The Assume Breach Paradigm

By A.N. Ananth

Given today’s threat landscape, let’s acknowledge that a breach has either already occurred within our network or that it’s only a matter of time until it will. Security prevention strategies and technologies cannot guarantee safety from every attack. It is more likely that an organization has already been compromised, but just hasn’t discovered it yet.

Operating with this assumption reshapes detection and response strategies in a way that pushes the limits of any organization’s infrastructure, people, processes and technologies.

In the current threat landscape, a prevention-only focus is not enough to address determined and persistent adversaries. Additionally, with common security tools, such as antivirus and Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), it is difficult to capture or mitigate the full breadth of today’s breaches. Network edge controls may keep amateurs out, but talented and motivated attackers will always find the means to get inside these virtual perimeters. As a result, organizations are all too often ill prepared when faced with the need to respond to the depth and breadth of a breach.

Assume Breach is a mindset that guides security investments, design decisions and operational security practices. Assume Breach limits the trust placed in applications, services, identities and networks by treating them all—both internal and external—as not secure and probably already compromised.

While Prevent Breach security processes, such as threat modeling, code reviews and security testing may be common in secure development lifecycles, Assume Breach provides numerous advantages that help account for overall security by exercising and measuring reactive capabilities in the event of a breach.

assume breach

With Assume Breach, security focus changes to identifying and addressing gaps in:

  • Detection of attack and penetration
  • Response to attack and penetration
  • Recovery from data leakage, tampering or compromise
  • Prevention of future attacks and penetration

Assume Breach verifies that protection, detection and response mechanisms are implemented properly — even reducing potential threats from “knowledgeable attackers” (using legitimate assets, such as compromised accounts and machines).

To defend effectively, we must:

  • Gather evidence left by the adversary
  • Detect the evidence as an Indication of Compromise
  • Alert the appropriate Engineering and Operation team(s)
  • Triage the alerts to determine whether they warrant further investigation
  • Gather context from the environment to scope the breach
  • Form a remediation plan to contain or evict the adversary
  • Execute the remediation plan and recover from breach

Since this can be overwhelming for any but the largest organizations, our SIEM Simplified service is used by many organizations to supplement their existing teams. We contribute our technology, people and processes to the blue team and help defend the network.

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