What is Cyber Attack Surface Management?

By Kasey Hewitt

Posted on Nov 23, 2020

In modern business environments, organizations are facing increased pressure to adopt digital solutions to stay competitive. While these solutions have undoubted benefits for organizations, they also expand their potential attack surface and expose them to increased levels of cyber risk. If left unaddressed, these risks can create critical security gaps that can be exploited by cybercriminals.

To help stay protected, many organizations are adopting cyber attack surface management programs that work to continually assess their networks for potential threats. With an attack surface management system in place, organizations can proactively evaluate risk and reduce their attack surface in real-time, limiting the impact of cyber threats.

What is a cyber attack surface?

An organization’s attack surface is the sum of exploitable vulnerabilities that are currently on their network. Attack surfaces can be physical or digital, with most organizations having to monitor both. The physical attack surface includes vulnerabilities to all endpoint devices connected to a network such as tablets, computers, and mobile devices. Conversely, the digital attack surface is focused on vulnerabilities to the hardware and software organizations use to conduct business.

Typically, the physical attack surface is exploited through social engineering attacks or insider threats where the digital attack surface is exploited through errors in code. Because vulnerabilities differ between attack surfaces, organizations tend to take different approaches when managing them.

When working to limit vulnerabilities on the digital attack surface, it is important to continuously monitor the type and amount of code being executed on a network. The more code you have running, the greater the chances are that there is a vulnerability, so organizations should always be looking to consolidate programs when possible. Limiting vulnerabilities on the physical attack surface is done primarily through the use of network access control (NAC). Organizations that implement NAC solutions are able to govern employee and endpoint device access to their network, thereby safeguarding critical information from key threats. When managing vulnerabilities across both digital and physical attack surfaces, continuous monitoring is critical. SecurityScorecard enables this by equipping organizations with granular analytics capabilities that allow for ongoing vulnerability remediation.

What is cyber attack surface management and why is it important?

Cyber attack surface management is the continuous identification, classification, prioritization, and monitoring of digital assets that contain or send vital data between networks. It is concerned with the ongoing analysis of network systems and helps organizations identify and address vulnerabilities as they arise. In doing so, businesses can actively reduce their potential attack surface while also improving their overall cybersecurity posture. With this method, organizations also realize increased transparency, helping to strengthen customer relationships and business partnerships.

What are the components of a comprehensive cyber attack surface management program?

Several components should be considered when building an attack surface management program. That said, it is also important to integrate security functionalities as this will help improve the accuracy and efficiency of your program.

Here are four components of a comprehensive cyber attack surface management program:

1. Asset identification and prioritization

The first step in attack surface management is to identify all of your internet-facing assets. Once you have a record of your assets, you then need to classify them based on the level of risk they present to your business. This can be done by setting organizational risk tolerance and appetite statements and comparing them to individual asset risk levels. From there, you can prioritize assets based on their risk.

2. Security ratings

Security ratings enable businesses to continuously monitor the cyber health of their network ecosystem which is vital to the success of attack surface management programs. With a comprehensive view of their network ecosystem and assets, organizations are able to expedite vulnerability identification and reduce their attack surface in real-time.

Security ratings also allow for the continuous monitoring of third-party ecosystems. When you work with vendors, you incur their risks meaning that effective third-party risk management is essential. With security ratings, you can easily identify cybersecurity risks across your vendor portfolio, allowing you to actively manage each vendor’s potential attack surface.

3. Network segmentation

By dividing a network into segments, network administrators can better control asset traffic flow, helping to improve threat identification. In addition, network segmentation adds an extra layer of security to a network, as even if it is compromised, threat actors will not gain access to the full network perimeter. This helps organizations establish network access controls with zero-trust capabilities, allowing them to more accurately monitor device traffic on their network.

4. Security threat intelligence

Cyber threat intelligence provides organizations with greater visibility into the current threat landscape, helping them protect against attacks. Using insights from cybersecurity data, organizations are better able to identify and prioritize exploitable vulnerabilities on their networks. Threat intelligence can also be used to monitor cybercrime activity, which helps organizations ensure that they have adequate levels of security.

How SecurityScorecard can help manage your cybersecurity attack surface

The key to effectively managing your attack surface is having continuous visibility into your internal and third-party network environments. Organizations that leverage SecurityScorecard’s Security Ratings gain an outside-in view of their IT infrastructure, enabling them to prioritize vulnerability remediation. With insights gained into network threats, organizations can streamline risk management, reducing their attack surface.

Security Ratings also help businesses manage vendor risk by providing third-party risk insights in one centralized dashboard. This enables companies to quickly and easily identify, prioritize, and resolve issues within their vendor portfolio.

As more organizations undergo digital transformation, cyber attack surface management will become a necessity. With SecurityScorecard, businesses have access to the tools and resources they need to build and maintain comprehensive cyber attack surface management programs.

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