As organizations increasingly rely on technology and the internet, their attack surface has expanded, making them more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. In this article, we will examine the common vulnerabilities and exposures that form the digital attack surface and the risks they pose to organizations and individuals.
What is a Digital Attack Surface?
The digital attack surface refers to the sum of all potential points of entry into a digital system or network that an attacker could exploit. This includes all the entry points, which expose data and assets. The digital attack surface includes a variety of assets, such as hardware, software, networks, and people, and it encompasses the entire digital footprint of an organization or individual.
Software vendors, security researchers, and even users are the ones who regularly discover those vulnerabilities and exposures. When a vulnerability is discovered, it is reported to a Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) Numbering Authority. Once a vulnerability is assigned a CVE ID, it can be used to track the vulnerability across multiple systems and platforms, including bug trackers, security advisories, and national vulnerability databases.
By understanding and mapping the digital attack surface, organizations can identify their most critical assets and the potential vulnerabilities and exposures that cyber attackers could exploit. They can then use this information to prioritize security measures and implement effective defense strategies to reduce the risk of potential attacks.
Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures in the Digital Attack Surface
Here are some of the most common vulnerabilities in the digital attack surface.
1. Software Vulnerabilities
Unpatched software and operating systems are some of the most exploited attack vectors in cyber-attacks. Cyber attackers can exploit these vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to an organization’s network or steal sensitive data.
The WannaCry ransomware attack of 2017, which affected more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries, was a prime example of the consequences of unpatched software. The attack exploited a security vulnerability in Microsoft Windows, which had already been patched by the software vendor. However, many organizations and individuals had not installed the patch, leaving their systems open to attack.
Software vendors regularly release security patches to fix vulnerabilities in their products, but if these patches are not installed, systems and networks remain vulnerable to cyber attackers. To prevent this, it’s important to keep all your software updated with the latest security patches.
2. Human Error
Employees can also be a weak link in an organization’s security system. Human error can range from poor password management to falling for phishing scams. Passwords are the first line of defense against cyber threats. Unfortunately, many people still use weak passwords that can be easily cracked. Training employees on cybersecurity best practices and conducting regular security awareness training can help reduce the risk of human error.
3. Social Engineering
Social engineering attacks are becoming increasingly common and sophisticated, exploiting human weaknesses rather than technical vulnerabilities. These attacks often involve tricking individuals into revealing sensitive information or downloading malware onto their computers.
Examples of social engineering attacks include phishing emails that appear to be from a trusted source, such as a bank or a government agency and phone calls from individuals posing as technical support personnel. Organizations must educate their employees about the dangers of social engineering and how to identify them.
4. Outdated Software and Hardware
Outdated software and hardware can also create vulnerabilities in the digital attack surface. As technology evolves, older systems and devices may no longer receive security updates or may be unable to run the latest security software. For example, companies often design Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as smart home systems, to be low-cost and easy to use. However, many of these devices have security flaws that can be easily exploited by threat actors.
5. Unsecure Cloud Services
Cloud services have become more popular than ever before due to the benefits they offer, such as scalability and cost savings. Because of the convenience that cloud storages offer, many organizations use them to store sensitive data. However, the use of cloud services can also contribute to an expanding attack surface. Improperly configured cloud services can lead to data breaches and unauthorized access to systems. Ensuring proper security controls and monitoring of cloud services is crucial in mitigating these cyber risks.
6. Insufficient Network Segmentation
Insufficient network segmentation refers to the lack of proper division of a network into smaller, isolated parts. When network administrators do not properly segment networks, attackers can often move laterally within the network with few barriers to stop them. This can result in the attacker gaining access to sensitive information and systems, such as financial data or critical infrastructure.
Insufficient network segmentation can also result in the propagation of malware or other malicious activities throughout a network. In such cases, the attack can quickly spread, causing widespread damage and disruption.
To mitigate the security risks associated with insufficient network segmentation, security teams can implement proper network segmentation techniques, such as creating firewalls, access controls, and network segmentation. This can help restrict access to sensitive information and systems, preventing an attacker from moving laterally within the network.
Understanding the common vulnerabilities and exposures within a digital attack surface is essential in securing your organization against cyber-attacks. Regular software updates, proper cloud security, secure IoT devices, and security awareness training can help reduce the attack surface of many organizations and prevent potential cyber-attacks.
Randori’s leading Attack Surface Management platform can help you reduce your attack surface. At Randori, we find your external internet-facing assets including those exposed to nation-state attackers, determine where you’re exposed, and stop ransomware before it strikes.