Breach and Attack Simulation: Why It Is Vital to Assess Your Security Controls

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Breach and Attack Simulation: Why It Is Vital to Assess Your Security Controls


Recent data showed an average of 270 attacks per company, with a 31% increase from 2020 to 2021.

The attacks included unauthorized access to applications, data, networks, services, and devices, which is why cybersecurity is important for businesses now.

Your best bet is to test and fortify your security controls to keep your company from becoming another number that adds to these figures.

One effective approach is to deploy breach and attack simulation.

Learn more about breach and attack simulation from this post and how it can help you validate and strengthen your cybersecurity controls for increased protection.

Breach and attack simulation at a glance

Breach and Attack Simulation (BAS) refers to the platforms and technologies that mimic real-world attacks to assess if a company’s deployed security controls work as they should.

For example, BAS solutions can place files that look like malware (but don’t pose a threat) onto your systems to check if your anti-malware software captures them.

BAS platforms use complex attack simulations to try and bypass your security control systems to meet a certain goal, such as sending a malicious email to a recipient.

If the goal is met, the Breach and Attack Simulation solution helps detect a gap in your control, allowing you to remediate the vulnerability accordingly.  

The types of BAS solutions are:

  • Agent-based BAS platforms. These are the simplest BAS solutions that work by deploying agents across the LAN. The goal is to identify vulnerabilities and spot certain open routes that potential attackers can exploit to move around your network.

Agent-based BAS solutions work like vulnerability scanning, but with more context.

  • Cloud-based BAS platforms. Cloud-based solutions simulate multiple attack scenarios (known as multi-vector attacks) externally through various entry points and your company’s network perimeter.

The cloud solution gets fed with the latest threats from various sources, making it always up-to-date and quick to deploy.

  • Malicious traffic-based BAS solutions. BAS platforms can generate intrusive traffic within your network between dedicated virtual machines serving as targets for a wide array of attack scenarios.

Then, the solution creates an overview of the specific events that haven’t been uncovered and blocked by your company’s security controls. You’ll get data about how attackers can move if they slip through your network. 

Advanced BAS technologies can reference knowledge bases, including the MITRE ATT&CK® Framework, allowing the platforms to draw tactics and techniques hackers use to deploy attacks.

The real world-like simulated attacks commonly use hack tools and a form of malware that doesn’t do real damage to trigger and monitor your security solutions and controls’ responses.

Traditional ways to manage vulnerabilities

Thoroughly assessing your company’s cybersecurity controls and vulnerabilities allow you to understand better where the highest or most impactful risks to your business exist. 

Some common, traditional ways to test your security measures and manage vulnerabilities include the following.

Penetration testing

Pentesting is a common method to uncover security gaps across your infrastructure.

Pentests often involve highly-skilled experts who use attack methods and tools actual attackers deploy to reach a specific and pre-defined breach objective.

Pentesting usually covers applications, networks, and endpoint devices (among others).  

Red teaming

Red teams mimic advanced threat actors via stealth methods. A red team overturns your established defensive controls through this ethical hacking while uncovering the weaknesses within your company’s cyber defense strategy.

Red teaming gives better understands how your existing security controls detect and respond to actual attacks.

You can use the results from red teaming exercises to determine the necessary improvements to your cybersecurity controls.

Blue teaming

Blue teaming is where security experts (usually internal security teams) with an overall view of a company defend against mock attackers and red team activities.

Blue teams and their supporters must defend against simulated (and real) attacks over a significant period, as part of operational exercises, and based on the rules set and monitored by neutral groups (white teams) refereeing the simulated attacks.

Blue teaming’s main objective is to identify cyber threats against each asset, including the vulnerabilities the threats can exploit, through risk assessments.

Blue teams can develop an action plan to implement and improve security controls by evaluating and prioritizing the potential risks.

Purple teaming

Purple teaming aims to ensure alignment between red and blue teaming activities.

Then, it leverages the insights from the activities to give realistic, end-to-end Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) experience and prioritizes the spotted vulnerabilities accordingly.

While many companies use these vulnerability testing methods, they have several limitations.

The approaches often involve a lot of manual work and can be costly, making them too tedious and resource-intensive to perform regularly.

Also, the methods give a point-in-time view of your company’s security posture, which can be less effective in a more dynamic and cloud-based IT infrastructure with increasingly diverse apps and endpoints.

What breach and attack simulation does

BAS solutions cover a bulk of the traditional vulnerability testing methods, but offer a more comprehensive and critical approach.

At a high level, a BAS platform’s main functions include the following.

  • Attack by mimicking real-world threats
  • Visualize by detecting gaps and exposures
  • Prioritize by assigning criticality or severity ratings to exploitable vulnerabilities
  • Remediate by addressing gaps

BAS goes beyond the traditional vulnerability testing methods by using closed-loop automation. It lets your IT and security teams examine environments thoroughly for attack behaviors and threat indicators, misconfigurations, log gaps, unprotected assets, and human errors faster and more efficiently.

Equipped with this information, your security teams can leverage the recommended actions to address security control gaps, from fixing misconfigurations to strengthening your credential management.

BAS solutions also allow variety in performing vulnerability tests.

The testing and validation options can be continuous, on-demand, or based on set intervals. These give your security teams greater flexibility in conducting vulnerability tests across your security controls and IT environments.  

When should you deploy BAS?

There isn’t a standard time to run breach and attack simulations, since much of the process depends on your company’s need to assess whether your security measures hold up.

However, it’s best to deploy and thoroughly review BAS annually (at a minimum).

Also, conduct simulations when you add or change something in your IT infrastructure and security environment. Doing so allows you to  promptly check for and detect potential gaps in your defenses.  

Deploy BAS to strengthen your cybersecurity

Breach and attack simulation solutions can give your company robust features and functionalities that help validate your security controls’ effectiveness.

The platforms can equip your security teams better to take more proactive approaches to bulk up your cyber defenses.

Your company can become more resilient since you’ll have the ability to monitor your IT environment and security infrastructure continuously for threats.

With BAS in your cyber defense strategy, you can accelerate the time it takes to remediate security issues, minimizing the potential impact on your business.