Glossary Glossary

External Asset

An external asset refers to any component of your organization’s digital infrastructure that is visible to outsiders and potentially exploitable. It is essentially part of your external attack surface or the sum of all assets accessible via the Internet along with their vulnerabilities. 

External assets are major sources of security risks since they are often targeted by attackers and are the easiest to find. Organizations may also find them difficult to manage as their networks grow and systems evolve. These challenges highlight the need to monitor and protect external assets.

Table of Contents

External Asset: A Deep Dive

What Is the Difference between an External Asset and an Internal Asset?

The main difference between external and internal assets lies in their location and accessibility.

 external asset vs internal asset

An external asset is located outside your organization’s internal network and thus is generally accessible to anyone via the Internet. Some examples of external assets include websites, open ports, application programming interfaces (APIs), and cloud services. Because they are publicly exposed, they are directly vulnerable to various cyber attacks,  such as denial of service (DoS) and code injection attacks.

On the other hand, internal assets reside within your internal network and are not publicly accessible. They include internal servers, databases, and intranets. They can, however, get attacked through targeted malicious campaigns or compromised internal accounts.

Both external and internal assets make up an organization’s overall attack surface. They are monitored and protected through the process of attack surface management (ASM). However, there is a dedicated approach to protecting external assets specifically, called “external attack surface management (EASM).”

Why Is It Important to Monitor External Assets?

An external asset is exposed to various threats since it can be easily found and exploited. Keeping a running and updated catalog of all external assets is the first step toward protecting them from attacks. Below are specific benefits of monitoring external assets.

  • Attack surface reduction: Understanding what digital resources are exposed to the Internet gives security teams a clear picture of their attack surface, allowing them to focus on addressing the issues of the most vulnerable assets first and reduce the likelihood of successful cyber attacks made possible by those issues.
  • Security posture improvement: Identifying external assets continuously allows organizations to implement proper security controls and measures, such as patching vulnerabilities and restricting access. This proactive approach can strengthen your security posture and make it harder for malicious actors to exploit weaknesses.
  • Efficient risk management: A complete inventory of external assets enables you to assess associated risks more holistically. Risks can then be categorized based on severity so security teams can prioritize remediation efforts and allocate resources accordingly.
  • Regulatory compliance: Discovering and protecting external assets helps ensure compliance with many regulations, ultimately allowing organizations to avoid paying potential fines and incurring reputational damage from noncompliance.

Key Takeaways

  • An external asset is any part of an organization’s digital infrastructure that is web-facing and potentially exploitable by outsiders.
  • They comprise an organization’s digital footprint and contribute to its overall attack surface. 
  • Websites, APIs, open ports, and cloud services are some examples of external assets.
  • Monitoring external assets can help organizations reduce their attack surface, strengthen their security posture, manage risks better, and effectively comply with industry-specific regulations.

Ready to learn how Attaxion can catalog and monitor all your external assets. Schedule a free demo tailored to your organization now.

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