Adversary Emulation vs Simulation

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With cyber breach costs on the rise and personal liability lawsuits against executives and directors becoming commonplace, enhancing network resilience and preventing threat actors from infiltrating your company is more critical than ever.

Fortunately, cyber breach prevention tactics are increasing in sophistication as more vulnerabilities are discovered and addressed. This is good news for information security teams and gives more viable options for maintaining a strong security posture for your network in today’s progressively hostile digital landscape.


Cyber Security Assessment Strategies

Two examples of cybersecurity offensive strategies employed by elite cybersecurity teams include adversary emulation and adversary simulation. 

These sound alike, and each tactic aims to identify and exploit weak points in a network’s security system. However, the two security assessment tools are not the same. They do not yield the same results or intelligence insights.

Companies claiming adversary emulation and simulation are the same may not have the expertise to effectively safeguard your organization from potentially damaging cyber-attacks.

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What Is Adversary Simulation?

Adversary simulation is a security assessment tool used by cybersecurity teams that looks back at past threats and attempts to model those same threats. This is done so they can better understand common attack paths taken by threat actors and set up necessary barriers at compromised access points.

This technique allows companies to analyze internal and external historical data to create proactive measures against similar attacks. The adversary simulation approach also helps security teams understand where to best respond in the event of a real attack.


What is Adversary Emulation?

Adversary emulation takes adversary simulation a step further by simulating an adversary’s capabilities, goals and objectives. This security assessment tool looks at the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by attackers to breach systems with real-world methods and techniques such as malware, phishing attacks, etc.

Adversary emulation allows information security teams to become proactive rather than reactive when guarding against potential cyber threats.


Adversary Emulation vs. Simulation: What’s the Difference?

Both adversary emulation and simulation are designed to thwart cyber threats from an organization’s network by detecting weak points where threat actors can access valuable digital assets. Each tactic tests a security team’s detection and response skills and can provide insight into how to strengthen security controls.

However, the variables used to assess and measure network resilience vary greatly between emulation and simulation testing scenarios. While one offers insight into understanding how a threat actor penetrated a network, the other looks at how any threat actor could penetrate a cyber defense system.


Adversary Simulation: Understand What Did Happen

Adversary simulation helps an organization understand how an established cyber breach was allowed to occur in the first place. It also helps define how to respond to a type of cyber breach.

It simulates the TTPs the incident’s threat actors used to gain access to a network and glean a better understanding of what happened.

Information from a breach and attack simulation test can be used to:

  • Identify breach type and locations
  • Mitigate an existing attack
  • Determine immediate advanced persistent threat solutions
  • Prevent future breaches of its kind.

Adversary simulation results are limited when determining a network’s unexposed vulnerabilities. This is because it only uses information and data from past or current threats to better respond to future ones.

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Adversary Emulation: Understand What Could Happen

Adversary emulation is the more effective security assessment tool to use when looking to protect a network against potential future cyber threats. This is because an adversary emulation test evaluates a network’s security system with real-world attacks and adversary TTPs.

Adversary emulation plans go beyond tracing a threat actor’s previous TTPs. They seek to find all network vulnerabilities, not just ones that cyber criminals have successfully penetrated.

In adversary emulation plans, the security team seeks to answer the following questions:

  • Who can benefit from penetrating a network?
  • What digital assets in the network are appealing to an adversary? Why?
  • How can a threat actor remain undetected within the network?
  • What detection and response processes are attackers trying not to trigger?
  • Which emulation tools best help our team understand the potential advanced persistent threats?


Adversary Emulation Tools

Adversary emulation is best conducted with experienced security professionals and cyber defense tools.

Examples of these tools include the MITRE ATT&CK® framework, threat hunting, ethical hacking, and penetration testing. These tools are used in conjunction with our Hunt the Hunter® protocol.


What Is MITRE ATT&CK® Framework?

MITRE ATT&CK® is essential for any adversary simulation framework to gather up-to-date intel on new and existing threat actor behaviors. It provides a globally accessible repository of TTPs based on real-world observations that can be used to test the rigor of your cybersecurity.

Red teams use it to view adversarial TTPs and test networks against relevant attack scenarios. This helps security professionals gain insight into modern adversary behavior and how it applies to their network environment.

Information from the MITRE ATT&CK® database establishes an active adversary emulation protocol.


What is Threat Hunting?

Adversary Emulation Tools

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Threat hunting is a human-led adversary emulation methodolgy that uses known adversary TTPs behaviors to test an organization’s security controls and network resilience. Threat hunting aims to identify penetration points before cyber felons can can steal intellectual property, execute ransomware encryption, or do other damage to an organization.

Ethical hacking and penetration testing are used during threat-hunting scenarios.


Gain Elite Threat Intelligence with Redpoint Cybersecurity

At Redpoint Cybersecurity, we specialize in adversary emulation services to help organizations protect their networks from the latest cyber threats. Our team uses military-grade adversary simulation tactics to assess and safeguard against potential adversary attacks.

We combine adversary emulation tactics with a range of managed cybersecurity services, including threat intelligence, security incident response, and attack surface monitoring.

Our team is dedicated to helping organizations stay one step ahead of adversary behavior and proactively protect their networks from malicious cyber actors. Connect with our expert team today to get started on a comprehensive cyber vulnerability assessment.


Featured Image Credit: DepositPhotos

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