Beyond vulnerability scanning: Enhancing attack surface management for more proactive security

October 13, 2022

What Is Attack Surface Management, And How Does It Affect You?

By: Randori Blog

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All companies with digital assets have an attack surface – whether they know it or not. The risk of cyber terrorists targeting digital assets has greatly increased. Attack surface management offers a proactive approach to keeping your business safe.

What Is A Company’s Attack Surface, and How is it Managed?

Attack Surface Management, or ASM, has changed rapidly in recent years as more and more corporations and organizations utilize external data storage systems, real-time file access, and remote workers. However, the purpose of attack surface management hasn’t changed; it protects all digital assets. This goal is vital to all modern companies with digital assets, as the threat of cyberattacks has never been larger. In a study of 160 large corporations, 68% of upper management claimed their cybersecurity was insufficient to protect the company’s assets adequately. Furthermore, in the year 2021 alone, there were over 22 billion records exposed due to data breaches. Despite these incredible numbers, it’s estimated that only 5% of company data is secured properly. 

Part of the lapse in adequate cybersecurity is the complicated nature of each entity’s attack surface. The daunting task of comprehending a company’s entire attack surface can discourage many companies, no matter the size. Regardless, of whether a company has digital assets, past or present, they are at more risk now than ever before and an attack surface management solution is vital.

Attack Surface Explained

The National Institute Of Standards and Technology, or the NIST, defines an attack surface as, “The set of points on the boundary of a system, a system element, or an environment [the assets] where an attacker can try to enter, cause an effect on, or extract data from…”. Simply put, a company’s attack surface refers to all the potential points of access that a cyber threat actor could target, infiltrate, and take data from.  Any digital asset that is at risk from a cyber threat organization or hacker, is a part of the attack surface. It doesn’t matter if the asset is in use or not, active or inactive. Contributing digital assets can be on-site, remotely stored in the Cloud, or even in subsidiary software and vendor networks.  In most cases, even if the presiding security team considers them secure, every susceptible IT asset is at risk. The risk of hacker access increases if there are unknown assets or unmanaged areas of the corporate network. 

Each company or corporation’s attack surface is unique and constantly shifting as that company itself evolves over time. Any new initiative, venture, network revision or addition, or digital transformation, adds to the attack surface. It’s a complex and evolving system of weak spots requiring a strong security posture that combines threat management, threat intelligence, risk management, and regular penetration testing. Attack surface management starts with a security team that understands and thoroughly monitors all weak spots where a cyber threat actor could create a pathway to restricted data, otherwise known as attack vectors.

Attack Vectors

The potential points of access to a computer or network containing private or sensitive information are called attack vectors.  Attack vectors can be created, and subsequently exploited, anywhere a corporate system is vulnerable and needs to be continually monitored, evaluated, and secured by security teams. Weak points can include digital assets systems, weak customer and employee logins.

All the attack vectors in one company’s system, networks, software, and devices are the company’s attack surface. People can also be considered attack vectors as they can leak key information that leads to cyber threat access, so employees and customers are also sometimes considered part of the attack surface. Therefore, the bigger the company, the more attack vectors, and therefore, the larger the attack surface.

Cyber Threat Actors

Cyber threat actors and organizations are constantly looking at their target company’s digital assets in order to find weaknesses and build attack vectors. Once an attack vector has been created, hackers then can launch a cyberattack and steal corporate data. This often occurs in the form of malware or phishing attacks designed to steal user logins and then use them to access even more corporate and customer information. Once inside a digital corporate network, hackers find information they can monetize like customer or employee information databases, IP addresses, corporate data, banking information, customer logins, and marketing data.

Attack Surface Management; Unique Tools for A Complex Problem

Attack surface management, or ASM, is the continuous and constant monitoring of potential points of access, weak spots, and active attack vectors by combing through the corporation’s entire network.

This process can include several methods of sorting, classifying, and evaluating all the digital assets in a company, organization, or entity.  Considering the ever-evolving nature of each company’s digital network, it’s more important than ever to have a proactive ASM in place before attack vectors have a chance to be placed.

The attack surface management solution of a large company or organization can utilize specialists, security, and IT best practices when it comes to asset discovery (automated login systems), vulnerability management, and attack mitigation plans. 

Red Teams

One of the ways that cybersecurity teams do this is by utilizing Red Teams. This innovative method uses a team of professionals who actively try to determine network weaknesses, create attack vectors, and access data. By emulating a potential attack, the corporation’s IT and cybersecurity teams can practice data-breach mitigation plans, correct weaknesses, and test the safeguards already in place. 

Cyber Asset Attack Surface Management (CAASM)

In 2021 an innovative technology was created to monitor all internal and external assets in real-time, sort through them effectively, and more easily identify the gaps in security as well as weak spots.

With this tool, ASM teams are more effective than ever at avoiding cyberattacks and spotting attack vectors as they are created. 

External Attack Surface Management (EASM)

Large corporations and organizations are vulnerable to cyberattacks that stem from their third-party vendors and subsidiaries. With external attack surface management, cybersecurity companies can now monitor partnered companies’ digital assets from outside servers, cloud storage, and software code. This allows companies to create yet another net of safety from cyberattacks.

Assessing Your Attack Surface Management Solution

If your company or organization doesn’t have an attack surface management solution, then you are at a greater risk for cyberattacks and subsequent data breaches. Randori can help you assess your company’s weaknesses and add new safeguards to your network.

Get your free Randori Attack Surface Demo HERE.

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