Traditionally, security solutions have long focused on protecting businesses from within – inside the firewall, within the network, and behind secured doors. Antivirus software, intrusion detection systems and firewalls have been the go-to tools for safeguarding sensitive information from threat actor access. While these measures are crucial for internal security, they often overlook a critical aspect: all of the business, digital transactions, and external cyber risks that now happen outside of the perimeter.
In the modern digital landscape, venturing outside the perimeter is a necessity for a successful business. Engaging with customers through online platforms, leveraging cloud services, and enabling remote work are just a few examples of how organizations must embrace the opportunities beyond their traditional security perimeters. However, this expanded digital presence also exposes businesses to new risks and vulnerabilities, requiring a proactive approach to cybersecurity. It also means that cybersecurity doesn’t just stop at the fence. Oftentimes you will have to step outside the perimeter into the great outdoors. Here are the essential cybersecurity steps for anyone’s packing list when heading outside the perimeter.
Map Your External Attack Surface
Before embarking outside the perimeter, it is essential to understand where you’ll be headed: the external attack surface. The external attack surface refers to the internet-facing assets that your organization possesses – including your brands, domains, data, and even your high-profile individuals – and the digital networks on which these assets are exposed, such as the deep and dark web, social media platforms, web domains and other online channels.
By defining and understanding the scope and nature of your external attack surface, you can gain insight into potential risks and vulnerabilities that threat actors may exploit. Proactively identifying and addressing any weaknesses in your security posture enhances your ability to protect your digital presence proactively. With a thorough understanding of your external attack surface, you can embark on your cybersecurity endeavors outside the perimeter with greater confidence and preparedness. There are several networks and platforms within the external attack surface, here are a few you might come across on your journey outside the perimeter:
- Surface Web & Domains
The surface web refers to the visible and indexed portion of the internet, accessible through search engines like Google. While it is often the most frequented part of the internet, it also poses significant security risks. Websites, forums, blogs, and online services hosted on the surface web can be targeted by attackers to exploit vulnerabilities, launch phishing attacks, or gather information for reconnaissance purposes. Malicious domains are often the foundation of an external cyber attack, used to stand up phishing websites, create fake email addresses for business email compromise, and conduct social engineering attacks. Monitoring for malicious domains at the point of registration is key to protecting your brand against impersonations.
- The Deep and Dark Web
The dark web is a hidden part of the internet where illicit activities thrive. Venturing out to the deep and dark web, you may encounter attack chatter related to your organization or industry, compromised credentials that belong to your customers or executives, criminal groups planning or executing ransomware and/or phishing campaigns, stolen data, and illegal goods. Having visibility into the dark web allows for more proactive threat monitoring, as attacks are often planned on these criminal forums.
- Social Media Platforms
Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives, but it also serves as a rich hunting ground for cybercriminals. Attackers can exploit publicly available information on social media platforms to gather intelligence, launch targeted phishing attacks, create impersonating accounts, or conduct social engineering campaigns. Oversharing personal or sensitive information on social media can inadvertently expose individuals and organizations to significant risks, such as account takeovers, impersonations, and misinformation attacks.
- Other Digital Platforms
Apart from the surface web, deep web, and social media, there are numerous other digital platforms that contribute to the external attack surface. These include mobile app stores, paste sites, cloud storage services, messaging apps, and collaboration tools. Attackers can exploit vulnerabilities on these platforms to gain unauthorized access or use them as a launching pad for attacks. Implementing strong authentication measures and monitoring for suspicious activities are essential practices to mitigate risks associated with these platforms.
Pack Your External Assets
Now that you know where you’re headed, you need to pack your external assets. As we mentioned before, these are your internet-facing brands, domains, data, and even people and locations, that may be exposed to threats on the external attack surface. These can include (but are not limited to):
Your brand is the digital representation of your company, how you engage with customers and prospects publicly. This can include your corporate social media accounts, mobile apps, websites, recruiting efforts, and beyond. Protecting your brand outside the perimeter is critical to maintaining customer trust. A single impersonating account on social media could be reputation and revenue damaging.
Your domain is the unique online address that represents your organization’s presence on the internet. It encompasses your website, email addresses, and other online services. Securing your domains involves protecting them from unauthorized access, hijacking, or domain squatting. By maintaining control over your domains and implementing strong security measures, you can ensure the integrity of your online presence and prevent potential misuse.
Your executives are high-value targets for threat actors due to their access to sensitive information and decision-making authority. Protecting your executives involves raising awareness about social engineering tactics, implementing strict access controls, and providing specialized security training. By safeguarding your executives and their digital identities, you can minimize the risk of targeted attacks and protect critical business information.
