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Understanding XDR Security (eXtended Detection and Response)

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What Is XDR?

XDR, or Extended Detection and Response, is a cybersecurity technology that helps monitor and mitigate cyber security threats. It unifies threat data, gathering it from previously isolated security tools within an organization’s technology stack. This enables more efficient and rapid threat investigation, hunting, and response. XDR is a cybersecurity architecture that integrates security tools across multiple layers, allowing for faster threat detection and improved investigation and response times.

The term XDR was coined in 2018 by Nir Zuk of Palo Alto Networks and further defined by analysts from Forrester. It aims to provide holistic protection against cyberattacks, unauthorized access, and misuse.

XDR combines data from various security layers including email, endpoints, servers, cloud workloads, and network. It employs sophisticated analytics to weave this information into a coherent narrative of an attack, providing a unified view of threats even when multiple attack vectors are involved. XDR also has improved malware detection that can catch more sophisticated threats.

This is part of an extensive series of guides about cybersecurity.

Get The Definitive Template

Request for Proposal (RFP) – XDR

  • In-depth mapping of critical security and operations tools and functionalities
  • Deep expertise from seasoned security professionals
  • An easy-to-use design for efficient XDR project and vendor evaluation

The Origins of XDR

XDR emerged as a response to the evolving complexity of cybersecurity threats. Traditionally, security operations relied on isolated tools like Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) and Network Traffic Analysis (NTA). These tools were often effective in their own domains but lacked the integration needed for comprehensive threat management. 

The concept of XDR was first introduced by Nir Zuk in 2018, as a security architecture that would integrate various security tools into a single framework. This integration would allow for better context and correlation of threat data, leading to faster detection and more effective incident response. 

XDR can be “open” or “closed”. According to Forrester, “open,” or hybrid XDR relies on third-party integrations to collect telemetry data, while “closed,” or native XDR integrates with other tools from the provider’s suite. In 2021, Forrester Principal Analyst Allie Mellen proposed the following definition:

The evolution of EDR, which optimizes threat detection, investigation, response, and hunting in real time. XDR unifies security-relevant endpoint detections with telemetry from security and business tools such as network analysis and visibility (NAV), email security, identity and access management, cloud security, and more. It is a cloud-native platform built on big data infrastructure to provide security teams with flexibility, scalability, and opportunities for automation.

Goals of XDR

Extended Detection and Response solutions focus on the following aspects of security.

Protection against cyber attacks

XDR aims to deliver comprehensive security coverage by integrating various security technologies into a unified platform. This approach ensures that potential threats are detected and mitigated across all layers of the IT infrastructure, including endpoints, network traffic, email, servers, and cloud workloads. By correlating data from these multiple sources, XDR can identify sophisticated and multi-vector attacks that might go unnoticed by isolated security solutions.

Blocking unauthorized access

XDR enhances an organization’s ability to prevent unauthorized access by continuously monitoring and analyzing user behavior and access patterns. It uses anomaly detection algorithms to flag and block suspicious login attempts, correlating them with other security events for added context. This helps in identifying and mitigating credential-based attacks and unauthorized access attempts before they can compromise sensitive data.

Preventing misuse

XDR solutions detect and prevent the misuse of legitimate resources within an organization. This includes monitoring for abnormal usage patterns that could indicate insider threats or compromised accounts being used for malicious purposes. By analyzing user activities and system interactions, XDR can quickly identify deviations from normal behavior and trigger automated responses to contain and mitigate potential misuse, thus protecting the integrity and security of organizational assets.

Key XDR benefits

An XDR platform can provide the following benefits:

  • Improved prevention capabilities—inclusion of threat intelligence and adaptive machine learning can help ensure that solutions are able to implement protections against the greatest variety of attacks. Additionally, continuous monitoring along with automated response can help block a threat as soon as it is detected to prevent damage.
  • Granular visibility—provides full user data at an endpoint in combination with network and application communications. This includes information on access permissions, applications in use, and files accessed. Having full visibility across your system, including on-premises and in the cloud enables you to detect and block attacks faster.
  • Effective response—robust data collection and analysis allows you to trace an attack path and reconstruct attacker actions. This provides the information needed to locate the attacker wherever they are. It also provides valuable information that you can apply to strengthen your defenses.
  • Greater control—includes the ability to both blacklist and whitelist traffic and processes. This ensures that only approved actions and users can enter your system.
  • Better productivity—centralization reduces the number of alerts and increases alerting accuracy. This means fewer false positives to sift through. Also, since XDR is a unified platform and not a combination of multiple point solutions, it is easier to maintain and manage, and reduces the number of interfaces that security must access during a response.

4 Key XDR Capabilities

Here are the four key capabilities of XDR solutions.

Collecting data from multiple security layers

XDR solutions analyze both internal and external traffic, from multiple layers of an organization’s technology stack. This makes it possible to identify threats even if they bypass the system perimeter, integrate threat intelligence to identify known attack methods, and leverage machine learning-based detection to identify unknown and zero-day threats. 

Advanced analytics for automated investigation

XDR tools correlate alerts and data from multiple security silos and use advanced analytics to build complete attack timelines. They can also combine data to provide unified visibility into attacks that involve multiple attack vectors.

Fast detection of threats and improved investigation and response

XDR tools provide a central UI that lets analysts investigate and respond to events, regardless where they occurred in the environment. They provide response orchestration, integrating with multiple security tools—for example, XDR can automatically update endpoint policies or spam email rules across the enterprise, in response to an attack.

Flexible SaaS-based deployment

XDR solutions can orchestrate and automate existing security tools, making more of existing security investments. They are cloud-based, with scalable storage and compute to reduce costs and operational overhead. Finally, they continuously improve by applying machine learning and threat intelligence to huge volumes of historical data.

