You can’t understand modern cybersecurity without a good grasp of attack paths. With that said, let’s take a closer look at why attack paths are so important for defenders and the best way to manage them.
Understanding Attack Paths and Attack Surfaces
An attack path combines a chain of vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, overly permissive identities or just human error that can be exploited to help an attacker move within a network or system — with the ultimate goal of compromising critical assets. By mapping attack paths (using attack path analysis) we can visualize how cyber-attackers are likely to be successful.
An attack surface, on the other hand, is the entire area of an organization that is susceptible to attack. It represents everything from infrastructure to WiFi access points to devices. Attack surfaces represent the where, and attack paths represent the how.
The key goal of attack path management, or attack surface management, is to solve the problems presented by existing attack paths in order to reduce risk and improve the organization’s security posture. To do that it is critical to see an attack surface in the same way that attackers do.
Attack path mapping solutions help outline how an adversary can leverage a particular cyber attack path or attack vector within a network to burrow inside undetected, move laterally and steal “crown jewel” assets.
Why is Effective Management of Attack Paths Important?
One of the core problems defenders have historically wrestled with is a lack of visibility into the attack paths that threaten their environments. This is a two-pronged problem. First, you must know where you are vulnerable. Given the extraordinary complexity of modern cloud, multi-cloud and hybrid set-ups, staying ahead of emerging vulnerabilities is a difficult task. To do so requires continuous visibility.
Yet knowing where you are vulnerable isn’t enough. You also need insight into how those vulnerabilities are likely to be exploited. In other words, you need to be able to see the attack path through the eyes of your adversaries.
Why? Because the attacker perspective is essential for gauging risk. If I can’t see how attacks are likely to be executed, I can’t determine the risk level they pose to my most business-critical assets. Vulnerabilities in isolation only tell part of the story, as many “severe” vulnerabilities may never be exploited or may pose no threat to sensitive assets if that occurs.
How XM Cyber Provides the Most Advanced Management of Attack Paths
XM Cyber provides a continuously updated view into the risks within your attack surface. It does this by launching simulated cyber-attacks that identify existing attack paths that could jeopardize your most business-critical assets.
This provides an “adversary’s eye view” of your entire attack surface. It illuminates not only where you are vulnerable, but how attackers can chain cyber exposures together to move laterally and create the potential for devastating losses across an organization.
In this sense, XM Cyber allows organizations to derive many of the same benefits offered by manual pen testing or red teaming. Yet our technology amplifies these advantages while eliminating the drawbacks of manual testing, which is expensive, time-consuming, unsafe for production environments and does not provide continuous visibility.
XM Cyber’s “battleground” feature allows you to visualize attack paths in a way that is reminiscent of combat war games. Easy to understand graphical representations of assets and attack steps allows you to chart attack paths associated with new exploits and identify key assets that are impacted. Remediation and prioritization context then allows for fast response.
By providing a detailed visual map of how adversaries can do their worst, XM Cyber helps organizations manage their attack surface more effectively. In a world where attack surfaces are expanding, security budgets are stretched and complexity threatens to overwhelm, this kind of deep and ongoing visibility is a crucial tool for defenders.
A better understanding of attack paths is imperative for organizations seeking to improve their security postures. XM Cyber provides this attack-centric perspective. It runs in real time in production environments with no risk of disruption and integrates seamlessly with existing security tools. In fact, XM Cyber technology extends the power of existing tools, helps to generate more ROI, and provides the market’s most advanced protection from the dangers posed by today’s attack techniques.
If you want to beat the attackers at their own game, you need a solution that lets you see your own environments the way they do — in attack graphs. That’s exactly what XM Cyber technology does, and why it is so powerful.
David Witkowski is Director of Sales Engineering at XM Cyber