Digital transformation has become a go-to approach for businesses across industries. While accelerating innovation and business delivery, digitalization has opened enterprises to new threats. Most applications moving to the cloud and normalization of the remote work model has added a new layer of IT complexity from a risk management standpoint. There has been a significant shift in cyberattacks demanding organizations a deeper and more holistic security management measures.
While cybersecurity teams might use multiple tools and practices to safeguard their IT assets from attacks, there are often some hidden vulnerabilities that the attackers can exploit. Some of these digital assets reside outside the firewall/WAF protection and/or are hosted on public cloud infrastructures. This calls for continuous external attack surface protection.
Before we go into why it is important, let’s first briefly learn what external attack surface management comprises.
Your digital presence in the market is through public-facing and on-internet assets that your customers and employees access, which forms the external attack surface. It could be your segmented networks, devices, online applications, and associated partners. With more and more applications being built on third-party assets and sources, you tend to lose control. Attackers can target your systems from anywhere within the extended network of IT networks and sources that link back to you.
Therefore you need to manage any visibility deficiencies within your systems to improve your security posture. In its report ‘Innovation Insight for Attack Surface Management,’ Gartner revealed that by 2022, just 1% of the businesses had absolute visibility into all their assets. It added that by 2026, about 20% of the companies would prioritize their risk management plan to gain over 95% visibility across their assets.
You can effectively tackle this cybersecurity crisis by implementing a solid external attack surface management strategy.
External attack surface management (EASM) is the application of processes and technologies to identify and document internet-facing assets, systems, and related vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit to gain illegal access to your sensitive information. A successfully implemented EASM practice provides you with deeper visibility into your applications, cloud services, and systems accessible through the public domain.
Using the data provided by the EASM process, your security teams can fix misconfigurations and other gaps in the system to reduce the attack area.
Gartner lists EASM in its Hype Cycle for Security Operations 2022
Gartner listed EASM in its Hype Cycle for Security Operations 2022, which signifies its importance in cybersecurity. With organizations lacking control over what assets are available online and protected, most reported breaches occur due to something being termed as ‘unknown unknowns.’ EASM helps you bring assets positioned outside your firewall into your security perimeter so that you can prioritize risks to tackle.
EASM also forms a critical practice in your overall plan to define cloud security governance, plug data leakages, and monitor third-party security.
EASM must be a continuous process of discovering, documenting, and managing external assets, which is unrealistic through a manual setup. By automating risk discovery, you speed up the process and power the scalability of detecting shadow IT assets. Another reason to automate EASM is quite interesting. Hackers are now automating the identification and penetration of critical and exploitable assets. Since a bot runs the process, attackers can intrude into critical assets faster.
The second challenge in protecting your company’s external attack surface is the lack of visibility through existing tools and solutions. While your teams may use various services for penetration testing, threat intelligence, and vulnerability scanning, they don’t necessarily uncover hidden assets. If your team doesn’t know they should be looking for a security risk in a particular place, how will they ever find it?
Reducing and protecting your external attack surface can thus make or break your security shield.
Detecting & prioritizing security risks
In cybersecurity, time is your biggest foe. Even a small delay in identifying a vulnerability that is exposing your systems on the outside can prove detrimental. Attackers are constantly on the lookout for cracks in the security walls of businesses. With relentless automated processes, it is only a matter of time before they find an open door to your sensitive data. In essence, it is a race between you and a potential hacker to detect external risks. Further, deciding which threats to work on first is also important.
Given the threat that exposed assets pose for you, you must use continuous external attack surface protection. Below listed are the five critical aspects of a successful EASM strategy.
Managing EASM comprises five key elements
One of the first steps in reducing the attack surface is discovering the shadow assets that lie beyond your security control. It is essential because you can’t safeguard your company without absolute visibility of your assets. You can utilize a continuous asset discovery platform that helps you detect unknown internet-facing properties.
Once you identify the risky external assets and data, you must document each of these assets by automating data classification. It helps you prioritize the assets you manage directly and implement guardrails to secure the data based on the risk intensity.
Once you know what you have you need to run tests to check for security vulnerabilities. A core practice in managing risks is prioritizing them based on the threat they pose. Evaluate the assets based on their risk and the level of access they provide within your network.
The next step after asset analysis to determine risk level is prioritization. Which risky asset will you be fixing first? Although every exposure must be dealt with, assets that offer direct access to your sensitive data must be tackled first. With the volume of security alerts and notifications, your team will face an overwhelming task leading to mismanagement.
The goal of EASM doesn’t just end with identifying and prioritizing risks. It must also include operationalizing remediation to accelerate the process by providing IT teams with detailed and actionable data to act on the discovered risks.
As reported by Gartner, EASM is becoming a mainstream aspect of cybersecurity. It is due to the threat level that external assets end up unprotected. However, with digital transformation through cloud adoption and remote working becoming a norm, IT security is likely to become increasingly complicated and sensitive to hostile intrusions. In such a scenario, it is of prime importance that you bring to light all the hidden and shadow IT assets. However, implementing EASM through a set of manual handbooks can be tricky and error-prone. This is where OvalSec can help strengthen your overall attack surface through a robust automated platform.
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.
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