Comparing SOAR and XDR for MSSPs

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MSSPs that want to improve their efficiency, expand their services, deliver better outcomes for their clients are likely to consider both SOAR (security orchestration, automation, and response) and XDR (Extended Detection and Response).

These two valuable tools overlap somewhat, but not entirely. Some buyers look at them as an either-or choice, while larger MSSPs, MDR firms, and in-house security teams will often use both together.

As both SOAR and XDR are relatively new technologies, and encompass a wide range of capabilities, the differences and similarities are not always well understood. In this article, we’ll look at both tools and see how they can help MSSPs achieve their goals.

What is SOAR?

According to Gartner, who coined the term, security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) solutions combine incident response, orchestration and automation, and threat intelligence management capabilities in a single platform. SOAR tools are also used to document and implement processes (i.e. playbooks and workflows), support security incident management, and apply machine-based assistance to human security analysts and operators.

The beauty of SOAR lies in its orchestration capability. By stitching together disparate security tools and automating workflows, SOAR transforms a reactive defense posture into a proactive one. This agility, coupled with its automation capabilities, ensures threats are addressed at machine speed, minimizing potential damage.

What is XDR?

XDR (eXtended detection and response) is defined by Gartner as “a platform that integrates, correlates, and contextualizes data and alerts from multiple security prevention, detection, and response components. It is a cloud-delivered technology that amalgamates various data sources to present a holistic threat landscape. By encompassing data from diverse sources, including both on-premises and cloud environments, XDR offers a comprehensive view of potential threats, setting it apart as a critical tool for defenders.”

Harnessing advanced analytics, XDR pinpoints threats and correlates alerts from different sources into more discerning incident detections. This enhanced detection, paired with its automated response capabilities, establishes XDR as a potent weapon against advanced cyber adversaries.

The Differences Between SOAR and XDR

Now that we’ve established basic definitions for SOAR and XDR, you can probably already see where they overlap. Here are a few of the ways in which they differ that are relevant to MSSPs.

Range of integrations. While open XDR, or “hybrid XDR” as Forrester’s Allie Mellen has called it, does exist, XDR platforms are generally suite-based, meaning that they pull from a single vendor’s suite of tools to achieve their impressive capabilities. Some SOAR vendors may favor a particular suite of products, but generally, buyers can expect their SOAR platform to integrate with any of their tools. This is especially important for MSSPs whose clients want to use their own stacks.

Incident response orchestration. For MDR providers or MSSPs that execute some response processes on behalf of their clients, SOAR has the playbooks and automated actions to orchestrate response across the stack. XDR is more likely to focus on leveraging EDR automation for incident response.

Standardization. XDR is often more standardized in its response to threats, which can be a positive for MSSPs that don’t have the time to customize playbooks. The flip side is that for MSSPs who do want to get hands-on with playbook building, SOAR can be tailored to the needs of each client.

Threat detection. XDR analyzes security data from multiple layers to identify patterns, whereas SOAR aggregates security alerts, which it analyzes with automated triage, enrichment, risk scoring, and correlation. Both methods can help MSSPs reduce false positives and quickly identify genuine incidents for clients.

Based on these different strengths, you can see why SOC teams that use both SOAR and XDR are often aiming to combine the detection capabilities of XDR with SOAR’s more robust automated response features. SOAR also will provide more case management capabilities for handling complex investigations of threats initially detected by XDR.

About D3 Smart SOAR for MSSPs

D3 Security supports MSSPs around the world and enables high-value services with our Smart SOAR platform. D3 Security supports full multi-tenancy, so you can keep client sites, data, and playbooks completely segregated. Importantly, we’re vendor-agnostic and independent, so no matter what tools your clients use, our unlimited integrations will meet their needs. D3’s Event Pipeline can automate the alert-handling capacity of dozens of analysts, while reducing alert volume by 90% or more. Watch our case study video with Trifork Security to see how a successful MSSP uses Smart SOAR.

Guest blog courtesy of D3 Security. Read more D3 Security guest blogs and news hereRegularly contributed guest blogs are part of MSSP Alert’s sponsorship program.