What is Attack Path Mapping?

An overview of Attack Path Mapping, an asset-centric approach that helps prioritise security spending

Vulnerability-centric testing is pretty much baked into our industry. But it has limitations and drawbacks. For example a lot of organisations struggle to manage a list of Highs, Mediums and Lows which only ever grows, however much remediation effort gets thrown at it. And more importantly, advanced attackers can compromise corporate networks without having to rely on technical vulnerabilities.

Another subtle but important limitation is that many business managers don't really understand the language of vulnerabilities - so it's hard to get their attention about (say) increasing security budgets in terms of lists of vulnerabilities.

Part of the solution?

In contrast, Attack Path Mapping (APM) is an asset-centric approach that helps prioritise investments in controls, mitigations, and remediations.

It works by starting with the assets that matter most, or the risks that would hurt the business most. These are then used to map, and validate, all the routes an attacker could use to reach those things. This drives priorities – targeted, precision improvements in terms of what vulnerabilities to fix & what attack paths to close, how to channel potential attackers, what controls to strengthen, where detection needs improving.

A lot of good things come out of this: 

  • You can make it harder for attackers to damage the business in the ways that would do most harm
  • It helps you to detect attackers when they try - and to respond effectively
  • Plus, when the business comes looking for justification of your security spend, you can immediately talk about the things that matter most to them and how you’re going to protect those things. This puts the dialogue on a whole different footing from just long lists of technical vulnerabilities you’re working to remediate.

 Of course APM isn't always the right thing to do, right now: 

  • APM will need your people’s time, even if an outside team is doing the bulk of the work. To be cost-effective it needs to be done as a white-box, collaborative exercise. If that looks difficult, you might want to consider postponing the work until people's time is more freely available.
  • If you aren’t yet sure what your organisation’s most important assets are, you might want to consider doing another exercise first - such as a Business Impact Assessment or a Security Maturity Review - which helps define & agree what is most important to your organisation.
  • At the other extreme, if you feel confident your primary assets are already identified, the attack paths well secured, and that you're already prepared to detect and respond to attempted attacks... then you might want to consider a Targeted Attack Simulation which will test and further enhance the organisation’s ability to prevent, detect and respond.

How to get started with APM

If you can share with us your thoughts on what the most important assets are to your business, or what attackers’ objectives are most important to prevent, then we’ll ask a few questions about your IT estate – based on which we can suggest a plan of work to share between your team and ours.

Or as a first step, please get in touch with your usual MWR contact and they'll be glad to provide more details of APM and how it works.



Accreditations & Certificates

MWR is an accredited member of The Cyber Security Incident Response Scheme (CSIR) approved by CREST (Council of Registered Ethical Security Testers).
MWR is certified under the Cyber Incident Response (CIR) scheme to deal with sophisticated targeted attacks against networks of national significance.
We are certified to comply with ISO 9001 and 14001 in the UK, internationally accepted standards that outline how to put an effective quality and environmental management systems in place.
MWR is certified to comply with ISO 27001 to help ensure our client information is managed securely.
As an Approved Scanning Vendor MWR is approved by PCI SSC to conduct external vulnerability scanning services to PCI DSS Requirement 11.2.2.
We are members of the Council of Registered Ethical Security Testers (CREST), an organisation serving the needs of the information security sector.
MWR is a supplier to the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), which provides commercial and procurement services to the UK public sector.
MWR is a Qualified Security Assessor, meaning we have been qualified by PCI to validate other organisation's adherence to PCI DSS.
As members of CHECK we are measured against high standards set by NCSC for the services we provide to Her Majesty's Government.
MWR’s consultants hold Certified Simulated Attack Manager (CCSAM) and Certified Simulated Attack Specialist (CCSAS) qualifications and are authorized by CREST to perform STAR penetration testing services.