Attack Surfaces and Attack Surface Management
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A surprising outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic was a sharp rise in the rate of cybercrime impacting businesses. While cybercrime has been steadily trending up over the last ten years, this spike broke all-time records, leading to more companies being compromised than ever before.

As we continue to move further into a more complex digital landscape, the need for cyber protection has never been more astute. In this article, we’ll cover attack surfaces, revealing how automation of attack surface management can help defend your business from cybercrime and exploitation.

What is an attack surface?

An attack surface is every digital asset connected to an organization, whether they know about it or not. This could be a cloud network they use, third-party vendors’ systems that they contract, or even on-site digital assets the business uses on a daily basis.

Due to the complexity of the digital landscape, a business’ attack surface is constantly changing. More often than not, the change seen is the attack surface getting larger, providing further potential points of vulnerability for a company’s digital security. It’s recommended for companies to look to the MITRE ATT&CK framework for initial resources to boost their cybersecurity.

Especially after the global movement to work from home, creating a more pressing need for data exchange pathways, organizations’ attack surfaces have never been more prominent. Thus, it’s more vital than ever to start to use attack surface management as a core digital security strategy.

Why is it becoming harder to manage attack surfaces?

Attack surfaces are endlessly complicated fields, growing every single day as your business incorporates new systems, software elements, accounts, and services. There are three main reasons that attack surfaces are currently growing:

  • Movement to the Cloud – The cloud allows organizations to store data remotely, boosting access and ensuring digital backups in case anything were to go wrong. But, with this shift to the cloud also comes increased vulnerability, with some cloud services being more easily compromised compared to on-site storage.
  • Working From Home – Considering that working from home can increase productivity by up to 77%, combined with the global pandemic, it’s no surprise that working from home is now the new norm. However, working from home also means increased risk as data is passed through external pathways and systems.
  • Shifting Left – While shifting left has allowed businesses to deploy pipelines and create applications rapidly, this system leaves more vulnerabilities within the final product. As things take less time to create, the chance for human errors that lead to vulnerabilities is much higher.

While all three of these processes lead to more effective businesses and more rapid scalability, they also open your organization to further digital asset vulnerabilities.

Attack Surfaces and Attack Surface Management
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What is attack surface management?

Attack surface management is about approaching your digital assets from an attacker’s viewpoint, finding vulnerabilities, and removing them before they are exploited by someone with malicious intent. However, considering that your company’s attack surface is likely a vast system, it’s tough to cover all these points manually.

Typically, no matter how much expertise a digital security expert has, they’ll still find it difficult to even think of all the possible entry points, let alone test them for vulnerabilities and defend them.

That’s where attack surface management comes in, using automation to create a more secure online space for your business. This continuous form of monitoring will detect any attempts at entry, as well as provide a comprehensive risk rating for your business. These risk ratings will break down where potential vulnerabilities lie, guiding companies towards more comprehensive digital security.

Attack surface management is most commonly split into four segments:

  • Continuous Scanning – By performing reconnaissance on the internet, the automatic system will find information that attackers could use to gain entry into your systems.
  • Scan Accessible Digital Assets – Moving through subdomains, central infrastructure, leaked credentials, hacked passwords, and misconfigurations, an attack surface management program will find all exploitable intelligence that’s available online.
  • Third-Party Scans – By looking for vulnerabilities in third-party systems your business employs, you’ll further cover the attack surface of your business.
  • Risk Reports – After compiling findings, reports will be continuously generated and updated that detail the current security risk and ways to prevent or stop them entirely.

Attack surface management is a comprehensive, automatic solution to digital security risks.

Why does a business need attack surface management?

As digital attack surfaces continue to become larger and more complex, management is something that is becoming harder to deal with manually. While the digital landscape was once small enough to deal within a security team, the points of access and the many tactics hackers can now use has made this problem increasingly difficult.

Attack surface management software provides the solution, allowing businesses to automate this central aspect of digital security and defend their business from breaches. From battling the growing attack surface to automating the possible attacks that could happen from a hacker’s perspective, attack surface management is now vital when running an online business.

What are the benefits of attack surface management?

Alongside defending your business from cybercrime, there are several core benefits to incorporating attack surface management software into your company.

The three main benefits you can expect to see are:

  • Higher Visibility – With detailed reports, attack surface management will give you a more comprehensive outlook on your company’s digital footprint.
  • Shadow IT Risk Exposure – Shadow IT, known as services that have access to your systems without your company’s direct approval, presents a considerable risk to your security team. An automatic system will detect these shadow IT components, allowing you to take action.
  • Mitigate Crime – By exposing vulnerabilities ahead of time, you’ll be able to patch them and stop people from taking advantage of your business.

In this new digital age, there’s never been a more pressing time to start turning to automated security solutions.

Final Thoughts

As attack surface vulnerabilities continue to grow, new technologies have arisen that directly tackle the ever-increasing complexity of this problem.

Attack surface management tools allow your business to continuously detect, defend, and report on the threats targeting your organization. By employing these defense systems, you’re moving to block the radically increasing cybersecurity threat that’s now become a daily part of business.

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Evangeline Christina is a Cyber Security Enthusiast, Security Blogger, Technical Editor, Certified Ethical Hacker, Author at Previously, he worked as a security news reporter in a reputed news agency.