What is an Attack Surface?
What is an attack surface? An attack surface is the total of all the different entry points, otherwise known as attack vectors, that a cybercriminal could utilize to gain access to an organization and carry out a cyberattack.
Once the hacker has entered a network by way of one of these vulnerabilities, they may damage or steal data, infiltrate the entire network, and introduce ransomware or other malware. Reducing your attack surface is critical to keeping your organization secure. The smaller the attack surface, the harder it is for a hacker to gain access.
To reduce an attack surface, you’ll need to analyze and map out exactly what consitutes your attack service, and then monitor it continuously to ensure that any threats are mitigated as fast as possible. You can also implement security strategies that will reduce your attack surface.
One of the first steps towards reducing your attack surface is carrying out an attack surface analysis.
Attack surface analysis is the process through which potential vulnerabilities and entry points into a system are identified and evaluated. To do this, an organization must examine the organizational network in its entirety, from its overall structure through to its interfaces, hardware, and applications. This information can be used to calculate the size of the attack surface and how exposed the system is to potential cyber threats.
Carrying out an attack surface analysis may comprise of the following steps:
Attack surface monitoring is a continuous process by which an organization surveys all of its network and devices to identify any changes to the attack surface. For example, if there are new potential vulnerabilities, attack surface surveillance will pick up on them and allow new mitigations to be put in place to ensure that system security is maintained. To perform attack surface monitoring, an organization may need to carry out some or all of the following activities:
External attack surface management is the process through which external-facing assets, such as web applications, APIs, and cloud services, are managed to ensure vulnerabilities and risks and identified, assessed, and mitigated.
To manage external attack surfaces, an organization should perform some or all of the following steps:
In addition to monitoring and management, there are a few strategies that you can use to reduce your attack surface and ensure that your network remains secure:
A Zero Trust security model ensures that all network users only have access to the exact resources they need, when they need it. This makes your entire network more secure, and reduces the possible paths through which a cybercriminal could infiltrate your network and gain access to unauthorized data.
By splitting your network up into microsegments, as is part of the zero trust security model, you create many, small attack surfaces instead of one large one. This means that even if a microsegment is breached, the attacker has no way to infiltrate other parts of the network, and the damage they can do is greatly limited.
Usually, a complex network means many entry points to monitor and manage. Simplifying your network infrastructure makes it easier to see when there’s a potential problem, and decreases the number of entry points. Reduce the number of devices and applications, ensuring anything unnecessary is disabled or removed. This is especially important in recent years, as the number of remote workers has risen, and users often use their own devices that may not be protected adequately.
Using a security tool such as ZTEdge can enable you to secure both managed and unmanaged devices in your network, reducing the incidence of stolen credentials, malware, and ensuring everyone has the access rights they ended and nothing else.
All network users should be educated in best practices for maintaining network security, such as how to keep passwords safe, how to identify phishing attempts, and when it is and isn’t safe to share data.
As mentioned above, running regular scans for system vulnerabilities ensures that you identify weaknesses quickly and implement the needed mitigations before they pose a risk to your network. Keeping abreast of all changes to devices and software is also crucial, so you can make sure they are secure and configured correctly.
Unmanaged devices represent a dangerous attack surface, regardless of whether they are BYODs that employees use to log in from home, or work devices belonging to 3rd party contractors. A clientless secure access solution is essential to ensure that devices that are not managed by an organization’s IT cannot serve as an entry point for breaches to your network.
Overall, attack surface reduction is key to maintaining network security. By decreasing the number of entry points to your system using strategies, monitoring, and management, you can ensure that your network is always secure and protected against the latest threats.