Your cyber defenses may look good on paper, but it’s not until you put them to the test that you’ll know whether you can withstand an attack. Every IT environment has vulnerabilities, and by thinking like a threat actor you will find them faster.
Cyber defense is only helpful if it has proven stopping power against real-world attackers. To detect and mitigate vulnerabilities and security gaps in your IT infrastructure, you should complement your defensive cyber strategies with a proactive approach. The goal of offensive cybersecurity is to identify business-critical vulnerabilities by imitating the modus operandi of the threat actors.
Testing your cybersecurity in real-world situations requires extensive and up-to-date knowledge about the current threat landscape to ensure that the latest tools, exploits, and attack vectors are used. When you've assessed the resilience of your IT infrastructure, you'll have insights into how to strengthen your overall security posture and to better prioritize your security efforts.
"Every IT environment has vulnerabilities; it’s just a matter of finding them."
Find Exploitable Vulnerabilities With Targeted Attacks
By performing a controlled attack on your IT infrastructure, systems, services, or devices, you can detect security flaws before the threat actors do. This is an effective way of working when it comes to testing a specific part of your system, application, or services. The aim is to find all security flaws within the scope of the assignment. This is what we usually call a penetration test, a test that will give you deep insights into the security levels of tested parts, together with recommendations on how to mitigate those flaws.
The Closest You'll Get to a Real-World Cyber Attack
The most extensive offensive security effort is a full-scale red team exercise. In the red team exercise, an internal security team, or an external IT security partner, acts as a cybercriminal, finding a way into your infrastructure and gaining a foothold. They try to escalate as stealthy as possible through your environment to gain access to all or certain parts of your infrastructure, called flags, indicating your most valuable systems.
Red team exercises set out to exploit multiple systems and potential attack vectors. For example, the red team might leave a USB drive with malicious code somewhere in the office or send phishing emails to obtain credentials from unknowing co-workers. From these different entry points, the team will move inside the environment to reach the defined flags without beeing detected.
The Most Comprehensive Assessment of Your IT Infrastructure
Conducting a technical assessment of your IT environment is an effective and timesaving way to understand your current security posture. The test will evaluate your internal environments, like servers and clients, dependencies in the systems and accounts, and identity and authentication configurations. The goal is to find the critical vulnerabilities that a threat actor might use to escalate their privileges in an IT environment.
Often there's an evaluation of your external exposure as well. This approach gives you an overview of your total security posture from the external attack path to your most valuable systems or accounts.
The technical assessment's goal isn’t to be stealthy as in a red team exercise, which saves considerable time. The main drawback is that you won’t evaluate your SOC capabilities with this type of test.
The Importance of Prioritizing Your Budget
When the tests are completed, and the results are presented, it’s important to draw the correct conclusions to improve your infrastructure. Finding vulnerabilities in an IT infrastructure is not necessarily difficult; the challenge is knowing which vulnerabilities are critical and how to get the most out of your cybersecurity budget.