It’s highly important to test all the security system controls of your organization to prevent a cyber attack. There are many ways of testing to identify complex vulnerabilities. Today, we are going to talk about one of the advanced testing techniques, the Breach and Attack Simulation (BAS).
The Breach and Attack Simulation (BAS) technique simulates a potential cyber attack on the organization’s systems. BAS assists organizations in identifying vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and any gaps in their whole computer network system. This reduces the risk of successful cyber attacks and improves the security posture of the company.
According to the stats, the market size of automated breach and attack simulation is growing drastically. It’s expected to reach USD 3.5 Billion. It’s a good sign that the market share of BAS is increasing, but it’s still not enough. The annual number of data breaches and individuals impacted by the cyber attacks shows the importance of all the security measures including BAS.
Let’s dive in to learn all about the Breach and Attack Simulation. If you are someone with a big firm, or just an individual, having this knowledge will come in handy. We will discuss BAS implementation, its tools, its benefits, and much more.
What is Breach and Attack Simulation? Understanding
Everyone is familiar with the word testing. So there are two types of testing, manual and automated testing. BAS lies under the automated category. It involves the use of different software tools to simulate a cyber attack on the organization’s network, infrastructure, and all applications to evaluate the company’s security posture.
It’s a new and automated way of penetrating through the organization’s defenses and proactively assisting the company in identifying weaknesses in its security controls. For example, whenever a software industry launches or updates its product/application, there’s a series of testing (Manual and Automation) done before that. They are both used to enter, render, and fetch different types of data to ensure its quality.
The same is the case when it comes to networking and cybersecurity. Whenever a company updates its networks, applications, and infrastructure, it must test it using both manual and automation. In this case, we are discussing BAS which is primarily an automated testing technique.
Common features of BAS tools
There are several common features in BAS tools. It’s very necessary to talk about all these features and to understand their use. This section of the guide will tell you the ways BAS tools can help your organization.
Many BAS tools are already equipped with pre-configured attack scenarios. They can include different types of ransomware, malware, phishing attacks, and other common methods that a cybercriminal may use. For instance, AttackIQ is one of the BAS tools that is equipped with over 1,000 pre-built attack scenarios. Organizations can use such scenarios to test their security defenses.
All the simulations need to closely resemble the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by real-world cyber criminals. BAS tools feature a combination of automated and manual techniques to simulate such attacks that can bypass security protocols. For instance, Cymulate, a BAS tool, uses a combination of attacks that are much like real-world attacks.
Organizations’ security defenses get a lot better with the use of BAS as they provide continuous testing, rather than a one-time test. So, before modifying or launching a new network, continuous testing can assist the organization in making sure that its system is powerful and breach-free. For instance, SafeBreach, a BAS tool, provides validation of security controls through continuous testing.
Once a cycle runs during a breach and attack simulation, the organization will have a concrete idea of all the vulnerabilities without having to go through a manual test for each component. So, in short, the organization is getting remediation guidance. BAS gives recommendations on security procedures and policies. For instance, XM Cyber, a BAS tool, gives detailed remediation guidance. The guidance is solely based on the result of the simulated attacks.
Integration with Other Security Tools
Now, BAS is good and all, there’s no doubt about that. But, once you integrate it with other security tools, things will turn out to be so much better. For instance, organizations can integrate BAS with Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems, Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems (IDS/IPS), and vulnerability scanners.
In short, organizations can gain a more comprehensive view of their security protocols and posture. They can respond with a better and more effective response plan featuring top-notch methods, techniques, and documentation. Verodin, a BAS tool, can integrate with various security tools and can provide a unified view of an organization's security posture.
Type of Breach and Attack Simulations
Any firm must be familiar with the types of Breach and Attack Simulation (BAS). This knowledge will help them learn all about the types of potential attacks that occur in the future. Knowing the types of cyber attacks will leave no stone unturned and your organization will be best protected.
To test the organization’s network security controls, BAS tools are used for the Network-based simulations. All the security firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, and all other devices that monitor and control network traffic are tested for the various types of attacks. Network-based simulations include port scanning, denial-of-service attacks, vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, and other network-based attacks.
To make sure that there are no endpoints that a cybercriminal can use to breach the organization’s network, BAS tools are used for the Endpoint-based Simulations. Such type of simulations is designed in a way to test the endpoint security controls.
They include antivirus software, host-based intrusion detection, and prevention systems, and other endpoint security technologies. They simulate attacks on all the endpoints, such as IOT devices, laptops, desktops, and mobile devices associated with the company’s network.
Web Application-based Simulations
This is somewhat of a bit technical concept. This type of simulation makes sure that organizations’ web application security controls are working fine. Web application firewalls, secure coding practices, and other security measures are used in this type of BAS. Simulating attacks on web applications such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and other web-based attacks. All of these techniques are used to ensure the security posture of web applications is secure enough.
As the name suggests, these simulations make sure that the organization’s network is spam-free and that they are well-mannered when it comes to phishing attacks. These simulations include phishing attacks, malware attacks, and other email-based attacks to test the organization’s anti-spam filters, anti-phishing measures, and other email security technologies.
Wireless Network-based Simulations
Wireless networks include Wi-Fi and other wireless technologies. So, a Wireless Network-based simulation is designed to test the organization’s wireless network security controls. They include Wi-Fi access controls, wireless encryption, and other methods in the same niche. Simulations of wireless-based attacks such as rogue access points are used for this type of BAS.
Cloud-based simulations are used to test the cloud infrastructure security controls. They include cloud access controls, virtual machine security, and other cloud-based security measures. It includes simulating an attack on cloud-based services, such as virtual machines and cloud storage.
How to Implement Breach and Attack Simulation?
