Should You Simulate a Cyber Attack?

digital text with cyber attack words

Athletes hold practices and scrimmages. Actors hold dress rehearsals. Firefighters hold training drills and controlled burns. These professionals know that the first time they do something should be in a controlled setting, not in a real-life situation. Your IT team is no different. Think your organization can withstand a cyber incident? It may be time to simulate a cyber attack. 

What is a cyber attack simulation?

A cyber attack simulation is an exercise that helps organizations test their security defenses against real-world threats. It does this by simulating an attack on the organization’s network, infrastructure, and assets using the tools, tactics, and procedures (TTPs) of known cyber criminals.

Simulated cyber attacks are typically conducted by a “purple team,” a collaboration between defensive (blue) and offensive (red) teams. The goal of the exercise is to surface vulnerabilities in the organization’s defenses that the security team can address, reducing exposure to real-world attacks.

When should I conduct a simulated cyber attack?

Cyber attack simulations can be conducted on a regular basis to help organizations stay prepared for potential cyber threats and ensure that their security controls are effective. They are an important component of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy and can help organizations identify gaps in their security defenses before they are exploited by real attackers. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best time to conduct a simulated cyber attack will vary depending on a number of factors, such as the size and complexity of your organization, your budget, and your security risk profile. A few things to consider:
  • Conduct regular simulations. The more often you conduct simulations, the better prepared you will be for a real attack. Aim to conduct at least one simulation per year, or more often if your organization is at high risk of attack.

  • Time simulations to coincide with security updates. This will help you to ensure that your security controls are working as intended and that you are prepared for any new threats that may emerge.

  • Conduct simulations at different times of the year. This will help you to identify any seasonal trends in attacks and to ensure that your security team is prepared for attacks at all times.

How to get management buy-in

While cyber crime is certainly undeniable given the almost daily news reports of a new compromise, IT staff may still face a struggle with getting the budget they need to protect their organizations.  Why?  A major myth that many executives believe is that “it won’t happen to us”.

Here’s how you can win management buy-in. 

Do your research

Before you approach management, make sure you have done your research and can clearly articulate the benefits of conducting a simulated cyber attack. You should be able to show how the simulation will help the organization to identify and address vulnerabilities, improve its security posture, and reduce the risk of a successful attack. Emphasize that a simulation can help the organization detect and respond to real cyber threats more effectively, and potentially save the organization from the financial and reputational damage of a successful attack.

Build a strong case with examples

Share real-world examples of organizations that have been impacted by cyber attacks, and how a simulated attack could have helped prevent or mitigate the damage. This can help illustrate the potential risks and benefits of a cyber attack simulation.

Show the costs

Provide a breakdown of the costs associated with a cyber attack simulation, including any vendor costs, personnel time, and potential downtime. Be transparent about the budget and explain how the costs of a simulation compare to the potential costs of a real cyber attack.

Get support from key stakeholders

In addition to management, you will also need to get buy-in from key stakeholders, such as the IT department, the security team, and any other departments that will be affected by the simulation. This will help to ensure that the simulation is successful and that the results are used to improve the organization’s security posture.

Explain the process (and prepare for questions)

Provide a detailed overview of how the simulation will be conducted, including the scope, methodology, and expected outcomes. Be sure to emphasize that the simulation will be conducted in a controlled environment and will not disrupt normal business operations. Management is likely to have a number of questions about the simulated cyber attack. Be prepared to answer these questions in detail and to address any concerns that they may have.

Enlist the right partner to simulate a cyber attack

First, a good partner will have the experience and expertise to conduct a realistic and effective simulation. They will be able to use the latest tools and techniques to simulate a real-world attack, and they will be able to provide you with valuable feedback on your organization’s security posture.

Second, an external partner can bring a fresh perspective and independent assessment of your organization’s security posture. This can be especially valuable if there are internal conflicts or disagreements about the organization’s security strategy or vulnerabilities. A good partner will be able to help you to develop and implement a plan to mitigate the risks identified during the simulation. They will be able to provide you with recommendations for how to improve your security controls and how to train your employees on security best practices.

Third, a good partner will be able to help you to communicate the results of the simulation to management and to other stakeholders. They will be able to help you to explain the findings of the simulation and to develop a plan to address the risks identified.

Enlisting the right third party cyber attack simulation vendor can also help to correctly navigate any legal and ethical considerations as well as ensuring the simulation is conducted in an efficient, cost-effective manner. 

Foresite Cybersecurity experts can help your organization prepare for, conduct, and execute on the results of a simulated cyber attack. Contact us today to learn more about our red team, blue team, purple team, and vCISO solutions. 

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