Glossary Glossary

Continuous Attack Surface Testing

Continuous attack surface testing is the process of assessing all assets of an organization with the goal of identifying and enabling remediation of potential exposures and cyber threats.

Continuous attack surface testing is applicable to both the internal and external attack surfaces of an organization. This process is fully automated and includes discovering, validating, and monitoring the assets. It is a part of the scope of continuous attack surface management (CASM) which also includes risk management, vulnerability management and remediation.

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What Do Organizations Use Continuous Attack Surface Testing For?

The main purpose of continuous attack surface testing is getting full visibility into the organization’s entire attack surface. Since it’s changing every day, this process needs to be continuously ongoing to timely identify and assess every previously undiscovered asset and its vulnerabilities.

Security professionals use continuous attack surface testing to:

  • Discover and validate (which is identifying if the asset really belongs to this organization) previously unknown assets;
  • Identify vulnerable assets and find exposures;
  • Monitor the organization’s attack surface;
  • Provide necessary information to further strengthen the organization’s security posture and manage cyber risks.

When it comes to its scope, continuous attack surface testing is very similar to attack surface analysis, with a few differences. The former is automated and continuous, while the latter is only partially automated, should be continuous but not always is, and also includes attack vector analysis.

Tools Used for Continuous Attack Surface Testing

Since external attack surface testing is an automated process, it requires tools that can automate all its parts – digital asset discovery, validation, and monitoring. 

All kinds of attack surface management (ASM) tools can be useful for this purpose. Cyber Asset Attack Surface Management (CAASM) is one of the primary solutions designed for this, together with continuous attack surface management solutions. 

For internal assets, tools like security information and event management platforms (SIEM) or log management solutions can help with asset discovery and monitoring. 

Finally, external attack surface management (EASM) tools cover every aspect of continuous security testing when it comes to the organization’s Internet-facing assets.

How EASM Can Help with Continuous Attack Surface Testing 

EASM tools can:

  • automate the process of asset discovery, helping continuously find previously unknown assets.
  • automate asset validation. It’s worth keeping in mind that the results of automated asset validation may contain some false positives – assets that in fact do not belong to the organization. A human hand can help here.
  • automate asset monitoring. External attack surface management tools rely on threat intelligence feeds and information about relevant vulnerabilities to help identify exposed assets.

Continuous Attack Surface Testing vs Continuous Penetration Testing

Continuous attack surface testing may seem somewhat similar to continuous penetration testing, but in fact these two processes are very different. They differ in:

  • Scope. Continuous attack surface testing applies to the entire attack surface of an organization. However, when cybersecurity professionals talk about continuous penetration testing, they usually focus on application security. So, the scope for continuous pentesting is usually just one web application or, in some cases, a few web or mobile apps. 
  • Goal. The goal of continuous attack surface testing is to discover and monitor as many digital assets belonging to an organization as possible. In the meantime, continuous pentesting is about finding and exploiting new attack vectors and attack paths, so that the security department can address them. It’s basically an attack simulation, as the security team performs the same actions they expect a threat actor to perform.
  • Approach. Continuous attack surface testing is an automated process. Continuous pentesting, however, always includes manual work. Attack surface testing is not intrusive and doesn’t have an impact on day-to-day processes of the organization. Pentesting can be quite intrusive and may have an impact on the stability of the app undergoing the penetration test.
  • Continuity. Finally, the word “continuous” often means different things when it comes to attack surface testing and pentesting. In case of continuous attack surface testing, it means that this process is always ongoing. But for continuous pentesting, the word “regular” could be in fact more suitable, as some cybersecurity vendors consider it to be continuous when a pentest is conducted at least every quarter.

Key Takeaways

  • Continuous attack surface testing is an automated process of discovering, validating, and monitoring all assets of an organization.
  • It is a crucial part of continuous attack surface management.
  • The primary purpose of continuous attack surface testing is getting full visibility into the organization’s entire attack surface.
  • ASM tools such as CAASM, CASM, and EASM are the main solutions that cybersecurity professionals use for continuous attack surface testing.
  • Continuous attack surface testing is different from continuous penetration testing in scope, goals, approach, and continuity.

Ready to strengthen your organization’s security posture by adding continuous attack surface testing to your cybersecurity toolbox? You need Attaxion – an external attack surface management tool that discovers more assets than the competition. Schedule a free personal demo now!

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