Want to dive deep into EDR? Here are some resources
XDR – Taking Prevention, Detection and Response to the next level image

XDR – Taking Prevention, Detection and Response to the next level

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XDR RFP Template

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How XDR Differs from Other Security Solutions

XDR is different from other security tools in that it centralizes, normalizes, and correlates data from multiple sources. These capabilities enable more complete visibility and can expose less obvious events.

By collecting and analyzing data from multiple sources, XDR solutions are able to better validate alerts, thereby reducing false positives and increasing reliability. This helps reduce any time teams might waste on excessive or inaccurate alerts. According to Gartner, this results in improved productivity in security teams and allows faster, more automated responses.


EDR was created to provide perimeter-wide protection for a system. This was an advancement on existing methods as it provided coverage for a primary component in an attack: endpoints. The result was proactive endpoint security that covered many security gaps and blindspots.

Effective use of EDR still requires collaboration with other tools and processes, however. It cannot protect your system on its own. It also cannot provide full visibility of your system.

XDR is a more advanced version of EDR. Unlike EDR, it can provide visibility into every phase of an attack, from endpoint to payload. By integrating XDR into your security platform, you can collate information from across your systems.

Learn more about EDR in our guide: What Does EDR Stand For?


Managed Detection and Response (MDR) is a solution that provides an alternative to an in-house SOC. It provides 24/7 network monitoring and detection of security incidents by human security analysts.

Both MDR and XDR help security teams deal with limited resources and growing threats, by they do so in different ways:

  • MDR supplements the internal security team – it offers SOC as a service, which might include an XDR solution as part of the offering, operated by the MDR’s staff.
  • XDR automates security tasks and improves analyst productivity – if an organization has an in-house SOC, it can improve its incident response effectiveness. 

For organizations just starting to build their security infrastructure, MDR will typically provide a more cost effective solution and significantly faster ramp up.


Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) is used in most security operations centers as a central repository of security event data and a way to generate alerts from security events. XDR can extend SIEM by tapping into SIEM data, and combining it with data from point solutions that integrate with the XDR platform. 

XDR can take SIEM one step further. For example, when a SIEM platform generates an alert, instead of having security analysts manually go into endpoint security systems or cloud systems to investigate further, XDR can do this automatically.

XDR also enables more advanced analytics. SIEM was traditionally based on statistical correlation rules, while XDR introduces AI-driven analysis that establishes behavioral baselines, and identifies anomalies based on these baselines.

You can learn more about endpoint security concepts in our guides:

Get The Definitive Template

Request for Proposal (RFP) – XDR

  • In-depth mapping of critical security and operations tools and functionalities
  • Deep expertise from seasoned security professionals
  • An easy-to-use design for efficient XDR project and vendor evaluation

XDR Security with Cynet 360 AutoXDR

Cynet 360 AutoXDR is the world’s first Autonomous Breach Protection platform that natively integrates the endpoint, network and user attack prevention & detection of XDR with the automated investigation and remediation capabilities of SOAR, backed by a 24/7 world-class MDR service. End to end, fully automated breach protection is now within reach of any organization, regardless of security team size and skill level.

Get a free trial of Cynet 360 and experience the world’s only integrated XDR, SOAR and MDR solution.

XDR Questions and Answers

What Does XDR Stand For?

XDR stands for eXtended Detection and Response: 

  • Extended means XDR  can provide insight into data in networks, clouds, endpoints, and applications (unlike traditional EDR which only focused on endpoints).
  • Detection means XDR has automated analysis capabilities that can help it identify anomalies in the IT environment, detect potential security incidents, and provide the full attack story.
  • Response means that XDR gives security teams the tools to immediately respond to an attack, by locking down endpoints, applying network segmentation, or other proactive measures. 
Why is XDR Important?

The main promise of XDR is to reduce the likelihood of breaches that will have an impact on an organization and its customers. 

XDR gives analysts contextual information about real attacks that can help them understand, contain and eradicate the threat more quickly. It can do this by combining data sources from the entire cybersecurity ecosystem, including endpoints but extending to networks, cloud resources and other resources, and helping analysts visualize the entire kill chain. 

In addition, XDR can achieve significant efficiencies in security organizations, which suffer from a talent shortage and scarce resources. XDR is a unified platform, rather than a set of separate security tools, making it easy to deploy, upgrade, expand, and manage. This reduces the need for extensive training and certifications, and improves productivity, especially for Tier 1 security analysts.

What is the Difference Between Point Solutions (NGAV, EDR, NDR, etc.) and XDR?

XDR collects activity data from multiple vectors including endpoints, servers, and networks, providing a level of detection that is difficult or impossible to achieve with SIEM or isolated security solutions. 

Tools like next generation antivirus (NGAV), endpoint detection and response (EDR) or network detection and response (NDR) are only effective against attacks that are focused on one layer of the security environment, and find it difficult to detect and respond to threats that cross multiple layers, for example leveraging a compromised endpoint to attack the network.

Is XDR Better than EDR?

XDR takes endpoint detection and response (EDR) one step further, evolving the original EDR approach which focused on a single security vector.

EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response) is still of great value, and XDR solutions continue to leverage EDR capabilities to protect endpoints. However, EDR is ultimately limited because it can only see the endpoint in a complex attack story. This limits the scope of the threats that can be detected and mitigated. In this sense, XDR is better than just EDR alone, because it extends the benefits of EDR to threats that go beyond the endpoint to target additional security layers

Which are the Top XDR Solutions?

Here are five leading XDR security solution providers:

  1. Cynet
  2. Palo Alto XDR
  3. Cisco XDR
  4. McAfee XDR
  5. Trend Micro

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