3 min. read

What is Attack Path Analysis?

Cybercriminals rarely use a single attack vector that leads them to their goal. More often, they use an attack path that exploits multiple vulnerabilities. This approach makes finding the root cause of a data breach challenging, particularly in a cloud-native environment. The route a hacker takes is called an attack path. Attack path analysis refers to predictively mapping out the path adversary is planning to take.

Visualizing the Security Exploitation Route with Attack Path Analysis

Attack path analysis tools visualize the route an adversary uses among interrelated and dynamic assets. These resources can include cloud architectures and services, containerized apps, data, networks, and identities.

Traditional cybersecurity solutions may approach each attack path as an independent scenario. However, it’s more effective to understand the cumulative effect of minor vulnerabilities that enable access to significant assets.

These vulnerabilities comprise common attack vectors like credential theft, privilege escalation, weak passwords, misconfigurations, or inadequate asset encryption. Attack path analysis highlights and can even prioritize which security vulnerabilities and attack vectors must be mitigated.

Why Use Attack Path Analysis?

Attack path analysis can be used retrospectively to conduct a detailed assessment of the route an adversary has attempted. Use it prospectively to run simulations based on patterns tried in the past.

This modeling demonstrates how a hacker would likely attack their environment. It also reveals an organization’s most valuable assets and previously hidden vulnerabilities. The analysis can uncover reconnaissance, weaponization, delivery, exploitation, control, execution, and maintenance. While not always linear, each step could be used and refined, leveraging interdependencies and vulnerabilities as they are discovered.

What are the Benefits of Attack Path Analysis?

Several essential motivations exist in analyzing attack paths, particularly in complex environments that combine cloud-native or hybrid-cloud architectures and containerized or distributed resources.

Visualize the connections among assets and uncover hidden vulnerabilities

Security breaches don’t occur in silos. Attack path analysis tools provide context on how various vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and errors are connected and exploited to reach the ultimate goal. Attackers poke at various doors using different techniques. Attack path analysis illustrates that route and connects the dots to reveal new or unknown risks.

Determine attack patterns to support risk-prioritization

Cloud security relies on prioritizing risk in a dynamic and ever-changing environment. Analysis tools support priorities by visualizing leverage nodes and providing a risk score. Doing this streamlines where IT and security staff spend their precious time. Ultimately, revealing and prioritizing attack patterns and pathways can lead to risk reduction and faster attack mitigation.

Simplify attack path analysis through a graph-based approach

Analyzing the attack path is complex and unwieldy if done manually. Graph-based algorithms effectively model activity and behavior to identify critical nodes in the cloud environment. Large and multi-cloud architectures can benefit from cloud mapping combined with the analysis of attack paths. It helps to see the broader possibilities for attack vectors and larger context in which to visualize attack paths.

Features to Look for in Attack Path Analysis Tools

A few key capabilities make the analysis tool valuable to a DevOps or cybersecurity team.

Attack graphs: These should offer an easy-to-understand representation of all paths through a system toward the security objective.

Exposure node visualizations: Look for exposure path visualizations that present data on individual node activity. These representations may correlate risk factors, including vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, network access, secrets, identities, and authorization levels.

Highlight crown jewels: A tool should uncover and prioritize targeted assets leveraged most often.

Prioritize and score risks: Any solution should present and highlight high-risk pathways, assets, and vulnerabilities, allowing a team to rank order mitigation steps or reveal concerns that require further analysis.

Maintain Diligent, Context-Aware Attack Path Analysis

The popularity of cloud-native and hybrid cloud environments necessitates an analysis of attack paths. This is because the analysis tools reveal the dynamic and multi-vector approach most adversaries take when attempting an attack.

Modern Cloud-Native Security Starts with Panoptica

Cisco’s Emerging Technologies and Incubation (ET&I) team is paving the way with “DevOps-friendly” cloud-native security solutions that fundamentally simplify conventional offerings. Our Panoptica solution simplifies cloud-native application security, making it easy to embed into the software development lifecycle. Panoptica protects the full application stack from code to runtime by scanning for security vulnerabilities in the cloud infrastructure, microservices (Containers or Serverless), the software bill of materials, and the interconnecting APIs. And best of all, it integrates with the tools that your application development and SecOps teams are already using. Try Panoptica for free!