Defending organizations against cyber attacks are daunting, particularly when dealing with large organizations with many systems that malicious actors can target.
Typically, defenders rely on blue & red teaming, compliance testing, and penetration testing, among other security testing approaches to evaluate how their defenses would hold up against attacks. Such methods have the disadvantage of being resource intensive, manual, and time-consuming and thus cannot be done every other day.
Breach and Attack Simulation (BAS) is an advanced cyber security tool that allows organizations to use software agents to continually simulate and automate a wide range of cyber attacks against their system and get information reports on existing vulnerabilities, how they were exploited by the software agents and how they can be remedied.
BAS allows the simulation of full attack cycles from malware attacks on endpoints, insider threats, lateral movements, and exfiltration. BAS tools automate the functions performed by the blue team and the red team members in a cyber security team.
In security testing, red team members emulate malicious attackers and try to attack systems to identify vulnerabilities, while blue team members defend against the attack by red teamers.
How a BAS platform works
To simulate attacks on computer systems, BAS software comes with preconfigured cyber-attacks based on the knowledge, research, and observations on how attackers compromise and attack computer systems.
Many BAS software utilizes the MITRE ATT&CK framework, a globally-accessible knowledge base containing the tactics and techniques learned from real-world observations of cyber attacks. The framework also has a guideline for classifying and describing cyberattacks and intrusions on computer systems.
In a BAS simulation, preconfigured attacks are deployed on the target system. These pre-configured attacks emulate real-world attacks but do it safely at low risk without disrupting service. For instance, when deploying malware, it will use safe replicas of known malware.
In a simulation, the program covers the full life cycle of cyber attacks. I will perform reconnaissance to understand the underlying system, scan for vulnerabilities, and try to exploit these vulnerabilities. As it is doing this, BAS also generate real-time reports detailing the vulnerabilities that have been found, how they were exploited, and actions that can be taken to correct the vulnerabilities.
Once BAS has successfully breached a system, it will emulate attackers by also moving laterally in a system, performing data exfiltration, and also deleting its footprints. Once done, comprehensive reports are generated to help an organization address vulnerabilities found. These simulations can be run several times to ensure the vulnerabilities have been removed.
Reasons to use a BAS platform
The use of BAS by organizations has a lot of benefits regarding the security of their systems. Some of these benefits include:
BAS allows organizations to know if their security systems work
As much as organizations spend a lot on cyber security, they often can’t fully ascertain whether their systems are effective against sophisticated attacks. This can be avoided by using a BAS platform to mount repetitive sophisticated attacks across all their systems to determine how well they can withstand an actual attack.
Additionally, this can be done as often as needed, at low risk, and organizations get comprehensive reports on what vulnerabilities can be exploited in their systems.
BAS overcomes the limitations of blue and red teams
Getting red team members to mount attacks on systems and blue team members to defend the system requires a lot of resources. It is not something that can be done sustainably every other day. BAS overcomes this challenge by automating the work done by blue and red teamers, allowing organizations to run simulations at a low cost throughout the year continually.
BAS avoids the limitations of human experience and errors
Security testing can be very subjective as it depends on the skill and experience of the people testing the systems. Additionally, humans make mistakes. By automating the security testing process using BAS, organizations can get more accurate and consistent results on their security posture.
BAS can also simulate a wide range of attacks and is not limited by human skills and experience in conducting such attacks.
BAS empowers security teams to deal with threats better
Rather than waiting for breaches or software manufacturers to find vulnerabilities and release security patches, security teams can continually use BAS to probe their systems for vulnerabilities. This allows them to be ahead of attackers.
Instead of them waiting to be breached and respond to the attacks, they can find areas that can be used for breaching and address them before they are exploited by attackers.
To any organization keen on security, BAS is a tool that can help level the ground against attackers and help neutralize vulnerabilities even before they are exploited by attackers.
How to choose the right BAS platform
Whereas there are lots of BAS platforms that exist, not all may be a right fit for your organization. Consider the following to determine the right BAS platform for your organization:
The number of preconfigured attack scenarios available
BAS platforms come with preconfigured attack scenarios running against an organization’s systems to test if they can detect and handle the attacks. When picking a BAS platform, you want one with many pre-configured attacks that cover the full life cycle of cyber attacks. This includes attacks used to access systems and those executed once systems have been compromised.
Continuous updates on available threat scenarios
attackers are constantly innovating and developing new ways to attack computer systems. Therefore, you want a BAS platform that keeps up with the ever-changing threat landscape and continually updates its threat library to ensure your organization is safe against the newest attacks.
Integration with existing systems
When picking a BAS platform, it is important to pick one that easily integrates with the security systems. Additionally, the BAS platform should be able to cover all the areas that you want to test in your organization at very low risk.
For instance, you might want to use your cloud environment or network infrastructure. Thus you should pick a platform that supports this.
Once a BAS platform has simulated an attack in a system, it should generate comprehensive, actionable reports detailing the vulnerabilities that have been found and measures that can be taken to correct the security gaps. Therefore pick a platform that generates detailed, comprehensive real-time reports with relevant information to remedy existing vulnerabilities found in a system.
