believed the lie, logged in to a phishing website, and inadvertently gave the crooks access to the company’s intranet, allowing them to move laterally and gain access to high-profile Twitter accounts.

It would have been impossible for an antivirus to prevent such an attack, but a sophisticated tool that detects anomalous behavior and lateral movement might have alerted the security team to the breach before any account compromise happened.

The Twitter example represents why detection and response is a must for all organizations — cybersecurity departments shouldn’t be content with prevention alone.

Detection requires visibility into a company’s resources, awareness of its assets, and knowledge of where vulnerabilities or misconfigurations might lie.

Response requires a combination of automated tools and human-driven actions to isolate, remediate, and recover from a threat. In today’s world, it’s an unfortunate reality that cybercrime is steadily increasing, and organizations – both large and small – must operate under the assumption that a security compromise is inevitable. Detection and response tools offer an edge because being proactive and prepared means being better protected.   

EDR and XDR both provide detection and response capabilities but there are significant differences between them.

EDR explained

Sophisticated attacks similar to the Twitter attack described above have become the norm rather than the exception. Malicious actors find ways into organizations through a combination of methods such as credential theft, exploiting human error, and phishing, then use advanced tools to gain deeper access.

State-of-the-art tools are now required to detect that kind of anomalous behavior and facilitate a response, such as alerting IT or automatically removing a user’s privileges temporarily while someone investigates.

Endpoint detection and response (EDR) was the first suite of tools designed to address this priority with a sole focus on endpoints.

These tools provide essential forensic data so you know precisely when, where, and how an attack occurred, making it easier to respond effectively. This is an incredibly helpful solution that vastly improves the resilience of organizations by helping them detect and respond to issues more quickly and efficiently.

XDR explained

Extended detection and response (XDR) emerged after organizations ran into limitations with their EDR solution in more complex environments, particularly cloud-based environments. Organizations had to supplement their EDR with point-based solutions, leading to vendor complexity and management issues. XDR was designed to be a single-solution service for all detection and response capabilities.

In addition to the usual detection activities that EDR offers, XDR also pulls in data from numerous other sources to help spot anomalies across all environments, a necessity for cloud-native and cloud-first organizations.

Instead of having an EDR solution for the company’s main environment and then various point solutions for other sources of potential threats, XDR merges these data sources and provides visibility across all of them. By using XDR, organizations were now able to centralize their detection and response while improving overall visibility.

Should you choose XDR and EDR?

Although each organization is different, EDR is typically better suited to organizations that:

  • Work with a more limited budget
  • Don’t rely too heavily on cloud services.
  • Have minimal software development teams.
  • Need a starting point security solution. 

Considering how reliant we’re becoming on cloud services, it’s likely that all organizations will eventually scale up to an XDR solution. If your company expands into a multi-cloud environment or is working inside a large software supply chain, XDR is likely better suited for you.

EDR should be considered an initial step towards cyber resiliency, but all organizations should plan towards eventually having an XDR in place. EDR is often too limited to provide the comprehensive visibility that is crucial for optimal detection and response. However, keep in mind that most EDR vendors also provide XDR, and using the same platform can give you flexibility in the future.

Knowing your needs helps you choose the right vendor

If you believe all the marketing hype, you might feel you need all of the security solutions currently available. However, EDR has its uses and place, as does XDR. The same is true of other solutions.

Understanding your company’s needs can help you choose a vendor more suited to the type of service you need.

Organizations like SolCyber offer all types of detection and response solutions, including managed detection and response (MDR), which brings in a human team to manage the EDR/XDR solution and to get involved in the event of a data breach.

Vendors should work with you to determine precisely the type of service you need and to answer any questions you might have so you can make an informed decision.

To learn more about SolCyber’s many different service offerings, contact us today for a no-obligation chat.

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Charles Ho
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