XDR: Separating Truth from “We Do That Too”


By eSentire

There’s no doubt that the cyber industry is inundated with security buzzwords: SIEM, SOAR, zero trust, MDR, XDR – you name it. Unfortunately, the job of a cybersecurity practitioner is hard as it is without the addition of having to navigate through the waters of the next big, flashy technologies out there.

In fact, security teams are stretched thinner than ever before, especially given the increasing cybersecurity costs and heightened cyber risk. Although organizations are now outsourcing their 24/7 cyber threat detection, investigation, and response capabilities to Managed Detection and Response (MDR) providers, it’s critical to understand that not all MDR providers are created equal.

Although Extended Detection and Response (XDR) may sound like just another cybersecurity buzzword, it shouldn’t be. In its Innovation Insight for XDR report, Gartner defines XDR as “Extended detection and response describes a unified security incident detection and response platform that automatically collects and correlates data from multiple proprietary security components.”

The premise of XDR is simple – it enables highly effective MDR by providing a technological foundation to enhance the operational effectiveness and remediate complex threats at speed. As the security industry moves towards XDR, it’s worth stepping back to understand how we got here, and how to separate fact from marketing in the race to keep up in the XDR space.

An XDR “Platform” Shouldn’t Be Just a SIEM

Before XDR, we had Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) technology, which traditionally sat at the center of threat detection and response. But there are challenges to relying on a SIEM platform; log data is low fidelity for threat detection and most importantly, SIEM doesn’t have any response capabilities.

For any security that continues to rely on SIEMs, this is problematic especially considering how long it takes organizations to detect and contain a cyber threat. According to the 2022 XDR Report conducted by Cybersecurity Insiders and eSentire, 78% of survey respondents take at least 5 days to detect and contain a cyber threat. In today’s threat landscape, this is shockingly slow.

Although SIEM isn’t totally obsolete (in fact, it can feed into an XDR platform), the real differentiator between a SIEM platform and XDR is the response capability. Unlike XDR, SIEMs have no built-in response capabilities and even lack response integrations with other tools that do have these capabilities.

Simply sending logs from underlying technologies to a SIEM and calling it an XDR platform is just putting a new label on an existing tool and quite frankly, the cybersecurity industry has been doing this for years.

True XDR platforms are purpose-built from the ground up with the key characteristics of XDR in mind – multi-signal correlation, enabling finer grain threat detection, and allowing for a central point of enforcement to issue threat response actions.

Measuring the Efficacy of XDR

Traditionally, many organizations focused on prevention and their security strategies reflected that mindset. The focus had always been about preventing threat actors from gaining access into the internal environment. In 2022, this mindset is unrealistic and unsustainable.

Today, security strategies have shifted to the ‘assume breached’ mentality. Regardless of the investments that companies have made for prevention, breaches are inevitable. Therefore, the focus should be on swift detection and response.

As more organizations move to investing in XDR, security leaders must be able to measure the efficacy of the solution to make that business case. When asked which key metrics security leaders should keep top of mind, majority of CISOs will point to two metrics that are the gold standard for threat detection, containment, and response: Mean Time to Detect (MTTD) and Mean Time to Contain (MTTC).

Additional metrics to consider are reduction in false positives, reduction in number of successful breaches, hours that in-house employees are spending wading through alerts, and cost-savings.

What to Look for in an XDR Platform

XDR isn’t a one-size fits all solution – in fact, no security solution is. Therefore, before security leaders jump on the XDR bandwagon, they need to understand what to look for in an XDR platform. Otherwise, it’s too easy to fall into the trap of security vendors claiming they provide XDR, when they don’t.

As you evaluate XDR providers, consider the following:

  • How much visibility are you gaining across your endpoint, network, cloud, identity, user behavior and email data?
  • Will you gain intelligent analytics that will allow your team to eliminate noise and reduce false positives?
  • Will your team benefit from integrated threat intelligence and contextual information to enable threat hunting?
  • Can the provider promise true machine learning driven threat detection and containment?
  • Can you achieve greater data ingestion for better threat investigation and response?

In fact, out of the above list, gaining visibility across the attack surface is the most important feature security leaders expect XDR platforms to have. In the 2022 XDR Report, 78% of survey respondents stated the need for greater visibility. Given how much corporate environments have changed with the rise of hybrid work environments in the past year, this makes sense.

There’s no doubt that XDR is a great technology foundation for a strong threat detection and response operation. It can help Security Operations teams automate their work and provides tangible benefits in the reduction of MTTD and MTTC for complex cyber threats. Additionally, it’s machine learning capabilities can enable teams with new ways to detect attacker TTPs at scale.

However, XDR isn’t a silver bullet. Security leaders will face many challenges if they haven’t invested in staffing and resources necessary to build a threat detection and response operation first. Although, it’s not easy to build a Security Operations Center (SOC) in-house so for many organizations who face this challenge, it’s easier to outsource those capabilities to an MDR provider.

By doing so, not only will you be able to benefit from faster threat detection and containment, but you’ll also gain the advantage of 24/7 threat response to drive better security outcomes.

About eSentire

eSentire is the Authority in Managed Detection and Response, protecting the critical data and applications of 1200+ organizations in 75+ countries from known and unknown cyber threats. Founded in 2001, the company’s mission is to hunt, investigate and stop cyber threats before they become business disrupting events. Combining cutting-edge machine learning XDR technology, 24/7 Threat Hunting, and proven security operations leadership, eSentire mitigates business risk, and enables security at scale. The Team eSentire difference means enterprises are protected by the best in the business with a named Cyber Risk Advisor, 24/7 access to SOC Cyber Analysts & Elite Threat Hunters, and industry-leading threat intelligence research from eSentire’s Threat Response Unit (TRU). eSentire provides Managed Risk, Managed Detection and Response and Incident Response services. For more information, visit www.esentire.com and follow @eSentire


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