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The Importance of Attack Surface Reduction in Cybersecurity

Posted by Jacob Haynes on Jun 11, 2024 10:37:22 AM
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When a cyber-criminal or malicious actor wants to attack your organization, the first thing they will want to understand is what devices are vulnerable that they can exploit to access your organization's data.

Solutions II Blog: The Importance of Attack Surface Reduction

When a cyber-criminal or malicious actor wants to attack your organization, the first thing they will want to understand is what devices are vulnerable that they can exploit to access your organization's data. Think about the billions of computers, smartphones, cameras, sensors, servers, and other computing devices that an attacker can exploit. In fact, ExplodingTopics reports that there are 3.63 billion IoT devices in the United States alone. Each one, if not properly secured, could serve as a gateway for unauthorized access!

This is why it is important to understand what your attack surface is: the sum of devices that your company manages, controls, and ultimately cares about. Most importantly, this potential entry point for attackers is not static — as your business integrates more technology (and thus more devices), your attack surface will grow, requiring you to have robust security processes in place to defend against dynamic threats.

Which Companies are the Most Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks?

Considering the sheer number of devices a hacker can choose from, it is important to understand that cyber-criminals do not discriminate based on the size of an organization. However, unlike larger enterprises, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are among the most vulnerable groups. According to McKinsey, “What might remain a silent breach at a larger organization is often a significant, overt disruption at a smaller one.” In fact, as much as 60% of small businesses go out of business within six months post-breach!

Based on our experience, small and medium-sized organizations typically:

  • Lack the resources to defend against attacks and don’t have an in-depth understanding of the devices that are connected to their network.
  • Have limited or no visibility into whether devices are missing security control.
  • Don't understand the risk that those devices have to the security of their organization.
  • Remediation plans are not based on risk to the organization.

If this is hard to believe, a study by BullGuard showed that 23% of SMBs use no device security, 32% rely only on free solutions, and most admit they are inadequate in training employees to avoid cyber attacks. What’s even worse: more than one in four small businesses have no security plan at all!

This lack of awareness leaves SMBs widely exposed to cyber attacks from threat actors trying to breach their networks and hold their systems and sensitive data for ransom.

How Can Your Organization Effectively Reduce its Attack Surface?

For many companies, implementing a vulnerability management program can be daunting. Compiling an asset inventory, conducting vulnerability assessments, prioritizing remediation efforts, and reporting the findings to the leadership board requires a lot of work.

Here’s how companies are (poorly) addressing this problem today, if at all:

  1. The IT department is manually tracking assets via spreadsheets from scattered networks and systems.
  2. The Security department then determines which devices may be exposed by scanning them for vulnerabilities. 
  3. Then a findings report is generated and delivered to IT to remediate.

Given how tedious this process can be it may only get done once a month. This leaves businesses vulnerable to hidden risks that are not yet known until the next scan occurs. Not properly discovering and classifying all cyber assets and continuously scanning them for vulnerabilities makes it extremely difficult to prioritize the risk and develop remediation plans. 

Instead, our team at Solutions-II suggests following a more streamlined and structured attack surface management process:

Identify and inventory all assets: The first step with any vulnerability management program is to ensure that you have taken an inventory and identified all the devices and software on the network that need to be assessed. This includes endpoints, servers, mobile devices, and IoT devices. The inventory should be updated frequently as new devices are added and old devices are removed from the network.

Classify assets based on criticality: Once the inventory has been established, it's time to classify the devices based on their importance to business operations. Every device should be assigned a value from 1 to 10 (Critical, High, Medium, Low) that represents its criticality. Devices and software that are core to business functions should be a priority.

Perform vulnerability scans of those assets: The next step is to perform automated vulnerability scans of all internal/external assets. Scanners and agents should be deployed to various portions of the network or deploying an agent to Windows, Linux, or Mac devices. The network/agents’ scans should be conducted multiple times a week to ensure you are discovering vulnerable assets as quickly as possible.

Remediate and report risks: Remediation should always be the first approach, as it allows you to fix or patch the vulnerability before it becomes a target for exploitation. However, when a vulnerability cannot be remediated, you require further actions to mitigate the vulnerability to reduce the likelihood of the vulnerability being exploited. Reporting plays a crucial role in this process, as it allows your organization to evaluate the speed, efficiency, and effectiveness of your vulnerability management efforts in reducing risks. Additionally, reporting provides several advantages, including ensuring compliance with relevant regulations and standards like ISO 27001 and CIS controls 1, 2, and 7.

How ASM Illuminate Can Help 

If your organization is looking for a solution to reduce its attack surface, ASM Illuminate is the answer. Here’s how our team can help:

  • Identify – Asset Aggregation and Correlation: ASM Illuminate easily aggregates and correlates all your assets from multiple networks and tools. Once we identify all your assets, we assign a unique asset identifier to centralize all your device information in a single hub in as fast as four (4) hours. This gives you full visibility into what assets access your data and applications. 
  • Assess - Vulnerability Scans: Our solution performs thorough vulnerability scans both on-premises and in the cloud, focusing on identifying assets with critical or high vulnerabilities to prevent potential breaches.
  • Prioritize - Risk-based Remediation Plan: ASM Illuminate continuously analyzes which assets are critical to your business operations — prioritizing remediation based on the potential impact of a breach to minimize and mitigate business disruptions.
  • Measure - Reporting and Metrics: ASM Illuminate provides metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of your security program. We identify gaps such as assets without endpoint security, patches, or proper management. Our solution also gives you access to a 24/7 vulnerability portal so you can monitor your security posture at any time, facilitating ongoing improvement and risk management.

ASM Illuminate provides a unique approach to your attack surface. The manual approach many organizations take is passively managing assets via spreadsheets, ad-hoc vulnerability assessments, and best-effort remediations. ASM Illuminate automates processes to provide a continuous unified asset inventory, comprehensive vulnerability assessments, and device security posture profiles. This automation allows us to illuminate hidden risk throughout your environment and provide you with a prioritized Actionable Intelligence Plan that will help you reduce the most risk with minimal effort.

If you would like to learn how ASM Illuminate can help your organization streamline its vulnerability management program, contact our team here.

To learn more about Solutions II, visit our website at www.solutions-ii.com or follow us on LinkedIn

Topics: Cybersecurity, IT Security, ASM Illuminate

Date: Jun 11, 2024 10:37:22 AM

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