How External Attack Surface Management Complements Digital Risk Protection

5 minute read

Earlier this year, we wrote about the evolution of external attack surface management (EASM) and why external IT visibility matters for security teams. These blogs explore the concepts of how security programs are evolving to take a more proactive approach to implement attack surface management from an adversary’s perspective. This helps lay the foundation for a more targeted and efficient exposure management program.

In this post, we will continue to explore the complexities of modern attack surfaces and the necessity of adopting an adversary’s viewpoint, particularly focusing on how EASM anddigital risk protection services (DRPS) play critical and complementary roles.

In order to deliver the necessary attack surface awareness that a digitally transformed business requires, businesses must combine EASM and DRPS detection, thus enabling coverage across the organization’s physical internet presence and internet-facing technologies and assets. 

DRPS provides protection for brands, domains, social media accounts, and executives, and EASM streamlines exposure prioritization, vulnerability management, and asset inventory. This has led many organizations to accelerate their adoption across both technologies for broader protection: according to Gartner, 70% of organizations predict they will use a converged EASM and DRPS solution from a single vendor by 2026, up from 5% in 2022. Many organizations are going further, approaching their external posture through the lens of the adversary. They are incorporating EASM, DRPS, and cyber-threat intelligence(CTI) to create a fully realized security layer over their external attack space.

The Complexity of Rapidly Expanding IT Landscapes 

Today’s digital landscape presents an array of challenges for businesses tasked with securing their internet-facing assets due to rapid digital transformation and shadow IT expansion. For example, many organizations deploy a multitude of technologies, each serving different purposes and expanding their digital footprint, and ultimately, their exposures. 

The dynamic nature of these assets makes maintaining comprehensive awareness of the attack surface an ongoing challenge. To compound this problem, hybrid operating environments can cause confusion within the organization, adding to the complexity of expanding IT landscapes.

The Blind Spots and the Adversary Advantage 

Traditional, often internally-focused security defenses put security teams in a reactive state, often allowing the adversary to make the first move. This first mover advantage exists because adversaries continuously probe for exposures across the dynamic IT landscape and security teams are often not resourced to keep up. 

This distraction leaves exposed assets vulnerable and makes them attractive targets for exploitation. In 2022,69% of firms have encountered a cyber-attack that originated with an unknown, unmanaged, or poorly managed internet-facing asset. To counter this, organizations must adopt the adversary’s perspective and think beyond conventional defense strategies to anticipate potential exploits before adversaries can take advantage of them.

Adopting Adversary Reconnaissance 

Managing the attack surface effectively requires continuous monitoring and analysis from an external viewpoint. Organizations should consider how to implement tools and practices for the real-time identification of exposures, informing the context of how an adversary would go about attacking your organization. In other words, approaching your own organization the same way an adversary would, constantly probing for exposures in your dynamic IT landscape. This can enable rapid exposure remediation, limiting the adversaries advantage.

Integrating EASM and DRPS to Protect Against External Exploitation

The integration of external attack surface management with digital risk protection services aims to streamline protection for assets that interact with the internet, whether that’s social media, executives, or software and cloud-hosted databases:

  • External Attack Surface Management: Focuses on identifying, managing, and securing an organization’s external attack surface through centralizing and prioritizing potential exposures in an organization’s external attack surface. The attack surface refers to all the points where an adversary could attempt to compromise systems or extract data from an environment. 
    • Asset Inventory
    • Exposure Prioritization
    • Vulnerability Management
    • Cloud Security & Governance
    • Subsidiary Security Monitoring
  • Digital Risk Protection: DRPS complements EASM by providing real-time alerts on emerging exposures that could impact an organization’s digital presence and reputation. Monitoring various online platforms, DRPS keeps a watchful eye on the organization, looking for:

Together, EASM and DRPS provide a holistic view of an organization’s external cybersecurity posture, enabling proactive action. This broader and external coverage is essential to ensuring organizations are not just reacting to threats but taking an offensive approach to consistently stay ahead of them.

Enhanced Decision-Making and Resource Optimization

The combination of EASM and DRPS improves decision-making and resource allocation. Enhanced visibility and awareness of the external attack surface enables organizations of all sizes to make informed cybersecurity decisions before the impact of a breach (“left of boom”). This insight is vital for aligning cybersecurity strategies with business objectives and security posture goals.

Another byproduct of combining DRPS and EASM into one program is optimizing resource allocation. Across all sectors, combined insights from EASM and DRPS allow alignment for cybersecurity decision-making with industry standards and legal requirements.

Building Resilience and Trust on the Internet

Combining EASM and DRPS together streamlines awareness of an organization’s dynamic digital attack surface. DRPS programs enable organizations to detect, expose, and disrupt external threats to your brands, domains, and executives, while EASM continuously maps your internet-facing assets so you can discover, assess, and take action on exposures that attackers would be likely to use. 

Developing a thorough comprehension of the digital risks linked to an organization’s digital assets and its physical manifestation in the virtual realm delivers actionable intelligence, creating a framework to align potential and actual risks within the organization’s attack surface. Achieving desired outcomes and providing protection for the attack surface fosters trust among all stakeholders by ensuring the security and integrity of digital interactions. This, in turn, enhances stakeholder confidence, a critical element for sustaining resilient digital operations.

Adopting the adversary’s perspective in managing an organization’s attack surface, amplified by the integration of external attack surface management and digital risk protection services, offers a unique and offensive strategy to counter attackers. This strategy is not only about deploying the right technology; it’s about a fundamental shift in mindset, strategy, and operations. 

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