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Unveiling Exposure Management: How It Stands Out from Attack Surface
Cybersecurity Basics

Unveiling Exposure Management: How It Stands Out from Attack Surface

Startups and growing businesses often embrace the cloud, minimizing reliance on on-premises infrastructure. Similarly, mid-sized companies leverage the cloud's flexibility, typically operating in a hybrid model. While cloud concerns like cost and vendor lock-in exist, it remains the preferred choice for most businesses. Consequently, external attack surfaces have become more complex and scattered, making monitoring and securing them a challenge.

The Ever-Shifting Threat Landscape

Adding to the complexity is the ever-evolving threat landscape. Countless new vulnerabilities emerge monthly, including ones granting attackers complete control over internet-facing security systems. How can organizations react quickly to critical vulnerabilities exploited by cybercriminals if they lack awareness of their technology usage and internet exposure?

Fragmented Knowledge: A Security Team's Nightmare

A primary challenge for security teams stems from reactive processes and fragmented knowledge about the organization's attack surface, often siloed with individuals responsible for deploying cloud systems. Security teams rely on a multitude of solutions generating vast amounts of fragmented data, making it difficult to understand, prioritize, and act upon. This is where exposure management steps in, building upon the foundation of external attack surface management.

Exposure Management: Seeing the Bigger Security Picture

What exactly is exposure management in cybersecurity? As environments evolve, so do the tools and techniques needed to secure them. Exposure management simplifies this complexity by providing visibility into all potential entry points within your attack surface that attackers could exploit to breach your organization.

The ultimate goal is to provide a prioritized list of exposures, along with context, enabling informed decisions on what vulnerabilities to address first and how to tackle them to mitigate business risks. Additionally, exposure management enhances visibility across your entire attack surface, encompassing data assets like code repositories, empowering you to identify and neutralize potential attacker opportunities before they become significant threats.

This approach enables a better understanding of the risks at hand, facilitating the prioritization of not only the most likely attacks but also the most severe ones. In an era where security teams grapple with overwhelming data (over 26,500 vulnerabilities were disclosed in 2023 alone), having a clear roadmap for where to focus efforts is crucial.

Why Exposure Management is Essential

So, why is exposure management critical? It's the process by which organizations identify, contextualize, prioritize, and remediate weaknesses in their digital assets. It represents an evolution of external attack surface management, encompassing assets beyond traditional IP addresses, such as code repositories, cloud accounts, and SaaS products. The overarching goal is to minimize the likelihood of attackers infiltrating systems and assets by addressing weaknesses and eliminating unnecessary assets.

The significance of exposure management is recognized beyond organizations; analysts and industry leaders, including Gartner, predict that organizations implementing continuous exposure management programs will be three times less likely to suffer breaches by 2026.

Exposure Management vs. Attack Surface Management: Key Differences

While both aim to bolster security, there are key distinctions between the two. External Attack Surface Management (ASM) focuses on continuously identifying internet-facing assets, revealing security gaps, potential attack vectors, and areas of strong defense. If it can be scanned for vulnerabilities, it typically falls under attack surface management. Exposure management extends this scope to include data assets, user identities, and cloud account configurations, offering a comprehensive understanding of exposure and avenues to reduce it as necessary.

For instance, the attack surface encompasses SaaS products, where compromise could expose critical information facilitating further attacks. Hence, evaluating business risk shouldn't overlook SaaS products.

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