Why CISOs Need Full Visibility of Their Attack Surface

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In the wake of such a tumultuous year, increased cloudification, and heavier reliance on evolving technologies to operate, organizations must adapt and prioritize their cyber security. With a constantly growing threat landscape creating countless opportunities for attackers, many are rendered vulnerable. Identifying, tracking, and managing assets has become a universal concern for many CISOs and IT leaders - irrespective of their size or sector. 

New cyber threats require new security solutions

The last 12 months have been a massive wake-up call for business leaders and security specialists, who must adapt to face new security trends and threats. A proactive, security-first policy to risk-management is all the more crucial when practicing digital health. However, an ever-changing threat landscape makes determining the right solution a challenge.

Expanding internal and external infrastructure means attack surfaces are hyper-dimensional and can grow rapidly, making them difficult to manage. There are two main types of attack surface: 

The physical attack surface

This refers to endpoint devices, like mobiles or USB ports for example. As we move towards an increasingly digital future, businesses are using a wider variety of devices and in higher volume, providing more opportunity for an attacker to gain access to sensitive data and cause a ransomware attack. In addition, since the pandemic began there has been increased reliance on the use of devices, particularly in the healthcare sector for example, so the risk is now even greater.

Of course, people can also be included in the attack surface. It is essential to have the awareness needed to identify and respond to a cyber threat. Organizations must therefore educate their employees so that they understand how their IT environments work. Human error is one of the most common causes of data breaches today, with phishing attacks being one of the most prevalent. Further, 64% of CISOs believe that remote working due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has drastically increased their exposure to threats.

The digital attack surface

This refers to the total vulnerabilities on the hardware and software. It is everything outside of the firewall or hosts that are permitted to be accessed by the firewall (authorized or not) - where internet-facing assets such as email servers and mobile applications are located.

‘Known factors’ on the attack surface refer to assets that you are aware of and monitor, such as subdomains and general security processes. So, unknown factors (shadow IT assets) are most likely not being patched or updated which could lead to a potential vulnerability or misconfiguration - and these are inevitable. You must be aware of any third-party assets too, as these also pose a serious risk. 

How continuous security monitoring helps to fortify cyber security strategies

CISOs are increasingly seeking solutions to protect their organization’s cyber resilience against new and changing threats. Real-time end-to-end visibility provides a bird’s eye view of their digital ecosystem, allowing for better risk-detection and response - so is fast becoming a necessity.

One of the main features that organizations - particularly those experiencing growth - require is a security strategy that is scalable. As a business's digital footprint gets larger, its cyber defense must of course naturally follow-suit. With the implementation of scalable solutions like continuous security monitoring that constantly tracks changes to your online environment, capacity problems won’t hinder responses to incidents.  

The automated approach that continuous asset discovery provides is highly appealing, detecting and locating assets (known, unknown, third-party, and rogue) as a form of passive inventory. The ability to discover assets in real-time will not only help you to better understand your evolving attack surface but allow you to secure your external perimeters accurately.

Vulnerabilities can be introduced at any time that can expand your attack surface. So, continuous vulnerability discovery enables you to find your weaknesses within your applications and systems before attackers beat you to it. Any gaps in your security are identified and can then be appropriately attended to, strengthening your digital infrastructure through a robust data-driven and risk-based approach. 

Attack surface management provides continuous surveillance of vulnerabilities that contain, transmit, or process your data. This proactive method helps you map, understand, and analyze your threat landscape - ultimately helping you think like an attacker to reduce your cyber risk. After all, you can’t remediate problems you aren’t aware of - so visibility is key. Do you really know how much of your attack surface is vulnerable? Security strategies become meaningless if you aren’t aware of your precise vulnerabilities. Attack surface management teaches you:

  • what the components of your attack surface are
  • where the attack vectors and exposures are located
  • how to shield your organization from future data breaches and cyber attacks

Proactive security is an integral part of any security professional’s approach

In today’s ever-changing threat landscape, attack surface mapping is at the root of resilience. You need to be able to know exactly what you own, what is exposed to the internet, and what could lead to a cyber attack. However, there are other benefits of this solution.

Take a proactive approach

Continuous monitoring allows you to secure your external environment before attacks occur rather than in response to them, minimizing the chance for a successful breach to take place. A productive, forward-thinking measure like this is much more effective than a reactive one - particularly in light of the rise in cyber attacks (such as data leaks and XSS attacks). Firewalls, antivirus software, and other traditional protective methods no longer suffice as are easily nullified by sophisticated attacks.

Assess your capacity to combat risk 

Full visibility of your threat landscape empowers you to determine your overall digital health and subsequently gauge your ability to manage risk decisions. And of course, this is yet another reason why cyber security should be prioritized in the boardroom.

Ensure compliance

With more stringent security requirements and the increase in sensitive data being stored and transmitted, remaining compliant with legal policies and regulations undeniably poses a challenge. Failing to adhere to compliance standards has significant ramifications for an organization (both reputational and financial).

Gain a competitive advantage

Proving you have the capacity and desire to prioritize data protection can give you a competitive advantage while helping to establish confidence with your customer-base to secure your organization’s longevity.

Speed up processes and prioritize for remediation

Due to this type of security’s continuous nature, you can be alerted to changes as soon as they appear. Once you have located your vulnerabilities and other potential attack vectors, you can prioritize remediation efforts. 

Make more informed security decisions

With better insight into what and where your threats are, you can adjust your strategy accordingly to focus on areas that need attention. For example, if an application is regularly flagging vulnerabilities it’s a trigger for a manual penetration test.

Make your security scalable

As new and emerging technology enables processes and operations to be faster and more efficient, they inevitably generate new and inescapable risks. Increasing risk must be addressed through a scalable strategy to readily safeguard your systems, even if your load increases.

Be confident with constant surveillance

A continuous threat intelligence solution will allow you to patch vulnerabilities more quickly, efficiently, and effectively. There’s no need to panic over manually compiling endless asset inventories!

Stay ahead of the game in cyber security

At Informer, we firmly believe that security strategies must evolve to keep up with the ever-changing threat interface to provide optimum coverage. Sustainable adaption to modern threats is key for business survival. 

Informer’s platform empowers businesses to access actionable business-critical insights. Find out how you can protect and sustain your organization's prosperity and evolution with a security-first approach and book a demo today.

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