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EDR vs XDR: The Key Differences

While Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) and Extended Detection and Response (XDR) both represent crucial tools in today’s cybersecurity arsenal, the conversation around their capabilities can make it hard to parse the difference. EDR is the older solution – primarily focused on the endpoint level, it monitors and collects activity data from laptops, desktops, and mobile devices. This was a considerable advancement over its predecessor, the antivirus program. EDR has kept countless devices protected by a number of approaches, chief of which is end-user behavior analytics (EUBA), which spots suspicious patterns that may indicate a cybersecurity threat.

XDR, on the other hand, is much newer than EDR, and builds upon its foundations by extending beyond just endpoints. It integrates data from multiple security layers – including email, network, cloud, and endpoints – providing a more comprehensive view of an organization’s security posture. Alongside this, a single-pane-of-glass approach helps unify your organization’s responses, allowing security teams to address threats across the entire IT ecosystem rather than in isolation. This article will address the key differences between modern EDR and XDR solutions – and whether the newer XDR is worth the price.

What is EDR?

Keeping employees and workflows connected is integral to the day-to-day success of your organization. As more and more businesses seek to unlock greater degrees of efficiency, the number of internet-connected devices continues to skyrocket – estimated to hit 38.6 billion by 2025. The growing quantity of devices has already had severe ramifications on enterprise security, epitomized by Verizon’s 2023 malware threat report, which found endpoint-installed malware was directly responsible for up to 30% of data breaches.

EDR solutions take an approach that prioritizes endpoint protection within enterprise threats. This is achieved in a multi-faceted way – first by monitoring and collecting data from endpoints, and then analyzing this data to detect patterns indicative of attack, and sending relevant alerts to the security team.

The first step involves telemetry ingestion. By installing agents on each endpoint, the individual usage patterns of every device are registered and collected. The hundreds of different security-related events collected include registry modifications, memory access, and network connections. This is then sent to the central EDR platform for continuous file analysis. Whether on-premises or cloud-based, the core EDR tool examines each file that interacts with the endpoint. If a sequence of file actions matches a pre-recognized indicator of attack, the EDR tool will classify the activity as suspicious and automatically send an alert. By bringing suspicious activity and pushing alerts to the relevant security analyst, it becomes possible to identify and prevent attacks with far greater efficiency. Modern EDRs can also initiate automated responses according to predetermined triggers. For example, temporarily isolating an endpoint to block malware from spreading across the network.

What is XDR?

While EDR prioritizes endpoints, XDR can be seen as an evolution thereof. EDR systems, while valuable, come with notable drawbacks that can challenge resource-strapped organizations. Implementing and maintaining an EDR system demands significant investments in terms of time, finances, and bandwidth, not to mention the need for a skilled workforce to effectively manage it. As applications are accessed by a more distributed workforce that uses a new array of devices, device types, and access locations, more visibility gaps are occurring, further complicating the detection of advanced threats. XDR is a solution that shifts the perspective of your security team from blinkered alert-chasers to context-fueled threat hunters.

XDR is so revolutionary thanks to its ability to integrate threat data from previously isolated security tools – such as EDR – across an organization’s entire technology infrastructure. This integration facilitates swifter and more efficient investigation, threat hunting, and response capabilities. An XDR platform is capable of gathering security telemetry from a variety of sources, including endpoints, cloud workloads, networks, and email systems. One of the key advantages provided by XDR is its ability to provide contextual insights. By analyzing data across different layers of the IT environment, XDR helps security teams gain a deeper understanding of the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by attackers. This context-rich intelligence allows for more informed and effective responses to security threats.

Furthermore, its extended detection significantly reduces the time that analysts spend on manual investigation of threats. It achieves this by correlating alerts, which streamlines notifications and cuts down on the volume of alerts in analysts’ inboxes. This not only reduces noise but also increases the efficiency of the response process. By collating related alerts, an XDR solution offers a more comprehensive view of security incidents, enhancing the overall efficiency of cybersecurity teams and improving the security posture of the organization. The key to XDR’s impressive suite of offerings is in its implementation with your current security framework – see our guide for a deep dive into successful XDR implementation.

