An 'attack surface' refers to the total number of potential attacker-exposed entry points a hacker could use to breach into a system, device, application, or entire network and launch an attack. Global digital transformation has dramatically accelerated the organizational attack surface's size, scope, and complexity in recent years. Unfortunately, amid proliferating digital assets, connected devices, applications, services, and cloud-based resources, many organizations suffer from major blindspots and limited visibility into their completely attacker-exposed environment, leaving the network unprotected and exposed to attack.
Common attack vectors
Credential Compromise: By compromising login credentials to user accounts, applications or devices connected to the organizational network, cybercriminals can gain access to the wider IT infrastructure, stealing sensitive data or infecting it with malware
Software/Firmware Vulnerabilities: Weaknesses in connected third-party software or applications can be exploited by cybercriminals to infiltrate the organizational network, gain access to stored sensitive data and infect the system with malware.
Exposed Remote Access: Poorly secured remote access services, such as Remote Desktop Protocols and VPNs serve as lucrative access vectors for cybercriminals to infiltrate enterprise systems.
Insecure Web Applications: The interface between the organizational network and third-party web applications and APIs can be exploited to escalate privileges to private databases and penetrate the network.
Phishing Attacks: A social engineering attack whereby cybercriminals impersonate a trusted sender to trick users into divulging sensitive information (such as login credentials) or clicking a malicious link that downloads malware on the connected device.
Remote Code Execution: A cybercriminal can execute code on a target system without the user's knowledge.
Surfaces: Network perimeter, Endpoints (computers, servers, devices), Applications (web, mobile, desktop), Databases, Cloud Servers (public cloud, SaaS, Iaas), Internet of Things (IoT), Human users (employees, contractors, third-party vendors), Operating Systems and Software, Remote Access Systems, and Physical Access points (buildings, data centers).
The importance of visibility
To effectively manage an organization's attack surface, security teams need complete visibility into all systems, devices, applications and third-party services connected to their IT infrastructure. This includes a thorough understanding of all the entry points into the network, as well as an understanding of how these entry points are being used.
To reduce the risk of a successful cyberattack, organizations should implement the following best practices:
Conduct regular security assessments to identify and prioritize vulnerabilities in the attack surface.
Continuously manage, monitor and update the complete asset inventory to detect real-time changes to the attack surface.
Use security technologies such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and antivirus software to protect against cyberattacks.
Develop and implement a comprehensive security plan that includes security controls and processes to reduce the attack surface.
Train employees on best practices for secure computing and educate them about potential security threats.
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In conclusion, attack surface management is a critical aspect of cybersecurity. With the growing number of systems, applications, and services in use, the attack surface has become large and complex, making it challenging for organizations to understand and secure their systems fully. By following best practices and staying vigilant, organizations can reduce their risk of a successful attack and keep their systems and data secure.
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