2022 was a tough year for many organizations. In October, a carding marketplace called BidenCash leaked the credit card details of 1.2 million credit cards. They posted a file containing all the details necessary to make online transactions for credit cards expiring between 2023 and 2026. In July, Twitter confirmed that a hacker had posted the data of 5.4 million Twitter accounts for sale. The compromised data included email addresses and phone numbers of many organizations and celebrities along with the general users. The reason for this data exposure was a vulnerability that was discovered on Twitter in January.
According to the reports of Checkpoint research, global cyber attacks increased by 38% in 2022 in comparison to 2021. In today’s rising threat landscape, it is very important for industry leaders to ensure that their organizations are safe against cyber attacks.
Using simulated attacks to test an organization’s security
Red teaming is an approach used by organizations to test their response capabilities by using simulated attacks. These attacks are launched by a team of security experts, who use an approach similar to that of a real-world hacker. The attacks are performed to evaluate the organization's defence mechanisms towards various types of cyber attacks.
Red teaming provides organizations with crucial information about their incident response capabilities and potential risks that they might be missing. Conducting regular Red Teaming exercises can help organizations identify and mitigate vulnerabilities in their systems and improve their overall security posture. Hence, Red teaming allows organizations to find and fix weaknesses in their security system before they can be manipulated by hackers.
Breach attack simulation provides an organization with consistent security testing to protect it from cyber-attacks. This is done via simulating the attack vectors and methods similar to those a that malicious actor is likely to utilise and testing your organization's defences against it.
The global automated breach and attack simulation market size grew from [$0.38 billion in 2022 to $0.52 billion in 2023 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 37.4%](https://www.thebusinessresearchcompany.com/report/automated-breach-and-attack-simulation-global-market-report#:~:text=The global automated breach and,least in the short term.). The automated breach and attack simulation market size is expected to grow to $1.89 billion in 2027 at a CAGR of 37.9%.
Limitations of Simulated attacks
While red teaming is a highly effective way of testing an organization's ability to fight against a cyber attack, there are a few shortcomings that stop Red teaming from being scalable:
- Limited scope
Red teams may be constrained in their testing by defined parameters, such as specific assets or systems. Thus, they may have a narrow focus and only target selective attack vectors. This limits the effectiveness of the testing.
- Limited resources
The traditional Red teaming exercise is limited by budget and personnel. Red teaming requires specialized expertise and equipment, which may be difficult for organizations to acquire or maintain. As a result, organizations may not be able to fully test their defences against a wide range of potential threats.
- Limited time
Red teaming exercise is often limited in time duration. This limits the scope and depth of testing because teams may not have enough time to explore all potential vulnerabilities and attack vectors fully. This may also limit the ability of the red teams to properly document and report on their findings. This makes it difficult for the organization to fully understand the extent of their security risks and take the right action to address them.
- Limited visibility
Red teaming attacks are focused on a specific target area or system. This leads to blind spots in the security assessment.
EASM can resolve most of these issues due to its holistic approach. It can enhance the reports and findings of Red teaming and yield better test results.
EASM helps organizations by allocating their resources effectively and efficiently, thereby allowing them to focus on higher-priority tasks. By having a more comprehensive view of their attack surface, organizations can prioritize their red teaming efforts. This ensures that the most critical vulnerabilities are addressed first, thus reducing the risk of a successful attack.
Using External Attack Surface Management for improving various testing activities
External Attack Surface Management (EASM) is a proactive approach to identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities in external-facing systems and networks of an organization. These external-facing systems and networks are the ones that are accessible to the audience or other organizations over the internet.
EASM is a security strategy that allows organizations to identify, assess, and manage potential vulnerabilities and attack vectors in their infrastructure and systems. It can be integrated with other security tools and processes, such as incident response and penetration testing, to provide a more comprehensive view of an organization's security.
Generally, EASM includes a combination of automated tools, manual analysis, and threat intelligence to help organizations gain a better understanding of their attack surface and make informed decisions about how to protect their networks and systems.
External Attack Surface Management is being adopted at a rapid rate by the industry for several reasons, including:
- Increased threat landscape
- Better risk management
- Improved security posture
Shortcomings of Red Teaming that can be aided by EASM
External attack surface management helps red teaming activities become efficient. Instead of manually running scans for open ports, Red teaming can work with a fully mapped-out list of assets. This improves visibility and dismisses the need for low-value manual tasks. Thus, saving time and helping red teams get a more comprehensive view of the organization's assets.
EASM uses advanced technologies such as automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to continuously monitor and analyze an organization's infrastructure, applications, and data.
EASM provides organizations with real-time visibility and insights into their red teaming operations, enabling them to identify areas for improvement and optimize their red teaming efforts over time. This can help organizations overcome the challenge of limited resources. With EASM, organizations can streamline and optimize their red teaming operations, hence reducing the time and effort required to perform red teaming exercises.
EASM can also solve the limited visibility shortcoming of traditional red teaming by providing a centralized platform for red team operations and better visibility into the attack scenarios being simulated. Additionally, EASM can also standardize the red teaming process and provide a common framework for conducting red team operations, further improving visibility and reducing the potential for blind spots.
With EASM, red teaming can be performed faster and with less manual effort. This allows for a more thorough assessment in a limited amount of time. Additionally, EASM automates the generation of reports, reducing the time and effort needed to communicate the results of red teaming assessments to stakeholders.
A scenario where EASM helps an organization perform its Red teaming activity
Let's assume that a financial organization wishes to improve its overall security posture. They decide to use an EASM solution like Horizon to scan their network for vulnerabilities and to monitor their attack surface. The organization then invests in a third-party red team for simulating a real-world attack to test their defences against. In this case, the Horizon EASM solution will provide the red team with valuable information about the potential security risks to their systems and assets. Along with this, it will also provide a comprehensive list of mapped-out assets of the organization. This would, in turn, enable the red team to focus their efforts on the most critical vulnerabilities rather than wasting their time assessing low-level risks.
Horizon would continue to monitor the network and provide the red team with real-time updates throughout the red teaming exercise. This will assist the red team to pivot their tactics and strategies according to the new developments in the environment. This ensures that the simulation is as realistic and effective as possible.
At the end of the activity, the IT team would receive a complete report from the red team detailing the vulnerabilities that were exploited along with recommendations on how to address them. Horizon will enable them to continuously track the changes in the attack surface and to prioritize the necessary steps of remediation. This way, using EASM in conjunction with red teaming will allow the organization to gain valuable insights on how to identify and mitigate potential security weaknesses before they can be exploited by various malicious actors.