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What Is an Attack Surface?

The attack surface is the number of all possible points where an unauthorized user can access a system and extract data. The smaller the attack surface, the easier it is to protect.

Organizations must constantly monitor their attack surface to identify and block potential threats as quickly as possible.

The attack surface is split into two categories: the digital and physical.

Digital Attack Surface

The digital attack surface area encompasses all the hardware and software that connect to an organization’s network. These include:

  • – Applications
  • – Code
  • – Ports
  • – Servers
  • – Websites
  • – Shadow IT, which sees users bypass IT to use unauthorized applications or devices.

Physical Attack Surface

The physical attack surface comprises all endpoint devices that an attacker can gain physical access to, such as:

  • – Desktop computers
  • – Hard drives
  • – Laptops
  • – Mobile phones
  • – Universal Serial Bus (USB) drives

The physical attack threat surface includes carelessly discarded hardware that contains user data and login credentials, users writing passwords on paper, and physical break-ins.

Attack Surface Reduction in 5 Steps

  1. Implement Zero-trust Policies
    The zero-trust security model ensures only the right people have the right level of access to the right resources at the right time. This strengthens organisations’ entire infrastructure and reduces the number of entry points by guaranteeing only authorized individuals can access networks.
  2. Eliminate Complexity
    Unnecessary complexity can result in poor management and policy mistakes that enable cyber criminals to gain unauthorized access to corporate data. Organizations must disable unnecessary or unused software and devices and reduce the number of endpoints being used to simplify their network.
  3. Scan for Vulnerabilities
    Regular network scans and analysis enable organizations to quickly spot potential issues. A complete scan must not only identify vulnerabilities but also show how endpoints can be exploited.
  4. Segment Network
    Network segmentation allows organisations to minimize the size of their attack surface by adding barriers that block attackers. These include tools like firewalls and strategies like “microsegmentation”, which divides the network into smaller units.
  5. Train Employees
    Employees are the first line of defense against cyberattacks. Providing them with regular cybersecurity awareness training will help them understand best practices, spot the signs of an attack through phishing emails and social engineering.

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