The Importance of Attack Surface Management

COVID-19 and digital transformation have created a massive attack surface that security teams find challenging to manage. ASM solutions help security teams monitor these external assets (including shadow IT, orphaned development websites, public code repositories, rogue servers, and third-party vendors) while continuously updating vulnerability detection capabilities.

ASM also helps teams identify risky exposures by comparing them against commercial and open-source threat intelligence, which allows teams to establish security standards for previously unmanaged assets and close vulnerabilities faster than attackers can exploit them.

Identifying Unknown Assets

An organization's external attack surface is ever-changing due to new cloud assets, IoT devices, or the misconfiguration of legacy assets. Unknown assets provide easy entry points for attackers and can result in significant damages to an organization if breached; that is why unknowable assets must be included in attack surface management programs.

The first step to successful attack surface management is identifying all internet-facing assets. This can be accomplished via black-box reconnaissance scanning, OSINT, or security solutions with built-in capabilities for tracking internal and cloud support. Accurate identification is essential to effective attack surface management programs; thus, tools with specific tracking abilities must be available.

Attack surface management

From your reconnaissance results, compiling a comprehensive record of all internet-facing assets and associated vulnerabilities is necessary. From here, categorize these assets based on risk and prioritize remediation measures against them - an essential aspect of an ASM program that necessitates having access to an updated platform which allows you to keep this record regularly updated.

Most security teams use internal and external tools to identify and track assets. Still, sometimes these tools cannot remember all threats posed by assets that could pose threats - this is especially true with cloud assets which can be challenging to track when misconfigured or dependent upon internal monitoring telemetry for monitoring purposes, leading to blind spots which attackers will gladly exploit.

Randori is the only solution that combines advanced Internet data intelligence and analysis with an efficient vulnerability scanning engine to offer complete visibility over all Internet-facing assets, such as cloud services and IoT devices. Our unique centre-of-mass approach discovers assets other solutions miss while giving an evolving picture of your attack surface, making managing and mitigating risk easier.

Maintaining an ever-increasing attack surface can be daunting, yet failing to identify and protect unknown assets exposes your business to threats from adversaries that pose the highest threats. One effective strategy for closing any gaps between known and unidentified assets would be identifying unknown ones and how best to secure them.

Mapping the Attack Surface

The attack surface refers to all avenues hackers could access your data, including passwords and encryption protocols. Furthermore, this term also encompasses code that safeguards critical paths and vulnerabilities that could be exploited.

Identifying your attack surface involves:

  • Understanding the relationship between systems and applications in your environment.
  • Mapping their interactions.
  • Pinpointing which users have the highest-level access rights in different parts of your system.

Before attempting to mitigate internal attack surfaces, it is critical to identify and map them. Pay particular attention to software packages that access data stores directly; these tend to be more accessible than backend accounts for automated processes that extend your attack surface but are harder to address effectively, such as systems which need access to SQL servers for functionality but might become an entryway for attackers.

After identifying your internal attack surface, you can begin reducing it through security best practices. This should include access rights management for internal areas and third-party risk analysis for external assets.

Attack surface management is an integral component of your cybersecurity strategy, given that hackers attempt a hack every 39 seconds and vary their attacks constantly to bypass your defences and avoid detection.

A practical attack surface management program identifies assets vulnerable to hacker compromise, classifies them according to their susceptibility, and closely monitors for new threats or security gaps in the landscape. It should augment your current defences by giving more visibility into active ecosystems within your network and increasing control over data movement.

Prioritizing Remediation

As well as considering the organizational risk associated with each vulnerability, it is also crucial to evaluate its remediation effort. Vulnerabilities that can be resolved quickly with one patch have lower severity ratings than those requiring multiple steps since patch implementation depends on factors like asset visibility, ownership, function, and value - prioritization allows organizations to identify those with the highest risks while mitigating organizational effects.

With attacks occurring every 39 seconds, the attack surface expands faster than security teams can keep pace. To stay one step ahead of attackers and prioritize remediation efforts more effectively, an attack surface management (ASM) solution that offers forward-looking and human-validated views of its attack surface is key for keeping up.

Traditional ASM solutions rely on penetration testing and threat intelligence to identify and prioritize vulnerabilities based on their relative importance to an organization. However, attackers' methods to exploit these vulnerabilities constantly change, resulting in false positives for the security team and an inability to measure impactful business issues.

A practical approach involves a human-first process that considers the business impact of each vulnerability and any required resources to resolve it. Attack graph analysis technology can assist by locating short paths to critical assets, assessing the effects of chained low vulnerabilities, and suggesting cost-efficient remediation options.

Coalfire Attack Surface Management offers a leading ASM solution which integrates OSINT reconnaissance, automation and human penetration testing to identify new exposures, track public-facing assets and continuously scan and monitor the externally-facing infrastructure of your organization. With its holistic, continuous approach, ASM enables organizations to prioritize remediation efforts based on an attacker's perspective and effectively confidently manage external threat surfaces. In addition, bidirectional APIs support existing vulnerability management workflows, including SIEM systems, ticketing systems and asset management tools.

Monitoring the Perimeter

Modern Attack Surface Management necessitates continuous monitoring of every online asset owned or hosted externally by an organization, including assets owned directly by them or third parties, like cloud infrastructure, IaaS/SaaS services, wikis, and code repositories. Regular discovery, monitoring, and swift remediation are fundamental elements of an effective security posture program.

Many organizations contain thousands, if not millions, of internet-facing assets, which often go undetected by traditional tools and processes - leaving attackers to exploit any vulnerabilities uncovered through hidden blind spots to bypass hardened defences. Gaps in coverage could include forgotten assets, misconfigurations and vulnerabilities needing to be addressed quickly enough by organizations.

An Attack Surface Management solution can assist organizations undergoing significant transitions such as digital transformation, cloud migration or shadow IT. Such an attack surface management solution will detect new assets and vulnerabilities and misconfigurations across an ecosystem of internet-facing assets - it even helps reveal dark web assets or those exposed by data breaches!

A good solution should provide clear and prioritized action for each identified risk, which can be done by evaluating vulnerability ratings, business impact analysis, and other criteria. This information can then be passed directly to the team responsible for remediation and prioritizing defensive strategies like firewalls and micro-segmentation.

Virtually all modern compliances, regulatory standards and data protection laws rely on continuous Attack Surface Management of some sort. If implemented effectively, Attack Surface Management can significantly simplify the adoption of NIST frameworks, PCI DSS, GDPR etc. And can significantly decrease the chances of costly data breaches due to human error or other undetected exposures. In addition to continuous Attack Surface Monitoring and multifactor authentication for account accesses, good defences should also be in place against exploited weak points with password policies, multifactor authentication, and awareness training, thus making it much harder for attackers to gain entry and infiltrate organizations with malware/ransomware etc.

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