Continuous Threat Exposure Management

CISOs, security leaders, and SOC teams often struggle with limited visibility into all connections made to their company-owned assets and networks. They are hindered by a lack of open-source intelligence and powerful technology required for proactive, continuous, and effective discovery and protection of their systems, data, and assets.

As advanced threat actors constantly search for easily exploitable vulnerabilities around the clock, CISOs are in pursuit of improved methods to reduce threat exposures and safeguard their assets, users, and data from relentless cyber-attacks and the severe consequences of breaches.

In response to this need, an emerging solution addressing the most critical priorities at the initial stage of the attack chain has provided security leaders with a new tool to manage their most pressing threat exposures at their origin. Leading analyst firm Gartner Research describes the solution: “By 2026, organizations prioritizing their security investments based on a continuous exposure management program will be 3x less likely to suffer from a breach.” (Gartner, 2022).

But what exactly does this involve?

IT and security teams constantly face threat exposures, and they must proactively address critical security gaps in their exposed assets. By implementing a Continuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM) program, security teams can thwart their adversaries’ goals by minimizing critical risks associated with exposed assets. This comprehensive approach combines prevention and remediation strategies to either a) entirely prevent a breach or b) significantly reduce the impact if a breach does occur.

Faster Adversaries, Inadequate Protection, and Preventable Incidents

In 2023, despite significant investments in security infrastructure and skilled personnel, existing approaches are struggling to effectively reduce risks, manage threat exposures, and prevent security breaches.

Current preventive cyber risk management techniques, although efficient, are time-consuming, resource-intensive, and susceptible to human errors. Tasks such as continuous vulnerability detection, identification, and patch management demand substantial time and expertise to be executed accurately. Delays or mishandling of these crucial activities can lead to a higher probability of financially damaging security breaches.

Simultaneously, cybercriminals can effortlessly acquire initial access points to high-value targets via the dark web, thanks to ransomware-as-a-service and initial access brokers. Moreover, they can easily obtain compromised user credentials online, which are readily available for use in targeted tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs).

Compounding the risks, the cybersecurity skills gap and economic factors have left many SecOps and DevOps teams understaffed, under-resourced, and overwhelmed by alerts.

These combined factors have resulted in limited visibility for the SOC, providing an undue advantage to threat actors. This trend must be countered and reversed.

The Growing Attack Surface and Rising Threat Exposures

In 2022, external attackers were responsible for 75% of reported security breaches (IBM, 2022). These attacks are swift, intricate, and pose a significant challenge for contemporary SOCs. To counter these threats, organizations must adopt a multi-layered defense strategy, as their networks, systems, and users are under constant assault from external threat actors with malicious intentions.

Weaknesses, security gaps, and insufficient controls contribute to an ever-evolving attack surface where cybercriminals can exploit easily accessible threat exposures. Traditionally, these issues were addressed by vulnerability management functions. However, as cybercriminals continuously scan for vulnerable attack surfaces, seeking weak controls, unpatched assets, and susceptible systems, their TTPs have become remarkably precise, incredibly fast, and highly effective.

Security teams require enhanced capabilities that offer precision, speed, and flexibility to stay ahead of their adversaries.

Recognizing this, it is crucial to prioritize the identification and remediation of critical security threat exposures, as most can be prevented. By swiftly detecting and addressing these exposures, CISOs can effectively shrink their overall attack surface and halt its relentless expansion. Therefore, organizations should implement a Continuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM) program that operates 24/7.

Building a Proactive CTEM program

Both large enterprises and small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) should contemplate adopting a CTEM program to streamline conventional vulnerability management processes and minimize their attack surface. By proactively tackling vulnerabilities and employing efficient risk management strategies, organizations can bolster their security stance and lessen the potential consequences of security breaches. CTEM delivers a holistic approach that goes beyond mere vulnerability management, supplying intelligence, context, and data to give meaning and validation to discoveries.

Gartner Research defines a CTEM program as a cohesive, dynamic method for prioritizing the remediation and mitigation of the most pressing cyber risks while continuously enhancing an organization’s security posture: “CTEM encompasses a collection of processes and capabilities that enable enterprises to continuously and consistently assess the accessibility, exposure, and exploitability of an enterprise’s digital and physical assets” (Gartner, 2022).

The CTEM Focus on DevSecOps

A CTEM program is structured into five distinct yet interconnected stages, which must be executed in a cyclical manner: defining the scope, uncovering vulnerabilities, ranking priorities, verifying findings, and initiating action.

These stages facilitate a comprehensive understanding of the organization’s cyberthreat landscape and enable security teams to take well-informed, decisive actions. The mobilization phase of the CTEM program focuses on prioritizing vulnerabilities and risks based on the criticality of assets, ensuring swift remediation, and incorporating seamless workflows for DevSecOps teams.

When implemented effectively, a CTEM program can prevent security incidents and breaches, expedite risk reduction, and enhance overall security maturity. Key features and capabilities of a robust CTEM program include:

  • Automated discovery of assets and management of vulnerabilities
  • Ongoing vulnerability assessment of threat exposures within the attack surface
  • Security validation to eliminate false positives and guarantee accuracy
  • Gaining visibility into the attacker’s perspective and potential avenues of attack
  • Prioritizing remediation efforts and integrating them with DevSecOps workflows

Start Your CTEM Program Today

Security executives require continuous Threat Exposure Management solutions that enhance, support, and expand their in-house team’s abilities to neutralize threats at their origin, preventing costly and damaging security breaches.

Through the advanced development of CTEM, CISOs and security leaders can adopt a proactive, multi-layered approach to combat cyber-attacks, ensuring a prioritized and effective strategy. This comprehensive set of capabilities equips teams with powerful programmatic tools that can substantially diminish cyber risks in real-time while continuously improving security results over the long term.

If you are interested in learning more about building a world-class approach to closing security gaps with a Continuous Threat Exposure Management program, contact BreachLock, the Global Leader in Penetration Testing Services, for a discovery call today.

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