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A better way to stay ahead of attacks: Security Command Center adds attack path simulation

June 13, 2023
Joakim Nydrén

Product Manager, Google Cloud Security

To help secure increasingly complex and dynamic cloud environments, many security teams are turning to attack path analysis tools. These tools can enable them to better prioritize security findings and discover pathways that adversaries can exploit to access and compromise cloud assets such as virtual machines, databases, and storage buckets.

Other attack path tools rely on static, point-in-time snapshots of an organization’s cloud footprint, which often contain sensitive data about their environment, how it is configured, and where the most sensitive data resides.

At Google Cloud, we are taking a different approach. We are excited to announce today at the Google Cloud Security Summit that we are adding attack path simulation to Security Command Center, our built-in security and risk management solution for Google Cloud. This new risk management capability automatically analyzes a customer’s Google Cloud environment to pinpoint where and, importantly, how vulnerable resources may be attacked, so security teams can stay one step ahead of adversaries.

We expect attack path simulation capabilities to be available in Security Command Center Premium later this summer.


Unlike some third-party security products, Security Command Center continuously scans an organization’s cloud environment gathering near real-time data about cloud resources and security vulnerabilities. Our attack path simulation engine uses this information to automatically generate and render high-risk attack paths, without the hands-on toil of having to repeatedly run manual queries.

A different approach to attack path analysis

Other attack path analysis tools involve significant operational toil. The static, point-in-time snapshots that these tools generate have to be sent to an external provider, which can add risk. Then security teams have to follow up with complex queries before they can identify likely attack paths. 

Google Cloud’s advanced attack simulation engine leverages our first-party, agentless visibility of Google Cloud assets, the relationships between assets, and the current state of defenses. Attack path simulation is fully automated with no need to manually run queries. Simulations run in the Google Cloud environment, and do not send snapshots outside your environment, avoiding exposure of sensitive information.

See what attackers can see

Effective attack path analysis should mimic how a real-world attacker can reach and compromise high value resources. This is why Security Command Center simulates how attackers try many different ways to infiltrate a cloud environment. SCC then generates attack path graphs to give defenders insight into how adversaries could exploit a single security weakness or various combinations of security vulnerabilities to access valuable assets. SCC also provides detailed information on how to remediate issues and shore up defenses based on its findings

Attack path graphs in Security Command Center Premium

We are delivering combined attack path simulation and analysis as a managed service. There are no agents to install or manage. Results automatically reflect changes in your organization’s Google Cloud environment. Because our attack path simulations are conducted on models of an organization’s cloud resources, there is no performance or operational impact to the live production environment.

Better security prioritization

Security Command Center automatically computes an attack exposure score for misconfigurations and vulnerabilities that expose valuable resources to attackers. The score is a measure of cyber risk. It takes into account how exposed valued resources are, and the paths of least resistance for attackers to reach those resources. 

Security teams can use these scores to prioritize remediation efforts and improve their overall risk posture.

New attack exposure scoring for Security Command Center Premium

How attack path analysis has already reduced risk for customers 

Dozens of customers have already used our attack path capabilities in private Preview to improve their security posture and reduce their operational risk.

Security Command Center alerted one customer to a finding with a high attack exposure score. The finding was related to a service account whose keys were not being rotated. After reviewing the attack paths related to this finding, the cloud security manager discovered that even though the service account was named “test,” it provided access to storage buckets outside of the test environment. 

If an attacker had been able to steal the credentials for this test account, they could have easily accessed production data. The security manager removed administrator privileges on the account. The attack path simulation enhanced their understanding of the severity of the finding, and helped convince them to make it a high-priority fix.  

Another customer using attack path simulation needed to assess which security findings created the greatest risk. Two findings related to the same service account with high exposure scores rose to the top of the list. The attack paths revealed that the service account had access to more than 500 storage buckets. If an attacker were to gain access to this account they would be able to read, write, or delete data across any of those buckets, many of which contained sensitive business data and confidential customer information.

Using Security Command Center’s attack path results, the security team remediated the risk by limiting permissions to the storage buckets needed for that specific role.  

Next steps

Attack path simulation capabilities are planned for availability later this summer.  We expect forthcoming enhancements to use Security AI Workbench to translate complex attack graphs to human-readable explanations of attack exposure, including impacted assets and recommended mitigations.

You can learn more about Nordnet Bank’s experience using attack path simulation at our Security Summit session. To get started with Security Command Center today, please go to the Google Cloud console.

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