There are many ways to manage attack surfaces. A company’s IT department may host the applications and services, while another organization delivers the infrastructure. As a result, they have different attack surfaces and the same risks. However, the two entities need to work together strategically to reduce the attack surface, and that’s where external attack surface management comes in.
External attack surfaces refer to something many technology professionals have a hard time wrapping their heads around: the enormous number of combinations of inputs, data, and systems that can be used against an organization. This is especially true in the case of the IoT (Internet of Things), which relies on billions of individual devices that are connected to the network with no security or control.
External Attack Surface Management (EASM) is a method to mitigate common types of attack surfaces that can be hard to manage in-house. It is a form of defense in depth that can be used in several IT environments, including in Virtualized Environments, Cloud Environments, Software-Defined Networking, and Server farms.
The term “attack surface” refers to the amount of area that a system has that is exposed to the environment. The concept of attack surface is widely used in security to denote the various inputs/outputs of a system. In some cases, the attack surface can be limited to a specific compartment (e.g., the internal network). In other cases, the attack surface can be extended to the entire system (e.g., the entire internet). As an information security professional, one of the biggest problems I face is keeping up with all the constantly popping up threats. No matter how much we may put into network security and host firewalls, the reality is that some external attack surface is going to be vulnerable to exploitation.
IT security professionals have traditionally focused their attention on protecting their organization’s internal systems and networks. However, the rise of the external attack surface has introduced new threats for which IT security teams have little defense. The external attack surface consists of corporate assets that are hosted outside of the firewall, such as file servers, email servers, databases, and web servers. If these assets fall into the wrong hands, they can be used as tools to penetrate the system perimeter and wreak havoc on the organization.
Importance of External Attack Surface Management
Especially in enterprise environments, where the security of data, applications, and networks are of great concern, organizations are increasingly discovering that the security of the devices themselves is an issue. Attack surface management (ASM) is a common term in the information security world. It is a process that attempts to reduce the attack surface of a system by limiting the access that an internal attacker can have to the internal systems. Typically, this is done by using an appropriate access control list (ACL) and limiting an external system’s capabilities to access the internal systems.
A great deal of modern software engineering involves securing the written software and ensuring that it is adequately secure. Unfortunately, only a relatively small percentage of software developers and engineers understand the term “External Attack Surface” and how to deal with it properly.
Today, mobile devices are very powerful and complex and have hundreds of moving parts. This makes them vulnerable to cyber attacks, which can result in a range of negative outcomes affecting mobile device users. These include data loss and theft, accidental data disclosure, unauthorized changes to device settings, unauthorized access to device information, and so on. The more advanced and novel the user experience is, the greater the potential for a device to be affected by an attack.
The increasing prevalence of cloud-based IT solutions brings with it a host of security concerns. The most common issues are related to lack of governance and accountability, lack of patching, and the creation of a potential attack surface. The technologies, tools, and metrics that exist to quantify and manage attack surfaces, such as those of the NSA, are designed to provide information on actual issues that can inform security policy decisions. As an organization, it is crucial to focus on security testing. When it comes to being secure, there are a lot of different things an organization has to consider. This means that testing is essential, and any security gaps can lead to a catastrophic breach. When it comes to external attack surfaces, one of the most important items to test are systems that are in charge of network security. Since any network that is connected to the internet has the potential to be compromised, it is vital to include tests for these systems. They are the gatekeepers to all traffic on a network, so they should be tested thoroughly.