Tue, Mar 5, 2024

What is Continuous Threat Exposure Management?

In 2022, Gartner coined the term and concept of continuous threat exposure management (CTEM) — a five-stage approach that continuously exposes an organization’s networks, systems, and assets to simulated attacks to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

The overarching goal of CTEM is to prioritize potential risk mitigation/treatment strategies and continuously refine your security posture improvement plan to prioritize potential risk mitigation strategies and continually refine your security posture improvement plan by shifting from point-in-time vulnerability assessments to a repeatable security posture remediation and validation program. By regularly exposing an organization’s assets to simulated attacks, CTEM enables them to identify and fix vulnerabilities and control gaps before malicious actors can exploit them.

A key benefit of CTEM, in comparison with other security approaches such as vulnerability management, is that it goes beyond “what” and the number of assets and vulnerabilities found to look at both the “why” and the “how” of the weaknesses discovered. Another way in which CTEM surpasses more established security approaches is that it takes an offensive perspective, adopting a broader stance than simply focusing on the traditional common vulnerabilities and exposures “(CVEs).”

CTEM: Changing the Threat Management Paradigm

A critical point to understand about CTEM is that rather than being a specific solution or resource, it is a program implemented through a combination of automated tools and manual testing. It can include red teaming, penetration testing, vulnerability scanning, and other activities.

CTEM feeds into key security-related functions and governance, risk, and compliance mandates to enhance and enrich them and support a more advanced security posture.

What Is Continuous Threat Exposure Management?

What is the Value of CTEM for Organizations?

With the attack surface of organizations continuing to broaden and diversify, many CISOs struggle with identifying and keeping track of all the security vulnerabilities they need to address in their organization. Increased use of the cloud, social media, and the digital supply chain increased attack surfaces and created an unpatchable layer of exposure for businesses.

What Is Continuous Threat Exposure Management?

Rather than relying on reactive security or assessments that only address patchable areas of exposure, CTEM is intended to advance an organization’s overall security posture by identifying and addressing areas of concern before real attackers can exploit them. This can help play a critical role in maintaining a robust security posture by ensuring organizations are significantly less likely to be affected by a breach. The impact of a more sophisticated approach is evidenced in our Detection and Response Maturity Model, which shows that high-maturity organizations experience significantly fewer security incidents.

The Five Stages of a CTEM Program

The Five Stages of a CTEM Program

A CTEM program is made up of five core stages:

  • Scoping
    The Scoping stage aims to understand and identify the most important assets and potential impacts to the business. This insight should be refined each time the cycle is completed.
  • Discovery
    The Discovery stage involves uncovering assets and their risk profiles. Exposure discovery should include the misconfiguration of assets, security controls, and other weaknesses. Gartner points out that the number of discovered assets and vulnerabilities does not define success, with accurate scoping based on business risk and potential impact being far more valuable.
  • Prioritization
    As Gartner highlights, the goal of exposure management is not to attempt to remediate every issue identified but to identify and address the threats most likely to be exploited against an organization. Base your prioritization on indicators that provide an accurate picture of impact and likelihood, such as threat severity and availability of security controls.
  • Validation
    The Validation stage creates a systemic approach to continuously refine cybersecurity optimization priorities. It is the part of the process in which an organization can validate how potential attackers can exploit an identified exposure and the potential response of monitoring and control systems. Validation harnesses the controlled simulation of the most relevant attackers’ techniques in production environments, often using manual assessment activities, such as red team exercises, to extend its reach. This stage also includes verifying the suggested treatments to enhance security and assess their suitability for the organization.
  • Mobilization
    The Mobilization stage ensures teams operationalize their findings by reducing obstacles to approval, implementation processes, and mitigation deployments. It requires organizations to clearly set communication standards and document cross-team approval workflows in a wider context of business leader buy-in and support.

One of the advantages of the cyclical CTEM approach is that it can be constantly updated in the light of insights uncovered. This means that later cycles can incorporate additional aspects, for example, digital risk protection for greater visibility into the attack surface and dark and deep web sources to help identify potential threats to critical assets and provide greater contextual information about threat actors and their processes.

Key Elements in a CTEM Program

The following security solutions can contribute to an effective CTEM program:

Advancing Threat Exposure Management with CTEM

The burden of threat management on organizations is only increasing. The threat landscape is becoming more complex, and organizational attack surfaces are growing in scale. Businesses are under pressure to balance requiring long-term cyber resilience with ensuring they gain the best return on investment. An effective CTEM program incorporating digital risk protection and continuous security testing approaches, such as agile pen testing, can ensure they achieve this.

By building on detection and response programs with Security Validation and Exposure Awareness capabilities, a CTEM program provides more comprehensive insight. It enables the continual refinement of security posture optimization priorities. CTEM progresses the established threat management paradigm from preventive to proactive, from point-in-time to continuous, and from the “what” to the “why” and “how.” As every CISO knows, ensuring a robust security posture is not a one-off process but an ongoing approach. CTEM helps make this more achievable, effective, and impactful.

Kroll: Your CTEM Partner

Kroll is ideally positioned to help implement a new CTEM program or mature an existing one. Our unrivaled expertise ensures that your CTEM program enhances your cyber resilience and maximizes your security investment. Packaging services such as virtual CISO with a true Cyber Risk retainer, our clients can leverage advisory and technical expertise to address specific challenges or an entire cybersecurity strategy. From tactical penetration testing to breach and attack simulation and vulnerability assessment, Kroll empowers businesses to benefit from impactful, effective CTEM programs.

Contact us to learn more.

Cyber Risk Retainer

Kroll delivers more than a typical incident response retainer—secure a true cyber risk retainer with elite digital forensics and incident response capabilities and maximum flexibility for proactive and notification services.

Digital Risk Protection

Proactively safeguard your organization’s digital assets and accelerate visibility of online threats.

Cyber Vulnerability Assessment

Proactively identify vulnerable systems and devices that may be exploited by an attacker or malicious software, often resulting in data loss or breach.

FAST Attack Simulation

Safely perform attacks on your production environment to test your security technology and processes.

Penetration Testing Services

Validate your cyber defenses against real-world threats. Kroll’s world-class penetration testing services bring together front-line threat intelligence, thousands of hours of cyber security assessments completed each year and a team of certified cyber experts — the foundation for our sophisticated and scalable approach.

Red Team Security Services

Red team security services from Kroll go beyond traditional penetration testing, leveraging our frontline threat intelligence and the adversarial mindset used by threat actors to push the limits of your information security controls.

CyberDetectER DarkWeb

Learn, assess, and address your organizations’ risk exposure on the dark web and social media.

Agile Penetration Testing Program

Integrated into your software development lifecycle (SDLC), Kroll’s agile penetration testing program is designed to help teams address security risks in real time and on budget.