Managed service providers (MSPs) must be prepared to defend their customers against advanced threats and, to do so, they need to keep track of different data sources by deploying solutions that are designed to improve their customers’ security posture through effective detection and proactive responses to potential incidents.
This is where technologies like SOAR (Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response) or XDR (Extended Detection and Response), which help automate, orchestrate, and respond to cybersecurity threats, come into play. While both solutions have similar capabilities in terms of functionality, there are significant differences that must be understood when assessing the value they can deliver to MSPs.
4 main differences between XDR and SOAR
SOAR platforms are often an extension of SIEM solutions, so they are designed to add orchestration, automation and response capabilities to these tools, resulting in a comprehensive threat intelligence platform. SOAR provides playbooks detailing the steps to take if an incident occurs, through automating the workflows most commonly used by analysts and helping them implement security middleware that enables communication between different security tools.
XDR combines, at a minimum, endpoint and network data to improve threat detection, investigation and response, enabling it to provide advanced detection and automated response to mitigate attacks as early as possible while avoiding the added cost of a SOAR solution. As security tools such as endpoint security, network security, or authentication services are added, and communication between them correlates and contextualizes detections, this increases visibility and, as a corollary, the XDR capabilities available. As a result of this integration, you get a single consolidated security platform that brings together threat detection and response, which reduces the time, effort and added complexity of managing multiple independent solutions.
These two technologies are similar but there are also significant differences between them such as:
SOAR solutions focus on the orchestration and automation of cybersecurity incident response processes. The goal of this orchestration is to streamline and improve the efficiency of security teams by automating manual and repetitive tasks, in addition to the integration of different tools and processes.
In contrast, one of XDR's main strengths is integrating various products from the same vendor, which allows it to detect malicious behavior and reduce threat detection and response time. Integrating different security tools correlates and contextualizes security data, producing more confident detections than in those produced in isolated and disconnected solutions. This results in fewer alerts, which are also highly actionable, reducing the time it takes a business to respond to and remediate an ongoing attack.
SOAR's main objective is to streamline and coordinate response actions through automated workflows whereas XDR focuses on detecting and responding to advanced threats across multiple attack vectors such as endpoints, networks and the Cloud. It aims to provide greater visibility and integrated data correlation for more effective detection. In this sense, and unlike SOAR, it identifies and responds to cybersecurity threats before they become incidents by detecting suspicious patterns and potential risks.
On a SOAR platform, integration between tools is quite complex, as it usually involves a large number of tools disconnected from each other. This leads to visibility problems, low priority detections and even false positives. So, for a SOAR tool to be configured and detected correctly, it needs to be tuned regularly, which many companies cannot afford due to the current talent shortage and lack of expertise in the cybersecurity sector. XDR, on the other hand, addresses this problem by connecting these tools or silos through integrating security products, providing much more advanced data analysis for threat detection and response, and providing higher visibility into environments and improved scalability.
Functionalities / Automation:
SOAR focuses on automating incident response workflows, but aims to be more comprehensive, including predefined action execution, task assignment, and incident management. XDR, on the other hand, includes a high level of automation, but focuses more on proactive threat detection through advanced analytics and real-time data correlation, offering forensic investigation and incident response capabilities.
What are the advantages of XDR for an MSP?
An XDR solution like WatchGuard's ThreatSync aims to cover many of the use cases addressed by SOAR but in a simpler, more scalable and less costly way. It improves customers' security posture by offering MSPs greater visibility and contextual insight into cybersecurity threats, improves advanced threat detection by cross-referencing telemetry from different products, and enables automated or manual response to cyberattacks, all from a single solution. In the case of ThreatSync this capability is included within WatchGuard's Unified Security Platform and, therefore, has no additional cost to either the partner or its customers. The result is reduced detection and response time to security incidents at a lower cost.
Find out about XDR and how it can help MSPs by checking out our blog posts: