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With the rise in complex cyberattacks and an evolving cyberthreat landscape, tools that detect attackers and secure intricate data infrastructures through a prevention layer are a must for data-driven organizations. 

To enhance security infrastructures, organizations are increasingly prioritizing various threat detection and response capabilities and technologies built to provide greater visibility, detection and response aid across all corporate endpoints. 

Such solutions help companies stay on top of their monitoring by providing expertise through an external managed security service provider (MSSP) and filling architectural gaps, addressing the relative shortage of cybersecurity experts at many organizations. As a result, Gartner predicts that most enterprises will replace their legacy security software with one of these advanced solutions by 2023. 

According to a report by EY, 70% of all breaches originate at the endpoint, making it highly important for IT teams to increase both their visibility and their ability to remediate remotely. Thus, detection and response solutions can provide an effective countermeasure for today’s dispersed workforce. 


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Almost half of global IT and security leaders intend to increase their investment in network detection and response tools to enable their organizations to better defend against emerging threats. This also explains why Stratagem Market Insights’ survey [subscription required] of the threat detection and response market predicted a compound annual growth rate of 5.6% between 2021 and 2027.

Forrester’s senior analyst, Allie Mellen, says that detection and response technologies are critical to protect against cyberattacks, as they act as an additional layer of defense that must be leveraged in conjunction with prevention technologies and a zero-trust security strategy. “Prevention alone will not stop every single attack, so detection and response is a requirement for a robust security strategy,” she said.    

Understanding what each type of solution provides is often the most difficult challenge, particularly when terminologies vary slightly from vendor to vendor. MDR (managed detection and response) and XDR (extended detection and response) are two of the most widely used solutions, each serving different needs. Hence it is vital to understand the differences between them to determine which is suitable for your environment and the best fit for your security and business needs.

XDR and its benefits

XDR is a robust cybersecurity solution that collects and analyzes data from multiple sources to prevent, detect and respond to cyberattacks.

XDR is an evolved version of endpoint detection and response (EDR) that aims to improve security teams’ efficiency, productivity and effectiveness by centralizing historical and real-time event data in standard formats. 

It transcends EDR with additional detection and mitigation capabilities across a network domain to efficiently protect an organization’s entire digital environment — its network, cloud storage, applications and endpoints. 

XDR is a solution that best fits when you cannot cover a wide range of threat vectors, as it encompasses more than one type of detection. 

This solution enables scalable, high-performance storage, fast-indexed searches, and automation-driven threat responses. It is frequently offered as software-as-a-service (SaaS), making it easier for businesses to access this technology.

EDR and a few traditional MDR offerings are frequently viewed as limited-point solutions that address only one aspect of a network. XDR is a direct response to these constraints, combining detection and response capabilities for endpoints, networks and cloud services into a single platform. 

XDR solutions aim to readily deliver information and threat data to organizations with hybrid work environments and complex IT infrastructure facing increasingly sophisticated threats, allowing organizations to protect their data and operations better.

XDR solutions acknowledge the fact that endpoint detection alone is insufficient to protect modern IT infrastructure. Furthermore, indicators of compromise are not limited to endpoints; abnormal network traffic and traffic patterns, as well as anomalous cloud activity, can all indicate trouble.

Other notable benefits of XDR are the following:

  • Reaches farther: With its emphasis on the entire threat surface, XDR can assist businesses in identifying and mitigating threats to any aspect of their IT infrastructure.
  • Centralized ecosystem: XDR solutions centralize all threat data in a single dashboard, which is one of its major selling points. This allows teams to better prioritize their responses.
  • Low cost of ownership: XDR solutions can simplify security toolsets, often helping organizations find efficiencies and maximize their resources.
  • Analytics automation: A solution that automatically identifies and prioritizes threats while analyzing big data greatly benefits any security team.

XDR pain points

According to Charles Everette, director of cybersecurity advocacy at Deep Instinct, a critical disadvantage of XDR solutions is that they cannot change and evolve to meet the rapidly changing and sophisticated threat landscape today. 

“XDR solutions rely on recognizing patterns and techniques of known threats, applying machine learning algorithms, and looking for commonalities in new attacks. The issue is that XDR solutions used today have to see a threat and train on it before they can truly prevent it, if it deviates too far from what was seen in the past,” said Everette.  

Although XDR takes a broad approach to cyberthreat monitoring by combining multiple pieces of technology to provide greater insight into an IT environment, the approach has limitations. As an XDR solution pulls data from various sources, it might flood analysts with an overwhelming amount of threat data to be analyzed. 

