Offense Intended: How Adversarial Emulation Went From State Secret To Board Bullet Point

Offense Intended: How Adversarial Emulation Went From State Secret To Board Bullet Point

November 8, 2023 at 10:51AM

Offensive security, once associated with aggressive tactics like “Hack Back,” has evolved into a mainstream approach for assessing and stress testing corporate defenses. However, relying solely on automation for defense can be costly and ineffective. Offensive security requires a combination of technology and human intelligence to outpace attackers. While AI can enhance attack emulation, human review and validation are still essential. It’s important to understand the limitations of AI and continue to adapt our security strategies.

Key Takeaways from the Meeting Notes:

1. Offensive Security: Offensive security has reached a tipping point where it risks becoming an overused term. It has evolved from the aggressive notion of “Hack Back” to mainstream use of offensive Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs) for assessing and stress-testing corporate defenses. Defense is difficult and often ineffective, hence the focus on offensive strategies.

2. Automation and its Limitations: Automation is a popular solution in the security industry, with claims of easy adoption and low human interaction. However, heavy reliance on automation can be costly and ineffective against rapidly innovating attackers. Criminals adapt quickly, and automation depends on precedents and past victimization. It cannot keep pace with the evolving threat landscape.

3. Importance of Offensive Security: Offensive security goes beyond reactive approaches and focuses on the organization’s ecosystem as a whole. It recognizes that not all attacks are APTs (Advanced Persistent Threats) or based on technical vulnerabilities. Attacks can range from ransomware and phishing to cloud attacks and supply chain infiltrations. Adopting offensive security allows organizations to preemptively frustrate attackers and limit the spread of compromises.

4. Offensive Security Requires a Combination of Technology and Human Intelligence: Offensive security requires the speed and agility of human intelligence alongside technological advancements. It is about innovation and intuition. While technology can rapidly analyze and filter threats, human expertise is needed to connect the dots, validate findings, and continually improve the security posture. An effective offensive security program incorporates attack emulation, defensive assessment, and penetration testing (Purple Teaming).

5. Automation as a Force Multiplier: While overreliance on automation can lead to oversimplification and underestimation of risks, intelligent and focused automation can be a valuable asset for human security teams. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to change the game, especially in attack emulation. However, AI still depends on human intellect and requires human review and validation. Blind trust in AI without understanding its limitations can be detrimental.

6. Garbage In, Garbage Out: The quality of input is crucial for AI to generate accurate and valuable output. Organizations need to understand and use the best input data to ensure effective AI-driven security solutions. Just like maintaining a healthy diet, relying on junk data will lead to ineffective results. Organizations must continually adapt and account for changes in their own security requirements.

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