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Computer protected by XDR from cyberattacks.

XDR in Microsoft 365

Cyber thieves are always evolving their arsenal at every technological advancement. Research proves that threats against diverse layers are increasing, and enterprises aren’t keen enough to keep them at bay. According to Microsoft’s Security Signals research, companies lag in curbing threats against firmware. A thousand enterprise Security Decision Makers (SDMs) across various industries took part in the research. The March 2021 study found out that at least 80% of companies have suffered from at least one cyber-attack for the last two years. The research revealed that most companies update their security features, scan vulnerabilities, and purchase cybersecurity solutions. Despite all these efforts, malware is still giving them nightmares. But with the use of robust solutions like XDR in Microsoft 365, the tide may be beginning to go against cybersecurity threats. More security teams worldwide are becoming aware of these threats and investing more in the latest security solutions.

First Things First: What Is XDR

XDR stands for Cross-Layered (or extended) Detection and Response. It gathers and correlates data across several security layers, like the general network, cloud workloads, email, endpoints, and servers. This new kid on the block integrates detection and response steps over a variety of multiple environments

So, How Does XDR Work?

It’s hard to smoke out sophisticated cyber threats since they lurk between silos- many security technics operate in parallel but not always together. Eventually, these threats can multiply, spread, and escape the Security Operations Center (SOC), leading to costly damages.

So what XDR does is isolate and dissect the cyber-attacks. It gathers information on each detection and correlates it as per individual security layers. Every ‘layer’ stands for a unique attack surface: cloud workloads, email, network, servers, email, and endpoints. Your XDR vendor will specifically outline how their XDR solution protects each attack surface.

They outline XDR consolidated detection and activity information across:

1. Identities

Cyber breaches include stealing personal data and compromising credentials. So, your security team needs to be abreast with such approaches.

XDR delivers the ability to smoke out where identity theft starts, whether it’s an endpoint or a credential. It usually aims at investigating user behaviors and abnormal account activities.

XDR goes deeper by pinpointing malicious identities that sneak across cloud services. It joins forces with cloud services to differentiate authenticated privilege activities and those which are fraudulent. In simple terms, it takes a user’s login data and mesh it with known information regarding the devices, and stops any cyber attacker at their tracks.

2. Email and Documents

The email usually tends to be a soft target of cyber-attacks. While a managed detection and response (MDR) system can take care of email security, you need XDR to provide the exact details of threats.

With XDR, you can pinpoint email threats, compromised accounts, frequently attacked users, and patterns of cyber threats. Furthermore, you can smoke out the culprit behind the threat. In response to the threat, the system can block the malicious sender, reset accounts, and quarantine the email message.

3. Endpoints

Managing endpoint activities allow you to understand how the threat could have accessed and spread across endpoints. XDR endpoint sweeping is crucial in identifying Indicators of Compromise (IOCs) and track them using data collected from Indicators of Attack (IOAs).

With an XDR, you get to know the cyberattacks at an endpoint, their origin, and how they spread from one endpoint to another. the system can then isolate the attack, halt crucial processes, and eliminate or restore files.

4. Servers, Applications, and Cloud Platforms

With an XDR system, you can also isolate attacks on containers, cloud workloads, and servers. Like in securing endpoints, the system investigates the threat’s effects and propagation. It then isolates your cloud platform, server, or resource and halts the crucial processes to contain the attack.

5. Network

Analyzing networks allows you to filter events and identify vulnerable points like unmanaged and IoTs devices. Network analytics helps you stay safe from well-designed fraud campaigns when emailing, Googling, and doing other network activities.

The system can pinpoint red flags in the network and research information about them, including their communication and how they move across the network.  And the detection is not limited to where the culprit is on the network. The security personnel will then get an alert immediately for quick action.

XDR in Microsoft 365

Microsoft is confident that security operations teams can benefit from employing highly consolidated XDR and SIEM solutions. In September 2020, at its Ignite conference, the company revealed several changes that focus on delivering advanced security integrations. These unifying changes were implemented across multiple workloads and devices.

