In 2021, Breach & Attack Simulations are Key to Cybersecurity by Larry Vandell

Introduction

The world as we know it is a place where unending threat assessment is the key to being prepared against potential attacks from malignant actors. The word cybersecurity sounds like a cliche to those who haven’t been victims of a cyber attack. Only those who haven’t been victims believe that cybersecurity is a waste of resources.

The US military is possibly the strongest and most battle-ready defense arm in the world. While most attribute this to a bigger budget, there are other underlying factors. One of these factors is the establishment of the opposing force (OPFOR), which tests and sharpens the battle sense of the US army.

The US OPFOR is so good that they outperform the military of the US and other nations. So, what better place to take security cues from than the world’s finest? 

Cybersecurity is often perceived as a reactive response rather than an active security effort. This attitude weakens its overall efficiency as attackers are constantly evolving to stay a step ahead. This leaves cybersecurity efforts in a constant state of playing catch-up.

Cybersecurity is more than just processes and tools. It’s security consciousness regarding threats that permeate our cyberspace. Like our muscles need exercise to stay in shape, cybersecurity needs a consistent workout to remain relevant in the ever-changing digital age. This is where breach and attack simulations come in handy.

Understanding Breach And Attack Simulations

A breach and attack simulation is an advanced computer security testing method. Simulations identify vulnerabilities in security environments by mimicking attack scenarios and techniques used by malicious actors. This ensures that an organization can assess possible points of entry or flaws in the design or development of their software solution.

Breach and attack simulation stems from the idea of how OPFOR works, incorporating those ideologies and merging them with advanced testing procedures. Breach and attack simulation isn’t to be mistaken for software testing. The simulations demonstrate the actions of a cyber attack to expose loopholes in a software solution.

While it’s easy to dismiss the importance of breach and attack simulation—‘just pay better attention in the development stage of the software solution’—it’s important to note that cyber attackers are getting smarter every year. New malicious tools and viruses are created every year to exploit digital infrastructure.

As a result of the fast-paced growth in the software engineering sector, it isn’t uncommon for new tools, languages, software, and frameworks to be released before they’re fully ready or completely secure. Quite frankly, consumers now feel a solution that doesn’t have frequent updates and bug fixes isn’t being supported enough.

The culture of frequent software updates is one that industry experts encourage and support. Aside from this status quo, organizations typically update their software solutions by extending the features, functionality, and content or by refactoring the solution. This means that even if your software solution is fully secure today, you may unwittingly compromise it tomorrow.

The Old Way And A Better Way

Some organizations have integrated breach and attack simulation into their cybersecurity policy. However, this has been largely ineffective as it was manually done. These organizations also carried out these exercises periodically and in a way that wouldn’t affect the performance of the solution or hurt users.

This method of manual testing is fraught with challenges. First, the fact that it is manual makes it time-consuming and error-prone. Moreover, the larger the software solution, the harder it is to test the security of the entire digital infrastructure. Second, by trying not to affect the solution’s performance, the companies made the test somewhat unreliable.

This is likened to trying to test how burgle-proof a house is by only trying to burgle the house during the day. Carrying out a breach and attack simulation during low-traffic hours prevents the test from catching critical flaws that would have been revealed in a real stress test. After all, it’s more likely that an attacker will strike during peak periods.

More advanced and reliable methods involve using tools that automate the breach and attack simulation. The tool can continuously analyze and report security concerns without breaking the application or significantly affecting user experience. This is more reliable than a periodical check on the system.

Automating the process ensures that the security of the entire software is tested. This method also provides expert analysis and recommendations on best practices while providing real-time assessment to ensure that a digital infrastructure remains in tiptop shape 24/7.

Conclusion

Breach and attack simulation is the only surefire way to know and constantly validate the preparedness of cybersecurity features and processes embedded in a software solution. With over $100 billion being spent on cybersecurity globally, there have to be measures put in place to evaluate if it’s money well-spent or not.

Manual breach and attack simulations are laborious, expensive in the long run, and not as reliable as automated breach and attack simulations. The latter can run indefinitely and provide real-time assessment of the security level of a platform to protect organizations from lawsuits and unsuspecting netizens from cyberattacks. 


About the Author:

Larry Vandell
An information Security Engineer, Larry has over a decade of experience in the Infosec sector. When he's not securing networks, he's playing with his grandchildren.
October 6, 2021
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