Our customers frequently ask us about antivirus vs. EDR or XDR.
“Is EDR really necessary? I have antivirus software. Shouldn’t that be enough?” they ask.
Years ago, antivirus software might have been adequate to protect against cybersecurity threats. But that’s far from the case today. Going beyond the basics is rather essential for security in today’s world.
Much like the technology space in general, cybersecurity is constantly evolving. Attacks are becoming more sophisticated, and customers’ attack surfaces are becoming larger and more diverse. To protect this new and ever-changing landscape, customers should consider taking a different approach to protecting their assets and information.
The Basics of Antivirus vs. EDR and XDR
A defense in depth strategy would indicate that to properly address all flaws, vulnerabilities, and security concerns, more than one control or tool per process is necessary. That being said, most attacks do indeed start at the endpoint, and advanced tools can cover a lot of that strategy.
Antivirus alone simply cannot keep up with the bad guys and considering a move to Endpoint Detection & Response (EDR) can drastically improve your chance of stopping an attack in its tracks.
What is generally known as the outermost layer (workstations, public-facing servers, mobile devices) are those devices (endpoints) that are the most susceptible to a possible attack.
Historically, those devices were protected with antivirus software that would scan for known, malicious viruses or malware that could potentially be harmful (or in some cases detrimental) to systems. Traditional antivirus is simple and purpose-built by design. It is focused on detecting viruses and malware based on signatures that were validated and stored by government agencies and security companies.
In some cases, this was a trusted method of maintaining a healthy and highly productive deployment of systems and workstations.
This trusted practice has quickly changed.
Evolution of Cyber Attacks
Ransomware has certainly become the most widely discussed cyber event in recent news. Forget having to transfer hundreds of thousands in bitcoin or harming your brand image when customers are notified about the breach. There are much worse scenarios than financial loss or damaging company reputation.
It can cripple organizations by encrypting data, effectively forcing administrators to bring systems offline to avoid further damages. With the manner in which we all work today, hours (sometimes days) of downtime could mean much worse: loss of productivity, loss of future revenue and contracts, or the worst-case scenario of forcing an organization to close its doors.
Cyberattacks are becoming more and more advanced, and having an antiquated approach to endpoint security leaves systems open to exploitation. Attackers are able to dynamically shift their strategy or method of attack as they gain more information about your environment, and their tools are capable of doing this automatically.
What is EDR (Endpoint Detection & Response)?
Antivirus is most definitely a component of Endpoint Detection & Response (EDR), but the real capabilities have grown exponentially over the last few years.
The main goal of EDR systems is to stop attacks from ever occurring, but we all know cybersecurity is a 24/7 job — one that will never be complete. EDR systems are tools that can aid in a more holistic approach to security. EDR provides real-time monitoring, detecting, analyzing, and investigating, and it allows allowing administrators to respond across the entire technology stack.
EDR systems are inherently easier to work with as they can integrate with more security tools than traditional antivirus solutions. In addition to using behavioral artificial intelligence and recognizing what might be a potential event, EDR systems come with various other features that are available with the click of a mouse. They include:
⦁ Quarantine device or machine
⦁ Respond/remediate active attacks
⦁ Rollback device or machine to last known good state
⦁ USB device control
⦁ Rouge asset/device discovery
⦁ Generate reports useful for investigating or C-suite knowledge
What is XDR?
For those who have already adopted an EDR platform into their environment, where do you go from here? You guessed it, technology adapts and evolves.
Yes, EDR has now been labeled Extended Detection & Response (XDR) by many of the leading security providers. Although EDR provided advanced detection and response capabilities, many organizations need to be able to combine and correlate data from other systems that endpoint protection software alone cannot capture. XDR will provide deeper visibility into other areas of the business that are not necessarily considered endpoints.
Using APIs and artificial intelligence, XDR platforms can correlate events and information from other tools such as email security, network maintenance and analysis, or identity and access management. This will allow security analysts to make smarter, more informed incident response decisions.
The latest and greatest term in this space is known as SOAR, or Security Orchestration Automation and Response. SOAR allows customers to take response actions automatically, with built-in rules, rather than having to log into separate tools to respond to an incident.
XDR uses the power of SOAR in order to provide further contextual data about any anomalies on the network, and then allows administrators to respond directly from the endpoint platform or not respond at all using pre-defined automatic actions. Lastly, XDR introduces advanced threat hunting features that EDR generally falls short of.
Advancing Cybersecurity Solutions
As bad actors become more savvy and their tools become more capable, customers need to adopt a more robust approach to endpoint security. Organizations already understand the value of technology from an investment standpoint, and that investment should not stop at security.
Antivirus worked great for a number of years, but in order to keep up with the transformation of technology, customers must rethink how they respond to events at the endpoint.
Most organizations simply cannot afford to staff an entire in-house Security Operations Center, but improving your posture and capabilities from a visibility and response standpoint can certainly help ease the mind of IT administrators and organization leadership alike.