So Microsoft Defender gained more prominence among security solutions. It integrates all XDR technologies to identify, stop, and respond to attacks across identities, infrastructure, email, applications, cloud platforms, and IoT devices. They rebranded their current cybersecurity systems while injecting new functionalities, including extra multi-cloud and multi-platform support.

The Microsoft Defender brand comes in two customized experiences: Microsoft 365 Defender and Azure Defender.

1. Microsoft 365 Defender

This option provides XDR abilities for end-user environments (including email, documents, endpoints, identities, and cloud apps) using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to minimize Security Operations Center’s work items.

It has self-healing capabilities built into the system for enhanced and automatic response. That way, you can take care of other operations in your field of expertise.

Furthermore, Microsoft rolled out several changes during its Ignite Conference last year in September to ensure maximum consolidation. They changed:

  • Microsoft Threat protection to Microsoft 365 Defender
  • Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection to Microsoft Defender for Endpoint
  • Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection to Microsoft Defender for Office 365
  • Lastly, Azure Advanced Threat Protection to Microsoft Defender for Identity

With the Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, you get to enjoy extra protection features against attacks on your mobile device. Android users can now enjoy Microsoft defender, and iOS users will soon welcome it.  And their macOS support will now deliver new threat and vulnerability management functionalities.

Microsoft Defender for Office 365 also has something extra to offer- If you usually access the most crucial and sensitive information, it delivers priority account protection to keep you safe from phishing attacks. It’s useful for the creation of tailored work processes for these privileged accounts to ensure extra defense.

2. Azure Defender

With this offering, you get XDR powers for your cloud and hybrid workloads, including:

  • IoT
  • Virtual devices
  • Containers
  • Databases

It evolved from Azure Security Center’s capabilities and is accessible within the center itself. The Azure Defender also rolled out several changes, including changing:

  • Azure Security Center Standard Edition to Azure Defender for Servers
  • Azure Security for IoT to Azure Defender for IoT
  • Lastly, Advanced Threat Protection for SQL to Azure Defender for SQL

With this unified experience, you can now identify the protected resources and those that are still vulnerable. So this capability allows you to minimize or eliminate all loopholes in your systems.

Your SQL servers and virtual machines will also have extra protection, whether they’re on-premises or in the cloud. They didn’t leave out enhanced protection for containers, including Kubernetes-level policy management and ongoing container image tracking in container registries.

The Azure Defender for IoT also has integrated CyberX for enhanced operational technology networks.  The company bought CyberX when 2020 was beginning. With it, you can digitally map your IoT assets’ within a building and collect data regarding the devices and loopholes.

Azure Sentinel Is now More Sentinel

a woman following the XDR security data for all departments within a company.

As seen, the above experiences provide robust Microsoft Defender’s XDR capabilities, prioritize alerts, and boost security insights. But you’ll want to gain visibility on data from your firewalls and other existing security protections.

That’s where Azure Sentinel steps in. This cloud-native SIEM is integrated with Microsoft Defender to enhance a deeper understanding of your entire environment. In just a few clicks, you can consolidate your XDR data from across your company systems.

It employs AI to gather information from multiple users and resources on-premises and in clouds. It performs almost 80 percent of tasks automatically, so your security teams can better spend their time closing security actions.

Third-party providers may generate security events from their products. Also, competitors’ cloud environments like AWS usually generate theirs. The Azure Sentinel incorporates all these events and signals into your entire enterprise, thereby providing deeper insights.

And the Azure Sentinel has gotten more Sentinel. With the new enterprise behavior analytics, you can seamlessly pinpoint malicious insiders and infected accounts. The Sentinel also makes threat intelligence management to be seamless. It provides functionalities to track, search, and add threat indicators. So, creating watch lists and looking up threat intelligence shouldn’t be hard anymore.

Wrapping Up

XDR systems are gathering speed as security teams strive to stay safe from stealthy threats. And Microsoft Defender is one of the solutions shaping the game in the industry. With its new features, defenders can now relax and catch culprits in their game. And while providers may provide XDR and SIEM separately, Microsoft believes that enterprises can reap more from a system that highly integrates both.

To find out how to implement XDR in your Microsoft 365 or Azure environment, contact us or request a free consultation.



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