Security Solutions

5 mins

Why EASM is essential to CTEM

Just as there is now a multitude of methods employed by cyberattackers to infiltrate corporate networks, there is also a growing number of strategies designed to stop them. From web application firewalls (WAF) to secure-by-design principles, there are several approaches to thwarting malicious actors from getting their hands on sensitive data or precious digital assets.

One such method used by businesses to evaluate their assets and eliminate vulnerabilities is external attack surface management (EASM). This is an approach that is proving increasingly popular - and for good reason. 

According to IBM’s 2023 Cost of a Data Breach Report, organizations without an attack surface management solution took 260 days to identify a data breach and another 77 days for remediation on average. By contrast, organizations that did make use of surface management tools discovered breaches in 193 days and contained them in 61. By many firms today, external attack surface management is viewed as being essential to their cybersecurity strategies, especially when paired with continuous threat exposure management (CTEM). 

Implementing EASM and CTEM

Research indicates that by 2026, organizations prioritizing their security investments, based on a CTEM program, will realize a two-third reduction in breaches. Even so, there are challenges to implementing a CTEM strategy.

First of all, if organizations still rely on traditional security approaches, both EASM and CTEM could represent major burdens for security teams. Identifying, prioritizing, and monitoring assets requires teams to expend a lot of manual labor - especially with attack surfaces growing all the time. 

What’s more, although third-party security tools can be used to support EASM and CTEM, businesses must choose their vendor wisely. Misconfigured tools can mean that internet-facing assets remain undetected. Moreover, if a security solution generates a high number of false positives, this is only likely to lead to more work for security personnel too. And workplace silos, combined with a lack of consistent security policies for on-premise and remote staff, will only increase the likelihood of vulnerabilities slipping through the net.  

What is external attack surface management?

EASM describes the discovery, classification, and monitoring of all internet-facing assets, including those both known and unknown. This might include things like domain names, IoT devices, SSL certificates, and network services - essentially, any asset that an attacker based outside the organization could take advantage of - whether it’s on-premise or built in the cloud.

Given the rapid pace of digital transformation taking place at many companies, the need for EASM solutions is greater than ever. The attack surface now includes known, active assets, shadow IT, vendor-managed tools, and, more recently, virtualization apps that are used by hybrid or remote workers to connect to corporate networks. The number of vulnerable assets only appears to be increasing. For instance, according to  Statista, the average number of SaaS applications used by organizations worldwide rose from eight in 2015 to 130 in 2022.

Having a clear picture of all the assets that make up your external attack surface may be important for your cybersecurity strategy but it won’t provide failsafe protection all by itself. That’s why many firms are teaming EASM with CTEM to reinforce their defense. 

CTEM is a cybersecurity strategy that depends on continuous, real-time monitoring and management of vulnerabilities. Digitalization hasn’t only expanded companies’ attack surfaces, it has also increased the chances that a cyberattacker could strike at any given moment. Periodic vulnerability checks and security assessments are no longer fit for purpose. Attackers have all the time in the world in which to launch an exploit.

EASM can help you identify where your vulnerabilities lie; CTEM can safeguard them regardless of when a cyberattack is deployed.  

Why EASM and CTEM are important to your security posture

Today, organizations are tasked with achieving total visibility and continuous monitoring to remove or manage their vulnerabilities. Achieving this requires a multi-step process. Gartner defined CTEM as a five-step process, with the first three being Scope, Discovery, and Prioritization. EASM supports these steps, making it a necessity for any CTEM program.

At the Scope phase, an EASM tool should concern itself solely with the identification of the external assets connected to an organization's IT infrastructure. It should focus on their interconnection too - how assets are paired and whether any of their connections also present a cyber risk. It should cover everything that could be a potential vector for attack.

After expanding Scope performing Discovery of risks,  an EASM tool will move on to prioritization, where assets are classified based on the likelihood that they will be targeted by attackers and the potential impact that such an attack could have on an organization. The asset type, its technical characteristics, and a company’s compliance requirements will all be considered here.

After Prioritization comes Validation - and this is where CTEM comes to the fore. This stage highlights the proactive nature of CTEM strategies. To validate any of the vulnerabilities you may have identified using external attack surface management, many organizations will now choose to simulate a cyberattack, often through penetration testing. This allows businesses to think as a hacker would, enabling better identification of weak points and their remediation. 

This brings us to the final stage of a CTEM strategy - Mobilization. This involves engaging with all the stakeholders relevant to the vulnerability you’ve identified. Define the scope of your security next steps, where automation can be used for remediation and what your goals are. 

EASM may be the foundational technology that underpins a CTEM program, but, crucially, they both have the same overarching goal - providing complete visibility against threats. EASM allows businesses to understand where an attack could be focused. CTEM recognizes that facing one is a case of when not if.

How Hadrian can help with EASM and CTEM

The cybersecurity landscape is in a constant state of flux. Malicious actors are always thinking of new exploits - often involving the ever-growing number of digital assets utilized by an organization. To businesses, these digital tools present the latest innovations capable of raising company performance to new heights. For cyberattackers, they are a new opportunity to trial their exploits. 

EASM and CTEM are two sides of the same coin. They are complementary approaches that transform cybersecurity from a defensive approach to an attacking one. At Hadrian, we understand the importance of this shift, adopting a hacker’s mindset to deliver real-time exposure management through continuous security validation and event-driven architecture. All of the risks identified by our solutions are contextualized to eliminate false positives.

With Hadrian, the challenges that hinder the adoption of EASM and CTEM at some organizations are removed. Leveraging an AI-powered offensive security approach, we use automation to instantly mature your security program and quickly remediate your critical exposures with less effort and cost. The entire CTEM process is streamlined with Hadrian - validation and prioritization are performed at the same time. Assessing which threats are real and how impactful they are is part of the same workflow.

We don’t see EASM or CTEM as additional challenges for your security teams to navigate. With our straight-out-of-the-box autonomous penetration testing, we deliver coverage of all your external attack surfaces, all the time. No extra effort required.

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