XDR vs EDR

XDR and EDR represent two fundamentally different approaches in the cybersecurity landscape. EDR is specifically designed to monitor and respond to threats at the endpoint level— and, as such, broke new ground for in-depth visibility upon its arrival. EDR solutions are particularly effective in environments where endpoint protection is paramount, thanks to the sole focus on endpoints over all else.

In contrast, XDR better reflects the resource realities facing modern organizations. It integrates data and insights from a broader range of sources, including not just endpoints, but also network traffic, cloud environments, and email systems. This holistic perspective enables XDR to detect more complex, multi-vector attacks that might bypass traditional endpoint-only security measures.

While EDR is fairly resource-demanding, XDR solutions aim to ease some of the administrative burden on security teams by offering a unified view of threats across the entire IT infrastructure. This facilitates a more coordinated and comprehensive response. By correlating data across different domains, XDR provides deeper context and enhanced detection capabilities, making it a more suitable option for organizations looking to implement an integrated security strategy.

The XDR vs EDR comparison table below details the 10 key differences between the two solutions. Keeping these differences in mind can be vital to distinguishing which solution presents the best option for your own use case.

EDR

XDR

Primary Focus

Identifying endpoint-based threats.

Integrating cross-channel threat detection.

Data Sources

Endpoint device data – including file activity, process execution, and registry changes.

From cloud access logs to email inboxes, data is collected from endpoints, network, cloud, and communication channels.

Threat Detection

Based on endpoint behavior that matches pre-established indicators of attack.

Correlates data across multiple layers of the IT environment for more accurate behavioral analytics.

Response Capabilities

Automatically isolates affected endpoints from the network; auto-deploys agents to infected endpoints.

Takes immediate and contextualized action, such as snapshots of business-critical data at early signs of a ransomware attack.

Analytics and Reporting

Streamlines data investigation with techniques such as data retention and maps malicious events with the MITRE ATT&CK framework.

Flags unusual behavior, enriched with threat intelligence feeds, to create prioritized and actionable reports.

Visibility

High visibility into endpoint activities.

Broad visibility across different IT components.

Complexity

Generally less complex, focused on endpoints.

More complex due to the integration of various data sources. Requires streamlining of data ingestion across stakeholders, APIs, and policies.

Integration with Other Tools

Limited to endpoint-oriented tools.

High integration with a wide range of security tools.

Use Case

Ideal for organizations focusing solely on endpoint security.

Suited for organizations seeking a holistic security approach.

Incident Investigation

Deep investigation at the endpoint level.

Broad investigation capabilities across the security ecosystem.

EDR Pros

When EDR was first introduced to the cybersecurity landscape, its new level of pinpoint accuracy helped push the field of security to greater heights. The following positives still hold true today.

Better than Antivirus

Traditional antivirus solutions rely solely on file signatures – this way, its protection extends only to known malware strains. EDR security is adept at detecting emerging and zero-day threats that traditional antivirus solutions may miss. Alongside the tighter degree of protection, EDR’s proactive approach helps shut down skilled threat actors before a full-scale breach occurs.

Its automated investigation and response capabilities can also be used by a forensic team to determine the extent of a previous attack. This detailed insight into the nature and trajectory of an attack enables more effective remediation strategies. This includes the ability to isolate infected endpoints, roll back systems to their pre-infection state.

Integrates with SIEM

Security information and event management (SIEM) solutions help provide a wider picture of EDR’s information. SIEM data can then enrich EDR analytics with additional context from across your IT landscape, helping to further identify, prioritize, and solve threats.

Can Guarantee Insurance Compliance

With cyber threats on such an unrelenting increase, cyber insurers often require customers to employ more in-depth protection than antivirus – it’s why EDR adoption can often be necessary for coverage.

EDR Cons

While EDR still provides viable cybersecurity for a large number of organizations today, it’s worth investigating its suitability within tomorrow’s security landscape. The following points illuminate the most common challenges faced by EDR-driven teams.

#1. High False Positives

EDR solutions, particularly those relying on weak heuristics and insufficient data modeling, can generate a high number of false positives. This can lead to alert fatigue for security teams, making it challenging to identify actual threats​.

