Wed, Mar 6, 2024

Attack Surface Management: Tips, Tools & Strategies

Professionals in the cybersecurity industry have much to consider regarding the various approaches and types of tooling required to keep their organizations secure. There are significant known cybersecurity threats and a constant danger of new “zero-day” vulnerabilities. One comprehensive strategy growing in popularity for mitigating the associated risks generated by these threats and vulnerabilities is Attack Surface Management (ASM).

Attack Surface Management refers to the process of identifying and managing the potential vulnerabilities and entry points that attackers can exploit to gain unauthorized access to a system or network. It involves assessing and reducing the organization’s attack surface to enhance its security posture and minimize the risk of successful cyber-attacks.

Given the ever-growing number of cyber threats and vulnerabilities, the importance of Attack Surface Management has become increasingly evident. As technology advances and organizations become more interconnected, the attack surface expands, allowing hackers to exploit weaknesses. ASM plays a vital role in mitigating these risks by proactively identifying and addressing vulnerabilities, ensuring organizations stay one step ahead of potential attackers.

Organizations must be selective when choosing an Attack Surface Management vendor that aligns with their specific needs. The selection process involves evaluating the vendor's capabilities and expertise, as well as the tools they offer to manage and reduce the attack surface effectively. Organizations using ASM can enhance their cybersecurity defenses and protect their valuable assets from potential cyber threats.

This article aims to define ASM, highlight some of the benefits associated with EASM, provide an overview of strategies for implementing EASM in your organization, and offer some practical tips on what to look for in an EASM vendor.

What is Attack Surface Management (ASM)?

Attack Surface Management refers to the systematic approach of recognizing, evaluating, and controlling the vulnerabilities within an organization's digital infrastructure. It involves identifying, analyzing, and managing the potential entry points that attackers may exploit. By implementing ASM, organizations gain a comprehensive understanding of their digital footprint, enabling them to proactively address security risks.

ASM plays a crucial role in helping organizations comprehend their digital presence and the various avenues for attackers to infiltrate their systems. It involves conducting asset discovery to identify all the components and assets within the organization's network. This is followed by vulnerability assessment, which involves evaluating these assets' weaknesses and potential vulnerabilities. Finally, risk prioritization is performed to determine each vulnerability's severity and potential impact, allowing organizations to allocate resources effectively.

The key components of ASM include asset discovery, vulnerability assessment, and risk prioritization.

  • Asset discovery involves mapping an organization's digital infrastructure, including hardware, software, and network components.
  • Vulnerability assessment identifies and evaluates potential weaknesses and vulnerabilities within these assets.
  • Risk prioritization helps organizations determine the criticality of each vulnerability, allowing them to prioritize remediation efforts based on the potential impact on their systems and data.

Organizations can enhance their security posture and mitigate potential risks by effectively managing these components.

What is External Attack Surface Management (EASM)?

While ASM has become a somewhat familiar term in cybersecurity, a newer, more focused term has emerged: External Attack Surface Management.

External Attack Surface Management (EASM) is a proactive approach focusing on an organization's external assets, such as internet-facing systems, applications, and services. By thoroughly understanding and managing these assets, organizations can gain several advantages.

As outlined by Forrester, External Attack Surface Management offers several benefits to organizations by identifying and understanding external-facing assets and their associated risks. EASM enables organizations to prioritize their security efforts by focusing on the most critical vulnerabilities and reducing the attack surface. It also helps detect and mitigate potential threats and vulnerabilities before attackers can exploit them. By implementing EASM, organizations can enhance their overall security resilience and protect their valuable assets from cyber threats.

