• Richard Blech

How To Reduce Your Attack Surface


The size of an organization’s attack surface matters. Effectively securing large attack surfaces is difficult because it is cumbersome to monitor, respond and react to abnormalities efficiently. Smaller attack surfaces, or more aptly, those that are more well-defined, yield certain benefits. There is better visibility of the IT system. Monitoring tasks can be conducted more efficiently, as can the use of cybersecurity solutions. All of these factors result in the improved mitigation of risks.

However, many organizations have yet to properly address the issue of their IT infrastructure’s ever-expanding attack surface or are doing so incorrectly, placing their networks, devices and data at constant risk. This is as connectivity continues to expand and IoT devices and their related vulnerabilities continue to proliferate in organizations.


WHAT DETERMINES AN ATTACK SURFACE?

The attack surface encompasses any area in IT processes, code and infrastructure where sensitive data can be compromised. It is the entirely of all of the possible attack vectors—the mechanisms and points in the system that unauthorized users can leverage to gain access and extract or manipulate data. Reducing or minimizing the attack surface means eliminating these areas that present opportunities for malicious actors.


DEFINE THE ATTACK SURFACE TO KNOW HOW TO REDUCE IT

It is necessary to first be aware of the exact factors that define the attack surface. These factors can include sites where data is encrypted and decrypted, the pathways of sensitive data in and out of the system, the security controls or mechanisms that are safeguarding those pathways or key management policies, just to name a few.

Defining the attack surface can be complicated, as systems and assets are typically dispersed across hybrid and multi-cloud environments. Despite the effort required, having this complete understanding of the attack surface is the important first step in understanding potential exposures. It gives very important context to the understanding of the infrastructure and enables complete visibility of the IT systems across an organization. It forms the groundwork for cybersecurity implementations and underscores the importance of making those implementations multilayered.


APPLY ZERO TRUST PRINCIPLES

Zero trust is intended to simplify overall security as it strengthens organizations' entire infrastructure. With the “never trust, always verify” approach, only the authorized internal and external parties will have the necessary access rights to the appropriate assets. Having access regulated by identity limits access to select devices, users and applications by reducing the quantity of access points in the system. The framework is so effective that organizations have been urged by the federal government adopt it in their security implementations.


USE CRYPTOGRAPHIC SOLUTION TO PROTECT DATA

Quantum-safe cryptography that has been created based on the principles of zero trust should be used to regulate the attack surface on an organization’s data. For example, XSOC CORP’s SOCKET provides end-to-end encryption can be used to ensure that no part of the IT infrastructure is privy to the nature of the sensitive data being transmitted. SOCKET, which securely distributes symmetric encryption secret key material to other authorized users, would prevent unauthorized users or malicious actors from accessing sensitive data.


SEGMENT THE NETWORK

Sectioning off the network can reduce the attack surface by controlling traffic flow. Using technologies such as firewalls or virtual local area networks, barriers can be created that can block access to malicious actors. When the segmentation is implemented internally to isolate internal networks, this limits the reach of compromised devices and the impact of an attack or outage. The isolation of the internal networks also helps prevent intruders from moving laterally within the system.


LIMIT SENSITIVE DATA IN HEADERS

Every effort should be given to avoid giving malicious actors valuable, pertinent information that they can use to gain unauthorized access. One vulnerability that the malicious actors can use is the sensitive information that is commonly exposed to the public internet in HTTP headers. Software versions, server information, device types and network conditions are just some of the information that is routinely included in headers.


ELIMINATE UNNECESSARY ASSETS

With the rise in remote work and the proliferation of IoT, there can be thousands of attack vectors in a single IT system. Every personal or company-issued device linked to the network, every open port and any linked application that is not in use are potential attack vectors. The assets that have not been in use are also likely to not be properly monitored. It is necessary to remove superfluous assets that serve no purpose other than as possible launch points for malicious attacks.


EDUCATE AND RE-EDUCATE EMPLOYERS ON CYBERSECURITY

Employees need to be acutely aware of their role in the cybersecurity of their organization. Along with the technologies and principles already mentioned, employees’ participation and adherence to the cybersecurity policies of the organization are also key to averting cyberattacks. Familiarity with phishing, social engineering and other methods used by malicious actors to target employees should be a given. Human error is the number one cause for most successful breaches and hacks know all too well that the human, more than the machine, is the weakest link in an organizations network. Full situational awareness of threats and threat actors’ methods will go a long way in reducing an organization’s attack surface.


SECURE YOUR ATTACK SURFACE

Reducing the attack surface of your organization’s IT infrastructure can help eliminate or conceal the elements malicious actors may need to launch attacks. To learn more about how the XSOC CORP’s optimized cryptographic and encryption solutions can help minimize your organization’s attack surface, get in touch with one of our representatives. Our solutions have data protection use cases in every industry.