In a previous article, I outlined the pros and cons of SOAR and SIEM solutions, and how an organization can benefit from leveraging both of them. Since flexibility is considered to be one of the building blocks of cybersecurity, adding (more solutions) rather than subtracting can only serve to underprop your global security posture. So, without further ado, today’s topic will focus on the differences, strengths, weaknesses, and functionalities of SOAR and XDR. Enjoy and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter!

(Re)Exploring SOAR

Before deep-diving into the SOAR vs XDR issue, it would be a good idea to go over the basics (again). SOAR (Security Orchestration and Response) is the apex of security automation, its mandate spanning across multiple zones including data ingestion, reporting, threat response, and reducing the volume of repetitive jobs through a playbook system. As I mentioned in my previous article, SOAR may be used as a standalone product, but its efficiency increases tenfold when associated with a SIEM solution. Through SIEM you can gain the necessary insight into what’s happening inside your digital environment by capturing data from multiple sources and on various levels (i.e., endpoint, network, etc.). And, as an added bonus, SIEM can also help you on the compliance side, whether you’re conducting an internal audit or simply looking to obtain a specific (industry-mandatory) certification.

Paying a Visit to an Old Friend – XDR

XDR (Extended Security and Response) is a holistic approach to D&R (i.e., Detection and Response) that balances event detection and mitigation. Similar to SIEM, XDR can pull data from numerous sources, including emails which, in itself, is a major trump card considering that more than 70% of all malware is distributed via email. I won’t go into too many details on this one due to the fact that it exceeds the purpose of this article. For additiole ground and a great (first) step towards automatic alerting and response, but it does have a couple of limitations, chiefly around compliance, full security response automation, log management, data retention, resource allocation, prioritization, and so on.


Getting back to the topic at hand, let’s begin by laying out in the open the features, pros, cons, and limitational info on the topic, I strongly encourage you to read my colleague’s article on the finer points of XDR. So, if XDR is just as good as SIEM and SOAR put together, why would we bother? XDR may be the middle-man here.

SOAR is great for…

  • Threat Intelligence. All SOAR solutions, especially the ones integrated with SIEMs, are capable of sifting through large amounts of data and creating logical correlations between events and effects.
  • Incident Management. A SOAR playbook can dictate the outcome of a cybersecurity event. Take ransomware for instance, where time is of the essence; the longer you wait, the more damaging it becomes. IM playbooks can help you quickly sever the kill chain and contain the incident.
  • Data processing. SOAR knows how to handle numbers of data, no matter where they come from. It becomes even more powerful when coupled with a SIEM.

SOAR falls short when it comes to…

  • High-level incidents. This solution may be able to prevent & mitigate the aftereffects of an incident, but it won’t be of much use in a high-level incident that leverages multiple attack vectors and/or surfaces.
  • Babysitting. Despite it falling into the automatic IM&R (i.e., Incident Management and Response), SOAR isn’t a set-and-forget solution. All of its outputs must be gauged by a human team and adjusted, if necessary.
  • Setup. Forget about plug-and-play when it comes to SOAR; implementation and deployment take up a lot of time, resources, and manpower. On top of that, this type of automation can only be set up by veteran tech wizards.

XDR is perfect for….

  • Covering all the (usual) bases and then some. XDR solutions can help scan your organization from top to bottom, while also granting your access to the most used attack vector – email.
  • Doing more with less. SOAR and SIEMS and SOC, the human counterpart, tend to take a great toll on your organization’s resources. If you’re looking for a solution that balances security and cost, XDR might be the choice for you.
  • Fewer false positives and (attack) insights. Despite not falling under the automation spectrum, having a human crew onboard analyzing all those subtle signs associated with events can help you discover even high-profile attacks.

XDR falls short when it comes to…

  • Learning curve. XDR may be challenging even for those with a strong tech/security background.
  • Data gathering. This solution is capable of probing all sorts of environments for data (e.g., cloud, endpoint, network) but it does tend to fall short when it comes to log management or other types of data formats covered by SIEM solutions.
  • Integrations. XDR typically requires a lot of integrations in order to work properly (e.g., support modules, intelligence exchange, structured information, vulnerability scanners, etc.).

So, which one will you choose? Will you go for the SIEM-SOAR dynamic duo, with all their (costly) quirks and quarks, or perhaps settle for something more laid back, a solution that touches upon human intuition, at the cost of a steep learning curve? Challenging, indeed, if we to ponder on each feature. I propose a far more digestible approach – scalability. Here’s how it works; let’s assume that you’re the IT wiz of an SMB, which means that you and, presumably, your team must cater to the needs of a hundred employees. As you probably know SMBs are not more or less vulnerable to cyberattacks compared to enterprises.

To the case at hand – considering the resources, company’s requirements, time, and whatnot, the best approach would be an XDR solution. It can help you gauge the health of the security environment, monitor activity, conduct audits, respond to incidents, and everything in between. Sounds fair, doesn’t it? Now let’s deal the cards again. Say you’re the head of IT at an enterprise with thousands of endpoints, several networks, and cloud services; and, of course, there’s the old saying “the bigger they are, the harder they fall”. With a bullseye spray-painted on your organization, you’ll need every edge to stay on top of all those threat actors. In this scenario, XDR simply won’t do. You’ll need a system capable of pulling all sorts of telemetry from all across your environment, in addition to analysis and, of course, low-level (automatic) containment in case an event occurs. In essence, you’ll need SOAR (and probably SIEM) for this one.

Wrap-up and Additional Tips

This concludes my article on SOAR vs XDR. Hope it was more cheerful and enjoyable than the weather outside. Before I scoot, here are some more things you can try out to boost your global security score.

  • Keep your playbooks updated. Whether you’re running a SOAR or an XDR, keeping all your playbooks up to speed means you’ll know how to approach every type of situation.
  • Should I XDR? As mentioned, XDR is pretty challenging to learn. Now, if you’re unsure about whether or not to take the leap of faith, a demo is just the thing you need. Heimdal®’s eXtended Detection and Response (XDR) employs a swift response to attacks, by providing you with extended, systemized reports on potential risks, online threats, and vulnerabilities. Get in touch now for a demo.
  • Historical data storage. Eventually, you’ll be out of log space. Plan ahead and buy extra storage for your data. Historical logs are important because they help you measure any deviation from the security baseline.
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