Organizations Undergoing Digital Transformation Must Utilize Breach and Attack Simulation

A PwC Pulse Survey among businesses reveals that 6 in 10 executives consider digital transformation as their most critical growth driver in 2022. Embracing digital technology is not just a way to prepare for the changes in the way modern business is conducted; it has already become a significant source of growth.

Most organizations nowadays acknowledge that going digital is a necessity, but many still have difficulties dealing with the risks that come with it. A significant number of organizations fail to implement crucial cybersecurity measures in response to their expanding cyber attack surfaces

Many are aware that vulnerabilities or security weaknesses may emerge as they adopt new infrastructure and systems and acquire new classes of IT assets. As such, they update their cyber defense systems or obtain new security tools, albeit without ascertaining the effectiveness of these new security solutions.

The need for breach and attack simulation

Simply put, breach and attack simulation is an advanced cybersecurity testing method aimed at identifying vulnerabilities through the simulation of real-world attack paths and techniques. It has been around for years, but its familiarity appears to be limited to those directly involved in the overall security posture management of organizations. Not every organization employs this highly useful advanced security validation approach.

A Ponemon Sullivan privacy report quantifies this failure to take advantage of advanced tools for security validation. The report says that while 62 percent of organizations acquired new security technologies to secure their work-from-home and other new company IT arrangements, 62 percent also admitted that they did nothing to validate the effectiveness of the new security solutions they deployed. Most have relied on security vendors’ claims and obtained security controls that have not been tried and tested against the new threat landscape.

Breach and attack simulation addresses this very failure to undertake sensible security validation. It is good that organizations are aware of the new cybersecurity risks that come with the migration towards full digitalization, but it would be much better if they are not simply adding new security controls without testing if these actually work.

Key security concerns during digital transformation

As mentioned, many are aware of the cyber risks involved in digital transformation. However, this awareness is most likely limited to the expansion of attack surfaces. There are other areas organizations need to pay attention to.

Expansion of attack surfaces

The addition of more workstations, networking devices, on-prem and cloud storage, and various other components creates more opportunities for threat actors. Additionally, integrating IoT devices, wearables, and mobile/portable devices as part of day-to-day operations makes organizations more prone to attacks.

Attack surfaces can fall into three major categories: digital, physical, and social engineering. All of which are unfortunately expanded by further digitalization. 

  • Digital attack surfaces include misconfigured systems, the use of weak passwords, OS and firmware vulnerabilities, security issues in web apps and other internet-facing assets, and shadow IT.
  • Physical attack surfaces, as the phrase suggests, refer to physical devices such as workstations, smartphones, POS devices, and IoT appliances. Threat actors (usually malicious insiders) access these devices physically to steal data or use accounts that have not been properly secured.
  • Lastly, social engineering attack surfaces are physical or digital points of attack that facilitate phishing, vishing, baiting, and other forms of attacks that focus on human weaknesses. Compromised mobile phones, for example, can be used to intercept messages and transaction passwords.

Increased reliance on third-party providers

Organizations rarely pursue digital transformation from scratch. They usually do not develop their own bespoke digital tools. Instead, they use new tools and technologies supplied by third parties. From cloud storage to CRM and ERP applications, it is common for companies of various sizes to get readily available business software, productivity apps, or SaaS and other cloud solutions from established providers.

It is not wrong to rely on third-party applications and web service providers. However, it is crucial to pay attention to the possible risks. The infamous SolarWinds attack a couple of years ago was attributed to third-party risks. Forrester Senior Analyst Alla Valente says that some organizations leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to support digital transformation, which puts them in the dilemma of whether to build AI on their own or buy the technology from a third party.

Secure cloud environment a must

Cloud computing is already widely adopted, and it has become an important technology for businesses. In the current context, digital transformation is no longer just about converting records into digital format and doing transactions digitally. It also entails the wise use of cloud technology.

Cloud services are necessary not only for data storage that can be accessed anytime and anywhere. It is also important in running web-based applications, collaboration, and other purposes that require real-time data access and environmental proactivity. Unfortunately, securing the cloud is quite challenging. The Ponemon survey mentioned earlier also reveals that around 63 percent of organizations admit that they have difficulties securing their cloud environments.

Attack simulation helps

Breach and attack simulation is an effective way to validate security controls and spot security vulnerabilities, especially those brought about by the expansion of attack surfaces, the increased use of third-party software and services, and the growing reliance on cloud solutions. When organizations think the way threat actors do, they gain new perspectives that allow them to spot and promptly address risks that could have been ignored, downplayed, or undetected if security validation were undertaken conventionally.

It is also worth noting that leading BAS solution providers offer cybersecurity platforms that operationalize multi-source cyber threat intelligence and the MITRE ATT&CK framework to enable efficient security testing, continuous threat monitoring, and security control optimization across the entire cyber kill chain. They provide intuitive methods for conducting security testing while making the most of up-to-date threat information as well as detection and response frameworks.

Breach and attack simulation can be implemented regardless of what stage an organization’s digital transformation initiative is in. Organizations can enjoy the advantages of continuous and advanced security validation without unnecessary complexities and resource allocations (by picking the right cybersecurity platform that integrates BAS). It is not a flawless and do-it-all solution, but it provides palpable benefits when it comes to making sure that security controls work as intended and vulnerabilities are eliminated or minimized significantly.

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Abhishek Kumar Jha
Abhishek Kumar Jha
Knowledge is Power


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