The Case for Continuous Threat Simulation: Why Annual Audits will Fail Your Business

by Apr 21, 2023Industry Insights

By: Luke Secrist, CEO

You scan your network for vulnerabilities, so it should be secure, right? Think again. Many companies conduct cybersecurity audits or penetration tests (PenTests) once a year, maybe every six months. Annual audits may report everything is alright, but is it really? One cybersecurity audit won’t fix all your problems. It’s just a snapshot; tomorrow’s issues may not exist today, and today’s fix may not apply tomorrow.

Criminal hackers don’t attack based on schedules. In fact, these criminals seek out organizations they believe are just “checking a box” for security compliance. Continuous threat simulation is the only way to identify weaknesses and combat attacks – to act and think like the enemy – and to do so frequently.

A strong defense is critical to an organization’s perimeter, response capability, and reaction time. Many organizations overlook validating that the investment in their defensive posture is providing the right value and security. The only way to know if your organization is susceptible to threats is to have professional hackers with engineering and developer backgrounds who possess the aptitude to think like the enemy simulate attacks. This will move your cybersecurity strategy into the offensive zone and help you avoid cyberattacks.

A third party’s regular, simulated attacks, or continuous threat simulation, can identify exploitable weaknesses. You need at least a dozen annual external tests (e.g., conducted monthly) of planned and unplanned attacks. This type of cyclical testing helps fortify your environment and account for any changes made (known and unknown).

The advantage of threat simulations is that they don’t just look at technology problems; they also evaluate people and processes that cause unauthorized access to assets. After all, 95% of cyberattacks occur due to human error. No one wants to overlook anything when it comes to technology or its related security. However, it is far more beneficial and less costly for a trusted team to find vulnerabilities before criminals exploit an organization.

Here are five reasons why continuous threat simulation will help your business.

  1. Replicates real-world attacks. Scans detect vulnerabilities in your cybersecurity, but don’t identify how those issues will be exploited. Most professional hackers (88%) can infiltrate a network within 12 hours. When a hacker tries to enter one way, and it doesn’t work, they don’t pack up and go home. They might try several different paths using new tricks. Eventually, an open door is found. You can either wait and test each door or have a team test all of them to identify the broken locks. Thinking and acting like a criminal hacker will identify real risks and help improve your security posture.
  1. Prevents breaches. Hackers don’t attack once a year. They attack when it’s most convenient for them. So, organizations can’t test just once a year, either. Continuously simulating threats can identify actual areas of exploits and allow you to fix them before an attack occurs. We don’t lock our cars once a year, right?
  1. Reduces ancillary costs. Companies can save money and resources by being proactive about cyber risk reducing time spent on unplanned work due to breaches. When a breach happens, systems are shut down, work halts, and organizations lose money. Additional work must be done to bring systems back online or shut down network areas to prevent an attack from expanding. All of this takes time and resources that cost your business.
  1. Expands staff knowledge. When you learn how and why an attack occurs, the knowledge is valuable to your cybersecurity and management teams. A reactive cyber strategy can’t do this. You might learn why an attack could occur (a misconfigured router or firewall, etc.). Still, you may never understand how an attacker got in. Threat simulation teams share information and help your teams to think more proactively about your security posture.
  1. Better ROI. Continuous threat simulation provides valuable metrics such as trends and historical data. It allows you to see how and when your security is failing. Organizations often make the same mistakes repeatedly, so you can budget finances and resources more accurately for the right solutions your business needs with better data.

Remember that continuous threat simulation is not automated penetration testing or vulnerability scanning. It’s conducted by people, not tools. Automated tools can only go as far as the human that configured them. They can’t be creative on the fly or develop code to circumvent systems that could be unique to an organization. If a real hacker hits a wall, they figure out a way around it or a way to break it down themselves.

Businesses should begin with a team that conducts a baseline test to ensure their environment is not at immediate risk. Review the results and determine the right cadence for your organization. Conducting planned and unplanned attacks are critical to any ongoing threat simulation. Hackers don’t schedule their attacks, so why should you? This proactive approach to cybersecurity will help your organization better prepare. Remember, the best defense is a good offense.

About Luke Secrist, CEO

After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and working as a security engineer in defense contracting, Luke wanted to start his own company – one that would transform the offensive cybersecurity landscape within all industries. Fueled by a vision to create something distinct from the rest, Luke envisioned a dynamic organization characterized by its creativity, highly specialized talent, and remarkable culture. Over the years, he’s assembled a top-notch team of engineers, managers, and professional hackers whose collective mission is to help organizations take a proactive approach to test their readiness against malicious adversaries.

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