#2. High Resource Demands

EDR systems can be complex and require a significant amount of resources for effective implementation and maintenance. They are designed to provide deep visibility into endpoint activities and generate detailed data on potential threats. This level of complexity necessitates a skilled team to manage and interpret the data effectively.

EDR solutions also require continuous management and regular updates to remain effective against evolving cyber threats. This involves not just software updates, but also adapting the system’s configurations and parameters to match the changing threat landscape and organizational IT changes. With remote and BYOD policies becoming increasingly ingrained, it’s never been more challenging to keep EDR up to speed.

#3. Seconds Too Slow

Relying on cloud-based responses or waiting for an analyst’s timely intervention may not be practical in today’s rapidly evolving threat landscape, where immediate solutions are increasingly essential.

The current EDR frameworks predominantly rely on cloud connectivity, which introduces a delay in protecting endpoints. This lag, or dwell time, can be critical. In the fast-paced realm of cybersecurity, even a brief delay can have severe consequences. Malicious attacks can infiltrate systems, pilfer or encrypt data, and erase their tracks in mere seconds.

XDR Pros

As the newest iteration of EDR, XDR provides a number of day-to-day advantages to your security teams.

#1. Comprehensive Coverage

XDR’s most significant advantage is its ability to integrate and analyze data from a variety of sources, including endpoints, networks, cloud environments, and email systems. This comprehensive coverage provides a holistic view of an organization’s security posture, enabling the detection of complex, multi-vector attacks that might bypass endpoint-only security solutions like EDR. This integration is key for organizations facing sophisticated and coordinated cyber threats.

#2. Advanced Threat Detection - and Investigation

Security solutions can’t be judged solely by the number of alerts they produce – with the overwhelming number of alerts and the limitations in handling them, coupled with the cybersecurity skills shortage, many security teams are stretched too thin to address every potential incident. Skilled security analysts are needed to assess each incident, conduct investigations, and determine the appropriate remediation steps. However, this process is time-consuming and many organizations simply don’t have the time to do so.

To enhance the effectiveness of analysis, XDR security solutions now incorporate artificial intelligence (AI). This AI is trained to autonomously investigate alerts, capable of contextualizing a potential incident, conducting a comprehensive investigation, identifying the nature and extent of the incident, and providing detailed insights to expedite the response process. Unlike human investigators, whose availability is limited, a well-trained AI system can perform these functions in mere seconds and can be scaled more easily and cost-effectively.

XDR Cons

Despite its wide-reaching benefits, there are a few things to keep in mind when exploring the XDR space. Requires a Clear View of Your Data Demands As with any cloud-based tool, an XDR system requires a thorough understanding of your logging and telemetry data needs. This helps give a clear sense of your XDR’s storage requirements when up and running.

#1. Potential Over-Reliance on One Vendor

Vendor-specific XDR solutions, while offering comprehensive cybersecurity, can lead to an over-reliance on that vendor’s ecosystem. This reliance restricts an organization’s ability to integrate diverse security products, potentially impacting its long-term strategic security planning. Additionally, the effectiveness of these XDR solutions is often contingent on the technological development of the vendor. Many vendors focus on limited attack vectors such as endpoints, email, network, or cloud, but the true potential of XDR lies in the collaboration of multiple solutions.

Therefore, the overall value of an XDR solution may depend heavily on the advancements and integration capabilities of other vendors’ technologies, posing a risk of incomplete security coverage if a vendor’s solutions are not comprehensive.

Bring Your Own EDR

XDR is more than a product – it’s a strategy that aims to maximize the cybersecurity resources already at your disposal. Stellar Cyber’s Open XDR removes the vendor lock-in that limits this strategy and supports your enterprise in achieving deeply-customized XDR protection – without asking you to start from scratch. Bring your own EDR to Stellar’s OpenXDR, and benefit from over 400 out-of-the-box integrations, allowing your pre-existing visibility to be buffed with application log data, cloud, and network telemetry – with no manual actions required. Find out more about how Stellar Cyber’s XDR can support next-gen SecOps today.

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