An attack surface refers to any point within the software that can be exploited for a cyberattack.
If those points aren’t protected, the threat actor can gain unauthorized access to the infrastructure and obtain or alter data within it.
Over the years, as companies have built complex structures that consist of different environments (e.g. multi-cloud), retaining control over the widening attack surface has been getting more challenging than ever.
Therefore, one of the key goals of cybersecurity is to reduce the size of an attack surface. The smaller it is, the more control analysts have over the different possible vectors that criminals might use to get to the heart of a company.
To keep the potentially sensitive points under control and prevent intrusions, companies use Attack Surface Management (ASM).
Discover, Analyze, Improve, & Repeat
Attack Surface Management (ASM) is a tool that operates in several phases:
- Scanning of the entire surface — including IT assets placed outside the infrastructure of an organization
- Classification of data and analysis of findings to highlight high risks for the company
- Enabling IT teams to improve security with a detailed report
These steps are continually repeated to ensure that any new weakness that appear in the system is discovered and mitigated on time.
Complete scanning of the attack surface is aimed at discovering any attempt at targeting attack vectors on internal and external surfaces. That is, IT assets within and even outside the company are monitored for possible exploits.
Data that is gathered in the initial discovery phase is both classified and analyzed. Compared to other management tools that continually alert analysts, attack surface management focuses on high-risk threats.
Severe threats are the ones that are the most likely to result in incidents for the company, such as a data breach or successful malware injection.
The findings are then presented in a report on the dashboard that separates the high-risk threats from low-risk ones. That document is a great aid for teams whose job is to patch up gaps in security and prevent cyberattacks.
Therefore, they can apply the top to bottom approach and start with the high-risk flaws and move on to those that score less in severity — essentially fixing vulnerabilities before they’re exploited.
That way, the organization’s defenses are continually managed and improved and are also ready for threat actors.
External Attack Surface Management
To uncover internet-facing threats, management requires scanning the internet to uncover any leaked credentials and shadow IT that is available on the surface level of the web.
The tool runs an automated discovery feature to find out whether there is any corporate intelligence available on the internet.
If it discovers externally available information, it analyzes it even further to conclude whether it can result in a cyber incident.
For instance, if it finds that an employee’s email, names, and passwords have been leaked in a data breach, that information would be considered high-risk.
AI-Powered Tool For Continual Management
Since many of the attacks nowadays are automated, security tools that have to keep up with possible exploits share that feature.
Attack Surface Management uses artificial intelligence, and it can run in the background 24/7 to discover any risky flaws in the system early.
Considering that the severity and the cost of the attack for the target company increase as more time passes, prompt defense is crucial.
Automation also aids IT teams that are tasked with following up with the cybersecurity hygiene within the company. It takes legwork from them as otherwise manual tasks such as analytics are automated.
As a result, they have more time to dedicate to advanced threats (created by human hackers) that require complex solutions and more time to mitigate.
Adversarial Approach to Data Protection
Surface Management attacks rely on a variety of tools that test and evaluate either cybersecurity solutions or people working in the company.
Some of them are automated red teaming and Breach and Attack Simulation.
Continuous automated red teaming is an automated version of an exercise that tests security teams. It does so to conclude whether they can recognize cyber threats as they occur in real-time as well as use the appropriate tools and techniques to defend the company.
Breach and Attack Simulation is another solution that assesses security. It simulates attacks on the current security of the company to determine whether it can handle attacks.
What Gets Tested Exactly?
No stone is left unturned with ASM because the tool seeks threats that are well known but also looks for the signs of new hacking methods.
For instance, this tool can run in the background to scour the web for leaked passwords as well as perform phishing attacks.
Misused credentials and social engineering attacks (human errors) have been used by hackers for decades, and they are still responsible for over 80% of the attacks overall.
Besides those threats that cyber teams have learned to expect, there are also zero-day attacks — new hacking methods for which a company is not yet prepared.
To discover exploits with novel hacking techniques, ASM is continually updated with MITRE ATT&CK Framework. This resource is a library of the latest ways that threat actors have managed to compromise companies.
In a nutshell, Attack Surface Management is another layer of cybersecurity for companies that seek solutions that are thorough and comprehensive in protecting their IT assets.
Considering that the attack surface is shifting on a regular basis with every new update and employee login, it can be difficult to keep tabs on all the access points that hackers might use to get into the organization.
Therefore, modern security requires automated tools that can be calibrated to suit the needs of an organization as well as discover high-risk threats in real-time.