Attack Surface Management 101: What is it and How Has it Changed?

Attack Surface Management
Best Practices
5 min read
James Mignacca
November 1, 2023
James Mignacca
November 1, 2023
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We’re all aware of the growing sophistication of cyber threats. But the ways that cyber threats can exploit your business are changing. Today’s attack surface includes all the points, both digital and physical, that can be exploited by an attacker to gain unauthorized access to your business's systems, data, or assets. It encompasses all the possible avenues through which an attacker can infiltrate or compromise the security of the business, including software and applications, endpoints and devices, and data storage.

Understanding and managing your business’s attack surface is crucial when it comes to assessing security posture, and the best practices and tools needed to support it. By identifying and addressing vulnerabilities across the attack surface, businesses can reduce the risk of security breaches, data leaks, and other potential cyber threats.

Understanding attack surface implications

Your attack surface has evolved significantly in recent years due to the rapid growth of technology and the increasing complexity of interconnected systems. Widespread cloud adoption, increased connectivity, mobile workforces, and reliance on third-party integrations all impact how broad your attack surface is, and larger risk management.

Shifts in the attack surface matter for several reasons:

1. Risk Exposure:

A broader attack surface increases the potential risk of security breaches and data leaks, which can result in financial losses, reputational damage, and legal implications.

2. Compliance and Regulations:

Many industries are subject to specific regulatory requirements regarding data protection. A larger attack surface can make it challenging for businesses to comply with these regulations, leading to penalties and fines.

3. Reputation and Trust:

A security breach can significantly damage a business's reputation and erode customer trust. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of data privacy and security, and any security incidents can lead to a loss of customer loyalty and trust.

4. Operational Disruption:

Cyberattacks can disrupt business operations, leading to downtime, loss of productivity, and additional costs for remediation and recovery.

5. Competitive Edge:

Businesses with robust security measures and effective attack surface management strategies can gain a competitive edge by instilling confidence in their customers and partners.

Understanding attack techniques that exploit the attack surface

While it seems that ransomware is everywhere, it doesn’t change your business’s attack surface. Instead, ransomware is facilitated by other mechanisms and attack surface entry points. Here are several popular techniques attackers are using to access and exploit the attack surface:


Application and software vulnerabilities refer to weaknesses or flaws within the code, design, or implementation of software applications that can be exploited by attackers to gain unauthorized access or perform malicious actions. These vulnerabilities can compromise a business's attack surface in several ways, giving attackers a path to inject malware, escalate system privileges, manipulate data, and access sensitive systems.

Web application attacks

Web application attacks target vulnerabilities in online applications to gain unauthorized access, steal data, disrupt services, or perform other malicious activities. These attacks exploit various weaknesses in the design, development, or configuration of web applications. Some common types of web application attacks include SQL injection, session hijacking, and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

Social engineering

Social engineering tactics are psychological manipulations used by attackers to deceive individuals into divulging confidential information, granting access to restricted systems, or performing actions that may compromise security. These tactics exploit human vulnerabilities rather than technical weaknesses. According to the Verizon 2023 Data Breach Incident Report, the frequency of social engineering attacks continues to climb, with the median amount stolen increasing to $50,000.

System intrusions

System intrusions refer to unauthorized access or breaches into a business's network, systems, or digital infrastructure by external attackers or malicious insiders. Intrusions can occur through various means, including exploiting vulnerabilities, leveraging malware, or using unauthorized access credentials. These intrusions compromise a business's attack surface, often resulting in data theft, disruption of operations, malware installation (like ransomware), and unauthorized access.

Managing and mitigating attack surface risk

Effective management of the attack surface involves implementing security measures, conducting regular security assessments, and adopting best practices to safeguard their assets, data, and overall operations.

New technologies like Cyber Asset Attack Surface Management (CAASM), Digital Risk Protection Services (DRPS), and External Attack Surface Management (EASM) help teams better understand their attack surface and achieve security outcomes.

The Cavelo platform and its CAASM capabilities helps teams automate data discovery and classification. It prioritizes data as a business’s most critical asset; with this understanding teams gain better visibility to the business’s digital assets and the data they use, store, and share, and their overall attack surface and its risks.

Download the Buyer’s Guide to Cyber Asset Attack Surface Management to learn more about how attack surface management is changing, and the best practice principles your team can apply to achieve a stronger security posture.

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