The cyber threat landscape changes every day. The amount of data an organization stores, the number of employees that access the network remotely and external threats all play a significant role in a company’s data loss vulnerability.

This is often referred to as a company’s ‘attack surface’. 

Using the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) definition, Gartner defines the attack surface as: “The set of points on the boundary of a system, a system element, or an environment [the assets] where an attacker can try to enter, cause an effect on, or extract data from, that system, system element, or environment.”

Simply put, a company’s attack surface is the number of all possible points, also known as ‘attack vectors’, where an unauthorized user can access a system and extract data. 

To counteract this threat, organizations have long implemented attack surface management (ASM) into their business to mitigate the risk of internal, external and other digital risks. Yet attack surface management has evolved significantly in recent years, and companies must keep up with the latest innovations if they are to effectively protect their data.

In this blog, we take a look at what attack surface management is, how it has evolved in recent years and what your organization needs to do to implement an effective ASM strategy and improve its data protection and compliance measures.

What is attack surface management? 

Attack surface management uses a combination of people, processes, industry best practices and technology to manage and mitigate cyber risk and the threats that target an organization’s internal and external digital assets. 

While attack surface management is similar in nature to asset management, which is often used in IT hygiene solutions, the critical difference is that ASM approaches threat detection and vulnerability management from the perspective of the attacker. 

As a result, organizations that implement attack surface management are focused on identifying and evaluating the risk posed by both known and unknown assets. 

GET THE BUYER'S GUIDE TO CYBER ASSET ATTACK SURFACE MANAGMENT 

How has attack surface management evolved? 

IT and cybersecurity teams are responsible for understanding their organization’s internal and external attack surface as part of ongoing data loss prevention strategy. The challenge is that the attack surface has changed drastically in recent years. 

Most companies still focus on securing their traditional walls and perimeter security control, securing assets such as desktops, printers, routers and switches. Yet the typical company’s attack surface has extended far beyond just hardware. 

Pervasive and complex threats, as well as the increasing reliance on connected systems, cloud applications and distributed work environments, mean a company’s attack surface has stretched and extended far beyond the traditional perimeter, increasing cyber risk and the likelihood of data loss. 

While traditional security approaches still have a place in today’s attack surface management strategy, businesses also need complete visibility into the digital assets and sensitive data stored across their entire network. 

So, how does your business implement effective attack surface management?

To mitigate the risk of data loss from both internal and external threats, as well as comply with data privacy regulations, organizations today must strengthen their security maturity. Attack surface management is another piece of the cybersecurity puzzle that allows a business to achieve greater security maturity, protecting data loss from internal and external threats. 

Today, managing an attack surface involves three emerging areas of technological innovation: 

Cyber asset attack surface management (CAASM)

In its 2021 Gartner Hype Cycle for Security Operations, Gartner identified cyber asset attack surface management (also known as CAASM) as an emerging technology:

“CAASM focuses on enabling security teams to solve persistent asset visibility and vulnerability challenges. It enables organizations to see all assets (internal and external) through API integrations with existing tools, query against the consolidated data, identify the scope of vulnerabilities and gaps in security controls, and remediate issues.”

Understanding your organization's attack surface starts with knowing where your data is. Cyber asset attack surface management uses tools such as data discovery and data classification to help you understand your current attack surface and security maturity.

Once you have this visibility, you can implement processes and technologies that both better protect your organization’s data and ensure you comply with data compliance regulations. 

Digital risk protection services (DRPS)

DRPS is delivered through a combination of technology and services to guard critical digital assets from external threats. The implementation of these solutions provides organizations with visibility to the open, dark and deep web to identify context on threat actors and the tactics they use to target the business.

External attack surface management (EASM) 

External attack surface management is the use of technology, processes and services to guard critical digital assets from external threats. EASM gives organizations visibility into other servers, credentials, public cloud service misconfigurations and third-party software code vulnerabilities that could be exploited by third-parties and lead to data loss.

Are you interested in learning more about how to better protect your company’s attack surface, and how CAASM can help you do that? Watch a virtual demo of the Cavelo platform today, and learn how we simplify data protection and cyber attack surface management for your business. 

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