A Practical Guide to Attack Surface Management

A Practical Guide to Attack Surface Management aims to provide practical tips and best practices to help organisations implement a comprehensive and effective attack surface management program. Attack Surface Management is a security practice aimed at identifying, managing, and mitigating potential attack vectors in an organisation’s IT environment. In today’s digital world, where businesses are becoming increasingly reliant on technology, Attack Surface Management is a crucial component of an overall security strategy.A Practical Guide to Attack Surface Management

As our dependence on technology intensifies, the scope and intricacy of attack surfaces are expanding. This means that there are more devices, applications, and data available, providing an increased number of opportunities for malicious individuals to exploit weaknesses. To address this challenge, we have the emergence of attack surface management 2.0, which represents the next level of managing intricate environments.

Although it’s nearly impossible for an organisation to eradicate all vulnerabilities, attack surface management (ASM) enables companies to anticipate attackers’ moves by adopting their mindset. The primary objective of ASM is to assist organisations in comprehending how an attacker views their attack surface and then determine which areas to prioritise based on their level of importance. This way, they can transition to a proactive approach to cyber security and risk management.

By following the steps and best practices outlined in this guide, organisations can take a practical and proactive approach to managing their attack surface and protecting their critical assets.

Steps to Attack Surface Management

  1. Define Your Attack Surface

    The first step in implementing an ASM program is to define your attack surface. The attack surface is the sum total of all entry points into your network or system that could be used by attackers to gain unauthorised access or carry out malicious activities. Examples of entry points include web applications, APIs, databases, and network services. By identifying all potential attack vectors, organisations can prioritise the areas that require the most attention and take appropriate measures to secure them.

An important part of defining and identifying your attack surface is the correct registration of your domains which assist with immediate identification of genuine and phishing domains. In addition is assist automated tools group associated domains to build a comprehensive digital footprint of an organisation. For more information read our Blog on Creating a WHOIS Template to Register Domains.

Moreover, “Defining your Attack Surface” forms part of the first pillar of DORA – ICT Risk Management.

  1. Assess Your Current Security Posture

    Once you have identified your attack surface, it’s important to assess your current security posture to determine the areas that need improvement. This can involve a combination of internal and external security assessments, as well as penetration testing and vulnerability scanning. The results of these assessments can be used to prioritise the areas that require the most attention and to develop a roadmap for improving the overall security posture.

A good Cyber Risk Rating tool should be used to continuously monitor your attack surface as penetration testing only provides point-in-time assessments.

  1. Implement Defence-in-Depth

    Defence-in-depth is an approach to security that involves layering multiple security controls to provide a comprehensive defence against attacks. This approach is particularly important in the context of ASM as it helps to reduce the attack surface by reducing the number of entry points that can be exploited by attackers. Examples of security controls that can be used to implement defence-in-depth include firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, access control systems, and encryption.

  2. Manage Third-Party Risk

    Third-party risk refers to the potential security risks posed by the use of third-party software and services. This can include everything from cloud-based services to open-source libraries, and it’s important to understand the security posture of these third-party providers to ensure that they are not introducing vulnerabilities into your organisation’s IT environment. Organisations can manage third-party risk by conducting due diligence on third-party providers, implementing security controls to monitor and limit their access, and requiring regular security audits to assess their security posture. This forms part of the fourth pillar of the EU’s new cyber risk regulation for Financial Services organisations, DORA – ICT Third Party Risk Management.

  3. Monitor Your Attack Surface

    Continuous monitoring of your attack surface is an important part of a comprehensive ASM program. This can include real-time monitoring of network activity, automated scanning for vulnerabilities, and regular security assessments to identify any new risks or vulnerabilities that may have emerged. By continuously monitoring your attack surface, you can quickly detect and respond to potential threats, reducing the risk of a successful attack.

A Cyber Risk Rating tool is specifically designed to provide continuous monitoring of your Attack Surface.

  1. Foster a Culture of Security

    Finally, it’s important to foster a culture of security within your organisation. This involves educating employees about the importance of security, setting expectations for security-related behaviours, and making security an integral part of the overall corporate culture. By promoting a culture of security, organisations can create an environment in which security is seen as a shared responsibility, and everyone is motivated to work together to ensure the security of the organisation’s IT environment.


The attack surface is developing at an unprecedented pace. In fact, two-thirds of organisations claim that attack surface management has become more challenging in the last two years. The rise in online data and the natural expansion of business activities has made it difficult to keep track of assets. Meanwhile, malicious attackers loom in the shadows. Implementing a comprehensive and effective attack surface management program is essential for organisations looking to reduce the risk of successful attacks.

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