Given today's cyberthreat landscape, it is imperative that organizations have the correct protocols, policies and procedures in place to keep their information safe, data secure, infrastructure robust and ultimately, make them resilient. The frequency of cyber-attacks being reported in the media are escalating every month and the largest publicly disclosed hack ever reported occurred in May 2021 regarding a global ransomware gang seeking $50m from a health and community care provider in Australia. Breaches and cyber-attacks like these, signal what is to come in cyberspace. The global outbreak of COVID-19 has also contributed to unexpected remote working situations with an increase in the use of technology, leading to unsecure business networks. With this in mind, organizations need to identify their susceptibility to a successful attack by testing their systems and networks before an attacker does.
From all the threats that prevail, phishing continues to be a powerful tool for attackers, as it can instantly compromise a business network, and attackers can target particular people and/or organizations. Malicious emails still comprise a substantial share of the world's yearly count of adverse data breaches, including Spear Phishing, Link Manipulation and Content Injection.
With cyber threats unfolding at an unprecedented scale, testing an organization's readiness to prevent, detect and respond to attacks is indispensable. Preparation is as vital in cybersecurity as in any other walk of life. To formulate an effective shield against the newest threats, a proactive approach is necessary, whereby security controls and processes are routinely assessed to ensure the safety of sensitive data.
How to test an organization's network security?
Most organizations that think they won't be targeted by a cyber-attack have already faced a breach – they just don't know it yet. Getting a penetration tester to attempt to breach a network is the ultimate test of defences and provides a clear picture of where and how a hacker could potentially gain access to the system.
A penetration (pen) test follows a carefully selected set of tools and techniques that will examine an IT system for weaknesses, resulting in a report highlighting all the security issues and vulnerabilities identified on specific assets. To further understand an organization's cybersecurity risks, uncover and address gaps in defences, and prioritize security, Red teaming assessment could be performed to decode the vulnerabilities in its defence system.
What is red teaming?
Red teaming is a step above traditional pen testing by simulating real-world attacks by replicating the Techniques, Tactics and Procedures (TTP) of real-world adversaries. It is a deep dive into the risks and vulnerabilities of the business and is also designed to exercise internal teams and their procedures for such an event.
The objective of a red team test is to reflect a real-world attack scenario focusing on revealing potential threats to the critical data from the wider business rather than being confined to a specific subset of assets.
The role of the red team (which is often independent of the organization but can also be an internal team) is to simulate an attack on the target organization.
What are the different levels of simulation?
There are several different levels of testing representing the types and level of attack an organization may face. There are varying levels of attack “noise” replicated during the test, which also corresponds to the level of adversary being emulated such as:
Low-level adversaries - noisy on a network using off-the-shelf products exploiting known vulnerabilities
Advanced adversaries - less noisy and includes more sophisticated techniques like spear phishing
Nation-state adversaries - covert and run over longer periods of time in order to avoid detection, for example, using Remote Access Tools (RATs) to evade security products such as Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS)
This Red teaming pen test is not just an assessment to highlight the company's weaknesses but is an attempt to think outside the box when it comes to the security of the business. It is a clear effort from the organization to understand and continuously improve the security posture of the business into the future.
Are you prepared for a real-world attack? Do not wait to find out.
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Michael Romain is the Global Practice Director of the BSI Cybersecurity and Information Resilience (CSIR) Security Testing Practice, developing the CSIR security testing portfolio and delivering key commercial targets, as well as overseeing integration of new security testing capabilities and teams into the existing CSIR Stream function.