What is Breach and Attack Simulation, and How Does It Expose Your Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities?


You could subscribe to countless cybersecurity tools to protect your assets and data better.

However, it’s not always the most effective or practical way to beef up your cybersecurity measures.

After all, hackers can easily exploit weaknesses in your system if you overlook testing your deployed solutions or checking gaps in your existing defensive parameters.

The good news is, performing comprehensive assessments of your cybersecurity defenses is possible through Breach and Attack Simulation (BAS).

In this guide, we’ll cover the nuts and bolts of BAS, how the simulations uncover vulnerabilities in your cyber defenses, and how these help your company maintain your cybersecurity.

Breach and attack simulation: A quick overview

From a 30,000 feet perspective, Breach and Attack Simulation (BAS) is a solution designed to simplify testing and perform various customizable and automated simulated attacks for full security validation.

Essentially, BAS is a platform that can perform actions closely mimicking real threat actions to assess if your security controls can catch them.

Breach and Attack Simulation can spot security gaps and help you understand the real potential cyber threats to your systems.

BAS technologies can also help your company adopt cybersecurity automation, allowing for consistent and seamless assessments without tying up a chunk of your resources.

How breach and attack simulations work

BAS aims to go beyond traditional testing methods (e.g., penetration testing, vulnerability scans)  by simplifying how you conduct checks on your security controls. 

Modern BAS platforms are often offered as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).

The cloud-based BAS apps host various modules that run the tests automatically, unlike traditional penetration tests where humans perform hacking attempts.

With BAS, software agents are usually installed on a computer sitting between the network. The software agents also handle interactions with the cloud solution during the testing.  

The simulated attacks typically use malware and especially configured hack tools that trigger and track responses from your deployed security solutions.

Unlike real-world attacks, the malware used in BAS doesn’t do any real damage to your infrastructure and only works for the simulation.

The benefits of investing in BAS solutions

Some top advantages of adopting BAS technologies include the following.

  • Actionability. Performing a vulnerability scan can help you find security vulnerabilities, but you’ll need to go through and make sense of the information before taking action. It can drain your time and resources while leaving your system vulnerable as you try to figure everything out.

On the other hand, BAS can provide actionable report insights, allowing you to drill down on the security issues and make more targeted adjustments to your security measures promptly. 

  • Comprehensiveness. The agreed-upon scope with testers often limits pen testing and red teaming. BAS allows you to perform a wider range of tests across all your potential attack vectors. 

BAS platforms can also scale up pen testing and red teaming, allowing for continuous and repeated testing, which can be challenging through traditional testing methods alone.

  • Ease of use and convenience. Many BAS solutions offer intuitive, user-friendly dashboards and interfaces. You won’t always need expert white hat hackers to perform simulated attacks to check for cybersecurity defense vulnerabilities.

Plus, most BAS platforms are cloud-based, allowing you to run tests anytime, anywhere. 

6 Ways BAS uncover cybersecurity gaps

BAS technologies can reference knowledge bases such as the MITRE ATT&CK Framework to draw potential techniques and tactics hackers employ to make the simulated attacks realistic.

Some various methods BAS uses to test potential attack vectors in your systems and expose vulnerabilities include the following.

1. Identify browser and website defenses gaps

BAS platforms connect to dummy web pages and sites containing malicious scripts and forms through HTTP and HTTPS protocols.

The simulation tests the pages that make it past internet security filters. It can also assess whether the endpoint protection can keep the browser from downloading malicious files.  

2. Test email protection

BAS technologies can send messages containing multiple types of infected files, such as worms, ransomware, malware, and other payloads, to your email service.

With this, BAS platforms can test sanitation solutions, antivirus software, and email filters. 

3. Check common social engineering methods

BAS platforms can launch dummy phishing campaigns to mimic real-world social engineering attacks on your email systems.

The simulated attack sends customizable phishing emails to real users within your company.

The goal is to test whether users will click on malicious links, helping you identify employees within your company who need more social engineering awareness training.

4. Assess firewall strength

A BAS platform can run simulated attacks on specific URLs, such as your company’s app or web portal, to find ways to slip through your firewall. It can test if your firewall can prevent incoming malicious traffic. 

The platform can also level up the simulated firewall attacks by attempting to mine confidential information, including executing injection attacks and cross-site scripting (XSS) to breach the firewall.

5. Determine potential network attack vectors

BAS technologies can simulate scenarios where attackers breach your networks successfully.

The simulation can help you assess if an attacker can move laterally across multiple devices via privilege escalation, exploits, and pass the hash validation requirements.

BAS platforms can also check if the sensitive data can be targeted, copied, transferred, and sent to destinations outside your network.   

6. Test endpoint security effectiveness

BAS technologies can test whether malware such as ransomware, viruses, worms, and spyware exist and deploy on your workstations.

The simulated attacks can also assess and map out how malware could spread across your existing devices.

With this, you can verify if your deployed solutions can spot and prevent malware from spreading within your network. 

Ready to adopt BAS to strengthen your cyber defenses?

No security solution can make your cybersecurity controls 100% impenetrable.

However, you can fortify your defenses to protect your data, systems, and assets better.

The key is to test your defenses continuously and rigorously to ensure your infrastructure is intact, secure, and free from security vulnerabilities hackers can exploit easily.

BAS platforms can provide continuous, comprehensive, and timely security testing without advanced technical expertise (or without burning a hole through your pockets).

Choose the best-fitting BAS solution for your company to optimize your cybersecurity defenses and investment.  

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