Extended detection and response (XDR) definition

XDR, or extended detection and response, is a cybersecurity tool for threat detection and response. XDR collects data from many existing security layers and provides a cohesive, holistic approach to security operations systems.

XDR correlates data from various sources across the IT environment — endpoints, network, email security, identity, access management, cloud, and more — and detects and responds to cyber threats across the environment represented by this dataset.

Why is XDR important?

XDR is important because cybercrime is increasing at a rate of 15% per year1, and the aftermath of an attack can be devastating to a business. Targeted organizations might be subject to the destruction of data or infrastructure, stolen financial assets, lost productivity, theft of intellectual property, the disruption of normal business operations, and more. Therefore, security tools are necessary to keep your business secure.

New points of vulnerability and stealthier cyber threats means more resources must be dedicated to ensuring the security of your cloud-based infrastructure. To compensate for the dearth of experienced security practitioners, businesses use XDR technology to help automate the detection and response of threats.

Let's review what parts of a company’s infrastructure are exposed:

  • Network: Your network — the connections between the computing devices used by your company — might be exposed to attacks that look to gain unauthorized access, and steal, modify, or encrypt the data that passes through your network.
  • Endpoints: The devices connected to your network — such as your customers’ or employees’ laptops, cellphones, tablets, or desktops — provide attackers with entry and pivot points to access valuable data.
  • Cloud: The cloud’s simplification of data sharing is also its most vulnerable feature. Threats commonly target authentication systems and public APIs.

Read how top global CISOs protect their organizations amid rising threats.

Other types of detection and response solutions

Network Detection and Response (NDR): Network detection and response services are limited to monitoring traffic on networks. They analyze network traffic to establish a baseline of ‘normal’ network behavior. Behaviors that trespass these bounds get flagged for response.

Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR): Endpoint detection and response (EDR) constitutes both signature and behavior-based security monitoring of endpoints, alerting practitioners to unusual or suspicious behavior on a given device and enabling faster response.

Managed Detection and Response (MDR): Managed detection and response is an outsourced service that provides organizations with a baseline of security operations capabilities. It often employs its own versions of EDR or XDR software. MDR offers companies security personnel who monitor, triage, and investigate cybersecurity threats.

What's the difference between XDR and EDR?

Endpoint detection and response is limited to endpoints and thus doesn’t fully cover your attack surface. The lack of broader visibility of EDR allows attackers to employ alternate attack methods.

In contrast, extended detection and response delivers full coverage across all of your infrastructure. It monitors your endpoints, emails, servers, network, and cloud to enable detection and response wherever threats might lurk.

What's the difference between XDR and NDR?

The main difference between network detection and response is the scope of coverage. NDR, like EDR, is a siloed capability, limited to monitoring network traffic. It assesses, flags, and responds to network security threats.

XDR utilizes a broader set of technologies to extend detection and response to offer a more complete picture of the threat surface.


MDR is an outsourced service that provides security teams with specialized security analysts who monitor, investigate, respond, and deploy the technology. MDR providers typically use a combination of security technologies, such as SIEM, EDR, and NDR, to monitor and detect threats.

XDR puts the power in the hands of the security team to analyze and act on cybersecurity threats. XDR can either respond automatically or alert practitioners to respond manually.

How does XDR work?

What would otherwise be a difficult task to perform manually, XDR handles automatically. XDR collects data from multiple security products to give you a holistic view of potential threats. It correlates telemetry across these disparate tools and performs advanced analytics to detect anomalous and suspicious activity. Once a suspicious pattern has been identified, XDR automatically responds to the event or alerts the security team for manual response. Depending on how you’ve configured the response actions, responses might include blocking an IP address, quarantining a user, or blocking a domain.

XDR can help security teams in a multitude of ways:

  • Centralized analysis: XDR enables security teams to uncover and remediate threats, wherever they dwell, via the ability to collect and analyze several types of data.
  • Combats alert fatigue: XDR sorts through and prioritizes alerts, increasing practitioner productivity.
  • Increases efficiency: XDR allows your teams to spend less time identifying threats or manually correlating data. Security teams can focus on development instead of conducting investigations.

Use cases for XDR

Organizations use extended detection and response solutions to fulfill several use cases:

  • Alert triage: XDR software can function as a company’s first line of defense, detecting threats and helping analysts triage alerts. Working as a first responder to a threat or event improves efficiency, enabling handoff to incident responders and enabling proactive analysis.
  • Security investigation: Investigators can respond faster with the centralized collection, analytics, and response capabilities of XDR.
  • Threat hunting: XDR aids threat hunters by extending visibility, powering correlation, and streamlining cross-environment analysis.

What are the benefits of XDR?

  • Improved visibility: XDR solutions can provide better visibility across endpoints, networks, and cloud environments. With a centralized view of all the data sources, analysts can quickly identify anomalies and suspicious activities across the entire organization, which can help in identifying potential threats.
  • Unified analysis: XDR solutions can collect and correlate data from various sources, such as logs, endpoints, and network traffic, to provide a more comprehensive view of the threat landscape. By contextualizing the data, analysts can better understand the scope of the threat and prioritize their response.
  • Improved productivity: XDR solutions can automate routine tasks, such as data collection, analysis, and investigation, freeing up analysts to focus on more complex tasks. This can help reduce the time it takes to identify and respond to threats, improving overall threat-hunting efficiency.
  • Rich context: XDR solutions can integrate with threat intelligence feeds, providing analysts with additional information about known threats and indicators of compromise (IoCs). This can help in identifying new or emerging threats and proactively hunting for them.

How to select the right XDR platform for your organization

  1. Choose an XDR solution that gives you a central place to conduct your analysis, root-cause identification, and remediation planning. The goal: break out of security silos for deep visibility across your environment.
  2. Look for an XDR service that offers a flexible framework and architecture that enables you to implement new use cases and scale to meet your organization’s needs.
  3. The XDR service you choose must be integrated, allowing your enterprise to automate workloads and thereby reduce the mean time-to-respond.

Limitless XDR with Elastic

Elastic's Limitless XDR enables practitioners to defend rapidly evolving organizations against increasingly sophisticated adversaries — despite finite resources, disjointed systems, and the limitations of traditional security tools.

On an open platform built for the hybrid cloud — with an agent that stops ransomware and advanced threats alike — Elastic Security arms the SOC to reduce risk. By fueling advanced analytics with years of your data from across your attack surface, the solution eliminates data silos, automates prevention and detection, and streamlines investigation and response.

Security is key to your business' growth. At Elastic, we provide you with a scalable, fast XDR technology that empowers your team to focus on what’s most important.


1 Morgan, Steve. “Cybercrime to Cost the World $10.5 Trillion Annually by 2025.” Cybercrime Magazine, 27 Apr. 2021, https://cybersecurityventures.com/cybercrime-damages-6-trillion-by-2021.