How Breach and Attack Simulation Strengthens Your Cybersecurity Defenses
In recent years, we saw an emergence of proactive cybersecurity practices that change the way organizations tussle with digital attacks.
The battle plan is simple: prevent cyber-attacks before they even begin.
There are several ways to adopt proactive cybersecurity, from using data risk analytics to implementing a Zero Trust policy.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at Breach and Attack Simulation and how organizations can take advantage.
What is Breach and Attack Simulation?
First things first; a quick introduction.
A Breach and Attack Simulation or BAS is a relatively new, proactive cybersecurity technology.
As the name implies, it simulates real-world cybersecurity breaches and attacks without actually putting digital assets at risk.
BAS is a security control testing solution, which helps identify vulnerabilities in your IT network that pose an immediate risk. In other words, it unveils potential attack vectors that hackers can leverage to breach your cyber defenses.
To better understand how security control testing works, let’s talk about the common forms of security controls.
Examples of security controls
Security controls can be anything that can block the activities of malicious actors. It can be some form of cybersecurity tool or policy that controls the accessibility of data in your organization.
The most basic form of a security control is a password, which is meant to prevent unauthorized access.
Despite their importance, passwords are far from the most secure ways to protect an organization’s data from cyber-attacks.
That’s why organizations reinforce their cybersecurity stack with more advanced security controls, like:
- Anti-malware tool
- Antivirus software
- Email filter
- Intrusion Detection System (IDS)
- Biometric access controls
- Two-factor authentication
There are also physical security controls that can add an extra layer of protection to your organization’s overall security.
Some, like motion alarm systems, can protect you from physical intrusions. Others like hardware authentication devices can prevent malicious actors from accessing sensitive digital information using unknown devices.
How security controls can actually weaken your Cybersecurity
With the right techniques, security controls can effectively defend against most cyber-attacks.
But as the cybersecurity stack grows higher, the more challenging it gets to maintain, update, and optimize individual security controls.
Remember, security controls like Web Application Firewalls can block access to legitimate users—preventing employees from fulfilling their duties. In response, cybersecurity teams need to dial down its configuration, potentially weakening it against real cyber-attacks.
Over time, organizations may perform hundreds of tweaks to security controls to strike the perfect balance between security and accessibility. As a result, they could end up with thousands of vulnerabilities that require immediate remediation—hidden from plain sight.
To detect vulnerabilities, companies have resorted to security validation techniques like red teaming and penetration testing.
This leads us to BAS, which automates some processes involved in red teaming. It can help you gauge the effectiveness of security protocols and identify issues that demand attention.
How BAS works
The entire BAS workflow can be simplified in three steps:
- Identifying critical assets or “vectors”
- Running simulations of real-life attacks
- Generating evaluation reports and remediation optimizations
BAS solutions start by defining a set of vectors that hackers use as an entry point to your network. Automated tests will then be configured to evaluate these vectors on a predefined schedule.
For example, let’s say you wanted to test your organization’s email vector to determine the effectiveness of your spam filter.
BAS works by automating mock spam emails to your company email addresses.
Of course, there’s no way for these emails to cause real damage. If they get through the filter, the BAS platform will generate a report informing your cybersecurity team about the vulnerability.
Once integrated, there will be no manual labor needed to set up tests or extract insights from the results. The BAS solution automates the whole workflow in the background as your employees focus on their day-to-day activities.
A great BAS solution should also have little to no impact on your IT network’s load.
In fact, employees shouldn’t notice anything unless they operate security controls that are being tested themselves. For instance, if you’re testing employee awareness on phishing scams, they might receive a false phishing email in their inbox.
Where do BAS solutions get threat data?
Today’s BAS vendors have a multi-vector approach that can cover your organization’s entire attack surface.
Their products may incorporate information from the following sources:
- Internal information from their cybersecurity research department
- Threat intelligence from open-source knowledge bases such as MITRE ATT&CK
- Information from clients’ previous security assessments
If you’re interested in using BAS for cybersecurity, make sure they don’t rely on just one of these sources.
Using a mix of these threat model sources guarantees that a BAS solution can address an organization’s specific security concerns. This maximizes the efficiency, accuracy, and cost-effectiveness of the BAS platform.
Benefits of BAS
There are several benefits of deploying a BAS solution to protect your organization from cyber threats:
- Save money: The automated nature of BAS allows organizations to save money on manual or periodic cybersecurity testing practices. It eliminates the need to source red teams and spend money on their deployment unless absolutely necessary.
- Maximize the efficiency of validations: Insights from BAS reports can help test teams focus on vulnerable areas of your cyber defense. It also informs organizations where their remediation efforts are needed the most.
- Roll out security controls with confidence: Security controls require extensive testing to make sure they’re configured properly and securely. BAS can do this automatically for your organization while you focus on other essential activities like documentation and training.
- Ease of use: Some BAS vendors offer platforms that even non-experts in the cybersecurity space can use. This is perfect for small organizations without a dedicated cybersecurity team to oversee the platform’s deployment and testing procedures.
Organizations can no longer be on the defensive when it comes to cybersecurity.
Always remember that the damages of successful cyber-attacks go beyond the money needed for cleanup and recovery. Some irreparable damages include losing your customers’ trust and intellectual property.
A Breach and Attack Simulation platform is a cost-effective solution that helps you proactively protect against digital attacks. Just remember to be smart and take your time when choosing your BAS vendor.
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