Top best practices for effective attack surface management

Top best practices for effective attack surface management - Ovalsec - External attack surface management
Anna Fischer - Ovalsec - External attack surface
Anna Fischer
January 24, 2023

Top best practices for effective attack surface management

Top best practices for effective attack surface management - Ovalsec - External attack surface management

Cloud adoption has become a norm now, with most companies moving their workloads and assets to cloud environments. The operational ease, cost savings, and ability to scale, coupled with the normalization of remote work setup, accelerated the move to cloud solutions. While it enabled companies to innovate faster, cloud computing has also opened businesses to new security challenges. The extension of the attack surface has put your IT assets at critical risk.

Attack surface management isn’t a new concept. It includes monitoring your internet exposed assets, Known ones such as legacy systems, cloud, SaaS and unknown, shadow IT, for misconfigurations, risks and vulnerabilities. It is gaining prominence, with even Gartner naming attack surface protection a top security and risk management priority for businesses in 2022. In this blog, we briefly discuss the best practices to follow when implementing a robust attack surface management program.

What is an attack surface?

All your hardware, software, SaaS, and digital assets accessible on the internet constitute an attack surface. As hostile actors can exploit these properties to breach systems and extract sensitive data, attackers constantly target them. There are four types of assets forming your attack surface – known, unknown, rogue, and vendor assets.


Top best practices for effective attack surface management - Ovalsec - External attack surface management
Attack surface constitutes multiple digital assets
  • Known assets are your websites, servers, and other IT dependencies that are continuously monitored.
  • Unknown assets are the shadow IT resources that remain hidden and outside your security coverage
  • Rogue assets are applications, malware, or other malicious IT artifacts that are created by attackers
  • Vendors are the fourth estate that widens your attack surface by introducing third-party risks

Attack Surface Management Definition:

Attack surface management is the process of continuously discovering, monitoring, evaluating, prioritizing, and remediating attack vectors to secure your attack surface. It ensures IT hygiene by mimicking attackers’ perspectives to seek out and fix potential risks. By mirroring an attacker’s approach and techniques, you don’t just implement threat detection across known but also unknown assets.

Benefits of attack surface management

Attack surface management helps you prevent and manage risks that arise from shadow IT assets, human errors, and outdated software. It has the below-listed benefits:

  1. It gives you real-time visibility into your IT infrastructure
  2. It identifies and brings into the security fold the hidden digital assets
  3. It improves your ability to deal with cyber threats
  4. It expedites the process of classifying and documenting your assets
  5. It automates the remediation of risks detected during continuous monitoring

8 Best practices to implement attack surface management

Top best practices for effective attack surface management - Ovalsec - External attack surface management
8 best practices for effective attack surface management

1. Increase your visibility into the attack surface

The first step in strengthening your security posture is to ensure you have holistic visibility into your IT infrastructure. This includes all types of assets and supply chain dependencies. By efficiently mapping your attack surface, you can gain end-to-end visibility that helps you know possible security gaps. You can also translate the data into a visual representation to document the attack surface for easy observability.

2. Fix your security threats

After you gain complete control of your IT assets, the next step is to flush out our vulnerabilities and threats. You may be dealing with multiple red flags, and the ideal way to manage them is by identifying their threat levels. While you work on strengthening your network, you must also learn how much exposure you face with every exploitable asset.

3. Implement robust authentication processes

You must have – like almost every business – opened up your IT infrastructure to accommodate a work-from-home setup to keep your operations alive. This move has expanded your attack surface with every new remote employee and vendor. To tackle the risks it poses, you must follow a set of standard policies, including robust account management and authentication processes, and implement encryption wherever possible.

4. Establish a strong security culture

Your security is only as strong as your weakest link – your employees. While it is imperative to have strong IT security policies like password management and consistent patching schedules, that alone is not enough to avoid breaches. Most of the attacks originate from human mistakes. Therefore it is crucial to educate employees on different formats that attackers employ, and how to apply security checks in every process including dealing with phishing scams and crypto-jacking.

5. Implement firewalls and encryption

When implementing governance policies, you must first cover the most basic vulnerabilities like TCP ports. Establishing firewalls and encryption methodology will give you confidence in your pursuit of total security control. Having SSL and HTTPS certificates, along with the application of the latest patches and updates, can ensure you are covering the essential access doors to your systems.

6. Eliminate what you don’t need

When configuring assets like servers, you tend to go with default settings which opens all ports and application service access. This adds up to more vulnerabilities to your attack surface. That is why you must take great care when configuring digital assets only to activate the ports they need. Also, most companies instruct employees to avoid writing unwanted lines of code to reduce vulnerabilities. Often, you have dead or unused blocks of code that remain in your source code, which is risky and needs to be addressed.

7. Continuously monitor for attacks

Your attack surface is constantly changing due to both changing IT infrastructure and innovative attack techniques. To stay ahead of cyberattacks, you must never let your guard down. Constant observation ensures that you are always on the lookout for any possibility of threat. With attackers employing continuous attack processes to target your system, it is only fitting that you apply continuous monitoring and protection for your attack surface.

8. Ensure risk-based prioritization

Remediating risks becomes a challenge if your security team is flooded with alerts, as it impairs their ability to act fast. To organize the flurry of risks thrown out by your monitoring tool, you must understand their threat level and context. That will help you prioritize risks based on the attack intensity and exposure level so that your team can focus on high-priority alerts first.


Most organizations are working proactively towards minimizing their attack surface. The length and breadth of attack surface management is a significant challenge for enterprises with the severe threat of leakage of data and trade secrets. However, security teams are working on tools that give them siloed visibility and monitoring data. It severely affects their capability to address risks. This is where Ovalsec helps.

Attack surface management is a crucial aspect of protecting an organization’s assets and data. Implementing best practices such as increasing visibility into the attack surface, fixing security vulnerabilities, monitoring endpoints, establishing a strong security culture, implementing firewalls and encryption, eliminating redundant functionalities, continuously monitoring for attacks and ensuring risk-based prioritization can help organizations effectively manage their attack surface. However, achieving a comprehensive view of an organization’s attack surface can be a significant challenge. Ovalsec can assist organizations in overcoming this challenge and effectively managing their external attack surface.

About Ovalsec External Attack Surface Protection Platform

Ovalsec’s external attack surface protection platform provides organizations with the most advanced risk detection techniques available today, enabling security teams to improve security and increase agility in preventing targeted attacks. The platform is fully automated and enables security teams to speed up the remediation process and minimize the attacker’s advantage. By using real-world attacker methodologies and applying cutting-edge attack techniques, Ovalsecs solution allows organizations to gain full visibility on their external attack surface, close security gaps, and reduce the risk from targeted cyberattacks.


Topics: Attack surface management, Best practices, ASM, Risk management, Ovalsec, Cyber attacks, EASM

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