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Navigating Your External Attack Surface for Critical Security Insights

Navigating Your External Attack Surface for Critical Security Insights
4 minute read

Understanding and managing your organization's external attack surface is a complex, yet essential, task. This blog post, inspired by the recent announcement of ZeroFox External Attack Surface Management (EASM), serves as a guide to help manage threats to your organization by leveraging EASM.

The Essence of EASM 

EASM is fundamental to identifying, evaluating, and securing your organization's digital assets which are visible—and vulnerable—to external adversaries. Mimicking adversary reconnaissance, EASM enables organizations to gain a new perspective on the myriad ways an invader could breach its defenses. Notably, about 73% of organizations have experienced a security breach facilitated by an unknown, unmanaged, or poorly managed internet-facing asset, highlighting the critical need for comprehensive EASM practices.

Establishing a Strong Foundation

The first step in securing your digital assets is establishing a comprehensive baseline of your external attack surface. This means conducting thorough, continuous enumerations 

of your digital landscape to identify targets of opportunity exposed to potential adversaries. It's about taking constant stock of your organization's perimeter, acknowledging every software, service, and technology. This baseline serves as a topographical map for your IT/security team, outlining the terrain they must defend. Aligning this map with your vulnerability management pipeline can ensure an operationally efficient process to remove attacker targets of opportunity.

Crafting Your Defense Strategy

Once your assets are charted, the next step is to understand the paths an attacker might take. In 2023, CISA released an advisory in combination with the FBI, NSA and many more cyber security agencies that highlights the details of Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs) frequently exploited by cyber actors in 2022. This advisory communicates that malicious actors often chose older, known vulnerabilities for attacks, targeting systems without patches and utilized publicly available Proof of Concept (PoC) codes making it easier for a wider range of attackers to exploit these vulnerabilities. 

Malicious actors tend to exploit known vulnerabilities most successfully within the first two years after they are publicly disclosed. This means the heartburn from the most recent Ivanti Secure VPN vulnerability will likely be felt for years to come. Organizations can look to EASM to enable the meticulous interrogation of their digital footprint and the vulnerabilities within it that could be exploited to rapidly reduce exposure risk.

The Art of Vigilance

Monitoring your digital footprint for change is crucial. New assets and services can emerge as if from thin air, and without a vigilant eye, they could become gateways for attackers. Continuous attack surface monitoring enables the detection of exposures and changes in your attack surface, ensuring that every new addition is accounted for and assessed for risks. Organizations that implement continuous monitoring reduce their detection time of new vulnerabilities, significantly enhancing their mean time to remediation.

Leveraging Intelligence

Not every vulnerability warrants the same level of attention. Through risk scoring and prioritization, you can discern which vulnerabilities pose the greatest threat and allocate your resources accordingly. This strategic approach ensures that your efforts are focused on fortifying the most critical weaknesses first. To do this, you require knowledge. By integrating EASM with traditional threat intelligence, you arm yourself with an understanding of who your adversaries might be and the strategies they are likely to employ. This knowledge can enable you to tailor your defenses, concentrating your efforts where they’re most needed.

Embracing Efficiency Through Automation

Efficiency is paramount in the realm of the attacker’s rapid evolution of TTPs. The automation of EASM enhances both the velocity and precision of vulnerability detection and mitigation. ZeroFox External Attack Surface Management prioritizes this efficiency, providing a streamlined, precise, and consistently updated solution. That’s why EASM is a fundamental component of a strong, efficient and capable threat exposure management solution, and according to Gartner's Top Trends in Cybersecurity 2023 report, organizations prioritizing their security investments through continuous threat exposure management programs will encounter two-thirds fewer breaches by 2026.

Keeping Leadership Informed

Cybersecurity is a strategic issue that requires top-level attention. Effective executive reporting ensures that cybersecurity remains a priority and, because it's not just a technical challenge but a strategic one, keeps leadership in the loop with a snapshot of cyber risks for the organization. 

Continuing the Journey with EASM Security

Navigating your attack surface is not a point-in-time task but a journey and operational change to continuously improve your security hygiene and remove attacker targets of opportunity. The digital world is ever-changing, and so are the threats that lurk within it. By adhering to these best practices, your organization can begin to take the advantage back from and stay ahead of the attacker. By embracing vigilance, intelligence, and efficiency, you build a stronger cybersecurity hygiene function, safeguarding your organization's future in the digital realm.

Download The SOC Team’s Guide to External Attack Surface Management or learn more about ZeroFox’s approach to EASM.

Tags: External Attack Surface Management

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