MDR vs XDR: Which Solution Will Save You More Time?

What is Managed Detection and Response (MDR)?

Managed detection and response (MDR) services help manage network, host, and endpoint security technologies for a client organization. The MDR service provider usually deploys these technologies on the client’s endpoints and provides additional services remotely, both automated and based on human security experts.

MDR services search for and respond to threats, leveraging automated tools and human security experts, and support the security efforts of the client organization. MDR is ideal for organizations that do not have an in-house threat detection team or have an internal team that is lacking in resources or specialized expertise.

What is Extended Detection and Response (XDR)?

Extended detection and response (XDR) platforms provide incident detection and response capabilities, automatically collecting and correlating data from various security products.

XDR platforms integrate and correlate sensor data collected from multiple sources within the organization, including endpoints, internal and external network boundaries, adaptive decoys, and cloud workloads.

XDR platforms also integrate and correlate alerts to increase their accuracy and facilitate earlier detection of attacks. Additionally, XDR platforms provide rich historical data from multiple data sources to support hunting and incident investigation efforts.

How Do MDR and XDR Work?

MDR services offer remote threat monitoring, detection, and response. These are third-party providers that utilize automated tools and expert skills to support the security efforts of a client organization. MDR providers often use endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools to achieve visibility into the client organization’s endpoint security posture.

MDR providers employ advanced analytics and threat intelligence tools to provide forensic data to human analysts. These analysts perform alert classification and determine the appropriate responses to mitigate the risk and impact of security incidents. Next, these experts utilize the relevant tools to neutralize threats and restore affected endpoints to their post-attack state.

Here are the main features of MDR:

  • Prioritization — MDR services offer managed prioritization. The service provider analyzes the numerous alerts and prioritizes them for the client organization.

  • Threat hunting — MDR services employ human threat hunters to identify the most subtle and covert threats. They aim to catch what automated defenses miss and alert the client organization on detected threats.

  • Investigation — MDR services enhance security alerts in different contexts to help organizations understand threats faster. Investigation services provide a better understanding of what happened during an incident, when it occurred, and who was affected. This information is key to planning an effective response.

  • Guided response — MDR services provide practical advice on containing and addressing certain threats. This guided response encourages organizations to take basic actions, for example, neutralizing threats and progressively recovering from attacks.

Related content: Read our guide to MDR security

XDR is a security technology that performs automated analysis and correlation of active data. It enables security teams to contain threats better, providing the visibility and context needed to rapidly and effectively respond to threats. XDR solutions facilitate rapid response and help reduce critical server downtime.

Here are the main features of XDR:

  • Telemetry and data analysis — XDR solutions monitor and collect data from several security layers, including the network, cloud, server, and endpoints. These tools apply analytics to this data to correlate the context of many alerts originating from all tiers. The goal is to show a few priority alerts and avoid burdening the security team.

  • Detection — XDR solutions offer the visibility needed to enable filtering and reporting on the alerts that require a response. This visibility also serves to detect threats, investigate the threat’s origin, and determine a baseline of normal behavior within the environment. The goal is to prevent the threat from affecting other system parts.

  • Response — XDR solutions can contain and eliminate threats and update security policies to prevent reoccurring breaches. These solutions handle all threats affecting the security control point, including container security, networks, and servers.

Related content: Read our guide to XDR security

MDR vs. XDR: What is the Difference?

Extended Detection and Response (XDR) is a next-generation cybersecurity solution that enables organizations to proactively protect themselves from cyberthreats. This is achieved by providing unified visibility into multiple threat vectors cyber threat actors can use to attack an organization's network.

Both MDR and XDR can help security teams handle growing workloads and limited resources, but they approach the problem differently:

  • MDR supplements an organization's internal security team with external resources. MDR providers might use XDR solutions, but they are run by external SOC analysts rather than internal teams. In many cases, partnering with an MDR provider can achieve significant savings compared to the cost of setting up and maintaining an equivalent SOC and the necessary security technologies in-house.

  • XDR is a tool that simplifies security analysis and allows analysts to do their job faster and more effectively. It unifies visibility across an organization's security architecture and automates repetitive and time-consuming tasks to secure staff and investigate and remediate potential threats to the business.

In summary, both solutions can significantly improve an organization's ability to identify and respond to security threats, and both are intended to reduce the load on internal security teams.

MDR vs. XDR: Which Solution Will Save Your Team More Time?

Here are a few key considerations for selecting the right security approach for your organization — MDR or XDR.

Choose MDR if your organization:

  • Has mature detection and response programs but cannot address advanced threats with existing tools or resources

  • Wants to introduce new security skills and tools without hiring additional staff or investing in additional technologies

  • Has a shortage of security talent or difficulty recruiting new security staff.

  • Seeks to bridge the skills gaps within IT teams and provide access to highly-skilled security professionals

Choose XDR if your organization:

  • Needs to enhance detection and response of advanced or evasive threats

  • Needs to improve response time

  • Needs to accelerate multi-domain threat analysis, investigation, and hunting from a single console

  • Suffers from alert fatigue and is experiencing burnout of security analysts

  • Has disconnected or isolated security architectures which reduce productivity for security teams

  • Wants to improve ROI for its existing investments in security tools

Extended Detection & Response

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