What is XDR (Extended Detection and Response)

Read time 4 mins

What is XDR?

Over the last year or so – and as cyber threats continue to evolve and become more sophisticated – we’ve heard more and more about XDR (eXtended Detection and Response) as a cyber security solution. Still, with so much information out there describing the approach, it can be difficult to pin down exactly what is XDR and why it’s such a powerful tool for organisations to utilise. 

A relatively new approach to threat detection and response, XDR is often described as delivering ‘holistic’ protection against cyber attacks, in the sense that it provides organisations with a more complete view of security events across their entire IT environment and technology stack (including endpoints, networks, and cloud infrastructure). 

Using an XDR approach, organisations can mitigate and monitor threats across a wider attack surface, and from previously siloed security tools offering, as Gartner puts it: “a unified security incident detection and response platform that automatically collects and correlates data from multiple proprietary security components.”

In other words, XDR offers much easier and faster investigation, threat hunting, and response than previous generation security tools. It enables security teams to rapidly and efficiently hunt and eliminate security threats across multiple domains – and all from one unified solution.

How does XDR work? 

XDR connects and conglomerates data from multiple security solutions, allowing them to work together to improve threat visibility and reduce the length of time required to identify and respond to an attack (what we call ‘dwell time’).  

Ideal for cloud-based environments, XDR typically involves the use of advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms to analyse security event data from multiple sources in real-time. This can include log data from endpoints, network traffic, and cloud services, as well as leveraging threat intelligence feeds and other contextual data. 

By analysing this data, XDR solutions can identify complex, multi-stage security threats and incidents that might otherwise have been missed by traditional security tools.  

XDR in a nutshell:  

  • Data is ingested from multiple log types across multiple points of an organisations attack surface
  • Data is parsed and correlated using machine learning and automation to identify suspicious or abnormal activity
  • This activity is then prioritised by severity so threat hunters can quickly contain, investigate, and respond
It’s worth pointing out that, because XDR typically involves automated response capabilities, security teams are able to quickly contain and mitigate threats as soon as they are detected. This results, of course, in quicker response times but it also reduces the burden placed on security teams to constantly act.
Automated actions that organisations may choose to set up could include quarantining infected endpoints, blocking malicious network traffic, or notifying security personnel of potential incidents, for example.

What is the difference between MDR and XDR? 

Where MDR (Managed Detection and Response) improved upon detection and response capabilities over the use of tools such as traditional anti-virus, XDR extends the range of MDR over as many attack vectors as possible – i.e., not just end points, but also gaining the visibility and ability to take response actions upon other surfaces including email, user accounts, applications, and cloud infrastructure. 

In short, XDR takes a wider view than MDR and also has a much broader capability. It utilises cutting-edge technologies, such as machine learning, to provide higher visibility to organisations and employs analytics and automation to help detect or even foresee attacks.

What are the benefits of XDR to organisations? 

An extended detection and response solution is more than a cyber security ‘upgrade’ for organisations, rather it changes the way cyber security is approached altogether.  

In making this leap, organisations benefit from:  

Scalability XDR provides organisations the ability to scale their security infrastructure as their needs change since the solutions leveraged within the service are cloud based and bespoke rulesets can always be tailored to suit. This helps organisations to meet their evolving threat landscape without incurring significant capital expenditures. 

Enhanced threat visibility  XDR delivers granular visibility by working across multiple layers, collecting and correlating data from an array of sources such as email, endpoints, users, cloud workloads and networks. 

Improved efficiency with advanced analytics and correlation content prebuilt in the tool, on top of threat focused TTP (tactic, technique and procedure) bespoke rulesets, XDR automatically detects and contains advanced threats. This means that security teams can react with greater agility, ensuring a more coherent response to attacks. 

Boosted productivityXDR unites multiple tools under one centralised solution, meaning they are much easier to handle, oversee, and manage. Conglomerating data all in one place like this saves time and allows for tools to act in unison, making the whole workflow so much smoother. 

Better compliance XDR helps organisations meet a range of compliance and regulatory requirements by providing continuous monitoring and reporting on security controls, meaning organisations can demonstrate their information security compliance easily. 

Customised alerts solutions within XDR have the ability to enrich automatic responses to threats based on the rules put in place and through the use of SOAR (security orchestration and automated response). As well as cutting down on manual investigation time and reducing alert fatigue, this allows analysts to make key decisions more quickly and effectively. 

Continuous improvement machine learning means continuous learning and improvement over time. In this way, the protection organisations receive from their XDR solution can only improve as time goes by.


A managed XDR service from Littlefish provides organisations with access to experienced security personnel who have the expertise to tailor the approach to your specific risk profile and organisational needs.  To find out more about how we can help your organisation mitigate cyber threats and maintain a high level of security using XDR, please get in touch using the green button on this page.

Get In Touch