Last updated at Mon, 24 Jul 2023 19:24:24 GMT

Talk in the market continues to swirl around extended detection and response (XDR) solutions. What are they? What are the benefits? Should my team adopt XDR, and if yes, how do we evaluate vendors to determine the best approach?

While there continue to be many different definitions of XDR in the market, the common themes around this technology consistently are:

  • Tightly integrated security products delivering common threat prevention, detection, and incident response capabilities
  • Out-of-the-box operational efficiencies that require minimal customization
  • Security orchestration and automation functions to streamline repetitive processes and accelerate response
  • High-quality detection content with limited tuning required
  • Advanced analytics that can correlate alerts from multiple sources into incidents

Simply put, XDR is an evolution of the security ecosystem in order to provide elevated and stronger security for resource-constrained security teams.

XDR for 2023

Why is XDR the preferred cybersecurity solution? With an ever-expanding attack surface and diverse and complex threats, security operations centers (SOCs) need more visibility and stronger threat coverage across their environment – without creating additional pockets of siloed data from point solutions.

A 2022 study of security leaders found that the average security team is now managing 76 different tools – with sprawl driven by a need to keep pace with cloud adoption and remote working requirements. Because of the exponential growth of tools, security teams are spending more than half their time manually producing reports, pulling in data from multiple siloed tools. An XDR solution offers significant operational efficiency benefits by centralizing all that data to form a cohesive picture of your environment.

Is XDR the right move for your organization?

When planning your security for the next year, consider what outcomes you want to achieve in 2023.

Security product and vendor consolidation

To combat increasing complexity, security and risk leaders are looking for effective ways to consolidate their security stack – without compromising the ability to detect threats across a growing attack surface. In fact, 75% of security professionals are pursuing a vendor consolidation strategy today, up from just 29% two years ago. An XDR approach can be an effective path for minimizing the number of tools your SOC needs to manage while still bringing together critical telemetry to power detection and response. For this reason, many teams are prioritizing XDR in 2023 to spearhead their consolidation movement. It’s predicted that by year-end 2027, XDR will be used by up to 40% of end-user organizations to reduce the number of security vendors they have in place.

As you explore prioritizing XDR in 2023, it’s important to remember that all XDR is not created equal. A hybrid XDR approach may enable you to select top products across categories but will still require significant deployment, configuration, and ongoing management to bring these products together (not to mention multiple vendor relationships and expenses to tackle). A native XDR approach delivers a more inclusive suite of capabilities from a single vendor. For resource-constrained teams, a native approach may be superior to hybrid as there is likely to be less work on behalf of the customer. A native XDR does much of the consolidation work for you, while a hybrid XDR helps you consolidate.

Improved security operations efficiency and productivity

“Efficiency” is a big promise of XDR, but this can look different for many teams. How do you measure efficiency today? What areas are currently inefficient and could be made faster or easier? Understanding this baseline and where your team is losing time today will help you know what to prioritize when you pursue an XDR strategy in 2023.

A strong XDR replaces existing tools and processes with alternative, more efficient working methods. Example processes to evaluate as you explore XDR:

  • Data ingestion: As your organization grows, you want to be sure your XDR can grow with it. Cloud-native XDR platforms will be especially strong in this category, as they will have the elastic foundation necessary to keep pace with your environment. Consider also how you’ll add new event sources over time. This can be a critical area to improve efficiency.
  • Dashboards and reporting: Is your team equipped to create and manage custom queries, reports, and dashboards? Creating and distributing reports can be extremely time-consuming – especially for newer analysts. If your team doesn’t have the time for constant dashboard creation, consider XDR approaches that offer prebuilt content and more intuitive experiences that will satisfy these use cases.
  • Detections: With a constant evolution of threat actors and behaviors, it's important to evaluate if your team has the time to bring together the necessary threat intelligence and detection rule creation to stay ahead of emergent threats. Effective XDR can greatly reduce or potentially eliminate the need for your team to manually create and manage detection rules by offering built-in detection libraries. It’s important to understand the breadth and fidelity of the detections library offered by your vendor and ensure that this content addresses the needs of your organization.
  • Automation: Finding the right balance for your SOC between technology and human expertise will allow analysts to apply their skills and training in critical areas without having to maintain repetitive and mundane tasks additionally. Because different XDR solutions offer different instances of automation, prioritize workflows that will provide the most benefit to your team. Some example use cases would be connecting processes across your IT and security teams, automating incident response to common threats, or reducing any manual or repetitive tasks.

Accelerated investigations and response

While XDR solutions claim to host a variety of features that can accelerate your investigation and response process, it's important to understand how your team currently functions. Start by identifying your mean time to respond (MTTR) at present, then what your goal MTTR is for the future. Once you lay that out, look back at how analysts currently investigate and respond to attacks and note any skill or knowledge gaps, so you can understand what capabilities will best assist your team. XDR aims to paint a fuller picture of attacker behavior, so security teams can better analyze and respond to it.

Some examples of questions that can build out the use cases you require to meet your target ROI for next year.

  • During an investigation, where is your team spending the majority of their time?
  • What established processes are currently in place for threat response?
  • How adaptable is your team when faced with new and unknown threat techniques?
  • Do you have established playbooks for specific threats? Does your team know what to do when these fire?

Again, having a baseline of where your organization is today will help you define more realistic goals and requirements going forward. When evaluating XDR products, dig into how they will shorten the window for attackers to succeed and drive a more effective response for your team. For a resource-constrained team, you may especially want to consider how an XDR approach can:

  • Reduce the amount of noise that your team needs to triage and ensure analysts zero in on top priority threats
  • Shorten the time for effective investigation by providing relevant events, evidence, and intelligence around a specific attack
  • Provide effective playbooks that maximize autonomy for analysts, enabling them to respond to threats confidently without the need to escalate or do excessive investigation
  • Deliver one-click automation that analysts can leverage to accelerate a response after they have accessed the situation

Unlock the potential of XDR with Rapid7

If you and your team prioritize XDR in 2023, we’d love to help. Rapid7’s native XDR approach unlocks advanced threat detection and accelerated response for resource-constrained teams. With 360-degree attack surface coverage, teams have a sophisticated view across both the internal – and external – threat landscape. Rapid7 Threat Intelligence and Detection Engineering curate an always up-to-date library of threat detections – vetted in the field by our MDR SOC experts to ensure high-fidelity, actionable alerts. And with recommended response playbooks and pre-built workflows, your team will always be ready to respond to threats quickly and confidently.

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