attack surface management vs. attack surface analysis

Attack Surface Management VS. Attack Surface Analysis

Attack Surface Management vs. Attack Surface Analysis: what’s the difference between the two, really? And why does it matter?

If you’ve spent any amount of time shopping around for an Attack Surface Management (ASM) solution, you’ve likely heard of the newer, though distinct, alternative solution, Attack Surface Analysis (ASA)

While similar in name, it’s important to highlight that the two are dramatically different in terms of value and outcome. And while the two sound similar, ASM and ASA are fundamentally different solutions, whose distinctions are important to grasp. 

TLDR: ASA lets you go deeper on the datasets and get to the truth in your network faster.

Attack Surface Management is Based on the Management of Problems, Rather than solving Their Root Cause and Solution: 

It’s all in the name. Possibly the most important distinction between ASM and ASA is the approach to closing the loop once a problem has been identified. Whether you’re a devout follower of OODA (Observe, Orientate, Direct, Act) or like to shoot from the hip, ASA allows you to drill down into the tools you rely on to understand your choices in your response.

True to its name, in ASM platforms, problems are managed – not resolved, once identified. 

Unfortunately, focusing on simply managing a problem, rather than exploring the root cause of it, often masks larger issues. This in turn keeps operators from being able to understand the “WHY” of the current situation on the ground or the “How” as it applies to your network resilience. 

If you had a tumor, would you want your doctor to give you pain management and send you home, or perform a biopsy to discover the deeper cause and potential effects? 

ASA platforms are contrastingly built with the distinct purpose of getting to the root cause of its findings. 

Created to provide accurate, real-time context and clarity to each situation, with ASA, teams are equipped with the information necessary to take actionable next steps and truly solve problems as they arise. 

Analysis leads to understanding and the enhancement of processes. Better processes ultimately lead to future resilience. 

Attack Surface Management Places an Emphasis on Flawed, Misguided Dashboards:

With an ASM platform, operators don’t contextualize threats. The ASM platform prioritizes threats for you, based on what it determines is important or not, as determined by its algorithm, or “ML” in some cases. 

Each ASM platform is consolidated into a fairly easy to interpret dashboard…some prettier than others. 

Here’s the problem: dashboards don’t give you the full picture

And here’s why: 

  • Dashboards present information based on what THEY think is important. The problem is, between cyber security programs, every tool in your tech stack will have a different idea/aspect/puzzle piece of how to prioritize problems and alerts. And your ASM is no different. As a result, your operators will end up constantly wading through a thousand alerts, all with different versions of the truth. 
  • Dashboard data is usually outdated. Making decisions based on outdated data is a recipe for disaster. Timely information, that is both relevant and right makes all the difference.
  • Dashboards don’t reveal the root cause of what’s happening in the network. Dashboards are only able to show you what is happening in your network, based on their version of the truth. But they don’t show you why those things are happening, or how they’re happening, or why it matters. Monitoring ≠ Observability
  • Dashboards give you a dangerous, false sense of security. Because they don’t show the “how” or “why” of your cyber security situation, you’re left with various alerts to chase down, and lots of green checkmarks for a virtual pat on the back. But since the dashboard only gave you a piece of the picture, all those solved alerts just leave you with a false sense of security that can leave you exposed. Because while you’re chasing down checking boxes that your ASM platform thinks are important, the real threat is hiding behind your dashboard’s outdated intel, masquerading as something that hasn’t been marked “priority”. 

Ultimately, relying on a dashboard to tell you what you need to know about your cyber security posture leaves you half-cocked at best, and naive at worst. 

The last thing a SecOps team wants is to be is missing the big picture of the cyber situation at hand. 

Attack Surface Analysis Gives a Complete Picture of Your Cyber Situation: 

ASA integrates a “all-hazards” approach to cybersecurity by creating a composite view of the information present in the SOC. 

By concentrating on the entire signal, rather than elements of or small bursts of content, we get a fuller, more rounded picture of what is going on. 

This is information that an ASM platform can’t–and won’t–provide. 

Rather than revealing what is really happening, ASM treats information perpetuating any existing crisis by adding a level of obscurity/opacity to exiting information, limiting the effectiveness of controls and investments. 

Attack Surface Analysis Integrates and Levels Up Your Use of Existing Products: 

ASM brings its own priorities and version of the truth to the table. 

ASA maximizes your use of existing tools to the fullest possible extent.

By consolidating and integrating with your other cyber security tools, ASA increases operators’ visibility and understanding, enabling them to implement the features that were previously overlooked without the increased visibility of an ASA platform.

Attack Surface Analysis enables teams to bring all of their systems and processes together under one umbrella, get visibility of the gaps between those systems, and fully visualize their cyber security posture. 

Because many of the available products in the cyber security space talk a big game (of often inflated promises), it’s hard to separate which technologies will enhance a SecOps teams efficiencies, and which will just be added noise to a growing stack of systems. 

Ultimately, Attack Surface Analysis and Attack Surface Management are not interchangeable options. The distinction between ASA and ASM is an important one, and notably worthy of consideration when weighing your options. 

If you’re interested in learning more about Attack Surface Analysis platforms, let’s talk. We’d love to show you a personalized demo of CLAW, our military-grade ASA platform, to illustrate in real-time how ASA can radically transform your cyber operations. 

It’ll be worth your time, promise.