Attack Surface Reduction: Transforming Asset Discovery and Vulnerability Management for a New Era

Posted DateMarch 15, 2022
Posted Time 3   min Read

Data breaches are the biggest security risks facing organizations today. Research highlights that external attackers penetrate corporate networks to gain access to local resources in 93% of cases. And a large attack surface simply makes it easier for cybercriminals to infiltrate networks for their benefit. This has made attack surface reduction a necessity.

However, so much has changed over the past couple of years on the business and technology front. Will the traditional methods of attack surface reduction be as effective today? What are the attack surface reduction best practices for the new era? Read on to find out.

What is Attack Surface Reduction, and Why is it so Important?

Attack Surface

The attack surface is the total of all possible points of entry that enable attackers to gain access to applications/ corporate networks/ systems and exfiltrate data.

Attack Surface Reduction 

Attack Surface Reduction (ASR) is the process of mapping the attack surface and closing all, but required endpoints open so that attackers have fewer ways to access an organization’s assets. ASR includes 2 important components – continuous asset discovery to know the IT infrastructure and environment, and, secondly, effective vulnerability management to identify and secure vulnerabilities that offer entry points to attackers.

Attack surface reduction would include measures like removing unnecessary permissions, implementing strong access controls and authentication, removing legacy/ old/ unused components, deleting unused accounts, patching outdated systems, and so on.

Why Reduce the Attack Surface?

The wider the attack surface, the harder it is for organizations to manage vulnerabilities and uphold the highest security standards. In other words, vulnerability management with a large attack surface is challenging. Also, when several possible entry points are vulnerable, it is easier for attackers to breach the network.

The key benefits:

  • Timely and continuous identification of high-risk areas to crawl and test for vulnerabilities
  • Monitoring changes in the environment and identifying new attack vectors
  • Mitigation of targeted data breaches
  • Clear establishment of user access controls and authorizations

Old ASR Techniques Aren’t Effective in the New Era: What are The Challenges Today? 

Challenge 1: The New, Often Undiscovered Assets 

Much has changed in the past couple of years, with organizations going completely remote or adopting a hybrid model. In most cases, there is no protective shield of the secure company networks as several employees work remotely, often on shared devices and insecure networks. Cloud and the use of multiple clouds have become mainstream; organizations have moved their entire operations to the cloud. There is a growing number of IoT and internet-connected devices in use. There is also an expansion in the number of SaaS products and third-party resources and services used.

All this together is creating a borderless network where the network perimeter is vanishing. This makes the creation of shadow IT assets easy, especially without continuous asset discovery.

Challenge 2: The Legacy Assets

Given the rapid pace of transformation of applications and websites today with multiple moving parts, organizations are left with a huge debt of legacy and unnecessary assets. These could include old domains, unused parts, legacy components, third-party components the vendor has stopped patches, etc. Given the competing priorities and limited scope, these assets tend to get forgotten and overlooked in vulnerability management, leaving them open for attackers to exploit.

The age-old attack surface reduction techniques such as manual asset discovery, red teaming, and traditional WAFs do not work. We need newer methods and dedicated attack surface reduction solutions to transform asset discovery and vulnerability management in the new era.

Attack Surface Reduction Best Practices for the New Era

  1. Leverage Intelligent Automation for Real-Time Visibility 

Leveraging intelligent scanning tools makes it possible to discover new assets without expending too much time and manual effort into the process while minimizing the chances of errors. The best attack surface reduction solutions include all assets, including third-party resources and accounts.

Automated scanners equipped with global threat intelligence and self-learning capabilities can effortlessly identify all known vulnerabilities. They automatically find new areas to crawl and equip the VM solutions with these insights in real-time. So, you have real-time visibility into your attack surface.

  1. Use Predictive Modeling to Contextualize Potential Impacts

The vulnerabilities and assets need to be prioritized so that mission-critical assets are effectively protected, and critical vulnerabilities are remediated at the earliest. Predictive modeling helps contextualize potential impacts of vulnerabilities vis-à-vis threats facing the assets.

  1. Swifter Responses to Uncovered Vulnerabilities 

Whether vulnerabilities are within the network or outside (say in third-party components or software), the security solution must take instantaneous measures such as virtual patching to secure the uncovered vulnerabilities. This is especially important because developers need time to develop fixes and deploy permanent patches.

The Way Forward

Given the criticality of attack surface reduction, deploy an advanced security solution like Indusface Firewall & Scanner to effectively meet the modern-day security challenges and harden your security posture.

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