Busting Security Jargon: What are EDR, XDR, MDR & MXDR?

There is no scarcity of jargon in the IT world, especially in cybersecurity. Those who don’t regularly deal with these terminologies often wonder what they even mean and which one is right for their organisation.  

That’s why we are launching a series aimed at busting security and IT jargon for you. In simple terms, we will try to explain the meaning, the differences between seemingly similar products and services, why you need it and what’s right for your business.  

In this post, we will explore the differences and similarities between various detection and response capabilities against cyber threats available today – EDR vs XDR vs MDR and MXDR.

What is End Point Detection & Response (EDR)?

EDR is a cybersecurity solution that continuously monitors all endpoints, such as mobiles, laptops, desktops, and other IoT devices, to detect and mitigate threats. 

Endpoint devices often give multiple points of entry for cybercriminals. EDR solutions detect and remediate threats before they spread through the network and cause further damage.  

EDR solutions monitor endpoints 24/7 and even automatically perform certain actions to contain threats and alert security experts, who can then use the logged data to investigate and take remediation actions. 

EDR vs XDR: Similarities and Differences

For a long time, organisations relied on anti-virus software to combat threats. Traditional antivirus solutions primarily use signature-based detection, which involves comparing files or programs against a database of known malware to identify and block threats. However, this approach is often unable to detect new or previously unknown threats.  

To address today’s sophisticated threats, advanced techniques are necessary. Next-generation antivirus solutions and EDR provide a more comprehensive security approach, offering enhanced protection against evolving cyber threats.

How does EDR work?

  • Continuously monitors endpoints: The EDR solution will first install a software agent to your endpoints. This agent is extremely lightweight and hidden from your users. You won’t even realise it’s there and it will not slow down your system.  
  • Analyses data: The agent sends end-point device logs, events and other data to the EDR solution for analysis. EDR uses AI, machine learning and behavioural analytics and correlates data to uncover threats that might otherwise go unnoticed. Signs of malicious activities are then shared with your security teams in real time. The team analyses this behaviour, putting pieces together to identify if it’s a true threat and if action is necessary.  
  • Automatic remediation actions: While your security team investigates the incident, EDR can automatically isolate the device or take other actions to prevent the threat from spreading through the network. 
  • Data storage for future use: EDR records system activity and stores data for future investigations. This helps teams in root cause analysis, showing you how the attack occurred and what actions the attacker took. 

What is Extended Detection & Response(XDR)?

Extended Detection and Response (XDR) is an evolution of EDR extending the detection and response capabilities beyond just your desktops and laptops to also include your network and cloud infrastructure. 

This makes XDR a superior solution for security analysts as it consolidates data from different security tools across your entire tech estate in a single platform, breaking down siloes and making it easier to remediate threats faster. 

The way XDR solutions work is similar to EDR. Instead of just collecting data from endpoints, they collect from across multiple domains, correlate data using AI and machine learning capabilities, prioritise them and send the data to security teams helping them triage issues faster than manual methods.  

As it gives a comprehensive view of cyber threats, analysts don’t have to go through disparate pieces of information to understand the context and can respond and remediate incidents quickly. 

EDR vs XDR: Similarities and Differences

What is Managed Detection & Response (MDR)?

Managed Detection and Response (MDR) adds an additional layer of human monitoring to the EDR solution, ensuring alerts are proactively handled around the clock. This added layer reduces the impact of a breach as it can typically be remediated quicker, limiting the impact on your business. 

With the global shortage of cybersecurity skills, organisations often rely on trusted MDR partners to act as extensions of their IT teams. This is a cost-effective way to access highly skilled cybersecurity experts without hiring full-time employees in-house while keeping your data and customers safe. 

What is Managed Extended Detection & Response (MXDR)?

Like MDR, MXDR is a managed service that combines human expertise with advanced technology. However, with MXDR, the service provider uses XDR security solutions to extend protection across a wider variety of IT environments. 

Because these services offer comprehensive coverage, real-time monitoring, and cyberthreat hunting beyond endpoints, MXDR is often faster and more effective than traditional MDR.  

Why do you need Detection and Response Solutions? 

Now that you’re familiar with different detection and response solutions, let’s try and understand why you need them instead of traditional preventive measures.  

There is no foolproof way to secure your IT estate. No organisation can be 100% secure and the best approach is to add multiple layers of protection to filter out threats.  

For a long time, our cybersecurity focused on preventive measures. Think about entry into a large event such as a sports arena. There are turnstiles where staff scan your ticket to let you in the building. 

Imagine you are trying to get in without a legitimate ticket, you would be stopped before you even get inside. So, if you were a bad actor you would invest in ways to make your tickets look more legitimate.  

We use tools like firewalls and antivirus to scan the legitimacy of data before it enters your IT system to stop the bad actors before they gain access.  

However, attackers are finding unique ways to circumvent these preventive measures and penetrate your systems. This is where detection & response becomes crucial.  

EDR vs XDR: Similarities and Differences

Back to our sports arena: Let’s say the bad actor was able to present a convincing ticket to get past the staff. Once inside there would be security guards scanning the space watching for suspicious activity. A really smart bad actor would find a way to hide in plain sight by imitating a security guard. Once they have a uniform and a badge, how do we determine that they are not a legitimate guard?  

We need to apply this methodology to our security. Attackers constantly find ways around preventive measures, and we need methods to detect and eliminate them. 

By continually scanning your computer network for suspicious activity (such as a file that is named correctly but acting inappropriately), we can monitor and decide if we need to respond before they can execute their malicious plan.  

The response involves restoring your systems to normal. This can be as simple as kicking out the attacker by removing malicious software and then looking for additional threats.  

Or if the bad actor has been able to execute their malicious actions, such as installing ransomware or stealing data (exfiltration), we need to be able to identify these actions as soon as possible to minimise the damage by rolling out our recovery plan and returning to normal. 

What’s important for us to remember is that we need prevention, detection and response, all working together to give us the best chance at finding attackers.  

EDR vs XDR vs MDR vs MXDR: Which solution is right for my business?

While there is some overlap between the different detection and response solutions we discussed in this post, there are also some key differences in terms of their focus and capabilities. 

EDR provides advanced detection, investigation and response capabilities to only endpoints whereas XDR solutions extend these services to multiple domains. MDR and MXDR solutions are managed services that provide more comprehensive security, including detection, investigation, and response capabilities, as well as ongoing monitoring and management services. 

Ultimately, the choice between these solutions depends on your specific security needs, resources and budget. Have you just started building your cybersecurity strategy and want to establish a foundation before scaling up? Then EDR might be sufficient for you.  

What if you don’t have any internal resources to act on the alerts? Then you will need an MDR or MXDR solution.    

It is worth noting that the majority of cyber insurers now require EDR or XDR as a minimum and not just traditional anti-virus solutions.  

There are also numerous EDR and XDR solutions to choose from in the market, including Microsoft, Cisco, Huntress, Barracuda and more. A choice among them again depends on your requirements and budget. 

Next steps

Improving your organisation’s cybersecurity posture is no longer optional – it’s a necessity now. It’s something you can’t put off for later as threats are rapidly increasing and no organisation is immune to it. 

As your strategic partner, we can work with you to identify which security solution is right for you. Whether you need assistance choosing the right products or developing a comprehensive security roadmap for your business, we’re here to support you. Explore our managed security services and feel free to contact us to see how we can support your security strategy.  

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