Offensive Security

Offensive Security

What is Offensive Security?

Offensive Security is a series of proactive steps designed to secure a company’s data, networks, and systems,  helping to prevent a security breach. Offensive Security involves deploying the same methodology and tools a cybercriminal might use to identify security flaws in networks and systems.

Table of Contents

Overview

Cybersecurity (view top cybersecurity companies) is a growing global concern as hackers and data grabbers devise increasingly sophisticated methods to steal information. Cybercriminals try to acquire certain kinds of data, namely financial records, passwords, credit card details, Personally Identifiable Information (PII), and more. This becomes even more alarming on a corporate level, as organizations store masses of highly sensitive data. Moreover, some hacks are so sophisticated that it can take a long time for the organization to know that its system was broken into. According to an IBM report, a corporate security team takes around 287 days to identify and curtail a data breach. Think about all the information that could have been stolen during this time.

According to a 2022 Vulnerability Assessment Analytical Note, around 70% of respondents said they had procured a tool that assesses vulnerabilities. Many businesses in today’s threat landscape are doing their best, proactively identifying threats and protecting sensitive information. However, cybersecurity is dynamic, and as the threat landscape evolves, your company’s “Offensive Security Plan” must also evolve. 

79% of critical infrastructure organizations didn't employ a zero-trust architecture. 45% of the data breaches were cloud-based. 30% of all large data breaches occur in hospitals. Data breaches exposed at least 42 million records between March 2021 and February 2022.Sep 6, 2023.

Many times, in the event of a cyber breach, network engineers are often left guessing how a hacker accessed their “secure” application, network, or systems. Offensive Security measures take the guesswork out of this process and can show engineers precisely what can happen if security flaws remain and, most importantly, how they can prevent it. In addition, an offensive security approach circumvents the need to react once a security breach has occurred.

A well-thought-out “Offensive Security Strategy” will identify security gaps and help to provide proper guidance to remediate these gaps.  When vulnerabilities are discovered in advance, companies are able to fine-tune the security of systems and networks, creating additional roadblocks for any criminal who is attempting to breach a company.  

cost of data breach

USD 4.45 million. The global average cost of a data breach in 2023 was USD 4.45 million, a 15% increase over 3 years. · 51% · USD 1.76 million.  Source: IBM https://www.ibm.com/reports/data-breach

 

When considering the cost of a cyber breach (avg cost $4.45M in 2023) Offensive Security will definitely save an organization quite a bit of money compared.  Companies ranging from startups to enterprises hire manual pen testing firms annually to find the vulnerabilities in their networks, ultimately improving their cybersecurity and cybersecurity awareness. Annual testing of networks and applications has become the “best practice.”   This standard is not only for compliance reasons but also for fixing exploitable vulnerabilities before a bad actor finds them.   The alternative to improving Offensive Security,  which no one ever wants to face, is getting hacked and having to spend millions of dollars to deal with a cybersecurity breach that potentially destroys the reputation, morale, growth, and overall health and success of a company. Multiple (and growing at 15% annually) firms suffer data breaches yearly, and the offensive security model will hopefully keep you and your company off that painful list.  The world we live in is ugly when it comes to cybercrime, and no one company or person is immune.

Offensive vs. Defensive and Reactionary Security

Offensive security comes before the defensive shield. Defensive Security would include firewalls, endpoint protection, logging, monitoring, alerting, and an in-house vulnerability management program.  Reactionary Security is precisely that. Reactive action is taken once a data breach has occurred or a threat has been identified within a system.

Reactionary Security tactics require a thorough understanding of the system’s environment to remove malicious actors and repair the damage caused by an attack. After recovery, engineers work on improving a plan to continue detecting future breaches and flaws, focusing mainly on protective measures to safeguard against incoming cyber-attacks.

Why is Offensive Security Important Today?

Think of your corporation like a human body. The human body can fight off certain diseases, but some can make you seriously ill if you’re not vaccinated against them. Cybersecurity in a corporation is similar. If you don’t vaccinate, i.e., engage in offensive security measures, you’re making your essential data vulnerable to anyone who wants to break in and steal it.

Modern corporations have automated and digitized databases that keep track of every piece of relevant information. This ranges from employee information to critical budget data involving other partners and vendors. Specific information can have a disastrous effect if leaked, and corporations are, or should be aware of this.

Businesses need offensive security to safeguard themselves from malicious hackers who can break in and crash the company’s value in a few steps. The offensive security approach helps businesses understand how cybercriminals would approach their systems and how they can take preventative measures. Moreover, they can identify any weaknesses or loopholes in the system to ensure that essential data stays safe.

The Offensive Security Model

There are varying opinions on how a business can carry out efficient offensive security testing, but they come together under the below-consolidated model. Here are the five phases that help strengthen your offensive strategy approach:

Vulnerability Assessment

This is the fundamental scan that needs to be carried out before you get into more complex forms of testing. A vulnerability scan identifies potential flaws in the system and ranks them in order of severity depending on various factors. It brings possible security holes to the spotlight by scanning your company’s basic infrastructure so that engineers can carry out detailed inspections in the future.

Vulnerability scanners work fast, and the results can sometimes be optimized. Not only that, but these assessments are automated and can be repeated as many times as necessary. This can be a significant 1st step if you’re launching an offensive security measure for the first time.

Keep in mind that a vulnerability assessment will not be able to identify all the possible breaches in your system, and scanners often produce multiple false positives.  These tests are on the most basic level, meaning they can pick up on bigger holes in the design, but more work performed by techs with higher knowledge will be required. Secondly, these scans can be inconsistent or inconclusive in some instances, making it necessary for engineers to dive deeper.

