EPP vs EDR vs XDR: Endpoint Security Comparison
This is a guest article by Gilad David Maayan from AgileSEO
Endpoint security is rapidly evolving. Organizations have transitioned from simple antivirus software to full endpoint protection platforms (EPPs) that provide well-rounded, preventive security capabilities for endpoints to endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions that complement EPP by adding the ability to actively respond to endpoint security breaches.
Today, all these technologies are eclipsed by a new paradigm called XDR or extended detection and response. How is XDR different from EPP and EDR? Will it replace or complement them? Learn more in this quick guide to endpoint security technologies.
What are EPP, EDR, and XDR?
Endpoint protection platform (EPP)
The goal of EPP is to prevent attacks on endpoints from threats such as malware, zero-day vulnerabilities, and fileless attacks. EPP detects attacks using several methods:
- using databases of known signatures to match malware and other file-based threats;
- blocking or allowing applications, URLs, ports, and addresses using blacklists or whitelists;
- providing a sandbox to test suspected threats, such as executables;
- using behavioral analysts and machine learning to report anomalous or suspicious activity on the endpoint.
EPPs are deployed on endpoints but typically have a cloud-based solution that can collect the data, analyze it, and provide convenient access to security analysts.
In this article we contrast EPP and EDR, but in fact most modern EPP platforms contain an EDR solution, at least as an optional component.
Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)
EDR comes into action when a security incident has already happened on an endpoint. This device is used to examine and respond to hills and hazards. Other elements in an EPP platform are passive and are used for preventing endpoint security breaches. EDR is an active tool that can help identify attacks and initiate automated solutions or manual responses.
EDR tools typically perform the following functions:
- help analysts identify indicators of compromise (IoC), typically combining data collected from endpoints with threat intelligence;
- provide real-time alerts on security incidents;
- integrate forensics to help analysts investigate affected endpoints and identify the original source of an attack;
- automatic remediation, for example by isolating, wiping or reimaging an endpoint.
Extended Detection and Response (XDR)
XDR is an integrated security and incident response platform that can automatically collect and correlate data from endpoints and many other parts of the IT environment. It is a platform for integrating security data from security information and event management (SIEM), EDR, network analytics, and identity and access management (IAM) tools. It provides an overview of the cybersecurity of the entire corporate environment in one unified interface.
XDR can provide standardization of security operations, enabling consistent and reliable analysis in any environment. It enriches existing data sources and consolidates information for more effective analysis.
The ultimate goal of the XDR platform is to improve productivity of security teams, enable faster and more comprehensive investigations, and reduce incident response times.
What is the Difference Between EPP and EDR?
EPP solutions act as the first line of defense in attacks against endpoints. EDR solutions are designed to deal with threats that EPP software cannot detect, helping to identify and mitigate them after they occur.
For example, zero day malware or other advanced threats may be detected by an EPP, but once the endpoint is attacked, it will start generating unusual activity. EDR can detect this activity, automatically lock down the endpoint, and help security analysts investigate further.
What is the Difference Between EDR and XDR?
XDR enables detection and response that go beyond the siloed approach of traditional security tools, such as EDR. EDR is powerful but ultimately limited, because only managed endpoints with an EDR agent can be protected. This limits the range of threats and attacks it can be effective against.
EDR is often complemented by Network Traffic Analysis (NTA) tools, but these tools are limited to the network and the monitored network segment. Because NTA solutions generate a large number of logs and alerts, there is a need to analyze the relation between network alerts and other data, to identify important security events.
While the industry has made great progress in detection and response, EDR functionality has traditionally been provided as a point solution at one specific security layer, and benefits are limited to that layer. XDR enables detection and response in an integrated, unified platform, which can deliver much better results.
Why Organizations are Choosing XDR Solutions
Endpoints have long been a major target for attackers. Whether located in a user’s pocket, in the cloud, on IoT devices, or in an organization’s server room, the data needs to be protected both inside and outside the traditional security perimeter.
