ASM: Attack surface management

Managing attack surfaces is an important part of good cyber security. Here we take an in-depth look at what it entails and what you need to be aware of.

03-07-2023 - 6 minute read. Posted in: tips.

ASM: Attack surface management

ASM or attack surface management is one of the essential elements of good, strong cyber security. When a company has good attack surface management, they can limit where the hacker can enter - and by knowing these entry points, you can strengthen the security around them, making it much harder for the hacker to penetrate your cyber defenses.

What is ASM?

When we unfold the acronym ASM, it stands for attack surface management. Basically, it's about having an overview of which surfaces potential hacking attacks can hit - and which entry points there are.

Hackers, when carrying out cyber attacks, manipulate providers, software and systems to their advantage. In addition, hackers exploit SaaS, cloud services and various ways you and your business store data.

The attack surface can be divided into four general aspects:

  • Known resources: Resources and places that your company knows and works with on a daily basis. For example, your website, servers and connected technologies.
  • Unknown resources: This can be shadow IT, which is hardware, software and IT systems that are not approved by the IT department - or known to them.
  • Rogue resources: The malicious infrastructure is processed and exploited by cybercriminals. Examples include malware and typosquatted domains and websites.
  • Providers: Not only are your technical measures vulnerable to attack, so are your providers. You could be at risk of a supply chain attack that hits not only providers, but everyone they sell their product to.

Therefore, there are many things to be aware of when dealing with attack surface management.

Potential attack surfaces

When you look at the places you could be hit by a cyberattack, it can suddenly seem like a lot - and for good reason. After the world was hit by the pandemic in 2020, many workplaces reorganized their work and made hybrid and remote working the norm.

To elaborate on the four aspects of attack surfaces mentioned above, consider:

  • Hybrid work: As mentioned, hybrid work became popular in 2020 and has maintained its popularity to this day. However, with hybrid working comes new cybersecurity risks. This includes unstable networks and data sharing.
  • Cloud Computing: In conjunction with hybrid working, many companies have also moved to using cloud storage to store and share data. The use of cloud computing is on the rise and many IT departments can't keep up with the rapid development. This can lead to major consequences in terms of unstable configurations and system performance.
  • Shadow IT: As mentioned briefly above, shadow IT is software and digital usage that the IT department is not aware of. This could be, for example, if we share data between our work and home computers because we work from home - without the IT department's knowledge.
  • Connected devices: With smart devices working together to create a seamless user experience, this creates a bigger target for the hacker. IoT is all about the collaboration between devices - as long as these devices are up-to-date and on a secure network, you can increase your chances of not becoming the next cyber victim.
  • Digitalization: Businesses strive to be the most attractive and relevant to their customers. This often means that they need to digitize various procedures, thus creating another attack surface.
  • Expectations for development: This is related to digitalization, as there are constantly new expectations for the development of programs, software and technologies. This means, among other things, that coding can be rushed and thus not checked for security errors and vulnerabilities. These are the ones that hackers exploit.

Why attack surface management is important

It may go without saying that it's important to have a good overview of the different attack surfaces that can be found in a company's software. But many people don't think about checking these attack surfaces.

However, many companies choose to solve the problem by eliminating the amount of attack surfaces, leaving only a handful of programs and software to work with. However, this does not solve the problem, as the vulnerability lies in the technology itself and not in the amount of technology you utilize.

If a hacker wants to hack into a company, vulnerabilities and unstable coding are their entry points. Once they get through the vulnerable software, they can install malware on the device, compromise company data and supply chains, and in the worst case scenario, launch ransomware attacks and leak the important data in a data breach.

So, what are some of the key elements of good attack surface management? The attack surface management plan can be divided into five elements to illustrate the core of good management:

  1. You should know what resources you're dealing with so you know which systems, software and devices need to be kept up to date.
  2. Categorizing resources to keep track of them - and exactly which resources need to be updated when an update is available.
  3. Know the cyber threat you face. Knowing the hacker's working methods and approaches to cyber attacks can improve and strengthen these elements of your cyber security.
  4. Continuous review and monitoring of your cybersecurity keeps you updated on any flaws and vulnerabilities.
  5. Remediation and mitigation of the previous steps to improve and strengthen your handling of attack surfaces in your systems.

The future of ASM

You might think it's a never-ending battle against the cyber threat - especially with the speed of change. **But it's a battle we must fight if we want to secure our private data, as well as corporate data.

Attack surface management is one of the first and most important measures to implement in your cyber security, as these are the entry points for the hacker to your systems. So by making your attack surface as impenetrable as possible, you scare the hacker away from your valuable data.

ASM will be one of the elements of cyber security that will remain relevant even as new cyber threats emerge. This just means that ASM will need to evolve as technologies - and hacking methods - evolve.

Author Caroline Preisler

Caroline Preisler

Caroline is a copywriter here at Moxso beside her education. She is doing her Master's in English and specializes in translation and the psychology of language. Both fields deal with communication between people and how to create a common understanding - these elements are incorporated into the copywriting work she does here at Moxso.

View all posts by Caroline Preisler

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