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How to Use a Cyber-Attack Simulation to Reduce Your Security Risk

The image of a hacker sitting in front of a computer and hacking into a mega web server is persistent. While you still get external hackers performing these cyber attacks, hacking into accounts is no longer needed if a cybercriminal has the keys to the castle, i.e., can use legitimate access credentials. Attackers know that legitimate logins are more accessible and more likely to succeed. As a result, the theft of credentials is the topmost attack method, with almost half (49%) of all data breaches involving credentials, according to the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR).

This targeting of people and credentials can be prevented by using cyber-attack simulations. Here, TitanHQ explores what a cyber-attack simulation is and why it is a crucial cybersecurity measure to protect your people and organization.

What is a Cyber-Attack Simulation?

Carrying out a cyber-attack simulation is a proactive and positive response to the increasingly human-centric and sophisticated methods used to breach an organization's systems and people. A cyber-attack simulation is a mockup of a cyber-attack based on the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by cybercriminals. The simulation is based on typical attack scenarios that are likely to be used to breach the security used by a company. The simulation emulates the methods and tactics used by cybercriminals, including human-centric attack techniques such as social engineering and phishing. Also, cyber-attack simulations are used as an extension to cyber security training, testing the training effectiveness after running training sessions. Some advanced cyber-attack simulations use simulated phishing to test out vulnerabilities in processes and employees' use of technology.

To sum up, a cyber-attack simulation will test the current security measures to identify vulnerabilities in an organization's security systems, including its people. The insights gained through a cyber-attack simulation provide the information needed to focus and tighten an organization's security posture. 

Did You Know?

92% drop

in phishing susceptibility with SafeTitan

62%

of employees share passwords

$10.5 trillion

estimated global cybercrime cost

82%

of data breaches involved a human being

How Does a Simulated Cyber-Attack Work?

Cyber-attack simulations work at varying levels to detect vulnerabilities across an organization's attack surface. For example, one scenario might look at how vulnerable an employee is when confronted with a phishing email; another might look at vulnerabilities around ransomware attacks. The steps below show how a cyber-attack simulation is set up and executed: 

1. Design the Scenario: Develop scenarios that fit the current landscape using security intelligence from cyber-attack events. For example, if Business Email Compromise (BEC) attackers are targeting your organization sector, develop a scenario based on the tactics used by BEC scammers.

2. Gather the Data: Attackers use intelligence gathering and reconnaissance tactics to collect employee and C-Level email addresses and other pertinent data on a target organization. Perform a similar exercise to locate a list of potential employees to target during the simulation.

3. Identify the Participants and Roles: Prepare for the simulation by ensuring that your list of participants represents your organization and is diverse. Also, what roles do the participants play in the organization? This may be important in tailoring the simulation to reflect real-life cyber-attacks that are based on roles. For example, an administrator may receive certain types of spear phishing emails that specifically target login credentials. In contrast, other roles, such as accounts payable, may be subject to subtle social engineering emails.

4. Set Up the Simulation Environment: This step in designing and delivering a cyber-attack simulation can benefit from using tools such as simulated phishing platforms, i.e., SafeTitan. Simulated phishing provides the toolkit to test employees' reactions to phishing emails and associated malicious websites. The simulation platform must be tailored to reflect the varying simulation scenarios that are being tested. 

5. Deploy and Execute: Send out your simulated cyber-attack / spoof phishing campaign. It is essential to watch and learn from employee responses to the attack. SafeTitan excels in this, as the software provides automated, real-time training intervention. Suppose an employee performs an action that would result in a successful attack. In that case, the software will automatically pop up a warning and deliver a training session, explaining what went wrong and how to avoid this type of behavior during an actual attack.

6. Reflect and Learn: The results of the simulated cyber-attack should be collected, evaluated, and disseminated. Cyber-attack simulators, such as phishing simulation software, typically provide analysis of a simulation session. Visualization of these results shows progress. The whole organization should know the outcome of a phishing simulation exercise as a cooperative group event. Cyber security training and simulation exercises can become part of the company's culture by engaging all staff members. 

7. Rinse and Repeat: Cyber-attack simulations should be repeated regularly. Regular training helps to form memories and encourages patterns of positive security behavior. Some advanced simulated security training platforms will provide automation to ensure regular training happens, reducing the effort and overhead needed from IT.

Theft of credentials is the topmost attack method, with almost half (49%) of all data breaches involving credentials.

Why are Cyber-Attack Simulations Necessary?

Cyber-attacks such as ransomware, Business Email Compromise (BEC), and data breaches target employees and C-level staff. Cyber-attack simulations are essential to reduce the likelihood of successful cyber-attacks. As cyber criminals increasingly manipulate and trick humans, these simulations must also take on a human focus. As social engineers influence human behavior, simulations must test this aspect of security. Simulations of security attacks such as phishing and social engineering can help staff understand how cybercriminals operate and help to change security behavior over time. As the global average cost of a data breach in 2023 was found to be $4.45 million, it is essential now more than ever to ensure employees are empowered to take a positive stand against cyber-attacks.

Cyber-Attack Simulation Software - SafeTitan

Simulated phishing platforms provide an automated method to mimic some of the most harmful cyber-attacks - phishing and social engineering to allow evaluation of the threats to an organization. SafeTitan security awareness training is a defense-in-depth solution designed to prevent human-centric cyber-attacks. The simulated phishing platform part of the broader security awareness training package, SafeTitan, has built-in features that make it ideal for use in cyber-attack simulations. These features include the following:

  • An Extensive Array of Email Templates: SafeTitan provides email templates tailored to individual scenarios. 
  • Direct Email Injection: MSPs and administrators can deliver phishing simulations to employee inboxes directly. During multiple scenario simulations, this feature saves time and effort; there is no need to configure allowed lists and firewalls.
  • Real-Time Intervention Training: If an employee falls for the simulated phishing attack, an intervention event will be initiated, teaching the employee about what happened and how to avoid this behavior.
  • Analytics and Reporting: Comprehensive and accessible reporting demonstrates the results of a cyber-attack simulation and phishing simulations. Reports provide insights to allow further fine-tuning of regular cyber-attacks to improve statistics and see the results of positive security behavior on cyber-attack success rates.
  • Automation: Cyber-attack simulations can be automated to help reduce the overload on IT teams and ensure that simulations are carried out regularly.
  • MSP Deployments: SafeTitan is a SaaS solution that a managed service provider (MSP) can deliver. This is a cost-effective way to provide and manage cyber-attack simulations.

SafeTitan simulated phishing platform is an integrated part of TitanHQ's holistic security awareness training platform for comprehensive security training. Contact our experts to find out how to deliver cyber-attack simulations to reduce your risk of a cyber-attack.

Ready to Strengthen Your Defense Against Cyber Threats? Discover the Power of SafeTitan's Cyber Attack Simulations.

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J.P. Roe

J.P. Roe

  • SECURITY AWARENESS TRAINING

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