How many steps does it take for attackers to compromise critical assets?


The XM Cyber research team analyzed the methods, attack paths and impacts of attack techniques that imperil critical assets across on-prem, multi-cloud and hybrid environments.

attack critical assets

Findings from the report incorporate insights from nearly two million endpoints, files, folders, and cloud resources throughout 2021.

Today’s security tools enable organizations to detect all kinds of misconfigurations, vulnerabilities and other security gaps. However, they fail to show how these seemingly unrelated issues form hidden attack paths that hackers can use to pivot through a hybrid cloud environment and compromise critical assets.

The report takes the attackers’ perspective to show how, once they get a foothold in the network, they can easily move towards critical business assets.

Key insights

  • 94% of critical assets can be compromised within four steps of the initial breach point
  • 75% of an organizations’ critical assets could have been compromised in their then-current security state
  • 73% of the top attack techniques involve mismanaged or stolen credentials
  • 95% of organizational users have long-term access keys attached to them that can be exposed
  • 78% of businesses are open to compromise every time a new remote code execution (RCE) technique is found
  • The main attack vectors in the cloud are misconfigurations and overly permissive access
  • By knowing where to disrupt attack paths, organizations can reduce 80% of issues that would otherwise have taken up security resources

An attack path is a chain of attack vectors (vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, user privileges, human errors, etc.) that a hacker can use to move laterally through the network. Hybrid cloud computing architecture is especially vulnerable, as attackers can exploit security gaps to obtain a foothold in the network and then move laterally between on-premises and cloud applications.

The report outlines the security gaps and hygiene issues that exist in multiple attack paths across on-prem and cloud environments, demonstrating the importance of risk visibility across the entire network.

“Modern organizations are investing in more and more platforms, apps and other tech tools to accelerate their business, but they too often fail to realize that the interconnection between all these technologies poses a significant risk,” said Zur Ulianitzky, Head of Research, XM Cyber.

“When siloed teams are responsible for different components of security within the network, nobody sees the full picture. One team may ignore a seemingly small risk, not realizing that in the big picture, it’s a stepping stone in a hidden attack path to a critical asset. To keep pace with today’s technology and business demands, attack path remediation must be prioritized.”



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