Today organizations face constantly evolving cybersecurity threats that demand vigilance and proactive measures. One such concern is the risk associated with internet-exposed management interfaces. Internet exposed management interfaces are software or hardware end points in an organization’s network that can be accessed via the internet. For example: web-based management consoles that can be accessed through a web browser using HTTP or HTTPS protocols, Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), Remote Management Protocols for Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and more.
Threat actors target these consoles and protocols to exploit for either financial or espionage motives. As these attackers adapt their tactics to exploit vulnerabilities in network devices, it becomes imperative for agencies and organizations to take necessary steps to mitigate these risks. Recently, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a Binding Operational Directive (BOD) 23-02, outlining essential actions to safeguard federal information systems from such attacks.
The Three Main Challenges of Handling Internet-Exposed Interfaces
1. Inadequate Security Protocols
Most common inadequacies in security protocols come from weak passwords, lack of multi-factor authentication (MFA), excessive privileges, unsecured network end-points, and lack of encryption during communication. These cause gaps in security measures which can lead to data breaches, exposure of sensitive information, intellectual property theft, or serious outages and downtimes. Additionally, insufficient security measures within critical infrastructure sectors and government agencies can pose serious threats to national security. Loose security protocols can also lead to legal and regulatory repercussions, with organizations potentially incurring penalties and fines due to non-compliance with security regulations.
Misconfigurations in network devices, cloud services, routers, and firewalls cause serious holes in the security of an organization’s attack surface. Ransomware threat actors target misconfigurations for 80% of their attacks. In 2019, due to a misconfiguration in the firewall of Amazon Web Services Inc.’s S3 cloud storage, data from approximately 100 million Capital One credit card applicants was stolen. Capital One took responsibility for the vulnerability in the end. Misconfigurations pose the greatest risk in cloud services. The devices and services using default configurations are just as dangerous.
3. Out-of-date Software
When organizations employ third-party software and services, they need to update their software regularly. Outdated software can contain several unpatched vulnerabilities (which are often exploited by threat actors), have multiple exploits concepts, and might also lead to non-compliance with potential legal and regulatory consequences. Apart from this, many outdated software versions can lead to system crashes, errors, cause downtime, and productivity loss for businesses. There are also legacy systems where vendors no longer offer support or security updates for outdated, end-of-life applications and devices.
How can organizations combat this?
Assessment of Threat Landscape
Continuous assessment of an organization’s threat landscape is paramount in order to effectively defend against evolving threats. The threat landscape is dynamic, with new vulnerabilities, attack techniques, and threat actors emerging on a regular basis.
While penetration testing provides valuable insights into the existing vulnerabilities and potential attack vectors, it is often conducted infrequently. This creates a significant gap between assessments, leaving organizations vulnerable to newly discovered vulnerabilities and emerging attack methods. An Attack Surface Management (ASM) tool is ideal to discover and monitor these vulnerabilities promptly.
Two of the core capabilities of ASM are continuous asset discovery and monitoring and classification. You will get real time visibility into the current digital footprint of your IT infrastructure including the shadow IT, constantly monitor and be alerted to any suspicious activity immediately. This helps visualize data, identify security gaps, keep track of vulnerabilities, and remediation suggestions, all on one platform.
Understanding the Threat Context
The importance of understanding the threat context of vulnerabilities cannot be overstated. Organizations face significant challenges when assessing the risks associated with vulnerabilities. It is often overlooked that the level of threat a vulnerability poses can vary depending on its potential impact on the business and data. Additionally, different threat actors manipulate vulnerabilities in distinct ways, making it essential to have a nuanced understanding of the threat landscape.
Even with various security measures in place, organizations may not be fully aware of all potential angles of attack. This can lead to inadequate prioritization of threats and ineffective allocation of resources for mitigation. To address this issue, reliable sources of information, such as security advisories, vulnerability databases, and threat intelligence feeds, are critical for IT teams to identify and prioritize threats effectively.
Furthermore, the evolving nature of cyber threats adds complexity to the equation. Threat actors are now targeting vulnerabilities that remain unpatched for extended periods, as well as newly discovered vulnerabilities. Moreover, there is a growing trend of attacks on devices that are not always under the direct purview of the IT team, such as routers, switches, and network devices. These devices become prime targets for malicious activities, and understanding the scope of exploitation for each vulnerability becomes paramount.
In light of this ever-changing threat landscape, vulnerability intelligence plays a crucial role. It provides valuable data that empowers the IT team to take informed and proactive actions. By accessing vulnerability intelligence in an easily digestible manner, organizations can concentrate their mitigation efforts where they are most needed, thereby strengthening their overall cybersecurity posture and safeguarding their valuable assets.
Proactive Security Protocols
To attain optimal security, an organization must establish a foundation that begins with incorporating and upholding security protocols right from the development phase. This entails setting up configurations that align with appropriate security clearances, enforcing strictly essential permissions, and conducting regular assessments of roles and responsibilities.
Mitigating the risks stemming from internet-exposed management interfaces is crucial for ensuring the security of federal information systems and enterprises alike. The Binding Operational Directive 23-02 issued by CISA outlines the necessary actions and protections organizations must implement to safeguard their networks. By addressing the pain points of inadequate security controls, misconfigurations, and out-of-date-software this directive provides a proactive roadmap for organizations to fortify their cybersecurity defenses. By doing so, organizations can stay ahead of evolving threats and protect their critical assets from unauthorized access and compromise.
The Securin ASM platform addresses these challenges by providing organizations with a single-window view of their exposures in various assets—cloud, active and passive, APIs, container, external, and internal assets. By prioritizing exposure, enterprises have a chance to be proactive rather than reactive in defending their attack surface. It is built by researchers who have been in this field for more than two decades. Our panel of cyber security experts designed this platform to help CISOs shrink their attack surface quickly and with minimal effort. The artificial intelligence and machine learning-based vulnerability intelligence platform powers the attack surface monitoring which ensures that trending vulnerabilities are identified and patched first according to the criticality they pose to the business.