Why Breach and Attack Simulations Are the Best Solution to Address AWS Security Incidents
Author: Chris Foster, Director of Solutions Architecture, XM Cyber
It’s no overstatement to say that Amazon Web Services (AWS) now powers business on the web, as the company’s cloud infrastructure supports hundreds of thousands of businesses across the globe. Companies are migrating to AWS (and its competitors) at a rapid clip to take advantage of the scalability and reliability of cloud.
Yet managing this transition – and building a successful infrastructure – requires complex coordination. It also requires dealing with multiple components: databases, virtual machines, security roles and policies and connections to a variety of services. Fulfilling these requirements is no simple task for even experienced and skilled modern security teams.
Given the scope of the challenge involved, the risks of making a mistake, or misconfiguring accounts or permissions, must be taken very seriously. The urgency of accounting for such security risks is reinforced by the near-constant parade of new cloud security incidents reported in the media.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the state of cloud security, the challenge of operating in hybrid environments, and why breach and attack simulations are the only tool that can close critical security gaps in these environments and provide continuous protection.
Why Cloud Security Risks Are Growing
As cloud services adoption has grown exponentially in recent years, the number of vulnerabilities within cloud technology has grown in tandem. The increasing complexity of cloud and hybrid environments is creating extraordinary challenges for today’s organizations and their security teams.
One need do little more than scan the news for the latest example of an AWS security breach. Many of the world’s largest enterprises have been victimized by malware injections, insider attacks, cross-cloud attacks etc. and had their most critical assets targeted. Simple misconfiguration errors have resulted in millions of customer records being exposed, or essential client services taken offline for days. While such incidents may be routine, there is a relatively new solution to the problem of AWS vulnerabilities that is drawing increasing attention: Automated breach and attack simulations (BAS).
Defining BAS – and How It Differs from Conventional Approaches
Breach and attack simulations can automatically identify vulnerabilities through a process that is similar to continuous, automated penetration testing. This approach runs simulations of likely attack paths taken by advanced persistent threats and then prioritizes remediation.
BAS platforms are especially effective at limiting one of the most serious threats faced by today’s security teams: The ability of an advanced persistent threat to penetrate a network, embed itself for weeks or months undetected, move laterally and steal an organization’s crown jewels.
Why is the BAS approach superior to conventional penetration or red team testing? It’s simple: Those approaches are largely manual and resource-intensive. This means such tests are scheduled weeks or even months apart, which means security professionals have very limited insight into the state of their environments during non-test periods.
For the most robust defense possible, it’s imperative to use tools that are highly automated and apply the power of continuous testing. This is especially true in the context of AWS security.
Why BAS Platforms Are the Key to Better AWS Security
An advanced BAS solution can play a critical role in securing AWS environments. To maintain an effective security posture, today’s organizations must gain deeper visibility into potential attacks across AWS infrastructures.
Security teams, however, often struggle to keep up with the demands of cloud migration. As organizations rush to build their cloud infrastructures, this activity often outpaces a security team’s ability to accurately assess the risks presented by their new hybrid environment. Additionally, If you assess on prem and cloud risks in isolation, it’s impossible to understand the risks they pose to each other.
A BAS platform can close this gap – if you choose the right one. More advanced BAS solutions can audit AWS configurations via AWS API, using this data to generate potential attack vectors and run simulated attacks.
These simulations can identify misconfigurations that can lead to access token theft, IAM privilege escalation and other serious risks.
By using a BAS solution to protect AWS environments, organizations can see their networks through the eyes of their attackers while running 24/7 simulations that uncover the hidden attack vectors that so often remain undiscovered by more conventional solutions.
One note: To ensure the best possible protection, it’s advisable to implement a BAS solution during cloud migrations, rather than post-migration. This not only limits the possibility of mistakes and successful attacks occurring during migration, it also helps eliminate the need for expensive and time-consuming re-architectures.
The World’s First BAS Platform for Hybrid Cloud Environments
XM Cyber’s HaXM platform is the first BAS solution that can simulate attacks on AWS. This unlocks a critically important benefit for security teams: The ability to assess on prem and cloud risks together. Organizations that do not have integrated visibility into risks in hybrid environments are at a serious disadvantage, as they cannot assess the risks on prem. and cloud pose to each other.
XM Cyber closes this gap by offering the only hyper-realistic BAS solution, one that offers protection from APTs through automated, continuous simulations and prioritized remediation. Users can view their environments just as attackers do, as the solution reveals all the hidden attack paths that would normally go unseen by conventional security approaches.
The platform works by auditing AWS configurations via AWS API, then calculating likely attack paths based on that information. By simulating AWS attacks, the BAS solution discovers misconfigurations that create common risks. These include access token theft, IAM privilege escalation or leveraging of the Cloud Instance Metadata API to pivot across the cloud. By doing so, XM Cyber enables its users to combine red and blue team processes, acting as an automated “purple team” to help defend hybrid environments against even the most advanced risks.
Recent breaches show that attackers are increasingly combining classical attack techniques with cloud-specific attack methods. This is one of the most pressing security concerns facing organizations today — and the HaXM platform is the first and only solution that can identify hybrid risks and prioritize remediation. This means that today’s organizations should view it as a critical weapon in the ongoing fight to secure cloud and hybrid environments.
An advanced BAS platform can offer robust protection by simulating advanced persistent threats against an organization’s most sensitive and valuable assets. Yet choosing the right platform is vitally important.
Attackers are merging older techniques with cloud-specific attacks in order to take advantage of the security gaps present in most hybrid environments. To maintain robust security, it’s imperative to close these gaps. The only way to do that is to handle cloud and on-prem. security in an integrated manner.
XM Cyber’s BAS platform is the first and only tool that makes this possible. By harnessing the power of automation and continuous simulation, AWS security gaps can be identified and addressed as needed, greatly reducing the odds of your organization suffering a critical asset exposure.