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How does your XDR solution compare?

How SE Labs tests XDR

How SE Labs tests XDR

How SE Labs tests XDR (and why you should care). Extended Detection and Response (XDR) is a combination of security products working together. Its goal is to provide defenders with a coherent response to attacks. This joined-up approach can help defenders identify different stages of each attack without scrambling around using many different tools.

XDR is supposed to make things simpler for defenders, providing a dashboard (a ‘single pane of glass’) that provides complete insight into a network’s security situation.

SE Labs has produced the first comprehensive method of testing XDR solutions. The components of an XDR solution under test can be sold by the same company or different security vendors.

For example, we can test a solution that combines a Cisco email security gateway with endpoint security from CrowdStrike. And we can test a Cisco email security gateway alongside Cisco’s own endpoint security.

An SE Labs XDR test can assess combinations of cloud services such as email and identity alongside on-site firewalls, endpoint protection and Internet of Things (IoT) security products. If there is an XDR integration available, we can test it.

XDR in detail

There are plenty of definitions of XDR in the market. At SE Labs we define an XDR solution as a combination of at least two products, each of different types.

The products deployed do not need to be from the same vendor.

They must either talk to each other or a third management system, which provides the overall dashboard for detection and response.

Here is a list of products that can make up an XDR solution. They can be variously installed on-site or in-cloud:

  1. Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB)
  2. Cloud Email Server Protection
  3. Cloud Workload Protection (e.g. container security)
  4. Endpoint Security
  5. Identity as a Service solutions (e.g. MFA, SSO, IdP)
  6. Internet of Things (IoT)
  7. Network Detection and Response (NDR, IDS, IPS)
  8. Next Generation Firewall (NGFW)
  9. Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)

How SE Labs tests XDR

The SE Labs testing team behaves like a real customer, allowing security vendors to provide and configure their products exactly as they would in a production environment. The testing team then change roles, behaving as attackers. It runs attacks from the beginning to the end of the attack chain, while also monitoring the security system for detections and other behaviour.

As the testers know every stage of the attack in detail, they assess how completely the products (and, more importantly, the combination of products) detect the different parts of the attacks as well as the entire attack episode.

In this way, the SE Labs testing team tests like hackers and analyses like defenders. The results are useful and realistic.

Who should care?

The results are useful, but for whom?

There are two main groups that benefit from SE Labs XDR testing.

Security sellers

The first group comprises the security vendors themselves. They can identify areas where detection is weaker and needs improvement. They may also discover areas where integration between different products could be better. The SE Labs test provides a good opportunity to make changes and strengthen the products, which means stronger protection for their users.

When things work well, security vendors can use SE Labs’ test results to highlight their successes in the market.

Security buyers

Secondly, but no less importantly, security buyers can use either public or bespoke test results to help choose the most appropriate products for their own organisations. Having real test data, showing how products handle threats in the real world, reduces risk and improves value for money.

Not every product works equally well, and that applies not only to general security effectiveness but also integration with other products. Security testing results are always an important resource before investing in a product. They are doubly so when looking to buy or build an XDR solution.

XDR Examples

Here are some examples of XDR implementations. We’ve chosen vendors and products randomly, but sensibly. For example, it makes sense to combine endpoint and email security solutions with a central data repository like a SIEM. It also makes sense to combine products from different market-leading providers, or to use all of the products from a single one.

Infer no judgement about the suitability of specific vendors from this example list:

  • Microsoft Defender (endpoint); Microsoft Defender (email); Splunk Cloud Platform (SIEM)
  • SentinelOne Singularity XDR (endpoint); Mimecast (email)
  • Cisco: XDR; Secure Endpoint; Email Threat Defence; Umbrella (web); Network Analytics

In the first example we have combined the detections and other data from two Microsoft products (endpoint and email) and sent them to a cloud-based platform that claims to provide insight into all activity.

In the second example, a simple setup combines the detection capabilities of endpoint and email threat detection products from different vendors.

Thirdly, some security companies are able to provide products for many different areas, such as firewalls, endpoint, email and web security. In this example, one vendor provides and manages all the components of the detection system.

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“Turn it off and on again.” This global IT support advice is known to everyone, from Peppa Pig (Mummy Pig at Work) to The IT Crowd (every episode). But why? Why does rebooting a complex computer system solve so many problems? And why am I referring to British TV comedy in a serious report about computer security? We will answer one of those questions here.

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