Cybersecurity teams often find themselves faced with the unenviable challenge of trying to anticipate the next attack they’ll face. Rising to this challenge requires deep visibility into the activity of the many users and devices that operate on enterprise networks, which enables security teams to look for signs of unusual activity. Teams that react quicky with automated responses have the greatest chance to nip malicious activity in the bud, protecting their information and systems.

Endpoint protection has evolved in recent years to meet these increased demands. Cybersecurity teams shifted away from traditional anti-malware tools to next-generation endpoint detection and response solutions that provide deep insight into desktops, laptops and mobile devices. While EDR technology marked a significant advance, IT security professionals still have an overarching need: the ability to see the big picture.

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Extended detection and response solutions, or XDR, promise to fill this gap, supplementing EDR’s device-centric capabilities with the ability to observe network traffic, peer into cloud services and comb through the activity logs generated by other security solutions. Acting on this knowledge, XDR platforms are able to alert administrators to suspicious activity and trigger situation-specific automated responses.

What’s the Scenario? How XDR Spots New Threats

Imagine, for example, that an email arrives at an organization’s email server on a Friday afternoon containing a previously unseen malicious attachment. The email server doesn’t recognize the file as malicious and delivers it to a user’s inbox. The user arrives in the office on Monday after a long weekend, sees the email and opens the attachment. Anti-virus software also misses the novel threat and allows the software to install on the user’s laptop, where it runs in the background. Several weeks later, the software wakes up and begins contacting command-and-control servers on the internet. This traffic appears to come from a legitimate internal source, so it successfully passes through the firewall.

The slow-moving nature of this attack allows it to pass through several layers of security controls: the email server, anti-virus software and the firewall. XDR solutions are able to comb through those records and piece together the picture of malicious activity, quarantining the system and preventing further spread of the malware. That’s the value they provide.

Organizations planning an XDR deployment should consider three key pieces of advice:

  • Automate as Much as Possible: The whole purpose of XDR is to reduce the burden on cybersecurity teams and allow rapid responses to emerging security threats. Taking advantage of the platform’s automation capabilities makes this possible.
  • Keep Your Toolset Simple: Don’t overcomplicate your security stack. Choose XDR platforms and other security tools that can easily integrate and feed each other information, allowing smooth interaction.
  • Plan to Scale: XDR depends on large quantities of data and computing power. Don’t cut corners when building out your solution in a way that limits your ability to retain and process critical information. Use the cloud to scale beyond the capabilities of your on-premises data centers.

XDR is the next generation of cybersecurity technology, and it offers organizations several key benefits. Those who build XDR into their cybersecurity workflows will improve the productivity of their teams, respond more effectively to security incidents and increase their visibility into user and network activity.

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