External Attack Surface Management (EASM) Benefits

  • Gain a Comprehensive View of the Attack Surface

    EASM allows   organizations to gain a comprehensive view of their attack surface, which includes all the potential entry points for attackers. This visibility enables organizations to prioritize their security efforts and allocate resources effectively.
  • Identify Vulnerabilities in External Assets

    Attack surface monitoring helps organizations identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in their external assets. By conducting regular assessments and scans, organizations can discover potential security gaps and take appropriate measures to address them. This proactive approach allows organizations to stay one step ahead of attackers and reduce the likelihood of successful attacks.
  • Provide Insight into an Organization’s Digital Footprint

    EASM also provides organizations with insights into their digital footprint. By understanding what information is publicly available about them, they can assess the potential risks associated with this exposure. This knowledge allows organizations to take necessary steps to minimize their digital footprint and reduce the likelihood of targeted attacks.
  • Continuously Monitor and Assess Security Posture

    One of the key benefits of attack surface analysis is the ability to continuously monitor and assess the security posture of internet-facing assets. This includes conducting regular vulnerability scans, penetration testing, and threat intelligence analysis. By doing so, organizations can identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in their systems and take appropriate actions to mitigate these risks before attackers exploit them.
  • Continuously Monitor and Assess Security Posture

    One of the key benefits of attack surface analysis is the ability to continuously monitor and assess the security posture of internet-facing assets. This includes conducting regular vulnerability scans, penetration testing, and threat intelligence analysis. By doing so, organizations can identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in their systems and take appropriate actions to mitigate these risks before attackers exploit them.
  • Identify Misconfigurations and Insecure Practices

    EASM also supports the identification of misconfigurations and insecure practices that may expose organizations to potential attacks. By regularly reviewing and auditing the configurations of internet-facing assets, organizations can ensure that they adhere to security best practices and minimize the risk of exploitation.
  • Timely Detection and Response to Emerging Threats

    EASM also enables organizations to detect and respond to emerging threats and vulnerabilities in a timely manner. By staying updated with the latest security trends and threat intelligence, organizations can proactively address potential risks and prevent successful attacks.

    The value of EASM cannot be overstated when it comes to minimizing attack surfaces, improving security posture, and averting data breaches. By focusing on external assets, organizations can significantly reduce their attack surface, lessening the total number of potential entry points for attackers. By identifying and securing these entry points, organizations can effectively limit the avenues for attackers to gain unauthorized access.

EASM Approaches

Several key strategies should be implemented as part of any effective EASM program. Each of the following strategies is regarded as essential to cybersecurity best practice, as outlined by The Center for Internet Security (CIS) Controls and the U.S. National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework (CSF). When deployed together comprehensively, they also provide the basis for a robust EASM program.

The integration of threat intelligence and proactive risk mitigation emerges as a key factor in effective EASM. This can be achieved by leveraging threat intelligence and incident response services that can keep the organization aware of known threats, indicators of compromise and best practices for mitigation and remediation. By staying informed about potential threats and taking preemptive measures, organizations can enhance their defenses and reduce the likelihood of security breaches.

Penetration testing and red teaming also play a vital role in identifying vulnerabilities and strengthening defenses. These techniques allow organizations to simulate real-world attacks, uncover weaknesses, and implement necessary improvements to safeguard their systems and data. By doing so, the organization can test the effectiveness of its security approach and detection and response capabilities.

An examination of successful approaches for EASM reveals the crucial role of ongoing surveillance and frequent vulnerability scans. When used in tandem with the previous strategies of threat and mitigation intelligence and systems testing, a robust security program begins to form. In fact, these practices are essential for maintaining a secure environment and minimizing potential risks.

Choosing Between External Attack Surface Management Vendors

When choosing between External Attack Surface Management vendors, organizations should consider several factors. These include the vendor's expertise and experience in the field, the comprehensiveness and accuracy of their attack surface assessment tools, the scalability and flexibility of their solutions, and the level of support and customer service they provide.

It is important to select a vendor that aligns with your organization's specific needs and requirements and can build an ASM strategy tailored to your unique risk profile. You should also evaluate the vendor's reputation and track record in the industry to ensure they are reliable and trustworthy partners in managing their attack surface effectively.

Buyers should consider ASM and EASM vendor offerings by reviewing their pricing models, the reliability of their customer support services, and the extent of their reporting capabilities. By doing so, you can make an informed decision and select a vendor that aligns with your budget and security priorities.

Bolster Your Defenses with EASM

In today's cybersecurity landscape, adopting effective EASM practices is paramount. Organizations must understand the importance of ASM and take proactive measures to mitigate risks and minimize vulnerabilities. By exploring EASM tools, strategies, and vendors, they can bolster their security defenses and safeguard their valuable digital assets.


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