Thus, XDR solutions don’t always provide context, which can mean the difference between preventing an attack and falling victim to one.

Often, separate XDR components are not developed cohesively from the ground up to ensure seamless interoperability. As a result, each platform component may provide only a snapshot of the overall scenario. 

In addition, XDR’s carbon footprint can be significant due to high computational and CPU usage for different pieces of technology. This leads to considerable noise, too, as different tools in an XDR solution may provide multiple alerts for the same issue. 

MDR and its benefits

MDR solutions are specialized security services that enable an organization to outsource the management of EDR products installed across its network domain. 

MDR not only provides an organization with access to security experts who specialize in threat hunting, analysis and response, it also reduces the burden of complex and critical security operations. This solution provides real-time threat hunting to detect malicious activity on individual endpoints, actively mitigate identified hazards and push alerts to the security operations center (SOC) for further investigation. 

MDR is a managed service that combines the benefits of EDR and XDR into a convenient offering, helping reduce some of the challenges associated with hiring cybersecurity professionals who have the experience required to build an in-house security program. 

As noted above, XDR generates a large amount of data, requiring teams to parse larger volumes of alert data to distinguish between false positives and actual threats. MDR relieves a client of this burden by entrusting detection and response to an experienced third-party security provider.

MDR can provide a better service approach to traditional detection and response activities. To protect modern IT infrastructure, MDR is sometimes packaged with a diverse selection of security tools, such as DNS firewalls, network sensors and cloud monitoring capabilities.

The most significant advantage of MDR is that it gives IT and security teams more time to focus on their strategic initiatives that support business goals. Sometimes, a managed service may be more cost-effective and accessible than establishing an in-house security team.

Other notable benefits of MDR are the following:

  • Event detection: MDR handles the hard work of analyzing the billions of security events that occur, helping differentiate between false positives and genuine threats, often by augmenting machine learning with human analysis and support.
  • Better alert management: Managing alerts allows businesses to prioritize their cybersecurity activities and focus on the most critical issues, proactively addressing vulnerabilities to minimize the organization’s threat surface.
  • Attack damage restoration: MDR solutions can help repair, restore and remediate after a cybersecurity incident, minimizing damage and recovery time.
  • Threat monitoring: MDR solutions can monitor an organization’s network and look for active incidents, helping businesses detect threats early and reduce potential damage.

MDR pain points

Not every MDR solution provider offers end-to-end defense, as some solutions fail to account for network- or cloud-based threats, offering visibility only into a single dataset. As helpful as these tools can be for an organization, reviewing the data they provide requires cybersecurity expertise. Even with expertise, the process can sometimes be time-consuming and tedious. 

Critical differences between XDR and MDR

XDR and MDR both provide endpoint security for incoming data beyond traditional scans, continuously monitoring endpoints and detecting indicators of compromise (IOCs). Both MDR and XDR can proactively neutralize identified threats and push alerts to SOC team members for further investigation. 

However, MDR is an outsourced security service that transfers the responsibility of network security to a team of experts specializing in threat detection and response, while in the XDR model, responsibility for management lies entirely with the organization adopting the XDR solution. 

Another key difference is that XDR programs benefit from the advanced capabilities of XDR’s approach to extending security. For example, XDR enables organizations to correlate security data across the entire network and deploy a cohesive real-time response to identified threats across the whole network topography. 

“Traditional MDR provides a good service, but it is siloed,” said Curt Aubley, risk and financial advisory managing director at Deloitte. “XDR provides a unified approach that consolidates tools, lowers costs, and lowers complexities so clients can focus on defensive cyber operations to protect the wide range of assets they rely on, while spending time on complex tool management.”

As a result, an organization lacking essential in-house security expertise may be better served by MDR. On the other hand, an organization with a structured — yet overwhelmed — security operations center (SOC) might benefit more from the force multiplication provided by XDR solutions.

The best approach to determining what to choose

It is essential to understand that a single technology cannot alone be a perfect solution that solves all security challenges for the organization. Instead, focusing on the outcomes a business needs is a better approach. 

This includes critical consideration of the scope of coverage provided by each solution and the expertise, qualifications and services provided by the solution provider. An optimal protection solution tailored to your needs can help extend across every aspect of your IT infrastructure, delivering relevant and timely information and the context required to make informed security decisions. 

Consider tools and solutions that will assist you in integrating your security tech stack while providing the visibility you require into every aspect of your network and IT infrastructure.

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