Hack Yourself To A Secure Future With Breach And Attack Simulation by Jeff Broth

As the title denotes, you need to hack your organization's IT systems before cyberattackers do so. It is the best way to assess the security vulnerabilities in your organization, rather than acquiring that wisdom merely from theory.

But how can you hack your organization's security infrastructure without compromising your network and tools? And how can you fix all the security loopholes that you confront? 

Well, you'll discover the answers to all such concerns with Breach and Attack Simulation, or BAS as it's commonly known.

But before we dive into BAS, you need to understand why we ask you to hack yourself. So stay tuned, folks.

Why do you need Breach and Attack Simulation?

A typical attacker does not sleep or take breaks. They intend to attack your security 24 hours every seven days or 365 days per year. 

Also, did you know that most of the root causes of security breaches occur due to human error? To back this claim, a joint study by professor Jeff Hancock of Stafford University and a security firm, Tissan, found that 88% of data breaches occur due to human factors. These include system misconfigurations, glitches in source code, and general human errors. Then it is up to the hackers to exploit them.

Most of the hackers opt for the least resistant path, despite the advancements in the range of exploits the threat actors employ.

Despite an organization's security team's efforts, it only takes one vulnerability for an attacker to launch a larger-scale attack. With a constant stream of new patches, updates, and releases, there's plenty of room for new threats to emerge - and for attackers to exploit them.

So, to overcome such scenarios, many security professionals have started simulating attacks with Breach and Attack Simulation (BAS) against themselves.

Let's find out what that is in the next section.

What are some popular forms of attack simulations?

Before we dive into BAS, let's dive our attention into some vulnerability assessment methods organizations widely used to mitigate risks.

Penetration Testing

Also known as a pen test, it’s a simulated cyberattack against your system to identify the vulnerabilities. Organizations widely use penetration testing to complement a Web Application Firewall (WAF) in the context of web application security.

Pen testing involves finding vulnerabilities in unsanitized user input prone to injection attacks, such as SQL Injections.

You may leverage the information gained by security teams during penetration tests to fine-tune your WAF's security settings.

Vulnerability assessment

This is not so much a simulation test, as it is a routine semi- or fully-automated scan for publicly known vulnerabilities. It determines if the system is vulnerable to any known vulnerabilities, provides severity ratings to those vulnerabilities, and offers remedy or mitigation where necessary.

Red Teaming

These activities, also known as red team against blue team exercises, mimic a sustained attack by the red team to evaluate your defenders' blue team's ability to recognize and respond to an attack. The goal is to test systems, processes, and people all at the same time.

However, these methodologies have limitations that make it nearly impossible to provide a complete, consistent picture of an organization's entire security posture.

So to fill this need, vendors stepped up with Breach and Attack Simulation tools in which the security teams started attacking their systems to identify vulnerabilities.

What is Breach and Attack Simulation?

Breach and Attack Simulation (BAS) programs execute simulated assaults to assess the success of a company's protection, detection, and response procedures to a cyber threat. Prominent examples would be a cyberattack on the company's web application firewall, a phishing attack on the company's email system, or a malware attack on an endpoint. What's more beneficial is that you would be able to run these tools 24*7. Then, when a change to the network results in a vulnerability, such tools would alert you.

They all launch such attacks without causing severe damage to your applications, data, and users.

Your security team can launch these attacks from the Dark Cloud to various software-based agents on your network.

So whether you're attempting to emulate the MITRE Attack framework, spear-phishing, data exfiltration techniques, or the latest malware attacks, Breach and Attack Simulation would enable you to test your network defenses by yourself without a threat actor doing it. 

As usual, let's not get the Breach and Attack Simulation method confused with penetration testing.

How does Breach and Attack Simulation differ from Penetration Testing? 

People often get BAS confused with penetration testing due to their similarities. Although they share similar characteristics, they're not quite the same.

Typically, a security expert conducts penetration testing and applies their knowledge on breaching the defenses of an organization's network defenses to penetrate it. So this approach primarily relies on people who have the same skills as criminals to penetrate a network.

A downside of penetration testing is that they're expensive to conduct. Another drawback is that it provides a snapshot of a system at a particular point in time. When organizations enhance their defenses, you would again encounter threat actors targeting to penetrate your system.

So, the managers or the CEOs of an organization do not know how threat actors in the new environment would affect the security posture in the organization. They would have to pay more for further testing to find it out. As you can see, this is an endless process.

In contrast, BAS performs its testing continuously. Although these tools may not have the same creativity of a person manually automating the tests, they may constantly test over a wide range of different types of assaults.

Ultimately, Gartner notes that penetration testing helps answer the question ‘can they get in?’ whereas BAS tools answer the question 'does my security work?’

Conclusion

Now you have a comprehensive overview of Breach and Attack Simulation and how it differs from other forms of simulation tests, and why you need it. After all, BAS provides a comprehensive overview of the security threats in your system at any point in time after you simulate the attacks.

We hope you'll practice what you have learned in this article.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jeff Broth, a business writer and advisor. Consulted for SMB owners and entrepreneurs for 8 years now. Mainly covering finance, cyber, and emerging fintech trends.

January 13, 2022
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