As cyber risks grow, evolve, and become more sophisticated, traditional approaches to cybersecurity are no longer effective. According to research from Gartner, enterprises must move beyond vulnerability management to focus on threat exposure management as remote work, cloud storage adoption, and other factors expand organizations’ attack surfaces and potential vulnerabilities faster than threat detection and response controls can mature.  

While attack surface management (ASM) doesn’t replace pentesting, a combination of external network penetration testing and ASM can help organizations enable continuous attack surface testing and more effectively focus cybersecurity resources on the most valuable remediation efforts.

What is Exposure Management?

From a broad perspective, exposure management is the practice of identifying and analyzing possible exposures and taking steps to minimize the impact of associated risks. While the term exposure management is used broadly in other industries, for the purpose of this article, we’re focusing on exposure management from a cybersecurity lens — also referred to as threat exposure management (TEM) or continuous threat exposure management (CTEM).   

Exposure management in cybersecurity involves seeing the complete, accurate picture of an organization’s attack surface and being prepared to make the right decisions to prioritize remediation and effectively reduce overall cyber risk. The full attack surface includes all points of entry and external-facing assets that a cybercriminal could exploit to gain access to your company data—such as hardware, software, web applications, certificates, unsecured APIs, cloud assets, and much more. 

The Growing Need for Exposure Management 

Attack surfaces continue to expand in today’s connected environment, even overnight. The broader the scope of an attack surface and an organization’s digital footprint, the higher the risk of external assets facing vulnerabilities and exposures.  

Another challenge with exposure management is that organizations often have unknown attack surfaces or assets. As highlighted by Forrester in its report, The External Attack Surface Management Landscape, Q1 2023, “You can’t secure what you can’t see.”

With a proactive approach to exposure management and the right attack surface management tools, organizations can identify previously unknown assets and attack vectors—before attackers do—to avoid exposures.

Top reasons exposure management is important include:  

  1. Attack surface sprawl is increasing
  2. Unknown assets pose greater risks
  3. Threat actors are becoming more sophisticated  

Why Companies are Prioritizing Continuous Attack Surface Testing 

As both known and unknown attack surfaces expand, companies are increasingly using attack surface management tools to bridge the gap between vulnerability management solutions and manual penetration testing.

Traditionally, a common approach has been for organizations to perform penetration testing annually or a few times a year to meet compliance regulations. Following standard pentesting, at times little to no action is taken on the findings for months because security teams lack research-backed prioritization of which vulnerabilities to fix first. This trend is backed with research in NetSPI’s Offensive Security Vision Report, which concluded a lack of resources, aka people, is the number one barrier to timely and effective remediation. 

Attack surfaces and threats can expand and change overnight. Completing only one pentest per year isn’t enough to secure your attack surfaces and protect against new exposures that emerge over the course of a year.  

Instead of relying on periodic pentesting, leverage a combination of external network penetration testing and attack surface management tools to enable continuous, always-on pentesting. Keep pace with expanding attack surfaces and find vulnerabilities as they arise. As a result, organizations are better prepared to prioritize and focus their cybersecurity efforts.

How Continuous Attack Surface Testing Works 

Here’s a step-by-step overview of NetSPI’s process: 

  1. NetSPI’s attack surface management platform identifies known and unknown assets to provide visibility of attack surfaces. 
  2. Our human pentesters combined with our advanced scanning capabilities triage and prioritize exposures. 
  3. For each vulnerability, our ASM operations team provides descriptions, remediation steps and verification steps. 
  4. This prioritization reduces the number of false positives reported and creates actionable results for your security team. 

How to Achieve Always-On Security with Continuous Pentesting  

An always-on approach to pentesting is the gold standard for cybersecurity today. Attack surface management doesn’t replace external network penetration testing, but rather pairing the two together works in harmony to enable continuous coverage. This helps organizations achieve higher levels of security in today’s evolving threat landscape.  

As an added benefit, from an operational standpoint, this approach also helps organizations with vendor consolidation. Providers such as NetSPI offer both attack surface management tools and external network penetration testing in-house. Businesses that partner with NetSPI have access to an expert team of manual pentesters who complete more than 250,000 hours of pentesting each year. 

Enable Continuous Attack Surface Testing with NetSPI 

Rather than replacing pentesting, attack surface management paired with manual external penetration testing is an advanced method for continuous attack surface testing. We created our attack surface management platform based on three key pillars of ASM—human expertise, always-on, continuous pentesting, and risk prioritization.  

Leverage NetSPI’s attack surface management tool for expert human analysis to prioritize the most important exposures, bring alignment between security and IT teams, and focus vulnerability remediation efforts to create a better overall security posture. Try NetSPI’s ASM tool for free!