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Cortex XDR vs. Microsoft Defender XDR

Microsoft Defender XDR might succeed at protecting Microsoft’s own systems, but this solution stumbles when preventing, detecting and responding to threat actors operating outside of their product’s closed ecosystem.

Cortex XDR is the better choice to stop modern threats

Microsoft Defender XDR’s fragmented XDR capabilities, reflected in its low threat detection rate, siloed data integration and intricate licensing system, leave organizations vulnerable to medium and advanced threats. Cortex XDR integrates Microsoft’s XDR features into one intuitive product. It delivers:
Cortex XDR® recently outperformed Microsoft — and all other XDR vendors — in the 2023 MITRE Engenuity ATT&CK Evaluations (Turla).

Cortex XDR outperforms Microsoft Defender XDR in the 2023 MITRE ATT&CK Evaluations.

Where does Microsoft fall behind Cortex XDR in tests?

Microsoft Defender XDR doesn’t meet the high visibility and detection requirements needed to defend against today’s nation-state-backed threat actors effectively. In the 2023 MITRE ATT&CK Evaluations (Turla) that pitted EDR products against network implants and backdoors used by Russia’s Federal Security Service, Microsoft posted a 78.3% analytic detection rate, compared to Cortex XDR’s 100.0% analytic detection rate. Microsoft’s detection rate means that 21.7% of substeps taken by these cyber tools failed to result in an endpoint detection, while Cortex XDR detected all substeps.

The speed at which today’s threat actors move through an organization’s compromised network continues to increase. This pace-of-play leaves little time for organizations to change their XDR solution’s configuration to detect a specific threat. Cortex XDR’s 100% detection rate resulted from zero configuration changes, while Microsoft’s 78.3% detection rate contained 39 detections attributed to configuration changes. Cortex XDR achieves these results by:

  • Integrating with the WildFire® malware prevention service to detect unknown threats in a cloud analysis environment.
  • Leveraging behavioral analytics to profile behavior by tracking more than 1,000 behavior attributes.
  • Having behavior analytics, forensics and network visibility natively integrated into Cortex XDR.

Cortex XDR stitches together multiple data sources into one UI console for fast investigation and response.

Not Enterprise Ready: Microsoft Defender XDR Makes Third-Party Integration Hard

Microsoft Defender XDR excels when an organization needs to integrate, correlate and stitch data, incidents and alerts from Microsoft products. However, to fully integrate data on Microsoft XDR Defender from firewalls, web server logs, cloud logs or IAM products, customers are encouraged to purchase Microsoft Sentinel. Microsoft Sentinel isn’t included in any of their licenses, including 365, E5, E5 Security or E5 Mobility + Security.

Additionally, Microsoft Defender XDR is only partially able to ingest all identity data sources or network fabric data from common identity platforms like Duo or Okta. These limitations create the need for additional product purchases and reconfigurations.

In contrast, the Cortex XDR agent provides full XDR features out of the box. It comes with complete coverage for endpoints across Windows, macOS, Linux, Chrome OS and Android systems and across private, public, hybrid and multi-cloud environments, while Microsoft has more limited functionality on macOS, Linux and legacy Windows. This makes our third-party integration more open and flexible to the needs of growing organizations by:

  • Ingesting, mapping and using data from any number of sources that are delivered in standard formats like syslog or HTTP.
  • Automatically stitching together data from any source to reveal the root cause and timeline of alerts to identify and quickly stop threats.
  • Having Cortex XDR use that data to generate XDR alerts within incidents to quickly scale visibility across an organization.

Cortex XDR is a single solution that provides a unified view into threats while Microsoft Defender XDR has many products to purchase and deploy with multiple user consoles to manage.

A Single, Unified View into Threats

Microsoft Defender XDR requires the use of several different products and management consoles in order to achieve the full functionality that Cortex XDR provides. On its own, Microsoft Defender XDR has limited coverage across operating systems. Therefore, it relies on multiple siloed products, each with their own consoles and dashboards to navigate. Investigation time is increased and management is a burden.

