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Why Attack Surface Assessment Tools Are Vital According to Gartner

Tally Netzer
August 22nd, 2023
Why Attack Surface Assessment Tools Are Vital According to Gartner

Attack Surface Assessment tools enable information security teams to look at their organizations “outside-in” from the attacker’s point of view, prioritizing the issues that attackers will see first.

The Dire Need for Attack Surface Assessment Tools

Traditional cybersecurity technologies are missing much of the big and expanding picture, according to Gartner. They suffer from lack of visibility into the exposed attack surface, which is growing in leaps and bounds as a result of accelerated digital transformation and cloud adoption. To compensate, many security teams are relying on manual processes to manage far-flung assets, assess their vulnerabilities, and evaluate their associated risk exposure. This is an impossible task.

The modern attack surface is increasingly external, embracing numerous internet-facing assets and supply chains. Rapidly scaling SaaS applications, use of the cloud, and work from home are major factors that are contributing to this growth and increased exposure. Already 3x greater than the traditional attack surface, the expanding external attack surface is far too broad to see, manage, and protect with the standard cybersecurity toolchest.

Security teams need help and new tools are coming to the rescue. With the aid of the latest Attack Surface Assessment (ASA) tools, Gartner forecasts that the number of companies with more than 95% visibility over all their digital assets will grow 20x over the next 4 years.

Attack Surface Assessment Tools to Drive 20X Growth and 95% Visibility (Gartner)

ASA tools are a new and vital weapon in the cybersecurity arsenal. They help organizations understand their vast attack surface from the cyber attacker’s point of view. They deliver a comprehensive view across the entire asset inventory, broadening the context of what assets are “in scope” of the company’s attack surface. They also prioritize issues based on attack risk, organizing digital assets around practical security use cases and boosting the efficiency and effectiveness of cybersecurity operations.

Types of Attack Surface Assessment Technologies

Modern attack surface assessment tools can be categorized into three areas of technological innovation.

Cyber Asset Attack Surface Management (CAASM) focuses on helping security teams solve persistent asset visibility and vulnerability challenges through API integrations with existing tools. With CAASM, cyber pros can query against consolidated data, identify the scope of vulnerabilities and gaps in security controls, and remediate issues. CAASM tools are not the source of record but aggregate data from other sources.

Digital Risk Protection Services (DRPS) offer a combination of technology and services that protect critical digital assets by providing visibility into social media, the dark web, and deep-web sources. They can provide contextual information on threat actors, including tactics and malicious activities for threat-intelligence analysis.

External Attack Surface Management (EASM) uses processes and technologies to automatically discover an organization’s internet-facing assets and any associated vulnerabilities that could be exploited in 3rd party software, servers, credentials, cloud services, etc. External Attack Surface Management has very practical use cases for organizations today, especially when it does not require intrusion into the network or integration with other tools or processes.

Why External Attack Surface Management is Essential for Today’s Cybersecurity

Recent major breaches show how risk exposure has climbed as a result of the growing use of external-facing infrastructures like cloud resources and 3rd party supply chains. For example:

  • The SolarWinds attack was executed by hackers who added malicious code into a widely used software package. They then watched it get distributed via normal software updates, enabling the breach of tens of thousands of customers, including Fortune 500 companies and multiple agencies of the US government like the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Treasury. The hack remained under the radar for months before rearing its ugly head.
  • Starting in 2015 and still very much a problem today, Magecart attacks exploit 3rd party and supply chain vulnerabilities to attack sophisticated and well-protected organizations. Specializing in theft of personal information, Magecart attacks often go undetected for months and even years.
  • Cloud infrastructure vulnerabilities in Amazon Web Services (AWS) storage services resulted in multiple major enterprise data leaks at booking.com, Capital One, and Expedia, among many others.

External Attack Surface Management Use Cases

EASM arms cybersecurity teams with numerous valuable use cases:

  • Finding unknown digital assets (e.g., websites, IPs, domain names, SSL certificates and cloud services) across multiple environments.
  • Prioritizing the remediation of exposures such as misconfigurations, open ports, and unpatched vulnerabilities based on urgency, severity, and risk level.
  • Identifying public assets across cloud providers (including “Shadow IT”) for improved cloud security and governance.
  • Monitoring for data leakage due to weak protection for collaboration tools and SaaS applications used by employees.
  • Visibility into the vulnerabilities related to supply chains and 3rd, 4th, and Nth parties.
  • Extended visibility into digital assets across company subsidiaries.
  • Understanding the digital assets and the associated risks inherited from an acquired company.

Strategic Threat Prevention

Unlike many other cybersecurity tools that are reactive, External Attack Surface Management is about strategic prevention. Advanced EASM tools continually scan the external attack surface and report on all internet-facing assets, then assess the vulnerabilities and potential risks. The results of these scans arm cybersecurity teams with the ability to reduce their attack surface by preventing attack vectors before hackers exploit them.

Cybersecurity Automation

With the external attack surface expanding so rapidly, organizations need an automated approach to discover all their assets including: domains and sub-domains, owned IPs, Shadow IT and Managed Services. This automated attack surface discovery should then extend automatically deep into their digital supply chain to provide complete visibility into their risk posture.

Extending Protection with IONIX External Attack Surface Management

Listed as a vendor in Gartner Innovation Insight for Attack Surface Management report, IONIX extends external protection further and deeper. Our External Attack Surface Management solution is the only EASM solution that covers your organization’s internet facing assets, 3rd party solutions and digital supply chain. Dynamically adapting to your expanding online presence, it can help your cybersecurity team protect at the speed of digital business.

Cybersecurity leaders can see IONIX in action right now. Much more than a demo, IONIX can quickly execute a comprehensive yet non-intrusive scan of the organization’s external attack surface, delivering a complete asset inventory and vulnerabilities.

Request an attack surface discovery.


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