3 Best Practices for External Attack Surface Management

external attack surface management - bitsight

Your external attack surface is growing rapidly. The adoption of cloud technologies, business growth, a remote workforce, IoT, and a growing supply chain of digital vendors creates an enormous digital footprint and increased cyber risk.

External attack surface management (EASM) can help you mitigate and manage this risk—proactively and at scale.

What is external attack surface management?

Your attack surface may be expanding, but that doesn’t mean your exposure has to. EASM enables you to understand the scope of your organization’s external attack surface—and where risk lies hidden.

EASM automatically and continuously shines a light on all externally-facing digital assets across your enterprise, analyzes their risk posture, and proactively informs remediation actions—so you can fix immediate exposures while keeping an eye on emerging ones.

EASM best practices

Let’s take a closer look at three best practices for EASM:

1. Map your digital assets

To understand the full extent of your attack surface—across distributed IT ecosystems that include cloud instances, domestic and global perimeters, and digital vendors—you must first map your digital assets.

Instead of the laborious process of manually inventorying each asset, advanced EASM tools, technology, and processes automatically and instantly take stock of your assets and the associated risk exposure of each—mapped from a 10,000-foot view. Think of it as seeing your attack surface the way an attacker does.

But don’t stop there. You need to delve deeper into the areas that hold the greatest significance for your organization, whether it's cloud technology, subsidiaries, or geography. For example, if your organization has contracts with multiple cloud providers, EASM can map your complete cloud provider footprint and automatically assess the security posture of each.

2. Regularly scan for vulnerabilities

Because vulnerabilities are constantly emerging, use EASM to continuously scan your attack surface for any new points of exposure. The moment a new vulnerability pops up, you can quickly understand your external exposure, prioritize vulnerabilities based on how severe they are, and act on exposure issues before attackers do.

EASM also helps eliminate whac-a-mole syndrome. Instead of fixing an issue only for a similar one to appear elsewhere, EASM identifies the root cause of the issue and provides proactive, strategic suggestions for how to remediate them. For example, if you discover a vulnerability caused by expired certificates, you can remove them. But the better option is to implement a control, such as a certificate management system, that protects against expired certificates in the first place.

In addition to freeing up security resources, this approach also helps you scale your security performance efforts—no matter how large your attack surface—and hit your targets faster.

3. Put together a swift incident response plan

To safeguard your assets from potential attacks, you need a well-defined incident response plan. This plan ensures that the appropriate resources are readily available and deployed to respond swiftly to threats, as soon as they are identified and assigned a severity status.

While your Security Operations Center can handle immediate threats, risks can often escalate rapidly. To address this, create a multi-disciplinary team that includes members from various geographies and business units. This team should be prepared to respond quickly to any potential fallout, ensuring a coordinated and comprehensive approach to managing emerging risks effectively.

Don’t forget your digital vendors. Today’s digital ecosystems are interconnected and risk can quickly propagate up or down the supply chain. Include a response strategy in your vendor contracts for handling future threats as part of your holistic third-party risk management program. In addition, share any attack surface data you have about risks coming from their digital environments, such as zero-day vulnerabilities.

Control your attack surface with Bitsight

As your attack surface expands, managing cyber risk exposure must be a top priority. Bitsight’s External Attack Surface Management capabilities can help.

See what you’re up against with dashboard views that provide instant visibility into your external attack surface and where risk lies hidden—mapped from day one. With this unparalleled visibility, you can reduce cyber risk, respond faster, keep your security posture strong, protect your brand, and be more efficient.

Request a free custom external attack surface report today.