How to Use Active Defense in Your Cybersecurity Program

18 July 2022 | by Hannah Brice

Cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated with the technology and techniques they use to gain access to businesses’ infrastructure. This is why IT security professionals invest heavily in vulnerability scanners and traditional defences. Identifying weaknesses in their network and systems overall helps to resolve them before hackers have a chance to exploit these points and attack.

SOC analyst

While this may seem like the best strategy, it presents three problems.

First, it’s reactive. Even though scanners try to find vulnerability early, the results dictate the next step instead of your security team.

Second, even if a scanner finds every vulnerability, your team may not have the capacity to manage them, leaving parts of the system exposed.

Finally, it doesn’t help in protecting critical infrastructure against zero-day vulnerabilities. Zero-day exploits are vulnerabilities that developers may not know about or don’t yet have a patch for. According to MIT Technology Review, cybersecurity defenders found at least 66 zero-days in 2021. That’s twice as many as the year before and more than any recorded year prior.

To truly take control of the cybersecurity fight, you need to consider different response strategies – in this case, active defense. But what is it, and why is it vital to network protection?

What is active defense?

The term active defense refers to a set of cybersecurity strategies and techniques that organizations can use to proactively defend themselves against cyber threats. Active cyber defense is a more proactive and aggressive approach to security than the traditional passive defense, which focuses on detection and response after an attack has occurred.

Active cyber defense can be used as part of a comprehensive security program that includes both prevention and detection/response capabilities. When used correctly, offensive driven strategies can help organizations better defend themselves against cyber threats, and minimize the impact of attacks when they do occur.

While active defense has been traditionally employed by governments and militaries, it is now being adopted by businesses of all sizes as the threat of cyber attacks grows.

Types of active defense

We can group active defense tactics by their functions. Namely: detection, deterrence, and attribution. Most security techniques fall into one of those groups, with active defense platforms combining them to offer all three functions.

Let’s look at the tactics within each type.


Early detection is key to active defense. Being able to detect security threats quickly and accurately reduces the response time to alerts. Cyber deception measures like tripwires and honey accounts trigger when external threat actors try to access sensitive files. Cyber deception focuses on applying offense driven strategies, offensive actions, and to derail attacks early.

This can be achieved by deploying realistic device decoys, to generate breadcrumbs (e.g., decoy files, decoy accounts, etc…). Of course, these files and services are created to alert you without raising the attacker’s suspicion and most importantly, proactively detect the presence of attackers engaging with organizations services during the reconnaissance, or exploitation phases oof the attack.


In the real world and cyberspace, deterrence is the first line of defense against intruders. The harder a system is to penetrate, the less incentive there is for attackers. Resource-heavy measures discourage lower–end attacks while frustrating higher-end threats who make the attempt.

The main tactics are:

  • Vulnerability management: Keeping systems up-to-date with the latest security patches and configurations can help to make them more resistant to attack.
  • Application allow-listing: Application allow-listing can be used to restrict access which programs can run on a system, preventing malicious code from executing.
  • Access control: Implementing strong access controls (e.g., least privilege) can help to limit the damage that can be caused by a successful attack.
  • Network segmentation: Segmenting networks into smaller, more manageable segments can help to contain the spread of an attack and make it easier to identify and isolate malicious activity.

Unconventional tactics are:

  • Expose decoy information: The first step of an attack cycle is to research information on the target companies and obtain data that can help carry an attack successfully. Sharing faux information on the cybersecurity technology used can give you the upper hand.In the words of Sun Tzu, “Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.”This technique may not only help proactively detect, and confuse attackers early, it might help you monitor a live attack, obtain forensic information, and possibly identifying the varying motivations of attackers.


Lastly, attribution help you generate valuable security reports on attackers. This is another point where cyber deceptionplays a big part.

Cyber deception technology is a rapidly growing field that offers new and innovative ways to detect and defend against cyber attacks. Using deception technology, you can undermine cyber adversaries at every turn. False targets or decoys can help you detect attackers as soon as they prove your infrastructure (as mentioned above in Detection), and will lure them away from critical systems and data. What deception also allows you to dom is monitor the behavior of the attacker while there are in the trap to collect information about their methods and intentions.

An incredible technology, which, when used correctly, can make it more difficult for attackers to penetrate your network, help you detect and respond to attacks more quickly, and help you prevent similar attacks in the future.

As the use of deception technology grows, so does the need for qualified professionals who are skilled in its use. Deception technology specialists must have a deep understanding of how cyber attacks are conducted and be able to design effective decoys that will work with even the most sophisticated attackers.

Active defense raises the bar for attackers

Active cyber defence is the use of offensive manoeuvres to outmanoeuvre an adversary and make an attack more difficult to carry out. Its proactive approach seeks to deny an attacker the initiative, and force them onto the defensive.

Active cyber defence is not a static concept; it is an ever-evolving doctrine that must be constantly adapted to meet the changing nature of its environment and the attack surface. When employed effectively, active defence can be a powerful tool for deterring or defeating an adversary.

By making it more expensive for an attacker in terms of time and processing power, active defence strategies can deter or even stop many attacks before they cause any damage. In today’s threat landscape, organisations need to be proactive in their defence, applying offensive-driven strategies to detect and stop external and internal threat actors. Hence, by taking an active cyber defence stance, organisations can significantly reduce their exposure to risk.

Choosing an active defense provider

Organizations should tailor their active defense strategy to fit their specific needs and objectives. Not all active defense techniques will be appropriate for every organization, and the most effective approach will vary depending on the types of threats faced, the size and complexity of the organization, and other factors.

While cybersecurity should always be tailored to your specific network, most active defense providers need to offer the same baseline features.

There are a number of factors to consider when choosing an active defense provider, including

  • What part of the MITRE ATT&CK framework or Kill Chain do they cover?
  • How are deception and active cyber defense strategies deployed at scale?
  • What type of decoys do they offer?
  • What is the provider ability to tailor their services to your needs?
  • Will they help you build your active defense strategy?

The Lupovis Deception as a Service platform offers you the active defense measures you need for proactive security. Responsive and easy to use, it’s a powerful tool for AI-based deception and threat intelligence.

Getting started

Active defense can be as complex as it is powerful, but it shouldn’t be confusing. Every organization that uses it needs to know its core elements and techniques. Most importantly, organizations should be able to evaluate how an active defense model fits into their critical infrastructure.

The simpler this process is, the easier it is to integrate the technology. It takes a coordinated effort from management to cybersecurity teams to make the most of its capabilities.

On the platform side, there’s no better asset than a provider that knows how to fit your network with the right active defense controls. At Lupovis, we designed a platform that’s fast, frictionless, and easy to maintain. From generating decoys to automated incident responses, Lupovis offers effective and effortless security.

Request a demo today and get a real-time look into the industry-leading measures designed for modern-day infrastructure.

18 July 2022 | by Hannah Brice

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