Cortex XDR streamlines SecOps by offering a unified platform for detection and response, consolidating alerts and incidents into a single view. SOC analysts can efficiently prevent threats, identify and detect incidents and expedite investigations using a single, automated web-based console. Cortex XDR also includes vulnerability management and identity analytics, which don’t necessitate a partnership or specific connection module. In summary, Cortex XDR:

  • Provides one web-based console for detection and response that correlates alerts and incidents into a single view.
  • Uses Host Insights to combine vulnerability assessment, application and system visibility, machine learning and Search and Destroy to help analyze threats across all endpoints.

Compare Cortex XDR to Microsoft Defender XDR

ProductsMicrosoft Defender XDRCortex XDR
Superior Detection & Visibility

Lack of visibility and missed detections

  • Microsoft struggled in the 2023 MITRE Engenuity Evaluations with a 78.3% analytic detection rate and needed to perform configuration changes to detect 39 substeps.

Analytics-based detection drives results

  • 100% threat prevention 3 years in a row in MITRE ATT&CK® Evaluations, 100% detection rate in the 2023 MITRE Engenuity Evaluationsand 100% Overall Active Prevention in AV-Comparative EPR.

  • Lack of data support limits detection abilities and minimizes visibility needed for investigation and response.

  • Extensive data collection across endpoint, network, cloud and third-party data with AI-driven data analysis drives powerful detection response and visibility.
Enterprise-Wide Coverage

Incomplete coverage across ecosystem

  • No ability to ingest third-party telemetry or integrate UEBA/UBA into the XDR platform.

Eliminates blind spots

  • Seamlessly integrates insights and alerts across the enterprise, including third-party data sources, identity providers and cloud environments — not just endpoint data.

  • Identity protection is limited to Azure and Active Directory.

  • Complete coverage supports managed and unmanaged endpoints across Windows, macOS and Linux.

  • Lacks exploit and behavioral protection for Linux machines, Windows 7 and 8 and macOS, leaving gaps in coverage.
  • Incident response is limited to only Windows endpoints and is not automated.
Single, Unified View of Threats

Too many tools to manage

  • Multiple, siloed Microsoft products to purchase, deploy and manage.

One console does it all

  • Single, unified view provides easy management within one console. Intelligent alert grouping and incident scoring reduce investigation time by 88%.

  • Switching between several different consoles makes management overly complex and reduces SOC efficiency.

  • Automatic correlation of events lets analysts see the entire incident, reducing manual work.
  • Lack of integration between threat prevention and detection consoles increases alert triage and investigation times and several detection queues to view makes management a burden.

  • Detection rules and dashboards are easily customizable to support each organization’s unique needs.
Enterprise Fit

Complex and costly with limited scope

  • Heavy reliance on Microsoft systems, services and solutions with integration across non-Microsoft technology an afterthought.

Tailored to your organization

  • Data can be ingested from virtually any syslog, event log, filebeat or source — enterprise-wide, across clouds and operating systems.
  • Requires additional add-on licensing and increased investment for complete XDR functionality. Complex packaging options and various add-ons become extremely expensive.
  • Full XDR feature inclusion with out-of-the-box functionality means no surprise charges or add-ons needed.

Ready to see Cortex in action?

Cortex XDR consistently outperforms Microsoft Defender XDR in MITRE ATT&CK Evaluations

In the 2023 MITRE ATT&CK Evaluations, only 67.8% of the possible detections by Microsoft resulted in the highest level of detail (technique level detections), with the rest either missed entirely or providing an inferior level of detail about attack actions.

Cortex XDR delivered 100% threat protection and 100% detection of all attack steps for the second year in a row, with 99.3% of technique detections providing the highest level of detail into attack steps to enable analysts to more quickly and accurately respond to events.

Need more proofpoints?

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Request your Personal Cortex XDR Demo

Request your Personal Cortex XDR Demo

Let's explore ways to find fewer alerts, build end-to-end automation, and enable smarter security operations.
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