What is Attack Surface Management (ASM)?

What is Attack Surface Management

Last Updated on 7 June 2023 by admin

Attack Surface Management (ASM) is a proactive approach to identifying and managing an organization’s digital assets and potential vulnerabilities that can be exploited by attackers.

ASM provides security and IT leaders with a comprehensive understanding of their organization’s attack surface and assists them in identifying, prioritizing, and mitigating potential risks. It involves continuously monitoring an organization’s digital footprint, including its applications, devices, and networks, to identify and address any security gaps.

As the digital perimeters of today change and expand at an intractable speed, organizations are increasingly susceptible to security breaches. Inevitably, the locating, tracking, securing, and management of assets (particularly those that are unknown) has become a universal concern – making Attack Surface Management a sought-after solution. This summary aims to provide security and IT leaders with an overview of ASM and its importance in securing their organization’s digital assets.

What is an attack surface?

The attack surface refers to the sum of all possible security exposures (or vulnerabilities) that an attacker could use as attack vectors (or pathways) to penetrate a privileged system or network. They are hyper-dimensional, fast-growing, and constantly changing, making them notoriously difficult to manage.

Examples of attack vectors include weak passwords, compromised credentials, and misconfiguration. Cybercriminals can use these security holes to access, exploit, and steal data. Any systems or networks that hold and/or have access to sensitive and/or privileged information need to be examined to identify potential attack vectors that could be exploited.

The three types of attack surfaces are

  • Digital attack surface – This refers to the total vulnerabilities on the hardware and software – everything outside of the firewall where internet-facing assets such as websites, code, ports, email servers, and mobile applications are located (as discussed above).
  • Physical attack surface – This refers to endpoint devices like mobiles, desktop systems, or USB ports for example.
  • Human attack surfaceHuman error is one of the most common causes of data breaches today, with social engineering attacks becoming increasingly prevalent. Organizations must educate their employees about associated risks.

What are the top cyber security concerns for businesses today?

  • Phishing Attacks
  • Malware Attacks
  • Ransomware
  • Denial of Service
  • Compromised login credentials
  • SQL injection
  • Insider Threats

With technology central to most business processes today, IT infrastructure is imploding with opportunities for an attack. The harsh reality is that it’s no longer a question of if but when an attacker will find a security exposure to exploit. However, there is a solution – and it’s breaking down the walls of traditional cyber security management.

What is Attack Surface Management?

Due to the fluid nature of the attack surface, they are notoriously difficult to track and monitor. Attack Surface Management provides a proactive solution – continuous monitoring and management of your complete digital ecosystem and the vulnerabilities that contain, transmit, or process your data.

Attack surface management gives organizations business-critical security insights for optimum coverage, including:

  1. What the components of your attack surface actually are (Asset Discovery)
  2. Where your real attack vectors and exposures are located (Vulnerability Discovery)
  3. How to reduce your attack surface to prevent security breaches

What is Asset Discovery?

The first step in attack surface management is knowing exactly what your attack surface is made up of – identifying and locating active and inactive assets on your network. These assets may be owned or used by your organization or third-party vendors, and include things like web applications, APIs, domain names, cloud storage, IP addresses, IoT devices.

What is Vulnerability Discovery?

The second step in attack surface management is having continuous vulnerability discovery. This enables you to view your attack surface from an external attacker’s perspective. The process identifies and prioritizes vulnerabilities on your applications and networks in real-time, keeping you ahead of attackers and helping you reduce the attack surface.

These processes are used to automatically populate an attack surface management database to provide organizations with essential security data.

What are the benefits of Attack Surface Management?

Real-time visibility of your evolving attack surface

Real-time asset and vulnerability discovery will map all of your assets and vulnerabilities, enabling you to accurately visualize your overall security posture. As vulnerabilities can be introduced at any point, your attack surface is constantly in a state of change.

Comprehensive asset inventory management 

Moving away from manual asset inventory management that is time-consuming and frankly insufficient in today’s digital climate, active asset discovery tools enable organizations to save precious resources and drive productivity by automated flagging and logging any changes to your online perimeter.

Understand your security posture 

Asset criticality ratings help you better understand your specific weaknesses, allowing you more accurately gauge your ability to manage risks with detailed and continuous insight.

Prioritize vulnerabilities for effective remediation

With this holistic approach, you can prioritize your risk and minimize time to remediate (TTR). The process is much more efficient when focussing on real rather than perceived risk – something that’s key to reducing your attack surface effectively.

Taking a proactive approach to cybersecurity

A productive, forward-thinking measure like attack surface management is much more effective than a reactive one, particularly in light of the rise in cyberattacks, including data leaks and XSS attacks. Firewalls, antivirus software, and other traditional protective methods no longer suffice – easily nullified by sophisticated attacks.

Scale your cybersecurity efforts

As new and emerging technology enables processes and operations to be faster and more efficient, they inevitably generate new and inescapable risks. A scalable security strategy readily safeguards your systems – even if your load increases.

Final thoughts

The trials and tribulations of reducing and securing the evolving attack surface while staying ahead of new threats remain an uphill battle for security leaders across the board. To find out how Informer can help you transform your security strategy book a demo today.