Attack surfaces are any possible entry points and weaknesses (vectors) that hackers can exploit to get into the system.
For example, employees clicking on malware-infested links in phishing emails or leaked passwords are common attack vectors that can put data at risk at any given time. With company professionals having multiple tasks on their plate at once, oftentimes, cybersecurity is not at the forefront of their minds.
To protect their business from cyberattacks, most organizations take these precautions:
- Investing in cybersecurity training for all of their employees
- Securing their assets with the suitable software
- Insisting on strong passwords
However, once security tools are running, and employees have passed training on cybersecurity basics, how can organizations successfully manage the software and policies that keep the company safe?
The key to strong security is regular maintenance of tools, people, protocols, and systems that guard the company against hacking incidents.
Attack surface management strengthens security by using automation and approaching the attack surface as the threat actors would.
Management of the attack surface occurs in three phases: discovery of threats, analysis of gathered data, and mitigation of issues.
The mentioned steps must be repeated to ensure that there are no new vulnerabilities within the system or signs of cybercriminals within the infrastructure.
To discover potential threats, the tools have to scan the attack surface to uncover any flaws that might be high risk. Critical risks can quickly turn into incidents such as misuse of credentials and data breaches.
An important part of security management is testing security tools, protocols, and people. This is possible with software such as Breach and Attack Simulation (BAS) and Automated Red teaming.
BAS evaluates whether the system can hold its own in the case of a real threat by simulating an attack in a safe environment.
Purple teaming, on the other hand, tests people who manage security. It determines whether they know how to use the tools they have at their disposal.
Software that is used to manage attack surfaces is nowadays automated. Therefore, once manually written documentation is now generated with the help of AI that compares and analyzes the state of security.
Reports following the evaluation separate the risks into low, mid, and high.
Some vendors suggest possible solutions and patches that teams can use to fix flaws that appear within the network.
The final step in security maintenance is to patch up any high-risk vulnerability.
Companies that have security analysts and IT teams follow the dashboard that is continually updated with the latest reports to decide which flaws pose the greatest risk to the organization.
Once the patches are applied, the network is tested again.
The attack surface is in an everlasting state of flow.
Automation and regular security posture testing are crucial for the early discovery of any flaws within the infrastructure that can change in minutes.
Hackers are coming up with new techniques that exploit vulnerabilities in unforeseen ways. Such new threats, also known as zero-day exploits (because companies have zero days to fix the issue), test the security uniquely.
Businesses have a difficult time defending themselves against new threats depicted in the MITRE ATT&CK framework because they’re not expecting them and don’t have the tools to discover and mitigate them as they occur.
Any changes within the company can create weaknesses that, if undiscovered, can result in breaches and unwanted use of credentials. For instance, any employee logins or leaked credentials in different breaches can alter the attack surface and leave it exposed.
Even if an employee’s password is leaked in another breach, they can endanger other companies if they reuse their credentials.
Essentially, if the hacker gets access to one password, they get the key to multiple accounts that reuse the same credentials—an all too often occurrence.
The role of automation is major for maintenance because it’s not possible to manually track and analyze all the changes and weaknesses that occur in the system.
Tools that combine the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning can run 24/7 in the background to test and mitigate threats and report any high-risk activity to teams that manage security.
The definition of an attack surface has become wider over the years. With the capability of scanning the entire internet at once to find data on hacking forums and data dumps, protecting just the internal attack surface is not enough.
Instead of focusing on IT assets on the premises, the focus has shifted to internet-facing assets that could turn into a flaw that lets hackers into your organization.
Nowadays, cybersecurity has to cover external attack surfaces as well. This means uncovering any:
- Leaked credentials
- Shadow IT
- Corporate data out in the open
Hackers start with what they can easily find online. If sensitive information of your employees, users, and company is accessible, they will choose their target based on the fact that it’s easy to breach an organization.
Therefore, security requires more than defending the system from threats as they attempt to get into the network. It also seeks that companies have tools that act like hackers and find possible weaknesses before threat actors do.
Successful security management means keeping up with the latest technological advances and new hacking methods.
It’s also about being thorough about what the attack surface includes and considering a comprehensive overview of internet-facing and on-premises assets.
Most businesses nowadays automate security management to avoid overwhelming IT teams by delegating testing, analytics, and discovery to artificial intelligence.
Thorough attack surface management that forms a strong security posture is about repeating the key maintenance steps. They include monitoring, testing, analysis, and parching up of flaws.