Continuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM)

Assess, validate and remediate the issue immediately


The cyber threat landscape shifts rapidly, with new vulnerabilities, threat actors and attacks emerging daily. At the same time, attack surfaces are expanding as fast as the workforce is dispersing. It is now virtually impossible for teams to secure all things at all times.

The roadblocks CISOs and SecOps teams are facing are well-known: information overload, user and data sprawl, alert fatigue, and a shortage of cyber skills, are just a few of the challenges impacting the effectiveness and efficiency of many cybersecurity activities. We know that cyber criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated in how they exploit the inherent weaknesses in modern cyber defences.

This is the reason Gartner introduced the Continuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM) program – a framework CISOs and SecOps teams can adopt to move from a reactive to a proactive mindset, actively prioritising risks most relevant to their organisation. Gartner predicts that by 2026, organisations that prioritise security investment based on a CTEM program will be three times less likely to suffer a security breach.

What is Continuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM)?

At its core, CTEM is a cyclical program that leads to a continuous management mindset. Rather than assessing security at the implementation stage – whether that’s a control, application or piece of hardware – and then only reassessing when a compromise arises, a CTEM-based program will alert you the moment a potential threat emerges. It will also mean you have plans and processes in place to assess, validate and remediate the issue immediately.  

The objective of CTEM is to move to a continuous methodology that includes all teams—breaking down and removing silos—where people across the organisation understand that maintaining a good, secure posture is a 24/7 requirement and everyone has a part to play. 

The five steps Gartner has set out in the CTEM cycle linking both threat diagnosis and remedial action are:

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Establishing and defining your organisation's attack surface is the critical first step, as this represents the most vulnerable entry points to potential threat actors. This includes: domains, applications, network infrastructure and data across various environments, including: on-premise, cloud, subsidiary, third-party, or partner environments. It will also involve factoring in ‘non-traditional’ assets incorporated in your organisation’s attack surface, such as social media accounts and online code repositories. Initial scoping allows you to catalogue assets based on risk and the potential impact of exploitation.
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The discovery process needs to identify all of the IT assets that make up the organisation’s attack surface, even if they are not currently known or initially visible. Hidden assets, misconfigurations and vulnerabilities are common, particularly as SecOps teams struggle with the challenges of remote working shadow IT. Discovery is therefore a separate and additional step to initial scoping, focused on uncovering the true nature of the organisation’s attack surface. Organisations routinely discover up to 30% more assets than they expected during a discovery, identifying a range of previously undetected risks, gaps and vulnerabilities.
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CTEM is a threat-led approach to security management and not a route to remediating every potential vulnerability at once. Prioritisation will consider a range of factors when assessing and categorising potential risks including: level of risk, urgency, availability of mitigating technology, existing controls, and the organisation’s overall risk tolerance. The overarching objective is to identify the organisation’s most high-value assets and prioritise remediation efforts according to their level of risk.
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Validating and verifying threats facing the organisation, based on the identified and prioritised points of weakness, provide a complete, detailed and realistic view of the organisation’s security posture. Validation is about confirming whether there is potential for threat actors to exploit vulnerabilities you have identified by analysing all potential attack vectors, based on the tools, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) a threat actor might utilise. It must test readiness for the latest advanced threats to provide a reliable view of the impact of exploiting each potential weakness.
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While automation is now a fundamental aspect of effective remediation efforts, a holistic security posture puts the human element at the centre. The CTEM program must be communicated across the various security and IT teams, as well as the wider organisation. This ensures the CTEM implementation addresses the more complex and nuanced vulnerabilities identified earlier in the process, streamlining approvals, deployments and workflows.

See how Continuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM) can help your organisation

Why is Continuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM) important?

CTEM is a pragmatic approach to changing the entire IT security methodology, from onboarding new technology, people, and processes through asset decommissioning and departing employees. The CTEM program is a continuous cycle across the entire business, where validation and testing continuously identify, prioritise, validate, and remediate potential threats as they arise.   

Before embarking on a CTEM program, many organisations will be moving from a ‘stop-start’ approach to security, where attention is pulled to daily issues that mean security teams are missing the big picture. CTEM helps you streamline your everyday tasks and keeps your people focused on the most important issue at the right time. 

Proactive risk management and effective threat prioritisation provide a substantial benefit for security posture while also minimising compliance pressures. The actionable insights you gain, all aligned with key business objectives, mean you can be adaptable to changing compliance requirements while increasing the overall value of cybersecurity efforts. 

How does Continuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM) work?

While CTEM is a methodology rather than a technology, there are a number of key tools that provide the foundation for the continuous process of discovery, validation and remediation.

Central to this is the ability to automate the key CTEM steps:

  • Scanning and assessing security gaps.
  • Testing the attack surface by safely emulating real-world insider and external attack techniques, including ransomware emulation.
  • Validating security risks and vulnerabilities.
  • Intelligently prioritising remediation.

Automated security penetration testing platforms model the way threat actors behave by creating virtual attack scenarios that safely exploit points of weakness in the organisation’s attack surface. By constantly testing the organisation’s security infrastructure, automated penetration testing platforms can provide accurate threat validation information and informed recommendations for remediation.

Automating this process provides a detailed and real-time view of the organisation’s security readiness – validating the potential impact of threats by safely exploiting vulnerabilities without impacting ongoing business operations. Vulnerabilities alone only tell half the story – exploiting these vulnerabilities with real-world attacks enables you to establish the severity and urgency of each threat and then prioritise remediation based on the most immediate concerns.

Building automated security penetration testing into a CTEM program delivers the reliable, consistent and accurate information you need to make the right decisions to continuously improve your organisation’s security posture.

What you need to know

  • What is threat and vulnerability management?

    Threat and vulnerability management involves identifying and mitigating security risks to protect systems from potential threats, ensuring a robust cybersecurity posture.
  • What is vulnerability management in cybersecurity?

    Vulnerability management in cybersecurity is the process of identifying, evaluating, and addressing weaknesses in a system to prevent exploitation by potential cyber threats.
  • What is a security risk assessment, and why is it important?

    A security risk assessment evaluates potential threats and vulnerabilities in a system, providing insights to implement effective safeguards. It's crucial for maintaining a resilient cybersecurity framework.

Have more questions?

Speak to our CTEM experts.

Delivering cybersecurity with the power of Evolve

BlueFort’s Evolve allows you access to flexible and on-demand cyber skills and expertise to help you deploy any new solution and fill in any cyber skills shortage you may have.

Why work with BlueFort?

BlueFort is the UK’s leading independent Security Solutions Partner (SSP). Our unique combination of people and technology is focused on simplifying your cybersecurity journey. With a curated suite of tools, products and skills, BlueFort partners with CIO’s, CISOs and SecOps teams to simplify, consolidate, and optimise their cybersecurity environment.

BlueFort’s carefully tested suite of tools and technology simplifies the chaos of the cyber landscape, while its in-house experts provide a rapid and immediate solution to the cybersecurity skills shortage, reducing pressure on internal security teams and delivering ongoing, on-demand cyber resource flexibility.

BlueFort’s expert engineers work with you to plan and deploy an effective CTEM program. Working with a range of organisations across various industries means we are uniquely placed to help your team avoid common challenges and implementation roadblocks and ensure long-term success. Once CTEM is deployed, our engineers stay on hand to help your team stay on track and continuously optimise the CTEM program.

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“Without Evolve, we would have to get in additional resources for bespoke deployments and we would certainly have to spend a lot of time in the research phase to make sure we are buying the right technology. We use BlueFort’s expertise to guide us down the right path – I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them.”

Gary Lewis, Head of IT, Atrium Underwriters

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