Ease of use
Regardless of how complex or sophisticated a BAS tool may be, it must be easy to use and understand. Therefore, go for a platform that requires very little expertise in security to operate, has proper documentation, and an intuitive user interface that allows for easy deployment of attacks and generation of reports.
Choosing a BAS platform should not be a rushed decision, and the above factors need to be carefully considered before making a decision.
To make your selection easier, here are 7 of the best BAS platforms available:
Cymulate is a Software as a service BAS product that earned 2021’s Frost and Sullivan BAS product of the year, and for a good reason. Being software as a service, its deployment can be done in a matter of a few minutes using a few clicks.
By deploying a single lightweight agent to run unlimited attack simulations, users can get technical and executive reports on their security posture in minutes. Additionally, it comes with custom and pre-built API integrations, which allow it to integrate easily with different security stacks.
Cymulate offers breaching and attack simulations. This comes with the MITRE ATT&CK framework for continuous purple teaming, Advanced Persistent Threat(APT) attacks, web application firewall, endpoint security, data exfiltration email security, web gateway, and phishing evaluations.
Cymulate also allows users to select the attack vectors they want to simulate, and it allows them to safely perform attack simulations on their systems and generate actionable insights.
AttackIQ is a BAS solution that is also available as software as a service(Saas) and easily integrates with security systems.
AttackIQ, however, stands out because of its Anatomic Engine. This engine allows it to test cybersecurity components that utilize artificial intelligence(AI) and machine learning(ML). It also uses AI and ML-based cyber defenses in its simulations.
AttackIQ allows users to run breach and attack simulations guided by the MITRE ATT&CK framework. This allows the testing of security programs by emulating the behaviors of attackers in multi-stage attacks.
This allows for identifying vulnerabilities and text network controls and analyzing breach responses. AttackIQ also provides in-depth reports on simulations done and mitigation techniques that can be implemented to correct the issues found.
Kroll has a different approach to the implementation of BAS solutions. Unlike others which come bundles with attack scenarios that can be used to simulate attacks, Kroll is different.
When a user decides to use their service, Kroll experts leverage their skills and experience to design and craft a series of attack simulations specific to a system.
They factor in the specific user’s requirements and align the simulations with the MITRE ATT&CK framework. Once an attack has been scripted, it can be used to test and retest a system’s security posture. This covers configuration changes and benchmark response preparedness and gauges how a system adheres to internal security standards.
SafeBreachprides itself in being among the first movers in BAS solutions and has made immense contributions to the BAS, evidenced by its awards and patents in the field.
Additionally, in terms of the number of attack scenarios available to its users, SafeBreach has no competition. Its hacker’s playbook has over 25000 attack methods typically used by malicious actors.
SafeBreach can easily be integrated with any system and offers cloud, network, and endpoint simulators. This has the benefit of allowing organizations to detect loopholes that can be used to infiltrate systems, move laterally in the compromised system and perform data exfiltration.
It also has customizable dashboards and flexible reports with visualizations that help users easily understand and communicate their overall security posture.
Pentera is a BAS solution that inspects external attack surfaces to simulate the latest threat actor behaviors. To do this, it performs all the actions a malicious actor would do when attacking a system.
This includes reconnaissance to map the attack surface, scanning for vulnerabilities, challenging collected credentials, and also uses safe malware replicas to challenge an organization’s endpoints.
Additionally, it goes ahead with post-exfiltration steps such as lateral movement in systems, data exfiltration, and cleaning up the code used to test, thus leaving no footprints. Finally, Pentera comes up with remediation based on the importance of each root-cause vulnerability.
Threat Simulator comes as part of Keysight’s Security Operations Suite. Threat Simulator is a software-as-a-service BAS platform that simulates attacks across an organization’s production network and endpoints.
This allows an organization to identify and fix vulnerabilities in the areas before they can be exploited. The best thing about it is that it provides user-friendly step-by-step instructions to help an organization deal with the vulnerabilities found by the Threat simulator.
Additionally, it has a dashboard that allows organizations to view their security posture at a glance. With over 20,000 attack techniques in its playbook and zero-day updates, Threat simulator is a serious contender for the top spot among BAS platforms.
GreyMatter is a BAS solution from Reliaquest that easily integrates with the available security tech stack and provides insights into the security posture of the entire organization and also the security tools being used.
Greymatter allows for threat hunting to locate potential threats that may exist in systems and provides threat intelligence into threats that have invaded your systems in case there are any. It also offers breach and attack simulations in line with the MITRE ATT&CK framework mapping and supports continuous monitoring of open, deep, and dark web sources to identify potential threats.
In case you want a BAS solution that does so much more than just breach and attack simulation, you can’t go wrong with Greymatter.
For a long time, protecting critical systems against attacks has been a reactive activity where cyber security professionals wait for attacks to happen, which puts them at a disadvantage. However, by embracing BAS solutions, cyber security professionals can gain the upper hand by adapting the attacker’s mind and continuously probing their systems for vulnerabilities before attackers do. To any organization keen on its security, BAS solutions are a must-have.
Collins Kariuki is a software developer and technical writer for Geekflare. He has over four years experience in software development, a background in Computer Science and has also written for Argot, Daily Nation and the Business Daily Newspaper.