“Reducing your attack surface” is a term that you may have heard before. It generally refers to cybersecurity and is always presented as a positive thing. For those who have no idea what any of that means, we would like to explain things in a little more detail. Not only will we explain this crucial concept, but we will also tell you how to apply it properly.
What Is The “Attack Surface?”
Your computer’s “attack surface” represents all the places where it could be attacked. When a hacker attempts to gain clandestine entry into your system or network. They have a variety of options, and all of these options are collectively referred to as the “attack surface.” Pretty simple, right?
Before we get into any specific measures, let’s go over the basic concepts. Before you can reduce your attack surface, you must first evaluate it thoroughly. You must understand where the weak points lie and how the network is laid out. You might start with a simple network mapping tool so that you can get a visual representation of this.
Step 1: Evaluation
Begin by making a list of all the devices (both physical and virtual) that make up your network. This will include desktops, laptops, mobile devices, servers, switches, routers, printers, and anything else that is connected. You need to understand that each one of these is a potential security breach and has to be secured accordingly.
Next, think about where your data is stored. Make a categorized list showing all the places in which your organization stores its data. Sort this data into categories of “most sensitive” and “least sensitive.” Finally, you will need to consider all the people within your organization. Think about all the ways in which someone could use them as an attack vector and list those as well.
Step 2: Testing
Your initial evaluation is important, but you can’t really call it a set of ironclad facts. To get facts that are completely verified, you will need to test your assumptions. The easiest way to do this is with a little trick called “penetration testing.”
If you haven’t heard of this, the concept is simple: You hire a legitimate computer expert to “hack” your system in whatever way they are able. The whole point is to see if it is possible to penetrate the system and to see which routes of attack are the most appealing to a potential attacker. Overall, this is probably the best way to test your existing structure and find its vulnerabilities.
Of course, there is one little problem here: Are you sure that you can trust the testers? After all, many penetration testers are former hackers, and some of them may still retain a little of their old habits. For this reason, we would recommend that you perform all penetration testing in a virtualized “sandbox” duplicate. You can easily use a program like Virtualbox to create an enclosed duplicate of your existing system. In this way, you can do your testing with no exposure to the actual system.
General Tips For Reducing Your Attack Surface:
Once you have identified your key problems and weaknesses, we come to the hard part: Implementing solutions to those problems. This is where you really need the services of a good cybersecurity professional, but there are many things that you can do without them. The following simple steps will definitely reduce your attack surface.
Compartmentalize Your System
The concept of compartmentalization is an important one. Basically, the idea is that you isolate each part of the system as much as possible, separating them with solid barriers (usually through encryption). That way, if someone does make it through the outer defenses, the amount of damage they can do will be limited. Although this concept can be cumbersome if taken too far, a little bit of compartmentalization is very helpful and greatly reduces the number of available targets.
Keep Things As Simple As Possible
It is tempting to think that a complex system is more secure. However, the opposite is usually true. A bloated and overcomplicated system is like a jungle: It’s full of places to hide. However, simple security measures and simple structures do not leave as much room to maneuver. Encryption is a good example of this fact because it is based on simple principles and has proven to be very effective.
Concentrate On Points Of Access
If you were trying to guard your home against burglary, you would probably start with the windows and doors. After all, these are the portals by which an intruder will try to gain access. From a computer security standpoint, the same logic can be applied. Any part of your network that can be accessed without credentials represents a potential point of access, so that is where your network monitoring should be concentrated. These points of access (or “endpoints”) should always be the main focus point.
Make Use Of TLS Network Encryption
We’ve mentioned encryption a few times, so let’s talk about one of its most useful forms: The TLS protocol. This is just a specific type of encryption based on the old SSL-type protocols, but with some improvements. It has become the standard for website encryption and provides solid security from end to end. You need to make sure that this protocol is used for all network communication, including internal messaging.
Don’t Run Apps As An Administrator
Windows gives you the option to run any software with administrator privileges, and Linux/Mac devices offer the same option (called “root user” privileges). When a program is run in this way, it can access everything on the network. This might seem like a handy thing, but there is just one problem: Any vulnerability in the software can easily translate into a system-wide breach.
There are many ways in which you can reduce your attack surface, and these are only some of them. We hope that you will continue learning more about this subject so that you and yours can be a little safer. We also hope that you will fill out the contact form so that we can help you in that endeavor.