Implementing Breach and Attack simulation involves identifying areas of vulnerability in the network, creating a baseline security model, selecting the appropriate BAS tool, creating a baseline security model, conducting a simulation attack, and more.
Following is a step-by-step guide on how an organization can implement breach and attack simulation.
Identifying Areas of Vulnerability in The Network
Before conducting a BAS activity, an organization must identify areas of vulnerability in the network. This can be done in different ways including vulnerability scans, penetration testing, and security audits. The main aim here is to understand the potential attack surfaces and to identify any weaknesses and gaps that can come in handy for a cyber-criminal.
For instance, a vulnerability scan of the network to identify any outdated software or unpatched systems that could prove vulnerable to attack. Once they have identified as such, they can take this as a starting point for their BAS activity. Organizations can prioritize which areas to focus more on.
Creating a Baseline Security Model
Once the areas of vulnerability have been found and identified, the next thing to do is to make a baseline security model. This particular model will represent the current state of the company’s security controls. It will serve as a reference point for measuring improvements.
For instance, a baseline security model should include the current configuration of the company's firewalls, intrusion detection system, and other security controls. It can be served as a starting point to measure the effectiveness of its security controls once a BAS activity has been conducted.
Selecting the Appropriate BAS Tool
The next thing to do is to select the appropriate BAS tool. There is a variety of BAS tools available in the market, and each of them features different capabilities. For instance, if the main concern of the organization is testing its network security controls, then the best choice would be to have a network-based BAS tool.
Alternatively, they can choose a different BAS tool, such as endpoint-based, cloud-based, and others based on their concerns and requirements.
Conducting a Simulated Attack
Once an organization has identified weaknesses, made a baseline security model, and chosen the right BAS tool, the next thing to do is to conduct a BAS exercise. It means running a series of tests based on the company’s concerns and requirements.
The series of tests can include testing on networks, endpoints, web applications, email systems, wireless networks, or cloud infrastructure. All of these are explained and mentioned above in this guide.
For instance, if the concern of the company is about email-based security controls. They will run a simulated phishing attack to test the effectiveness of the email security controls. It would involve sending a fake phishing email to different employees and measuring how many of them fall for the attack.
Analyzing the Results and Making Improvements
Once the organization has conducted a simulated attack, it must analyze the results and make improvements to the company’s security controls. The organization needs to review every report and analysis provided by the BAS tools and find areas where improvement is required.
For instance, if we go back to that phishing example, once the company has taken and measured the results, it can then train such employees and inform them more about the cybersecurity protocols. Perhaps even enroll them in several seminars. The organization might implement additional email security controls, such as two-factor authentication or advanced spam filtering.
Benefits of Using BAS
There are several benefits offered by BAS to organizations. They include the following.
Improved Cybersecurity Posture
BAS helps to identify vulnerabilities in the security controls to protect when a real attack occurs. It indicates that it improves the company’s cybersecurity posture. BAS assists firms to meet all the regulatory compliance requirements by identifying and addressing any security gaps.
Increased awareness of Security risks
With the use of BAS, employees in the company will have a better understanding of the various types of cyber attacks. They will be familiar with different methods and techniques that a cybercriminal might use to breach through their organization’s defenses.
Enhancing Incident Response Capabilities
BAS can help the organization in enhancing its incident response plan. A strong incident plan integrated with the BAS will surely help the organization stay protected.
Challenges of Implementing Breach and Attack Simulation
It’s clear now that BAS is one of the most effective ways of protecting an organization from a cyber attack. But some challenges are needed to be addressed as well. For instance, people have limited knowledge and expertise when it comes to BAS, they are reluctant to change, and there are some concerns about budget constraints, and integrating with existing security infrastructure.
Limited Knowledge and Expertise
This is one of the biggest challenges organizations may have to face. Many people lack knowledge and expertise in implementing BAS. Perhaps, they have fewer technical skills, less knowledge of cybersecurity, and less familiarity with different BAS tools.
For example, a small-scale business with limited staff may lack the necessary skills to conduct any BAS exercise. On the other hand, big firms and organizations may struggle to find qualified personnel with the required expertise to run different BAS tests.
Resistance to Change
This is yet another challenge that an organization may face while implementing BAS activities. Some employees and departments in firms may be resistant to implementing BAS due to their concerns about disruptions to their workflows, lack of understanding of the benefits, or fear of the unknown.
For instance, employees may feel reluctant to participate in BAS testing techniques, fearing the impact on their productivity or perhaps being seen as a way to monitor their activities.
Implementing BAS techniques can be expensive for organizations with limited resources. There’s the cost of BAS tools, licensing fees, and personnel required to conduct the test runs can be significant. A small-scale business will struggle to allocate the necessary funds to purchase and maintain BAS tools. On the other hand, big firms and organizations will need to weigh the cost of BAS against their other cybersecurity investments.
Integration with the Existing Security Infrastructure
Integrating BAS with existing security infrastructure can be a challenge. Organizations will need to ensure that their BAS tools can easily integrate with their existing security tools including firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and security information and event management (SIEM) systems.
Future trends in BAS may include using artificial intelligence and machine learning to enhance the effectiveness of simulated attacks and integrating BAS with other security tools and technologies to create a comprehensive security solution.
All businesses/corporations looking to implement Breach and Attack Simulations can opt to hire cybersecurity providers or they can subscribe to third-party cyber security services such as outsourced cybersecurity.
In conclusion, BAS is a valuable tool for organizations to test their security controls and improve their cybersecurity posture proactively. By identifying areas of vulnerability and making improvements, organizations can better protect themselves against real-world cyber threats. Organizations need to understand the benefits and challenges of implementing BAS and take proactive steps to overcome any obstacles.