The State of Breach and Attack Simulation and the Need for Continuous Security Validation: A Study of US and UK Organizations

The purpose of this research, sponsored by Cymulate, is to better understand how the rapidly evolving threat landscape and the frequency of changes in the IT architecture and in security are creating new challenges. The research focuses on the testing and validation of security controls in this extremely dynamic environment. We also seek to understand the issues organizations have in their ability to detect and remediate threats through assessments and testing of security controls.

Although change has always been a constant in both IT and cybersecurity, COVID-19 has accelerated business digitization and security adaptations. Seventy-nine percent of respondents say that they have had to modify security policies to accommodate working from home.

Sixty-two percent of respondents say their organizations had to acquire new security technologies to protect WFH, and yet 62 percent of respondents say their organizations did not validate these newly deployed security controls.

Ponemon Institute surveyed 1,016 IT and IT security practitioners in the United States and United Kingdom who are familiar with their organizations’ testing and evaluation of security controls. An average of 13 individuals staff the security team in organizations represented in this research.

Following are key takeaways from the research.

  • Sixty-one percent of respondents say the benefit of continuous security validation or frequent security testing is the ability to identify security gaps due to changes in the IT architecture followed by 59 percent of respondents who say it is the ability to identify security gaps caused by human error and misconfigurations.
  •  Sixty percent of respondents say their organizations are making frequent changes to security controls; daily (27 percent of respondents) and weekly (33 percent of respondents). Sixty-seven percent of respondents say that it is very important to test that the changes applied to the security controls have not created security gaps such as software bugs or vulnerabilities, misconfigurations and human error.
  • Seventy percent of respondents say it is important to validate the effectiveness of security controls against new threats and hacker techniques and tactics.

 The following findings are based on a deeper analysis of the research.

 Vigilance in testing the effectiveness of security controls increases confidence that security controls are working as they are supposed to.

  • Organizations that self-reported their organization is vigilant in testing the effectiveness of their security controls (38 percent respondents) have a much higher level of confidence that their organization’s security controls are working as they are supposed to. Of the 22 percent of respondents who rate their level of confidence as high, almost half (47 percent) of respondents say they are vigilant in their effectiveness testing. 

High confidence in security controls increases the security posture in an evolving threat landscape.

  • Organizations that have a high level of confidence that their organization’s security controls are working as they are supposed to are applying changes to security controls (e.g., configuration setting, software or signature update policy rules, etc.) daily or weekly.
  • These organizations have a much lower percentage of security controls that fail pen testing and/or attack simulation within each cycle. Specifically, 25 percent of respondents with high confidence say less than 10 percent of security controls fail pen testing and/or attack simulation.

“It is clear from the report that security experts see the need for continuous security validation. Given that the primary methodology for security testing is limited in scope, manual and a lengthy process, it does not meet the pace of new threats and business-driven IT change. It comes as no surprise that threat actors are free to exploit remote access, remote desktop, and virtual desktop vulnerabilities, as companies expanded the use of these technologies without security validation, to support employees working from home.” Said Eyal Wachsman, Co-Founder and CEO at Cymulate.

The report is organized according to the following topics.

  • The impact of current approaches to the testing of security controls on an organization’s security posture
  • Security control validation and Breach and Attack Simulation (BAS)
  • Steps taken to address possible security risks due to COVID-19
  • Perceptions about the effectiveness of Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs)
  • Differences between organizations in the US and UK

Read the entire report on Cymulate’s website

 

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