Here at Gradient Cyber, one of the questions we most often hear is “We have deployed Endpoint Detection Response (EDR). Why do we need Managed Extended Detection and Response (MXDR)?” That’s a loaded question if there ever was one!
In this blog, we hit pretty much everything you need to know to answer this question. And rest assured - while we are an MXDR platform and services company, we sell both MEDR and MXDR, so we’re happy to serve you whichever way you choose to go.
But our bias is towards MXDR for reasons we’ll address herein.
Oh, and before we dig into MXDR vs MEDR specifically, let’s clear up one thing right up front. Before we even get to MXDR, Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) and “Managed EDR (MEDR) are not the same thing. Many organizations have purchased and deployed EDR. Great! But unless you have staff with the skill, experience and time to actively review the ocean of telemetry being produced by an EDR platform, you really are not getting your money’s worth. And, worse, you are definitely not that much more secure. MEDR costs more than EDR itself, and the same argument is true for XDR vs MXDR.
We just want to be certain you aren't trying to compare EDR and MXDR. That would be an insult to the quip “apples and oranges”.
Now, if you’re an impatient reader, we’ll not bury the lede. If you want one take away, here it is:
While MEDR offers targeted defense against threats at the device level, MXDR provides a far more encompassing shield, extending detection and response beyond mere endpoints to cover network, cloud, and user behavior analytics.
There’s a lot behind those words. To understand this topic well enough to make an informed decision circa which is best for you, this blog delves into the nuanced world of MEDR and MXDR, dissecting their roles, strengths, and limitations in the ever-evolving landscape of IT security. We’ll make the argument (despite the effectiveness of MEDR) that MXDR stands out as the more comprehensive choice for organizations seeking to fortify their defenses against the sophisticated cyber threats of today's digital world.
A Managed EDR (MEDR) Primer
Managed Endpoint Detection and Response (MEDR) is a service that focuses on safeguarding endpoint devices — such as computers, mobile devices, and servers — from cyber threats. By combining advanced technology with expert oversight, MEDR offers a dynamic approach to detect, investigate, and neutralize threats at the endpoint level.
Key Features and Benefits of MEDR
- Real-Time Monitoring: MEDR solutions continuously monitor endpoint activities, ensuring immediate detection of suspicious behavior. This proactive approach is crucial for stopping threats before they escalate.
- Threat Detection and Analysis: Leveraging sophisticated algorithms and threat intelligence, MEDR tools identify potential security incidents. They analyze patterns and anomalies to differentiate between benign activities and genuine threats.
- Incident Response and Remediation: Upon detecting a threat, MEDR services facilitate swift response actions. This includes isolating affected endpoints and mitigating threats to prevent spread and damage.
- Expert Guidance: Many MEDR solutions come with the backing of cybersecurity professionals who provide expertise in managing and responding to incidents. This human element ensures that nuanced threats are not overlooked.
Limitations of MEDR in Addressing Complex Security Challenges
While MEDR offers robust protection at the endpoint level, it has its limitations. With a primary focus on endpoints, threats outside this scope may go undetected. In today's interconnected digital environments, where threats can traverse networks, cloud services, and even exploit user behaviors, MEDR’s endpoint-centric approach might not be sufficient. Additionally, managing alerts from multiple endpoints can be overwhelming, potentially leading to alert fatigue and overlooked threats.
And, that assumes you have an EDR agent on every endpoint. Some buyers choose to only deploy EDR on “select” endpoints. For those who say “not us, we deploy EDR on every endpoint…”, we would ask, “Are you sure about that? Ever heard of shadow IT?”
MEDR is undoubtedly a powerful tool in the cybersecurity arsenal, offering significant protection for endpoint devices. However, as cyber threats evolve in complexity and scope, the need for more comprehensive solutions becomes apparent. This is where Managed XDR (MXDR) enters the picture, extending the capabilities of MEDR to provide a wider net of security.
A Managed XDR (MXDR) Primer
Managed Extended Detection and Response (MXDR) marks a significant evolution in the realm of cybersecurity solutions. Building upon the foundation laid by MEDR, Managed Network Detection and Response (MNDR) and more - MXDR extends its protective reach far beyond endpoints, encompassing a broader spectrum of IT infrastructure, including network systems, cloud services, and user behavior analytics. This holistic approach is what sets MXDR apart, offering a more comprehensive and cohesive defense against the sophisticated cyber threats of today.
MXDR's Enhanced Capabilities
- Integrated Security Across Multiple Vectors: Unlike MEDR, which is focused on endpoints, MXDR integrates security across various IT components. It provides visibility and response capabilities across networks, cloud environments, and endpoint devices, ensuring a unified security posture.
- Advanced Analytics and Threat Intelligence: MXDR leverages advanced analytics to process vast amounts of data from diverse sources. By correlating information from endpoints, networks, and user behaviors, MXDR can identify complex attack patterns that might be missed by more siloed approaches.
- Proactive Threat Hunting: MXDR services are not just reactive; they proactively search for hidden threats. This “broader sleuth” approach helps in identifying and mitigating risks before they materialize into actual breaches.
- Automated Response and Remediation: MXDR platforms often incorporate automation - not just for endpoints, but also firewalls, for example - in their response protocols. This allows for rapid containment and remediation of threats, reducing the time and resources needed for manual interventions.
Want to dive deeper into MXDR? Check out our MXDR solution.
