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For modern-day businesses, having an online presence is a prerequisite for success. In order to properly protect your business, you need to decide on how you are going to approach cybersecurity within your organization, a proactive or reactive approach. A reactive approach means that you wait until something goes wrong, such as a data breach or a cyberattack and then you take the steps required to fix it. Many companies subscribe to this type of thinking in the past. But thankfully many people are starting to understand that this approach is very costly. On average there is an attempted cyberattack every 39 seconds and the average cost of a data breach is now over $3.9 million per breach.

Most businesses simply can’t afford to be dealing with a data breach every year or even every two/three years. About 60% of small to medium-sized businesses that suffer from a data breach go out of business in six months. Therefore, it’s important that companies take a proactive approach to cybersecurity. This means taking the steps to test and secure your business even if there are no visible signs of a cyberattack on your company. By making this initial investment in securing your business you will significantly reduce the likelihood of a data breach in the long run and even in the event one does occur it will be much less costly to fix.

The proactive approach to cybersecurity comes in the form of security assessments. This means things like penetration testing, vulnerability assessments, red team engagements, and third-party evaluations. All of these methods are good in helping you to figure out where your weaknesses lie and what you need to do to fix them. They are an essential part of having a good cybersecurity program. However, they are very limited because they only provide a point-in-time assessment of your company. If you work in a large business you know that things are constantly changing. There are new pieces of technology being integrated, people leaving or joining the company that needs new user accounts and there are new third-party vendors that are working with your business.

If you use one of these traditional methods you will get a snapshot of your company’s security at the moment that assessment is done but this information can quickly become out of date as things change within the organization. Secondly, since these assessments usually require a significant amount of manpower, usually from outside of the company they can be very expensive, and even then they are usually limited in the scope that they cover. This limited scope means that they only identify certain gaps in your security and will remain blind to others.

What is security validation?

The answer to this issue is to use continuous security validation, this way you can be sure that even as your organization changes your company is still secure. In order to do this effectively, companies should use popular threat modeling frameworks like ATT&CK for Enterprise to help them model their security testing after the attack vectors that cybercriminals are using. This process is known as an attack emulation and it’s the process of using the tools and techniques that hackers use against companies that are similar to your business. This way you can be sure that you are preparing for the exact type of attacks you are likely to see in a real-world scenario. Here are some of the benefits of continuous security validation:

– Increased cyber resilience by frequent testing and validation

– Accurately represent real-world attacks

– Address challenges from frequent changes in the company

– Reduction in interrupts due to data breaches

– Provide useful metrics like average time of remediation

– Better defense against zero-day vulnerabilities

One part of effective continuous security validation is to have proper attack emulation, not just simulation. When companies simulate a cyber attack this can often lead to unrealistic results because the methods of attack are left up to the discretion of the tester. Many times the testers may use techniques that are too advanced and this results in security controls that are too strict to allow the business to run smoothly. Other times the testers may use techniques that are not advanced enough and as a result, the security controls that are added are not strict enough to prevent the real-world attacks from going through. The goal should be to emulate, not simulate.

What is breach and attack emulation?

Emulation on the other hand is when you try to use the exact tools and techniques of the attacker, which leads to a more realistic and useful assessment. The goal of all your testing activities should be to recreate the type of attacks and situations that you would expect in a real-world scenario. If you are doing this yourself or with in-house expertise, it’s essential to use good threat modeling frameworks to understand what type of attacks hackers are using.

Unfortunately, most companies don’t have the in-house expertise to perform these security assessments themselves and therefore they turn to outside consultants to do this for them. These outside consultants may be good but they are usually very expensive and there’s no guarantee that they will perform correctly either, they are still prone to human error and bias in the techniques that they choose to use.

However, a more cost-effective and consistent approach may be to use a solution that can automate this for you. Rather than trying to keep up with the latest attack methods yourself, you can use a breach and attack emulation solution that will keep track of these attack methods and test your organization against these attacks with minimal effort on your part. rThreat’s breach and attack emulation solution can provide the continuous assessments companies need to better understand their security posture using known, custom, and forced zero-day artifacts. If you’d like to view a demo of rThreat’s breach and attack emulation software you can do so here.

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