How to better manage your digital attack surface risk
As organizations shift to the cloud in droves, their digital attack surface continues to rapidly expand. And with the number of threats rapidly increasing, security leaders need to enhance their attack surface risk management. We explore how a unified cybersecurity platform can help improve your defenses against cyber risk in comparison to point products.
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In the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity, organizations are continually grappling with an array of threats, each more sophisticated than the last. The traditional methods of cybersecurity, which often involve a blanket approach of applying uniform security measures across all systems, are proving increasingly ineffective against these dynamic threats. This begs the following questions:
- How can organizations effectively identify and secure their IT assets in this ever-changing environment?
- Is there a way to quantify cyber risk in a manner that aligns with business strategies?
- How can we communicate these risks to those at the helm, ensuring a unified approach towards digital defense and company risk reduction?
This situation calls for a paradigm shift towards a more strategic and tailored approach: risk-based cybersecurity.
Key Components of Risk-Based Cybersecurity:
- Risk-Based Asset Identification and Classification: Many organizations struggle with visibility into their entire attack surface, leading to challenges in securing assets and data, thereby increasing vulnerabilities to cyberattacks.
- Risk-Based Threat Assessment: Understanding the current threat landscape to identify potential threats is vital. This involves analyzing threats with a focus on those that pose the highest risk to the organization's critical assets.
- Risk-Based Vulnerability Analysis: Regular scanning and testing are essential, with a focus on vulnerabilities that present the greatest risk.
- Risk Prioritization: This is crucial for making informed decisions and understanding the impact of investments and cybersecurity activities.
- Implementation of Risk-Based Targeted Controls: Emphasizing the implementation of zero-trust architectures, crucial for effective risk prioritization, albeit complex.
- Continuous Monitoring and Improvement: Centralizing visibility across the attack surface is key for continuous risk management and adapting to the evolving threat landscape.
Transitioning from Reactive to Proactive Cybersecurity
The adoption of a risk-based approach in cybersecurity is pivotal in shifting from a reactive to a proactive cybersecurity posture. Here's how this transition is facilitated:
- Anticipating Threats: Risk-based cybersecurity involves anticipating potential threats and vulnerabilities, rather than merely responding to incidents after they occur.
- Strategic Resource Allocation: By prioritizing threats based on their risk levels, organizations can strategically allocate resources to where they are needed most, preventing breaches before they happen.
- Tailored Security Measures: Implementing controls that are specifically designed to protect the most critical assets against the most likely threats ensures a targeted and effective defense strategy.
- Enhanced Situational Awareness: Continuous monitoring and risk assessments provide real-time insights into the threat landscape, allowing organizations to adapt and respond proactively to emerging threats.
- Cultivating a Proactive Culture: Shifting to a risk-based approach necessitates a cultural change within the organization, fostering a mindset that is always looking ahead and preparing for potential cybersecurity challenges.
Implementing a Risk-Based Cybersecurity Strategy with Attack Surface Risk Management (ASRM)
ASRM is the continuous discovery, assessment, and mitigation of an organization’s IT ecosystem. This differs from asset discovery and monitoring in that ASRM evaluates security gaps from the attacker’s perspective, including risk across people, processes, and technology.
The right ASRM solution can operationalize cyber risk management, which requires continuous command across the three phases of the attack surface risk lifecycle: discovery, assessment, and mitigation. Let’s take a deeper look:
Cyber asset discovery
First, you need total visibility to be able to discover and continuously monitor known, unknown, internal, and internet-facing (external) assets. Siloed point products across endpoints, users, devices, cloud, networks, etc., limit overstretched security teams from taking stock or perform manual audits. Also consider that new projects with open-source dependencies and user/device accounts are spun up instantly, meaning you need to be able to see your entire ecosystem as it changes, not after.
The goal is to gain visibility to answer questions such as:
- What is my attack surface?
- How well can I see what assets are in my environment?
- How many, what types, and what attributes are associated with these assets?
- What are my high-value assets?
- How is my attack surface changing?
Being able to see your entire ecosystem as it changes is the first step; next, security teams need to assess and prioritize any weaknesses or vulnerabilities. This doesn’t just apply this to systems, but user types as well—for example, executive level employees are the most common targets for business email compromise (BEC). Also, we’ve seen an uptick in campaigns targeting software supply chains and DevOps pipelines, meaning processes also need to be evaluated for any security gaps.
Ideally, this risk information will be contextualized for greater understanding to answer the following questions:
- Can I quantify my risk? What is my overall risk score?
- Is my risk score increasing or decreasing over time?
- How does it compare to peers in the industry?
- Where do I see the most significant security risks?
- What risk factors need immediate attention?
While discovering and assessing risks across your digital attack surface is important, it’s also critical to receive actionable prioritized mitigation recommendations to lower risk exposure. Virtual patching, changing configuration options on a prevention control, and controlling user access parameters are just a few examples.
Furthermore, it should be possible to automate mitigation wherever possible for great efficiency and to reduce the chance of a successful attack or breach.
With the skills shortage introducing very real challenges to managing the attack surface, the opportunity to create a common framework and a single pane of glass is paramount to effective cyber risk management. Enter: extended detection and response (XDR) and zero-trust strategies.
The importance of XDR
Investments in XDR mean there is data, analytics, and integrations, and a technology in place that could act as a foundation to serving other use cases and providing insight and operational value beyond the realm of detection and response.
More proactive risk prioritization and mitigation benefits the SOC by reducing overall exposure and the scope of a security incident. Conversely, detection data collected by XDR provides valuable insight into attack surface threat activity and how current defenses are coping. In turn, this can inform risk assessments and response recommendations.
Learn more in Guide to Better Threat Detection and Response (XDR)
Supporting zero-trust strategies
Proactive cyber risk management depends on operationalizing elements of a zero-trust strategy. Zero trust is an extension of the principle of least privilege, wherein any connection—whether it’s from within the network or not—should be considered untrustworthy. This is crucial in today’s hyper-connected, remote work environment that has increased the different entry points or connections into the enterprise.
As always, this needs to be an ongoing process that constantly evaluates identity, user and device activity, application, vulnerability, and device configuration. The demand for continuous assessment has led to many SOCs shifting toward the Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) architecture, which combines discrete capabilities such as Cloud Application Security Broker (CASB), Secure Web Gateway (SWG), and Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) for more granular control across the network.
Tying it all together, XDR alongside risk insight and mitigation that is aligned with zero trust can further enhance security. XDR establishes a solid foundation for verifying and establishing trust. And since it continuously collects and correlates data, it fulfils the continuous assessment pillar of the zero-trust strategy.
A New Approach to Digital Defense
The adoption of a risk-based approach in cybersecurity is not just a tactical shift, but a strategic imperative in the face of evolving cyber threats. ASRM uses this framework to enable organizations to effectively protect their most valuable assets and align their cybersecurity efforts with their business strategy. It not only guards against current threats but also prepares for future challenges, ensuring a responsive and robust cybersecurity posture.
Trend Vision One™ is a modern, purpose-built AI-powered cybersecurity platform that leverages the combined power of full lifecycle ASRM solutions, XDR, leading global threat intelligence, AI/ML technology, and zero trust principles to bridge comprehensive threat prediction, prevention, detection, and response capabilities for superior protection against cyber threats.
For more information on attack surface risk management, check out the following:
Modern Attack Surface Management for CISOs