Your data encompasses all the valuable information your organization collects and stores, including customer records, financial data, intellectual property, and more. Protecting your data involves implementing strong encryption, access controls, and data loss prevention measures. Regular backups and secure storage systems are also crucial to mitigate the impact of data breaches or ransomware attacks. By prioritizing data security, you can safeguard sensitive information and maintain customer trust.
Your physical locations, such as offices, data centers, or retail stores, may house critical infrastructure and sensitive information. Traditionally, protecting your locations involves implementing robust physical security measures, including access controls, surveillance systems, and alarms. In today’s increasingly digital world, however, physical attacks are often planned and discussed online. Monitoring for mentions of your locations or travel destinations of your key executives is critical to maintain both digital and physical safety.
- Intellectual property
Your intellectual property (IP) represents the unique ideas, inventions, and creative works that give your organization a competitive edge. Protecting your IP involves implementing intellectual property rights, such as patents, trademarks, or copyrights. Additionally, implementing strict access controls, monitoring for unauthorized use, and educating employees about the importance of IP protection are essential. By safeguarding your intellectual property, you can preserve your organization’s innovations and prevent unauthorized use or exploitation.
Stay Vigilant and Know Your Surroundings
While you’re outside the perimeter, it’s important to know your surroundings and maintain situational awareness of the types of threats and threat actors you may encounter before you meet them face-to-face. Continuously monitoring the external attack surface through threat intelligence is key – focusing not only on direct threats to your organization, but your industry and geographic region as well. Monitoring the dark web is a key component of staying vigilant, as threat actors often use underground forums and chat rooms to plan attacks and choose targets. This attack chatter can give early insight into potential threats before they cause harm.
Physical Security Intelligence involves monitoring for mentions of specific locations and people online that may result in a physical security incident such as a targeted attack, protest, or other public safety event. Monitoring social media, the dark web, and even surface websites like blogs and forums, is key to maintaining situational awareness of potential physical security attacks.
Dark web monitoring is the process of scanning the dark web for any signs of your organization’s compromised data or credentials. By actively monitoring the dark web, organizations can detect potential threats before they cause significant damage. It enables you to take timely action, such as changing passwords, notifying affected users, or strengthening your security measures to mitigate risks. In addition, practicing good social media hygiene, such as using privacy settings, being cautious about accepting friend requests or connection requests, and refraining from sharing sensitive information, is vital in reducing the attack surface.
In today’s interconnected world, threat actors are constantly evolving their techniques and finding new ways to exploit vulnerabilities. Expanding the focus beyond reactive measures and adopting a proactive and continuous monitoring approach enables organizations to better anticipate threats and minimize the impact of potential security incidents.
The combination of threat intelligence and physical security intelligence enables security teams to gain a comprehensive understanding of the threat landscape, enhance their situational awareness, and make informed decisions to mitigate risks effectively. By continuously monitoring for threats, organizations can identify and assess potential risks in real-time, allowing them to respond swiftly and effectively. This proactive stance not only enhances the security posture of an organization but also demonstrates a commitment to safeguarding assets, employees, and stakeholders from potential harm.
Protect Yourself From Anything You Come Across
As you navigate the vast terrain outside the perimeter, it’s important to be aware of the potential dangers that may lie in wait. Threat actors roaming the digital wilderness may seek to exploit your assets, targeting your brands, domains, and sensitive data.
Phishing attacks remain one of the most prevalent cyber threats today. Cybercriminals use deceptive tactics to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information, such as passwords or financial details. In fact, according to this year’s CyberEdge Cyberthreat Defense Report, phishing remains one of the most feared threats. Anti-phishing software helps detect and block phishing emails, malicious websites, and fraudulent links. It uses various techniques like URL analysis, email filtering, and machine learning algorithms to identify and mitigate phishing attempts. By employing anti-phishing software, you can reduce the risk of falling victim to phishing attacks and protect yourself and your organization from potential data breaches.
- Brand and Executive Impersonations
Brand and executive impersonation attacks involve cybercriminals pretending to be someone else, such as a trusted organization or an individual, to deceive and manipulate victims. These attacks can lead to reputational damage, financial loss, and identity theft. Brand and personal impersonation detection tools employ artificial intelligence and data analytics to identify instances of impersonation across various online channels, including social media, websites, and communication platforms. By promptly detecting impersonation attempts, you can protect your brand reputation, maintain customer trust, and prevent personal and financial harm to individuals associated with your organization.