Offensive Security “Penetration Testing”

Awareness is Key.

Penetration tests are a giant step up from vulnerability tests.  Vulnerability scans identify many vulnerabilities however, a skilled penetration testing company understands what is real, what is a false positive and what can pose a significant threat to your company.   Top cybersecurity companies with Sr. Level Staff are able to identify, isolate and target specific components or applications that need testing instead of generically scanning the whole system. Manual Penetration testing determines whether hackers may exploit any validated internal or external “exploitable” vulnerabilities in the future.

One of the best things about penetration testing is highlighting potential exploits for your network engineers. This might be overwhelming but identifying crucial threats is half the battle of offensive security. Because penetration tests are targeted, the vulnerabilities that come up are often more complex and, therefore, can be more dangerous.

Red and Blue Teams

Security experts are divided into two teams, i.e., red and blue. The red team is responsible for attacking the system with offensive and aggressive moves. The blue team then reacts and responds defensively to counteract these attacks.

Creating dedicated red and blue teams gives businesses a distinct advantage. Security experts develop more creative ways to attack and defend the system they are testing as they get into their groove. A dedicated red team will likely find more vulnerabilities than random testers because they have been given more resources and ample time. The perfect combination of red and blue, called purple teaming, also creates an optimal remediation cycle. This means your offensive and defensive security measures work together, ensuring that your business is never under external threat.

Remember that creating dedicated red and blue teams is expensive and requires much training. What’s more, red and blue team members might not get along very well, leading to communication and operational breakdowns. This can disrupt workflow and leave the organization open to data breaches, as work won’t be carried out efficiently.

Emulate Adversaries

Adversary emulation is a fast-paced testing phase in which your network engineers imitate the movements that real-world hackers would do to breach your system. They copy the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) used by adversaries, i.e., external malicious hackers, to test and strengthen the system.

This testing phase takes offensive security to a new level as your engineers fight against world-famous hackers, i.e., adversaries and strengthen the system. Another great benefit of adversary emulation is that it forces red and blue teams to increase their speed as they attack and defend the system.

Adversary Simulation

This is the most realistic testing phase and forces your teams to use everything they have learned to protect the organization. This is where security experts utilize all the tools at their disposal, i.e., all the steps mentioned above, and try to take on a perilous real-world threat.

This is a nerve-wracking simulation and requires engineers to keep their cool as they try to defend the system against an expert hacker. Please think of this like a fire drill, except everything suddenly catches fire, and the team needs to know how to save themselves and some vital information. This final testing phase ensures that your team is ready for the real thing if necessary.

Purple Teaming & Its Benefits

We discussed that the five phases of the offensive security model cover almost all of your bases. They provide critical advantages to your cybersecurity experts and help them stay one step ahead of any threats. However, there’s an additional element that, if incorporated, can add extra maturity to your team of experts. This is called purple teaming.

Purple teaming introduces a collaborative mindset that brings your red and blue teams together for mutual benefit. You will have an almost unbeatable internal security team if you guide both teams, teach them to collaborate, and make them autonomous effectively. The goal is for your team to clearly understand the system’s strengths and weaknesses.

A collaborative mindset is also essential to appease and reassure external stakeholders, especially investors. Your team will always be at peak performance, ensuring your data is safe and free from threats.

Offensive SecuritTools

Here is a list of common testing security tools available for anyone.

  1. Metasploit: This is a very powerful framework primarily used for exploiting vulnerabilities in systems. It contains a collection of exploit tools that can be used to discover vulnerabilities.
  2. Nmap (Network Mapper): This is an open-source tool used for network exploration or security auditing. It can discover hosts and services on a computer network, thus creating a “map” of the network.
  3. Wireshark: This is a network protocol analyzer that allows users to see what’s happening on their network at a microscopic level. It is often used for network troubleshooting, analysis, software and communications protocol development, and education.
  4. Burp Suite: This is a web vulnerability scanner, widely used for penetration testing of web applications. It can identify various types of vulnerabilities.
  5. SQLmap: This is an open-source penetration testing tool that automates the process of detecting and exploiting SQL injection flaws and taking over database servers.
  6. John the Ripper: A password cracking tool used to test password strength and sometimes recover forgotten passwords.
  7. Aircrack-ng: This is a complete suite of tools to assess WiFi network security. It focuses on key areas of WiFi security: monitoring, attacking, testing, and cracking.
  8. Nessus: Nessus is a remote security scanning tool that scans a computer and raises an alert if it discovers any vulnerabilities that malicious hackers could use to gain access to any computer you have connected to a network.
  9. Social-Engineer Toolkit (SET): SET is an open-source Python-driven tool aimed at penetration testing around social engineering. It has numerous attack vectors that focus on the human element.
  10. Kali Linux: This is an open-source project that is maintained and funded by Offensive Security, a provider of world-class information security training and penetration testing services. It comes with several hundred tools aimed at various information security tasks.gina

Is Offensive Security Worth It?

Today’s digital environment is constantly changing, and cybersecurity has become a top priority. Businesses with sensitive information can’t afford to wait and be attacked through data breaches. The cost to hire professionals and secure critical systems is much lower than dealing with a breach. Any data leak can prove to be disastrous for every stakeholder involved.

Offensive security helps businesses monitor cyber threats, build response times, strengthen network security, and protect critical data. Companies don’t need to engage in all the testing phases mentioned above, but they can use the ones available depending on their budget and resources.

Need more info?  Reach out to us – Redbot Security

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