Advanced attackers carry out multilevel attacks, moving between environments and hiding between layers in the IT environment. There is a need for global visibility to identify these threats and react to them effectively.
XDR solutions are a compelling alternative to EDR and traditional EPP. They provide improved threat intelligence, AI/ML analysis, applied to combined data from across the IT environment. They allow organizations to derive more value from existing investments in EDR, SIEM and security orchestration and automation (SOAR).
XDR solutions, as contrasted with traditional EPP and EDR, offer:
- provider improved detection and response to day-to-day security incidents;
- increased overall productivity of security personnel;
- lowered the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the security stack.
Threat Hunting with XDR
Threat hunting is the practice of actively searching through assets, networks, and infrastructure components for threats that possibly evaded security defenses. Organizations leverage threat hunting to protect against unknown threats and zero-day vulnerabilities.
A zero-day vulnerability is a risk the organization is not aware of. Threat actors actively look for zero-day vulnerabilities to increase the success of their attacks. After all, it is difficult to protect a blind spot.
XDR solutions assume a threat already exists, and actively search to hunt the threat. The solution inspects all collected data, such as access requests and log files and process application events.
To scan through a massive amount of data, XDR solutions use advanced analytics processes powered by machine learning algorithms. This enables the solution to detect high risk patterns. The solution also analyzes high value targets to detect anomalous occurrences. This process comes with built-in automation for response and mitigation.
What Are the Limitations of XDR?
XDR solutions are expected to provide a deeper understanding of the data generated by many other security technologies, but this can be a double-edged sword. While these solutions may have good knowledge of security technologies from the same vendor ecosystem, they may not have the same analytics capabilities for data generated from systems by other vendors.
Therefore, the deployment of XDR technology could lock you into a specific security technology ecosystem. If your organization is already pursuing a single vendor strategy, this may not be an issue. However, this can be an obstacle if you are taking a best-of-breed approach. Companies should consider whether the enhanced analytical value provided by the XDR solution is sufficient to justify a closer dependence on a specific security vendor.
Consideration for Choosing XDR Platforms
There are several considerations to keep in mind when considering choosing an enterprise XDR solution.
- Integration complexity—XDR solutions can be complex to integrate with existing security solutions, and this can drive up the total cost of ownership. It is also expensive to maintain this integration, for example to test and finetune the integration every time a security tool is upgraded or add integration with new tools added over time.
- Time to integrate—speed of deployment is very important in the COVID-19 crisis, because employees are working from home and attackers are trying to access sensitive data from unsecured networks and personal devices. Choosing a detection and response solution that takes weeks or months to successfully integrate with your current stack can expose your organization to high risk.
- Degree of automation—some XDR solutions may not be fully automated. Or they may perform automation of basic incident response functions only, without fully leveraging AI for advanced analytics and insights of security data.
- Operational complexity—because a key benefit of XDR is improving productivity, if your SOC/MDR team’s XDR solution is highly complex, this will affect your return on investment.
- Holistic solution—XDR is supposed to be a cohesive, integrated solution. Some vendors have taken a variety of preexisting tools, packaged them together and labelled them “XDR.” Evaluate whether your XDR solution is a true integrated solution.
- Cost—because XDR technology is new and requires a new operational model, selecting solutions that do not require large upfront costs is recommended. XDR solutions with scalable or subscription-based pricing models will reduce the risk of deploying XDR at your organization.
In this article we introduced EPP, EDR, and XDR solutions, and explained the basic differences between these three solutions. In reality, the three solution categories are not separate or alternative. Traditional EPP and EDR is an essential component of modern security strategies. XDR is widely considered to be the future of endpoint security, but it does not replace EPP/EDR. Rather, it leverages them and consolidates them with other parts of the security stack, to deliver improved security and operational efficiency.
Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Imperva, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership.
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