Cyberattack Surface Management

What is the Cyberattack Surface?

An organization’s cyberattack surface is the collection of all its digital assets that may be exploited or targeted by a digital threat actor who seeks to gain unauthorized access to the organization’s IT environment. 

The cyber attack surface may be divided into two areas:

  • The private attack surface, which includes digital assets that are not visible to the public, such as private servers, hosts, and cloud applications.
  • The public attack surface, which includes digital assets that are visible to the public, such as web domains, owned social media pages, and app stores. These assets live outside of the organization’s security perimeter and are increasingly being targeted by digital threat actors.

Digital transformation has expanded both the public and private attack surface for enterprise organizations via the increased adoption of cloud and web-based applications, digital marketing channels, and social media platforms.

What is Cyberattack Surface Management?

Cyberattack surface management is the process of identifying, evaluating, monitoring, and exercising risk-based security controls over the digital assets that make up both the public and private components of an organization’s cyberattack surface.

The primary goal of cyberattack surface management is to mitigate the risk of a cyberattack or data breach that could result in financial losses, regulatory fines and penalties, legal exposure, and damage to the organization’s brand and reputation. Risk mitigation is achieved by implementing risk-based security controls along with cybersecurity software solutions that monitor the cyberattack surface for Indicators of Compromise (IoCs).

How Does Cyberattack Surface Management Work?

Surveying the Private and Public Attack Surface

When it comes to cyberattack surface management, the first step for enterprise SecOps teams is to accurately and comprehensively inventory all digital assets that make up both the public and private attack surfaces. 

The private attack surface can include assets like public and private cloud deployments, web-based services, IP addresses and blocks, Internet ports, servers, and web frameworks. The public attack surface consists of publicly accessible web domains, social media pages and  profiles, email addresses, and business collaboration platforms. 

Surveying and mapping the entire attack surface is a necessary precursor to implementing security monitoring and other controls to secure those assets against digital threats.

Conducting a Risk Assessment and Evaluation

Once the organization’s digital assets have been surveyed and mapped out, the next step is to conduct a risk assessment and evaluation.

SecOps teams should apply risk management processes and methodologies to:

  • Understand the digital threats and attack vectors that could be used to attack their assets,
  • Assess digital assets to determine whether any known vulnerabilities are present, and
  • Conduct a risk evaluation of each digital asset to quantify the likelihood and potential impact of a cyberattack or data breach.

Applying risk management to cyberattack surface management enables SecOps teams to organize and prioritize the implementation of security controls, targeting the assets and vulnerabilities that pose the greatest risk to the organization.

Implementing Cybersecurity Controls

Cybersecurity controls are processes and measures deployed by an organization to safeguard digital assets against a cyberattack or data breach. Cybersecurity controls may be divided into three types:

  1. Technical controls are hardware and software tools that protect digital assets from cyberattacks, including common solutions like antivirus, intrusion detection and protection systems, and encryption.
  2. Administrative controls include things like separation of duties, data classification, security auditing, and role-based access controls, as well as cybersecurity awareness training and disaster recovery planning.
  3. Physical controls are used to safeguard an organization’s digital assets against physical threats. They include alarm systems, biometric identification systems, surveillance cameras, and other methods for preventing unauthorized access to the organization’s servers and devices.

In addition to these controls, SecOps teams may undertake initiatives to reduce the size of the cyberattack surface.

Monitoring the Cyberattack Surface

To effectively manage threats across the cyberattack surface, enterprise SecOps teams need continuous monitoring capabilities that provide real-time visibility and alerting across both the public and private attack surfaces. The most common solutions here include:

  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) – Used to aggregate and correlate log and event data that could indicate a digital threat against the organization’s private attack surface. 
  • Log Management & Analytics – Used to capture, aggregate, and store log data from throughout the private attack surface for root cause analysis and threat hunting.
  • Digital Risk Protection (DRP) – Used to monitor the public attack surface and safeguard organizations against cyber, brand, and physical threats. 

Incident Response and Remediation

Enterprise SecOps teams must develop incident response protocols, which act as instructions for security teams to detect, respond to, and remediate attacks across the cyberattack surface. 

Incident response protocols can leverage the combined monitoring, threat intelligence, and remediation capabilities of software tools like DRP, third-party vendors, and SecOps personnel into a synchronized workflow for restoring service after a data breach or cyber incident.

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ZeroFOX provides enterprises protection, intelligence, and disruption to dismantle external threats to brands, people, assets, and data across the public attack surface in a comprehensive Digital Risk Protection platform.
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