- Compromised Credentials & Leaked PII
In today’s interconnected world, the compromise of user credentials is a common occurrence. Cybercriminals use a variety of methods like phishing attacks, keyloggers, or credential stuffing to obtain usernames and passwords. Compromised credential monitoring tools continuously monitor databases and online platforms to detect if any of your organization’s credentials have been exposed. By identifying compromised credentials promptly, you can proactively secure affected accounts, prevent unauthorized access, and protect sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands.
- Account Takeover
Account takeover (ATO) attacks involve malicious actors gaining unauthorized access to user accounts to carry out fraudulent activities or gather sensitive information. In today’s world, the average person typically has tens or hundreds of accounts for logging into everything from financial accounts to social media. Each one of these accounts presents an opportunity for threat actors. Account takeover protection solutions leverage advanced techniques like behavioral analytics, anomaly detection, and multi-factor authentication to detect and prevent ATO attacks. These tools analyze user behavior patterns, device information, and other contextual data to distinguish between legitimate and malicious access attempts. By implementing account takeover protection, you can add an additional layer of security to your online accounts and prevent unauthorized access.
Identifying and addressing vulnerabilities is crucial to maintaining a strong cybersecurity posture. Common vulnerabilities that can expose organizations to cyber threats like ransomware include unpatched software, weak passwords, misconfigured systems, and insecure network configurations. Regular vulnerability assessments and penetration testing can help identify and mitigate these weaknesses before they are exploited by malicious actors.
Ransomware attacks have become increasingly sophisticated and damaging, causing significant financial and operational disruptions. Organizations should implement robust security measures to protect against ransomware, such as regularly backing up data, using strong and unique passwords, employing multi-factor authentication, and implementing endpoint security solutions. It’s also crucial to educate employees about the risks of ransomware and how to identify and respond to potential threats.
Stuff You Can Leave At Home
While stepping outside your security perimeter can be similar to venturing into the great outdoors, there are a few things you can do without when entering the external attack surface.
Book Used for Identifying Species of Birds
While essential for even the most casual bird watchers, ornithology has nothing to do with cybersecurity (tweets don’t count). It is important though to ensure that, like all your other social media accounts, your twitter account has two factor authentication enabled.
Effective against mosquitoes and other pests, but ineffective against malware and threat actors. Do not spray anything electronic with it. It is crucial though to ensure your organization uses effective vulnerability intelligence to keep up with the latest vulnerabilities, bugs, and exploits used by cyber criminals.
Great if you find yourself under attack from an angry bear, but it won’t stop an angry ransomware attack, even if it comes from a group known as Fancy Bear. Spraying bear mace indoors and on electronic devices is also ill advised.
Don’t Head Outside Alone
Get outside and stay protected across the external attack surface with the right preparation and tools from ZeroFox.
Dedicated Analysts: Your Ongoing Trail Guide
Having dedicated analysts by your side is crucial for maintaining continuous protection across the external attack surface. With ZeroFox, you can work with a team of skilled analysts who act as your ongoing trail guides in the ever-changing external cybersecurity landscape. These analysts closely monitor your digital exposures, conduct threat assessments, and provide proactive recommendations to enhance your security posture.
Dark Web Operatives: Your Guide Through the Dark Web
ZeroFox’s team of dark web operatives specialize in navigating the hidden landscape of the dark web. They monitor underground forums, marketplaces, and illicit communities to gather intelligence on potential threats targeting your organization. By leveraging their expertise, ZeroFox helps you stay one step ahead of cybercriminals and proactively mitigate risks originating from the dark web.
On-Demand Investigations: When a Random Attack Happens and You Need Immediate Help
Cyberattacks can strike unexpectedly and require swift action. ZeroFox offers on-demand investigations to provide immediate help when you face a sudden attack or security incident. These investigations are conducted by experienced professionals who rapidly analyze the situation, identify the scope and impact of the incident, and guide you through the response and remediation process. With ZeroFox’s on-demand investigations, you can quickly mitigate the effects of an attack and minimize potential damage to your organization.
Incident and Breach Response: When an Incident Does Occur
In the unfortunate event of a cybersecurity incident or data breach, a rapid and well-coordinated response is crucial. ZeroFox offers incident and breach response services to help you navigate through these challenging situations. A team of experts follows established protocols to contain the incident, assess the impact, and perform a variety of measures, including domain and social media takedowns. With ZeroFox’s incident and breach response services, you can effectively minimize the impact of an incident and recover swiftly while protecting your brand reputation.
Get Outside and Stay Protected Across the External Attack Surface with ZeroFox
ZeroFox’s AI-powered platform offers comprehensive protection outside the perimeter to protect your organization against phishing, fraud campaigns, and malware-based attacks targeting your customers. Book a demo today to gain deeper insight into how ZeroFox can help with your cybersecurity plan.