What is External Attack Surface Management?

We have all come to understand just how important cybersecurity has become for organisations of all sizes in recent years.

And with every day that passes, there seems to be a new form of threat that organisations need to prepare for.

One of the more recent buzzwords that has hit the market is External Attack Surface, and understanding what this is and how it can impact your business is of critical importance in today’s digital marketplace.

In this guide, you will learn more about what an External Attack Surface is, what External Attack Surface Management is, why it is important, and what some of the solutions for your business can be.

What is an External Attack Surface?

An External Attack Surface (EXS) also known as a digital attack surface is the sum of an organisation’s internet-facing assets and the associated attack vectors which can be exploited during an attack. Every public-facing asset your customers and employees access when interacting with your company online, whether owned and managed by your organisation or by a third party, makes up your online ecosystem. This represents your organisation’s external attack surface.

Anything from domain names, SSL Certificates, iOS, operating systems and even network devices are at risk under an External Attack Surface.

You may have heard of attack surfaces or attack vectors in the past but they are different in nature. An attack vector is a method of gaining unauthorised access to a network or computer system.
An attack surface is the total number of attack vectors an attacker can use to manipulate a network or computer system or extract data.

When it comes to protecting your organisation it is important to understand that your external digital footprint is far more expensive than your internal one – involving digital assets that exist outside the organisation’s standard firewall protection.

What is External Attack Surface Management?

External Attack Surface Management (EASM) is an emerging cybersecurity discipline that identifies and manages the risks presented by internet-facing assets and systems.

The processes used in EASM involves:

Asset discovery
Discover and map unknown external facing assets and systems to the organisation.

Continuously scan external facing attack surfaces and a variety of environments (such as cloud services) and distributed attack surfaces.

Risk determination – which assets are going to be susceptible to attacks and what kind of damage can be inflicted.

Vulnerability assessment
Is the asset vulnerable or is it behaving in an anomalous manner?

Vulnerability prioritisation – use a multi-layered scoring system to reduce noise and prioritise risks and vulnerabilities based on criticality.

Resolution and mitigation action planning – provide action plans on mitigating threats and integration with solutions such as ticketing systems, incident response tools and SOAR solutions.

Attack surface mapping (ASM), also known as; attack surface monitoring, managing and analysing, provides continuous surveillance of your changing attack surface. Specifically, it detects assets that contain, transmit, or process your data, while identifying vulnerabilities as they appear. It informs you of:

  • What the components of your attack surface are
  • Where the attack vectors and exposures are located
  • How to effectively shield your organisation from cyber attacks

If you’d like to learn more about strategies for protecting your attack surface, please click here to download our whitepaper.

Why is External Attack Surface Management Important?

As with many things that have happened since the pandemic, global cybersecurity has had to be fast moving and flexible in order to keep organisations safe and protected, whilst also allowing individuals to do their work safely and without fear of causing any major disruption thanks to cybersafety concerns. The growing importance of EASM can be attributed to:

  • Growth in Remote Working (WFH)
    • Leading to assets being made available online – expanding external attack surface vulnerabilities.
  • Digital Transformation
    • Digital transformation of assets to support availability.
    • Services being made available from various parallel channels/devices – such as mobile and IoT.
  • Shadow-IT– Weakening Enterprise Perimeters
    • The use of information technology systems, devices, software, applications and services, without explicit IT department approval.
    • Thanks to the WFH culture and the reliance on cloud computing, this has become more important than previously recognised.
    • It leads to an organisation not having an inventory record of assets – possibly created by those working from home – which will not have been tested and verified as secure.

One of the key issues with WFH and the last example provided in Shadow IT is that many systems can be compromised thanks to misconfiguration. These external threats include:

  • Routers
  • Web VPNs
  • Ports
  • Physical employee devices (Smartphones/tablets/laptops)
  • Cloud services
  • External Attack Surface Management solutions

Thanks to its growing importance in the cybersecurity landscape, EASM solutions are designed to help organisations in avoiding such attacks to their systems. Essentially, advanced EASM solutions are crucial for automating the discovery of IT elements and external vulnerabilities.

It’s not a mystery that times have changed, and even a single web page in a modern web application can rely on content and code from possibly hundreds of sources. This can result in cyber threats posed which haven’t been identified by traditional sources or even manual checks. EASM solutions can identify these issues, and plan a response to protect systems quickly.

The right EASM solution provides an organisation with a broader view and co-ordinated approach towards enterprise security.

BlueFort has developed a wide range of cybersecurity tools that are designed to deal with these issues from different perspectives; from digital transformation to EndPoint Detection and Response. To see a full suite of solutions, click on the link.

In Conclusion

Organisations face many new challenges, and the last couple of years have not been any different when it comes to protecting businesses and their cybersecurity. One of the emerging threats and solutions has been External Attack Surface Management, which is the sum of an organisation’s internet-facing assets, and the associated attack vectors which can be exploited during an attack. It’s become critical to not only understand what it is but also how you can best respond to it.

If you are looking to get a better understanding of where your organisation’s cyber weaknesses lie, please click here to request a demo with one of our cybersecurity experts.

BlueFort’s Evolve IT Services can not only help you to get a much better understanding of these threats but also provide you with solutions to protect your organisation in the long term. Call 01252 917000, email or get in touch with us via our contact form.

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