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XDR – Please Explain?

xdr

researchHQ’s Key Takeaways:

  • While Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solutions have benefits such as streamlining remediation efforts, they suffer from network blind spots.
  • Conversely, Extended Detection and Response (XDR) solutions allow for greater detection and response capabilities due to various factors e.g. its usage of machine learning and artificial intelligence.
  • An XDR can potentially be both a product to be procured and a security strategy to be adopted based on the vendor.

 

SIEM, we need to talk!

Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.

Security vendors have spent the last two decades providing more of the same orchestration, detection, and response capabilities, while promising different results. And as the old adage goes, doing the same thing over and over again whilst expecting different results is…? I’ll let you fill in the blank yourself.

 

Figure 1: The Impact of XDR in the Modern SOC: Biggest SIEM challenges – ESG Research 2020

SIEM! SOAR! Next Generation SIEM! The names changed, while the same fundamental challenges remained: they all required heavy lifting and ongoing manual maintenance. As noted by ESG Research, SIEM – being a baseline capability within SOC environments – continues to present challenges to organisations by being either too costly, exceedingly resource intensive, requiring far too much expertise, and various other concerns. A common example of this is how SOC teams still must create manual correlation rules to find the “bad” connections between logs from different products, applications and networks. Too often, these rules flooded analysts with information and false alerts and render the product too noisy to effective.

The expanding attack surface, which now spans Web, Cloud, Data, Network and more, has also added a layer of complexity. The security industry cannot only rely on its customers’ analysts to properly configure a security solution with such a wide scope. Implementing only the correct configurations, fine-tuning hundreds of custom log parsers and interpreters, defining very specific correlation rules, developing necessary remediation workflows, and so much more – it’s all a bit too much.

Detections now bubble up from many siloed tools, too, including Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) for network protection, Endpoint Protection Platforms (EPP) deployed across managed systems, and Cloud Application Security Broker (CASB) solutions for your SaaS applications. Correlating those detections to paint a complete picture is now an even bigger challenge.

There is also no ‘R’ in SIEM – that is, there is no inherent response built into SIEM. You can almost liken it to a fire alarm that isn’t connected to the sprinklers.

SIEMs have been the foundation of security operations for decades, and that should be acknowledged. Thankfully, they’re now being used more appropriately, i.e. for logging, aggregation, and archiving.

Now, Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solutions are absolutely on the right track – enabling analysts to sharpen their skills through guided investigations and streamline remediation efforts – but it ultimately suffers from a network blind spot. Similarly, network security solutions don’t offer the necessary telemetry and visibility across your endpoint assets.

Considering the alternatives

Of Gartner’s Top 9 Security and Risk Trends for 2020, “Extended detection and response capabilities emerge to improve accuracy and productivity” ranked as their #1 trend. They noted, “Extended detection and response (XDR) solutions are emerging that automatically collect and correlate data from multiple security products to improve threat detection and provide an incident response capability…The primary goals of an XDR solution are to increase detection accuracy and improve security operations efficiency and productivity.”

That sounds awfully similar to SIEM, so how is an XDR any different from all the previous security orchestration, detection, and response solutions?

The answer is: An XDR is a converged platform leveraging a common ontology and unifying language. An effective XDR must bring together numerous heterogeneous signals, and return a homogenous visual and analytical representation.. XDR must clearly show the potential security correlations (or in other words, “attack stories”) that the SOC should focus on. Such a solution would de-duplicate information on one hand, but would emphasize the truly high-risk attacks, while filtering out the mountains of noise. The desired outcome would not require exceeding amounts of manual work; allowing SOC analysts to stop serving as an army of “translators” and focus on the real work – leading investigations and mitigating attacks. This normalized presentation of data would be aware of context and content, be advanced technologically, but simple for analysts to understand and act upon.

SIEMs are data-driven, meaning they need data definitions, custom parsing rules and pre-baked content packs to retrospectively provide context. In contrast, XDR is hypothesis driven, harnessing the power of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence engines to analyse high-fidelity threat data from a multitude of sources across the environment to support specific lines of investigation mapped to the MITRE ATT&CK framework.

The MITRE ATT&CK framework is effective at highlighting “how bad guys do what they do, and how they do it.” While traditional prevention measures are great at “spot it and stop it” protections, MITRE ATT&CK demonstrates there are many steps taking place in the attack lifecycle that aren’t obvious. These actions don’t trigger sufficient alerting to generate the confidence required to support a reaction.

XDR isn’t a single product. Rather, it refers to an assembly of multiple security products (and services) that comprise a unified platform.

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