Cybercriminals are running CISOs and security teams ragged. I know—before I founded SafeBreach, I was a CISO, working with my team to protect a global enterprise against breaches. A big part of my job was convincing business executives to invest more in security, rather than living with risk. But I also had to ensure my team was focusing on the right kind of defenses.
There’s a lot of buzz around advanced persistent threats (APTs) and zero-day threats (0days) in the cybersecurity space. Attending shows, or talking to peers, it’s easy to see that the entire industry is looking at ways to face these unique challenges. It’s hard to protect against the “new unknown” threat, but is this fear of the unknown driving more investment and activity than it might actually warrant?
Certainly, the fear is real. It drives us crazy! We set up traps, we analyze traffic patterns to find anomalies, we invest in new technologies that can’t really prove their effectiveness until an actual net-new attack occurs—all to calm our fear of the unknown. All in an attempt to stay ahead of a ghost; an imagined threat that we can’t name or identify until we see it. Now, this is important, but the problem is that this hunt is distracting us from protecting against the majority of successful attacks - those based on what has already been proven.
So, what is the drive to search for the unknown? Let’s be honest: I think it often boils down to enthusiasm and interest, rather than pure logic.
Now, it’s always good to be smart. And it’s always good to be excited and motivated to solve problems. But if we only focus on the unknown, we risk losing sight of the biggest challenge, well, we risk losing sight of the more mundane attacks that are proven to breach networks and steal data.
Now, one truth of every single security team I’ve ever worked for, worked with, or even just heard about, is that we cannot simply “go after everything.“ We need to align our resources (money, people, and time) so that we aren’t spread too thin. However, if we only align around the 0day and unknown, then we expose ourselves to the vast majority of attackers—who will use any attack they can, whether new or old—to compromise our environments.
But 0days are not enough to complete a full attack. Each attack is composed of multiple logical steps that make up the kill chain. If we focus on breaking that kill chain, rather than just stopping 0days, we’ll still stop the overall attack - and likely many many more. And these kill chains can be broken with technology already in place—if only it is utilized in the right way.
Indeed, it’s often more effective to limit attackers’ moves by dealing with all the “known” breach methods first. In this way, certainly we can increase our chances to avoid the impact by eliminating all the “easy/known” attacks. We eliminate the vast majority of attacks, and now have only a small subset of “unknowns” to keep us up at night. And we can do this with more effective policy across the tools we already have.
But in order to improve our configuration to stop attacks, we have to ask ourselves, and our teams, some hard questions:
Yes, fighting the 0day is important. But it’s more important not to let this chase to defocus us from the majority of gaps we (should) know how to face. Getting ahead of attacks means staying on top of proven methods, and making sure that our existing tools and processes work as anticipated. We can’t wait for a real attack to prove security - we need to be ready in advance. This is why I started SafeBreach - I believe that with focusing on the real problem we, as security professionals, can be more efficient and drive success rather than spending our efforts chasing after ghosts.