What is Attack Surface Management? Definition, Scope, and Relevance

Brenda Gratas January 17, 2023
- 5 min read

Attack Surface Management (ASM) has become an essential aspect of cybersecurity. In fact, in 2022, as part of a comprehensive cybersecurity risk management program, Gartner encouraged security leaders to control their attack surfaces to protect the ever-expanding digital footprint from new and emerging threats.

With the increasing number of cyber attacks, ASM is critical in identifying, evaluating, and managing vulnerabilities in an organization's systems and networks. But what exactly is Attack Surface Management? In this article, we'll discuss its definition, value, and how it works. Ready? Let's start!

What is Attack Surface Management?

Attack Surface Management refers to the process of identifying and assessing an organization's digital assets, including its network infrastructure, software, and hardware, to determine the potential entry points for a cyber attack. In other words, it is the process of mapping out the "attack surface" of an organization, which represents all the potential vulnerabilities and weaknesses that a cyber attacker could exploit.

The value of Attack Surface Management

Businesses face an ever-increasing threat of cyber attacks (and, in fact, some industries are more prone to security breaches than others). With the growing number of devices and services that people use, it's becoming more challenging to maintain a strong cybersecurity posture. That is when attack surface management comes into play.

ASM enables organizations to gain visibility into their digital footprint, including all the systems, devices, applications, and services they use. Why is ASM important? Because it helps organizations to:

  • Identify and evaluate potential risks - ASM helps to identify and assess the potential vulnerabilities to which an organization's digital assets are exposed. It allows businesses to prioritize their cybersecurity efforts and allocate resources to the most vulnerable areas.

  • Reduce the probability of successful attacks -ASM helps to identify and address vulnerabilities before an attacker can exploit them. It reduces the likelihood of successful attacks and minimizes the impact of any successful attacks that do occur.

  • Improve overall cybersecurity posture - By identifying and addressing vulnerabilities, ASM helps to enhance an organization's overall cybersecurity posture. As a result, it can help to build trust with customers, partners, and other stakeholders. 

  • Meet regulatory and compliance requirements - ASM is often a requirement for compliance with various regulatory frameworks such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

How Attack Surface Management works

ASM involves several steps, including:

  1. Asset discovery
  2. Asset mapping
  3. Vulnerability assessment
  4. Risk analysis
  5. Remediation
  6. Continuous monitoring

Let's take a closer look at each of them.

1. Asset discovery

The first step in ASM is to identify all the assets that an organization owns, including network infrastructure, software, and hardware.

To do this quickly and automatically, you can use InvGate Insight's Network Discovery feature. By installing an agent on your organization's devices, you'll be able to scan the network, populate your IT inventory, and receive all the information related to the installed software.



2. Asset mapping

Attack surface mapping involves identifying all the potential ways that an attacker could gain access to an asset. This can include external-facing assets such as websites and mobile applications and internal-facing assets such as employee workstations and servers.

3. Vulnerability assessment

After mapping the attack surface, the security team conducts a vulnerability assessment to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the security controls for each asset.

4. Risk analysis

Once the security team has identified the vulnerabilities, they perform a risk analysis to determine the likelihood of a successful attack and the potential impact of such an attack.

5. Remediation

Based on the results of the risk analysis, the security team initiates remediation activities to address the identified vulnerabilities. This may include implementing security patches, upgrading software, or reconfiguring network infrastructure.

6. Continuous monitoring

ASM is an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring and updating of an organization's digital assets. It ensures that any new vulnerabilities are identified and addressed in a timely manner.

In conclusion

Attack Surface Management is a critical aspect of cybersecurity that helps organizations to identify and manage potential risks and vulnerabilities in their digital assets. With the increasing sophistication of cyber attacks, ASM has become an essential requirement for organizations to protect their assets and enhance their overall cybersecurity posture.

By identifying and addressing vulnerabilities, organizations can reduce the likelihood of successful attacks and build trust with their customers, partners, and stakeholders. ASM is an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring and updating to ensure that an organization's assets remain secure in the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape.

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