How well do you know your organization’s attack surface? Chances are, you don’t know it as well as you think you do.
According to a recent report, 2 out of 3 organizations say their external attack surface has expanded in the past 12 months, but that does not mean they’ve been keeping track of it. The same report found that it takes more than two weeks for the average organization to update their attack surface inventory — and that doesn’t necessarily cover perennial blind spots like shadow IT.
What all this means is that many companies have blind spots in their attack surface for days after the attack surface expands. That’s bad enough, but what’s worse is that there are people who are deeply familiar with organizations’ blind spots: attackers. To stay one step ahead of cybercriminals, you must have proper visibility into your business’s attack surface. Let’s take a closer look.
What is attack surface visibility?
An attack surface consists of digital assets that cybercriminals can use as attack vectors across an organization’s IT environment, including device, access, network, application, software, hardware, and firmware vulnerabilities. Attack surface visibility describes the strength in the overview a security team has of its cybersecurity risk. As the amount of digital assets an organization has increases, the less attack surface visibility a team can have if there are no continuous monitoring systems put in place to account for both new and old assets.
Why is attack surface visibility important?
When reviewing attack surface risk, organizations normally engage in a surface analysis to look for weaknesses that can lead to unauthorized access and data breaches. This surface-level analysis often overlooks hidden threats that could pose issues for the organization. It can also overlook new, more advanced threats that cybercriminals use to catch organizations off-guard. Thus, maintaining a strong attack surface visibility is critical in risk prioritization and mitigation.
Why attackers know your attack surface vulnerabilities better than you do
When an attacker sets their sights on a company, their first step is research, and they usually start with open source intelligence (OSINT), or publicly available information about the organization’s security stance. This means sifting through all the information they can find about a company, from information found through search engines to news about a company to information made accessible through tools that find open ports, webcams and a company’s Internet of Things (IoT).
Open source intelligence can also include information about a company’s employees; threat actors are likely to use social media tools to find out who works for an organization, what their interests are, and who they are connected with. They can then use that information to target certain people as part of social engineering attacks.
After spending so much time researching a company, attackers are likely to have discovered blind spots in its attack surface that its security team may not have even considered.
How to improve attack surface visualization
This may sound concerning — and it is, but once you know how attackers find your blind spots, it’s easier — to find and patch your company’s own vulnerabilities
1. Know your attack surface
Conduct an audit of your attack surface and update it as soon as your attack surface changes. This may mean cracking down on shadow IT, which is often an avenue for attackers because they know that unauthorized devices and apps are rarely secured — 7 in 10 organizations have been compromised by shadow IT.
2. Patch your software regularly
This may seem obvious, but patches should be installed as soon as they’re released. Attackers know when patches are released and what vulnerabilities are being patched, and they count on organizations not to install the patches promptly. Far more attacks exploit unpatched vulnerabilities than exploit zero-day vulnerabilities.
3. Don’t rely on passwords alone
Use multi-factor authentication or no-password solutions so that if your employees are compromised, you’re not worrying about passwords being leaked or stolen.
4. Understand your security metrics
What you cannot measure, you cannot improve. Use security ratings, like SecurityScorecard’s ratings, to find the metrics you need to focus on to improve your security and to correct issues as they arise.
5. Continuously monitor your attack surface
Auditing your attack surface isn’t a one-time deal. Because your attack surface is constantly growing and changing, you need to continuously monitor it to make sure there aren’t spots you’re not aware of.
6. Evaluate third-party risks and vulnerabilities
One of the easiest ways to align third-party vendor security programs with your organization’s attack surface is to establish a vendor risk management framework. Common frameworks include NIST and ISO, and these frameworks help to provide standards across the organization by identifying which third-party vendors pose the greatest risk and require an immediate response.
7. Prioritize cybersecurity risk assessments
Cybersecurity risk assessments determine how network assets would be affected in the event of a breach and identify their individual risk level. The insight gained enables comprehensive risk prioritization and the ability to improve response time to network threats. In addition, cyber threat assessments are useful for reporting purposes as they help inform critical security decisions.
Improve your attack surface visibility with SecurityScorecard
Your attack surface is constantly evolving. To keep your business safe, your information security platform should be able to keep you apprised of its size at all times.
SecurityScorecard’s Attack Surface Intelligence allows your organization to continuously monitor and manage known and unknown threats throughout your organization. With the ability to capture a complete view of cyber risk, prioritize risk remediation, and make confident decisions, your business can stay ahead of cyber threats and expand your attack surface visibility to constantly be one-step ahead of any cybercriminal. SecurityScorecard’s ASI also enables actionable security intelligence for security and risk management teams to find and remediate vulnerabilities before attackers can exploit them.
Ready to improve your attack surface intelligence? Request a demo today to learn more.