Security Solutions

4 mins

Offensive cybersecurity: What is it and what tools do you need?

The threat landscape is changing. And so it stands to reason that traditional defense methods are no longer suitable. The rapid adoption of cloud solutions means that attack surfaces are expanding fast and becoming increasingly fragmented.

As well as being unable to keep pace, many cybersecurity teams admit that there are some assets within their corporate network they don’t even know about. But just because the exact boundaries of the attack surface may be unknown, that doesn’t mean threat actors won’t attempt to exploit them. 

However, threat actors and cybersecurity teams come at the cyberwar from completely different perspectives. Security teams hope that the limited resources they apply to their defensive strategies will be enough to stop the next attack. Threat actors simply want to generate the best return they can. They have no deadline for planning the next exploit. If they discover a vulnerability within just a single asset, they can begin working their way through a corporate network causing huge damage.

The way that attackers are operating is changing. Isn’t it time cybersecurity followed suit? With 82% of private sector cybersecurity leaders expecting a cybersecurity incident within the next two years, there’s little time to waste. 

The drawbacks of traditional security

Today’s threat landscape has been impacted by several recent developments that are necessitating a shift in cybersecurity approaches. The growing scale and complexity of attack surfaces, for example, mean that threat actors have an increasing number of assets to exploit. Mass attacks, rather than targeted high-return ones, are also making things more challenging for cybersecurity teams, as is the emergence of increasingly convoluted software supply chains.

The tools being adopted by attackers are also changing. Large language models (LLMs) offer a potentially fruitful route through defenses for threat actors, many of whom may use generative AI themselves for attacks on individuals or businesses. State sponsorship of attacks is another increasingly prevalent issue in an era of rising geopolitical tension. This greatly increases the resources at the disposal of any attacker.

With the threat landscape looking substantially different from even just a few years ago, traditional methods of defense appear outdated. Some teams continue to rely on the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) used by the U.S. National Vulnerability Database (NVD). But this is a slow and reactive approach that gives malicious actors time to carry out an exploit. 

In addition, traditional methods can be labor-intensive. Traditional penetration testing, for instance, is expensive, infrequent, and generates findings that vary in quality and are hard to verify. Even when digital tools are employed by security tools, results can be inconsistent. Vulnerability scanners may lack accuracy, Penetration Testing as a Service (PTaaS) solutions may involve sharing data with vendors whose trustworthiness is unknown, and bug bounty programs are unreliable. 

For cybersecurity teams, the old ways of working are due for a refresh.

Going on the offensive

Offensive cybersecurity looks at network and asset protection through an entirely different lens. Rather than defending the perimeter in a reactive way, offensive cybersecurity co-opts the hacker’s mindset, focusing on the realistic current ways threat actors exploit vulnerabilities - so attacks can be defended against before they take place. 

A good offensive cybersecurity posture should also promote collaboration and employ automation where possible. This can greatly reduce cybersecurity spend, decreasing the manual burden on cybersecurity personnel. An offensive approach also allows firms to pursue their digital transformation efforts without worrying whether they might introduce unforeseen threats. In a climate of increasing digitalization, it is little surprise that SANS’ 2023 Building a Resilient Offensive Security Strategy found that 75.2% of organizations have increased their offensive security practices because of unknown risks.

Although offensive cybersecurity may be a new approach for some teams, that doesn’t mean all the old methods of defense should be ignored completely. Penetration testing, or pen testing, can still be useful - albeit in a slightly altered form. 

Forward-thinking businesses avoid the drawbacks of traditional pen testing - limited scope, long-winded reports, and disruption to day-to-day operations - by adopting automated penetration testing instead. 

Automated penetration testing uses software to remove some of the manual processes hindering traditional pen testing. Leveraging automation allows businesses to enjoy 24/7 vulnerability scanning, heightened visibility, and the ability to generate security reports with a single click. This streamlines workflows for cybersecurity teams so risk identification and remediation can take place faster - before threat actors have time to strike. 

Choosing a vendor that offers automation

The amount of different cybersecurity solutions on the market can, at times, seem overwhelming for businesses. There are, however, a number of key features to look out for when choosing a vendor promising offensive security. 

Look for an automated pen testing vendor that is able to continuously identify and test all of your assets, while delivering centralized asset management. The provision of real-time feedback will also enable your security teams to respond quickly to any issues and collaborate more easily. The offer of contextualization will help businesses to prioritize test results and validation will help inform your team about which threats are worth focusing on. 

And automated processes, including the use of AI to augment penetration testing, are essential for future-proofing your security solutions and make it easier to sell your choice of vendor to the board. Automated penetration testing can deliver significant ROI, allowing firms to replace outdated security licenses, reduce time wasted on false positives, and form part of a more cost-effective and secure security roadmap. 

At Hadrian, our best-in-class offensive security solutions are centered around the hacker’s mindset. They are proactive, continuous, and backed by our Orchestrator AI tool to deliver strong ROI - now and in the future. 

If you want to know more about the benefits of an offensive approach to security and how Hadrian’s AI-backed automated pen testing is able to combine the accuracy, frequency, and cost-savings businesses need to operate safely in the modern threat landscape, be sure to download our Ultimate Guide to Exposure Management. It makes the kind of compelling case for offensive cybersecurity your board won’t be able to say no to.

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