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EDR, MDR and XDR all explained - what are the differences 

Posted by Michael Houghton | 25-Mar-2022 08:00:00

The tech industry loves an acronym, and this blog ticks off three more you should know.


EDR, MDR, and XDR are detection and response solutions that monitor your IT 24/7/365, alerting you to any potential threats the software identifies. Each solution has similar bones, but all have varying factors that make some more or less suitable depending on your needs.


This blog will cover:

EDR – Endpoint detection and response

           What is EDR?

           How does EDR work?

           Key features of EDR

XDR – Extended detection and response

           What is XDR?

           How does XDR work?

           Key features of XDR

MDR – Managed detection and response

           What is MDR?

           How does MDR work?

           Key features of MDR



EDR – Endpoint detection and response


What is EDR?

Endpoint detection and response (EDR) is an integrated security solution that provides 24/7/365 monitoring of endpoints (computers, laptops, servers, phones, etc.), detecting, alerting, and containing suspicious or malicious behaviour. EDR software combines real-time continuous monitoring and data from endpoints that use rule-based automation response and analysis capabilities.


EDR is the last line of defence against a malicious actor once they have already breached your IT infrastructure. The EDR solution will provide data and information on the threat's life cycle, which provides insight into how the threat entered the device, what it has done/what it is doing, and how to eliminate it effectively. Once a threat is detected, the EDR software will contain it while being investigated to minimise the damage it could cause.


How does EDR work? 

EDR solutions collect data from endpoints and store it in a centralised centre, which is then analysed and used to uncover future suspicious events. Suspicious events are detected by matching malware to known threat signatures and comparing the event against already established behaviours deemed safe.


If suspicious activity is detected, the EDR solution will contain and block the threat and alert the security analyst who will investigate the threat further.


Key EDR features

EDR is a proactive cybersecurity solution as it actively hunts out potential threats and contains them as soon as they're detected. An EDR solution provides many features that will improve the ability to manage security threats.


Improved visibility

An EDR solution vastly improves visibility across all endpoints. Data is continuously collected into a centralised system which provides a security team full visibility into each endpoint associated with the company's network at one time in one place.


Proactive threat hunting

EDR analyses data, comparing its algorithm and hash (a viruses signature code) to a database to proactively identify and contains suspicious or malicious actors before they can cause severe damage.


Automated investigation

EDR solutions automate data collection, processing, and response. This provides rapid contextualisation to the cybersecurity team, assisting them in making quick and effective decisions to deal with a threat appropriately.


Automated remediation 

Based on a set of rules, EDR solutions can automatically perform specific responses to algorithms, hashes, and/or behaviours to automatically block or contain them.



XDR – Extended detection and response


What is XDR?

Extended detection and response is a more evolved and well-rounded version of EDR. Similarly to EDR, XDR monitors endpoints. However, XDR also includes monitoring cloud networks, email, identity and access management and more. This provides even further visibility across multiple tools and applications.


Unlike MDR, XDR is not a managed service. Therefore, your business will need a dedicated person or people to manage the data collected from the XDR tool.


How does XDR work?

Similarly to EDR, XDR works on analysing, detecting, investigating and response protocols. Some of the features XDR uses to perform these tasks are:


Analyse and Detect

Internal and External traffic: The XDR solution will analyse the internal and external traffic, ensuring that malicious actors are detected, whether it is an internal or external attack. Furthermore, this assists in identifying malware if it has already passed through the IT systems perimeter.

Integrated threat centre: XDR uses previously recorded malware attacks to identify threats. The XDR solution will identify and compare known signatures, hashs, strategies, tools, sources, and attack methods and contain any similar or matching information.

AI detection: The XDR solution can identify zero-day threats and next-generation or non-traditional threats using behavioural baselines.


Investigation and Response 

Alert and data correlation: The XDR solution will group related alerts to create a timeline of the attack, which assists in prioritisation, and identifies the cause of the attack.

User interface: An XDR user interface centralises all data and alerts, enabling analysts to investigate and respond to events in one place.


Key MDR features

EDR and XDR share similar features; however, XDR has one key feature that makes it the more appealing option for many businesses.


Improved Visibility

Compared to EDR, XDR has better detection and response as an XDR solution covers more than just your endpoints. This expands visibility further, which assists in detecting and preventing more threats.



MDR – Managed detection and response


What is MDR?

Managed detection and response is a cybersecurity service that combines human expertise and experience with technology to hunt threats, monitor the IT infrastructure and respond quickly and appropriately. MDR is a 24/7/365 service that is primarily used to assist businesses with their incident response needs.


Similarly to EDR, MDR is a detection and response solution. However, MDR typically involves an outsourced cybersecurity team that responds to the incidents reported by the detection and response technologies.


How does MDR work? 

MDR doesn't use a specific technology but combines EDR or XDR technology with an outsourced team which helps offload the responsibilities and pressure off of the in-house IT team.

EDR and XDR solutions create a large amount of data, so having an outsourced team to deal with it relieves the pressure from internal teams and means any potential threat is dealt with effectively and quickly.


Key MDR features

MDR, sometimes known as managed EDR, shares many key similarities as EDR solutions, such as proactive threat hunting and automated investigation and response, however, it has some key differences which make it the preferred tool, especially for businesses who do not have the capacity to handle large quantities of data produced by the EDR software.



MDR combines rule-based automation and human inspection to inspect and prioritise events to distinguish whether they are false positives, benign or true threats to the business. Unlike EDR, the managed service component of MDR is a team dedicated to investigating and responding to the alerts instead of businesses relying on internal teams to sift through the data.


Guidance and advice

The cybersecurity team associated with your MDR service can offer specialist advice on how to best handle the security alerts, such as blocking, containing, or eliminating the threats. This is a main advantage of MDR compared to EDR and XDR, as your company can benefit from expert advice.



The recovery process is arguably the most important feature that MDR offers. If the recovery is not performed correctly, it could allow more of the same threats into the IT infrastructure. Furthermore, it is critical to ensure that all traces of the malware is fully removed to avoid further and future damage. Managed recovery will ensure that your IT infrastructure is returned to a stable and safe state.



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Topics: IT Security, cybersecurity, cybercrime

Written by Michael Houghton

Technical Director

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