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Your Quick Guide to Attack Surface Management and How it Can Fortify Your IT Environment

If you want to know what attack surface management is and why it’s important, then this guide is for you.

Data shows that external attackers can breach 93% of organizations’ network perimeters and access local network resources.

The figure highlights the importance of implementing protection measures to secure your networks and systems from attacks.

That is why you need attack surface management to help cover all your bases and keep malicious actors from infiltrating your organization’s entire IT infrastructure.

Adopting reliable solutions and technologies to manage your attack surface is one of the critical cybersecurity best practices for Small-to-Medium Businesses, and this guide can tell you why.

Let’s jump right in.

What is attack surface management?

Before diving into the nuts and bolts of Attack Surface Management (ASM), let’s go over what an attack surface means.

An attack surface refers to all the internet-accessible software, hardware, cloud assets, and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) that store and process your data.

Your attack surface is the total number of attack vectors cybercriminals can use to manipulate your system or network to steal and breach your data.

An attack surface includes the following:

Vendors. Large or small vendors can introduce significant third and even fourth-party security risks into your organization since you share some personal data with them.
Known assets. Managed and inventoried assets, such as your servers, websites, and dependencies that run on them, can have exploitable attack vectors.
Unknown assets. Unsanctioned technologies and apps (known as shadow IT) can open your networks and systems to security risks. These often have security vulnerabilities that introduce exploitable weaknesses to your organization’s IT environment.
Rogue assets. Malicious infrastructure such as typosquatting domains, malware, a mobile app, or a website can impersonate your domain.

Attack surface management refers to the continuous discovery, inventory, monitoring, and classification of an organization’s IT infrastructure. It approaches the process and other security-related tasks from an attacker’s view.

You can also implement ASM with other cybersecurity tactics, such as the MITRE ATT&CK framework.

For instance, you can leverage ASM in the MITRE ATT&CK framework’s reconnaissance stage to identify information attackers can gather and use for future attacks on your systems.

Attack Surface Management can help protect your organization from risks that stem from the following:

Internet of Things (IoT), shadow IT, and legacy assets
Human errors and omissions (e.g., data leaks and phishing)
Using unknown open source software
Using Outdated and vulnerable software
Infringement of intellectual property
Vendor managed assets
Large-scale attacks across your industry
IT inherited from your Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) activities
Targeted cyber-attacks on your organization

How ASM helps protect your IT infrastructure

Attack surface management can realign your perspective from a defender to an attacker.

It helps you and your security team be better at uncovering and prioritizing your organization’s attack surface areas.

Below are more specific ways ASM can help keep your organization updated with your IT environment’s most critical attack vectors.

Discovers your assets

Like most organizations, you could have a surprising number of unknown assets.

Some of the most common are assets housed on third-party or partner websites, IoT devices, workloads that run on public cloud environments, services enabled through shadow IT, and abandoned credentials and IP addresses (among others).

Legacy processes and tools can miss these attack surface assets easily.

A solid attack surface management program and platform can provide a solution.

It allows your security team to implement sophisticated reconnaissance tactics and techniques as attacks to spot and manage your organization’s attack surface assets seamlessly.

Facilitates continuous testing

Testing your attack surface thoroughly and repeatedly helps you uncover potential points of entry and attack techniques effectively.

The more new devices, services, workloads, and users you add to your IT infrastructure, the higher your attack surface and security risks.

Besides the risks of new vulnerabilities, a growing IT environment and security tasks can lead to data exposures, misconfigurations, and other security gaps.

That is why you need to test for all possible attack surfaces regularly.

Doing so helps you keep your understanding of your attack vectors updated.

ASM allows you to continuously adjust or add new tools and techniques to optimize your attack surface management program, strengthening your protection against potential cyber-attacks.

Gives you crucial context

Not all attack vectors are the same, making it crucial for your security team to get business context and ownership to manage your attack surface effectively.

The catch is that legacy processes and tools don’t usually provide context consistently, making it challenging to prioritize what to fix.

With a solid ASM approach, you can get information such as the IP address and device type, including whether it’s in current use, its owner, connections to other assets, purpose, and potential vulnerabilities.

ASM can help your security team prioritize your organization’s cyber risks and determine whether an asset should be patched, deleted, taken down, or monitored more closely.

Prioritizes risks

In most cases, the number of potential attack surfaces or vectors you discover in your IT infrastructure is more than your security team can validate and remediate.

As such, you’ll need to gather all context and use it to determine where to focus your remediation efforts first.

An attack surface management platform and program can help you achieve this by using criteria such as easy discoverability, ease of exploitation, remediation complexity, and attacker priority.

You’ll get the necessary information and context to prioritize the most urgent risks to your IT environment and cybersecurity.

Provides remediation information

After mapping and contextualizing your attack surface, you can start working on remediation based on priority.

The remediation aspect of your ASM process can be as effective as possible with the following:

Facilitate and automate your information handoff from the tools and security operations team that knows the risks (and priorities) to the IT team responsible for implementing remediation.
Share business context and how-to-fix data to streamline your ASM remediation process.

Manage your attack surface for stronger protection

All it takes for a malicious actor to carry out an attack is a single vulnerability in your IT infrastructure.

ASM can significantly reduce that risk, allowing you to identify attack vectors and assets before attackers can find and exploit them.

Strengthen your cybersecurity with a solid ASM program and platform.

It’s a critical part of a robust threat intelligence approach to help mitigate the risks of data leaks and breaches in your organization.

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