If you ask any athlete what helps them excel at their sport, most will tell you it is investing time in training, seeking the best coaching, and mastering the latest techniques. The result of this investment in training and practice is being fully prepared, both mentally and physically, for the real thing.
Although defending against cyber threats, bolstering cybersecurity, and avoiding embarrassing public breach disclosures won’t necessarily win you any trophies or a place in a hometown parade, for security professionals, they are critical goals. That’s why it's vital to give your team the tools, experience, and training time they need to know how to respond and work together when the real thing happens.
One of the best ways to do this is by taking advantage of high-fidelity simulations constructed within a cyber range; here, you can safely put your team to the test with lifelike cyber range exercises that vary in size and complexity.
So what are cyber range exercises, and what are some key types to include in your training plan?
There are tabletop exercises, online and in-person classes, and thousands of articles about evolutions in cyber threats, and then there is the actual experience of confronting an attack yourself.
This is what a cyber range is all about: providing your cybersecurity professionals with a live range experience in a safe environment. With hands-on practice using real attack scenarios, they can work together to improve incident response and refine and test their defensive capabilities.
Within a cyber range, live scenarios can be unique to an organization’s specific threat environment, inspired by actual cyber threat incidents, or customized to provide professionals with a chance to test different tools, policies, or actions.
What types of threats can be replicated in a cyber range? Here are just a few examples:
As seen in plenty of recent high-profile news articles and threat reports, ransomware can be devastating for an organization. Whether it's because many do not have sufficient data and system backup procedures in place or because of the fluid and overwhelming nature of the techniques that enable it, the threat of ransomware understandably keeps many security professionals awake at night.
Instead of hoping for the best, you can proactively pit your team against a simulated version of an actual ransomware attack within the safety of a cyber range.
By doing so, you can test your cyber defense tools and your team’s ability to scan incoming and outgoing messages, block malicious IP traffic, and block spam and unauthorized software from entering and spreading through your network. Or, on the other side of a ransomware attack, you can test if your existing data recovery tools and procedures are enough to allow your organization to completely, efficiently, and reliably recover application data from backups.
A distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack is when a website or service is overwhelmed with more traffic than the network can handle, often facilitated by botnets: armies of remote-controlled hacked computers. The result, in a best-case scenario, is disrupted or slow service. The worst and most common case is a complete failure of network and application load balancing, causing operations and services to fail.
Making matters worse, when a DDoS attack hits your network, there is little to no time to stop it unless your team is prepared.
In situations when every moment counts, a cyber range can test your security tools’ ability to filter unusual traffic, block nefarious IP addresses, throttle network requests, enhance load balancing, and amplify your team’s ability to redirect incoming network traffic quickly.
You can also put your threat detection and response and business continuity plans to the test, practicing how and in what order services can safely be brought back online.
Advanced persistent threats (APTs) were once something only global organizations had to worry about. But ATPs are more common than ever as attackers’ innovation and interconnectivity increase.
Cyber ranges provide a safe but powerful way to replicate these complex and unpredictable types of attacks from foes who look for unique vulnerabilities and have the patience and skill to maneuver while staying under the radar.
Although insider threats are relatively uncommon, the losses they create are often more than you may think. A 2021 IBM study found that insider threats can cause, on average, $4.61 million in damage. End-user simulations can also simulate mistakes made in sharing credentials and clicking on malicious files, which make up 17 percent of cyber attacks.
Fortunately, these scenarios can also be replicated in a cyber range, including actions that result in data loss, the abuse of user credentials, or unauthorized access attempts. In each of these cases, you can evaluate how your team responds and how your systems react to determine if access control devices or other host- or edge-based filters are working as expected.
In many organizations, the number or type of devices connected to the network can be limited. Similarly, organizations can have limits on the types of applications installed on devices or when certain functions can be performed.
If not controlled, attackers can potentially bypass security defenses and nefariously leverage exposed systems to access data, applications, or jump to other systems to threaten the confidentiality of organizational data.
Security teams can also replicate these scenarios in a cyber range, evaluating the ability of security products to raise alarms about the presence of unauthorized devices or applications placed or installed in the network as well as abnormal user behavior.
Suppose you are looking for a way to take your cybersecurity team to the next level. In that case, cyber ranges can be used to model adversary emulation plans to play back or recreate advanced, complex cyber attacks. Organizations like MITRE even provide multi-phase attack scenarios to help you prepare for and evaluate your performance.
Following one of these scenarios, will your security controls and incident response plans withstand the pressure?
No matter your industry, the maturity of your organization’s cybersecurity, or the types of scenarios you run, a cyber range gives your cybersecurity professionals the hands-on experience they need to be ready when confronted by the real thing.
At the same time, your organization can test how quickly and comprehensively your incident response process initiates and how soon threats are contained and removed. The results of these tests can be turned around and rerun in the cyber range again and again until you get the outcomes you expect.
Is your organization ready to get in the game and take its cybersecurity to the next level?
If so, the team at SimSpace would welcome the opportunity to get to know you.
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