How to Adjust to an Ever-Expanding Attack Surfaceby@zacamos
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How to Adjust to an Ever-Expanding Attack Surface

by Zac AmosFebruary 28th, 2023
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Attack surfaces continue expanding as systems grow larger every day, causing understandable headaches for security professionals. To secure expanding attack surfaces, follow these steps: pursue proactive policies, map out all potential vulnerabilities, find ways to shrink the attack surface, assemble the right team, use threat detection software, prepare response plans, implement training for employees, and update protocols regularly.
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Everything is online these days. Searchers can find hundreds of websites to serve any purpose, from business to manufacturing, commerce to education and entertainment. While digital access is convenient, IT professionals know it increases the risk of cyberattacks.

Ever-expanding attack surfaces are a top concern for cybersecurity officials. The larger a system is, the more vulnerabilities hackers can exploit. Here’s why these risks are growing in every industry and how IT workers can create attack surface management (ASM) systems to keep companies and data safe.

Why Do Attack Surfaces Expand?

Attack surfaces are all the points in a system that a hacker or other bad actor can target. They can be digital vulnerabilities, such as websites, servers, code, weak passwords or apps. They can also be physical targets, like unsecured laptops and mobile devices, USBs, and even a piece of paper with passwords or other critical information written down. Essentially, they’re the gateways criminals use to get inside a system.

Technology has advanced in recent decades and attack surfaces have likewise expanded. That’s because sophisticated threats can now target even the smallest vulnerabilities. Several other factors have led to wider risks among various industries:

  • Decentralization: Remote work has become more common since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020. Almost 60% of employees have the option to work from home at least one day a week — and this trend isn’t expected to change anytime soon. However, workers using their own devices means a greater attack surface for IT departments to protect.

  • Using the cloud: Storing data in the cloud is an increasingly popular and convenient solution when a company handles a lot of information. Cloud computing poses new challenges for cybersecurity as each system tends to have different safety procedures that may leave data vulnerable to attack.

  • Expanding to new technologies: From the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G to the latest artificial intelligence (AI) developments, companies are adopting new technology faster than ever. While these advancements can bring significant benefits to a company, they also introduce new challenges. Change happens quickly, leaving little time for security checks.

How to Secure Expanding Attack Surfaces

As companies grow and adopt the latest technologies in the digital world, the attack surfaces will inevitably expand. However, this doesn’t guarantee a cyber disaster. It’s possible to keep systems safe while encouraging a company’s natural growth.

Here are tips for IT professionals looking to develop more robust attack surface management systems and keep their companies secure.

1. Be Proactive

These days, cyberthreats are too advanced for IT departments to sit back and play defense. Instead of catching up with threats and attacks as they happen, IT professionals should take steps to prevent them ahead of time. Security officials must be proactive when dealing with everything from basic hacking techniques like phishing to high-level AI hacks.

Actively thinking about potential risks and the precautions necessary to avoid them will give companies the upper hand. Save time, money and other resources reinforcing potential weak spots now rather than waiting until they’ve been compromised.

2. Map Out All Potential Vulnerabilities

To distinguish between real and imagined threats and address potential attacks, IT departments should fully understand their system’s vulnerabilities. Trying to defend a company without determining the total attack surface is like a goalie with a blindfold — they can’t protect what they can’t see, and the other team will inevitably get a few shots past.

That means IT professionals should map out all potential weaknesses in the system. Staying organized is key — departments can track the digital and physical attack surfaces separately and develop custom security plans for each.

3. Shrink the Attack Surface if Possible

Attack surfaces are growing almost across the board as companies and the digital world expand, and IT pros should trim the fat. The smaller a business can make its attack surface, the easier it is to secure.

Workers should examine vulnerabilities and determine whether some weak points are redundant. For example, company data shouldn’t be stored or accessed on personal computers — that’s just another opportunity for hackers. Implementing access on a need-to-know basis limits the total attack surface IT has to monitor.

4. Assemble the Right Team

Employees make up the heart of every organization. When it comes to cybersecurity, companies that understand the current risks will invest in the proper workers and equipment to stay safe. Hiring IT professionals or companies with hands-on experience is a must, as they’ll have the most knowledge of what it takes to protect an entire attack surface from threats.

5. Use Threat Detection Software

Assembling a strong IT team is a must, but even the best cybersecurity experts know they need advanced software support. Humans can only do so much to monitor for dangers. Threat detection software gives companies even greater peace of mind.

Threat detection software can detect malware immediately, recognize patterns that may signal a potential threat and perform other tasks in seconds. It’ll alert IT professionals if a risk is credible, allowing them to take action immediately.

6. Prepare Response Plans

IT professionals shouldn’t scramble to put together a response when an attack is detected. Having prepared plans in place — and even ready to deploy automatically — will ensure the entire attack surface can withstand threats at any time.

7. Implement Training for Employees

Non-IT workers are frequently the biggest targets for hackers looking to exploit a network, whether they’re victims of phishing schemes or outright theft. That’s why every employee must receive sufficient training about attack surfaces. They should learn how to protect the weak spots under their control — for example, not reusing passwords or accessing sensitive information on public networks and devices.

8. Update Protocols Regularly

Since the technology is so new, standards and protocols for keeping the online sphere safe are constantly evolving. A defense that might work for one piece of software won’t keep another system secure. Even general and legal rules governing cybersecurity worldwide change frequently, requiring IT professionals to stay updated on the latest news.

That means every company should frequently evaluate and update its security protocols to reflect the industry’s most recent information. IT experts can use the latest recommendations to boost their security practices and keep tabs on every threat facing the attack surface.

Defending Attack Surfaces From Evolving Threats

IT professionals must keep watch with increasing vigilance as attack surfaces grow. Hackers are known for their innovation — they can exploit even the smallest weak spots in a system’s guard for any purpose. Being proactive about the risks and taking immediate action will help cybersecurity officials protect valuable company data.