The Need for MXDR in Modern Cybersecurity
It’s no secret. Threats are becoming more complex and multifaceted. Given that reality, MXDR's comprehensive approach is not just beneficial - it's essential. The integration of various security components into a cohesive system allows MXDR to provide a more robust and adaptive defense mechanism. Do you think modern attackers are unaware of EDR? That would be naive. MXDR provides a greater set of trip wires they’ll have to circumvent. This is particularly vital for organizations dealing with sensitive data, extensive networks, and those requiring compliance with stringent regulatory standards.
Comparative Analysis: MEDR vs. MXDR
When choosing between Managed EDR (MEDR) and Managed XDR (MXDR), it's important to understand their distinct capabilities. Below is a useful feature comparison:
Primarily endpoints (devices)
Endpoints, network, cloud, and user behavior
Advanced detection at endpoint level
Comprehensive detection across all IT components
Rapid response to endpoint threats
Integrated response across multiple vectors
Endpoint-centric data analysis
Correlation of data across endpoints, network, and user behavior
Reactive threat management
Proactive and anticipatory threat hunting
Limited to endpoints
Extensive, across various security layers
Integration with IT Environment
Focused integration with endpoint solutions
Holistic integration with broader IT infrastructure
Why MXDR Stands Out
There is a reason why Managed Detection and Response (MDR) is one of the fastest growing segments in all of cybersecurity. Don’t take our word for it, see these adoption projections:
- According to Gartner, by 2025, 50% of organizations will be using MDR services
- Polaris Market Research forecasts the global managed detection and response (MDR) market will grow from $2.7B in 2022 to $11.2B by 2032
Now, does that mean that all MDR will be fulfilled by MXDR? Of course not. This is why Gradient Cyber offers an array of MDR services, not just MXDR (check out the Solutions section on our website). But it stands to reason that MXDR’s comprehensive approach to threat detection and response sets it apart, offering organizations a more robust defense mechanism against advanced cyber threats:
- Wider Threat Detection: MXDR’s ability to monitor and analyze data from endpoints, networks, cloud services, and user behavior provides a much wider net for detecting threats. Unlike solutions that focus solely on endpoints, MXDR's broad scope enables it to identify sophisticated attacks that span across different layers of an IT infrastructure. This comprehensive visibility ensures that threats are detected early, preventing them from escalating into major breaches.
- Enhanced Analytics: The real power of MXDR lies in its advanced analytics capabilities. By correlating data from various sources, MXDR can uncover subtle anomalies and patterns indicative of cyber threats. This level of analysis is crucial in identifying complex, multi-stage attacks that other systems might miss. The integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning further bolsters MXDR’s analytical strength, enabling it to adapt and respond to new and evolving threats more effectively.
- Improved Overall Security Posture: MXDR not only detects and responds to threats but also significantly enhances an organization’s overall security posture. You might be surprised how many times Gradient Cyber advises customers on overall network security hygiene matters - things that are not breaches, but certainly leave the door open for eventual calamity. A unified view of security across various domains simply facilitates better decision-making and strategic planning.
Considerations for Mid-Market Businesses in Choosing Between MEDR and MXDR
For mid-market businesses, deciding between MEDR and MXDR might still feel overwhelming. Let’s look at a few factors mid-market businesses should consider - since they often encounter a blend of challenges faced by both small and large enterprises:
1. IT Infrastructure and Security Complexity
- Mid-market businesses typically possess more complex IT environments than small businesses, but not as extensive as large enterprises. This complexity can include multiple network layers, cloud integration, and a diverse range of endpoints.
- Given this complexity, MXDR can often be more beneficial than MEDR due to its comprehensive coverage. MXDR's ability to integrate various security aspects – network, cloud, endpoint, and user behavior – aligns well with the multifaceted IT environments of mid-market companies.
2. Balancing Budget and Security Needs
- While MEDR will cost less per endpoint per month, its narrower coverage could miss indicators on ransomware, PPI data exfiltration, or intellectual property theft
- MXDR - because it requires a larger number of data sources, more extensive analytics, and by extension more work to synthesize alert findings and meaningful sitreps - offers a more robust defense mechanism, but will also cost more per endpoint per month
- We fully appreciate that budgets will be what they will be. Again, we provide both services at a range of budget-friendly price points. But in our judgment and experience, the old adage holds: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. MXDR will cost more, but provide more comprehensive protection. The long-term benefits include reduced risk of significant breaches and streamlined security operations.
3. Security Posture Assessment Framework
- Assess the scale and complexity of your IT environment, including endpoint diversity and network architecture
- Determine your level of exposure to advanced and evolving cyber threats (we have CMMC 2.0 and NIST 800-171 assessments that can help here)
- Evaluate your team's capacity to manage and respond to security alerts
- Consider regulatory compliance requirements and industry-specific risks
- Review your current cybersecurity strategy’s effectiveness and identify areas for improvement
MEDR is a great start. For mid-market businesses or organizations with limited IT infrastructure, MEDR is a valid start. Its focus on endpoints effectively counters threats at the device level, which is a worthy addition to a defense-in-depth stack.
MXDR leverages a deeper set of tripwires better suited to detecting and responding to modern attackers. It’s really pretty simple. If you believe endpoint telemetry holds clues to attacker activity, then you have to believe there is a better set of clues when you look across endpoint, network, cloud, SaaS app, and user behavior telemetry. MXDR excels at the latter. It is particularly beneficial for mid-market organizations with complex, multi-layered IT environments, handling important data, requiring compliance with regulatory standards, or with extensive network and cloud operations.
So to wrap it up, with increasingly sophisticated cyber threats out there, MXDR stands out as the more comprehensive approach. Its ability to integrate security across endpoints, networks, cloud services, and user behavior analytics offers a level of protection that is both expansive and in-depth. Sure, it costs a little more. But for what it might save you, we’d say give it a hard look.