What is External Cybersecurity?
External cybersecurity is the deployment of human threat experts and machine intelligence to identify and disrupt cybersecurity threats that originate outside an organization’s network perimeter.
External cybersecurity addresses security threats against digital assets hosted outside of the targeted organization’s network and exposed on the public Internet, collectively known as the organization’s public attack surface. This public attack surface may include IP addresses, web domains, social media profiles, email accounts, business collaboration tools, digital profiles, and other assets.
External cybersecurity combines AI-driven security tools with human expertise to monitor the organization’s public attack surface, generate actionable threat intelligence, disrupt digital adversaries, and respond decisively to security incidents.
Internal vs. External Cybersecurity: What's the Difference?
Internal cybersecurity deals with cyber threats against digital assets and infrastructure elements deployed inside the target organization’s network, which are not exposed on the public Internet. This can include servers and routers, data storage appliances, private and public cloud deployments, SaaS applications, operating systems, VPN gateways, in-network devices, and more.
Digital assets within the organization’s private network collectively comprise the organization’s private attack surface. Threats against in-network assets can include viruses, malware and ransomware, software vulnerability exploits, cross-site scripting threats, and more. Internal threats are primarily detected, investigated, and blocked from inside the network, using security tools like antivirus, firewalls, and network intrusion detection systems.
External cybersecurity deals with threats against digital assets outside of the organization’s network perimeter.
On the other hand, external cybersecurity deals with threats against an organization’s public attack surface - assets located outside the enterprise network and exposed on the Internet. These threats include phishing and fraud, impersonation attacks targeting brands and executives, coordinated DDoS attacks against publicly-exposed assets, fraudulent websites and mobile apps, and more.
Unlike internal cybersecurity threats, most external threats can’t be detected or blocked from inside an organization’s network. To address external threats, enterprise security teams must proactively monitor external threat vectors and collaborate with external stakeholders to disrupt adversaries and dismantle their infrastructure, often with the help of a managed external security provider.
Why is External Cybersecurity Important?
As organizations experience digital transformation and expand their digital presence, they also increase their public attack surface and become more vulnerable to external cybersecurity threats.
An organization’s websites, brand and executive social media profiles, email addresses, mobile apps, and business collaboration tools all serve as potential attack vectors for digital adversaries seeking to commit financial fraud, steal sensitive data, or otherwise compromise the organization’s security.
External cybersecurity provides security teams with enhanced visibility of external threats and the capability to detect and disrupt harmful fraud and impersonation attacks that can’t be detected by traditional software security tools, such as antivirus and IDS.
5 External Cybersecurity Threats You Should Know
- Compromised Credentials - Compromised credentials are leaked account information, such as usernames, passwords, and personally identifying information, that falls into the hands of unauthorized individuals. Credentials can be compromised when an employee mistakenly shares private account information with a digital threat actor. Digital adversaries employ techniques like malware and phishing to steal credentials from their targets.
- Phishing - Phishing is a type of online scam that utilizes fraudulent communications to manipulate targets into taking harmful actions, such as revealing credentials to a secured system or unknowingly sending money to a digital adversary. Phishing attacks can originate from social media, email, or business collaboration tools.
- Brand and Executive Impersonation - Digital adversaries increasingly use social media platforms to impersonate brands or executives and commit fraud against targeted organizations, their employees, and their customers . Assuming the identity of a well-known brand or influential business executive allows the adversary to manipulate victims into sharing sensitive personal data or engaging in fraudulent transactions.
Malicious Domains - Digital adversaries create and deploy malicious domains to conduct various malicious activities. Phishing messages sent via email or social media often include links to malicious domains.
Malicious domains are designed to deceive targets by imitating or replicating legitimate websites or impersonating trusted individuals or brands. A malicious domain could:
- Encourage the target to input sensitive data (which will be shared with the digital adversary)
- Attempt to install malware (e.g. spyware, ransomware, etc.) on the target’s machine
- Redirect the target to another malicious domain
- Botnets - A botnet is a remote network of machines controlled by a digital adversary. Botnets can be used to overwhelm publicly exposed digital infrastructure (e.g. websites, apps, etc.) with junk web traffic, resulting in service interruptions for legitimate users and unplanned operational downtime.
How Does External Cybersecurity Work?
- Monitoring the Public Attack Surface - External cybersecurity relies on human threat analysts and software tools to monitor the organization’s public attack surface for potential sources of digital risk. Managed external security providers, such as ZeroFox, utilize AI-driven software tools to monitor the public attack surface at scale, searching for indicators of brand abuse, executive impersonation, compromised credentials, and other threats.
- Identifying and Detecting ThreatsMonitoring the public attack surface enables security teams to identify and detect threats originating from outside the organization’s security perimeter. Human threat analysts review data from AI-driven monitoring systems to develop timely and actionable threat intelligence for enterprise security teams.
- Adversary Disruption and Takedown - Once an external threat has been identified and validated, enterprise security teams collaborate with external stakeholders, such as managed external security vendors, social media platforms, and web hosting companies to remove fraudulent social media profiles, fake mobile apps, or spoofed domains from the Internet.
- Incident and Breach Response - When an external cyber threat escalates to a security incident or data breach, managed external security providers can assist enterprise security teams with incident and breach response, helping to remediate the attack, recover data, and protect the organization’s reputation.
Safeguard Your Organization’s External Cybersecurity with ZeroFox
ZeroFox provides enterprises with digital risk protection, actionable threat intelligence, and adversary disruption capabilities to detect and dismantle external cybersecurity threats across the public attack surface.
Ready to Learn More?
Read our white paper External Cybersecurity is Your First Line of Defense to learn more about the key components and essential use cases for external cybersecurity.