What is attack surface in cybersecurity?

Attack surface is the sum of different attack vectors an unauthorized user can use to breach a network or system. 

An attack vector is the method, path, or scenario that a cyberattacker can exploit to gain entry to an IT system. Examples of some common attack vectors include phishing, malware, compromised passwords, encryption issues, and unpatched software.

Attack surface examples

Examples of an attack surface in cybersecurity include:
Digital. The digital attack surface includes all hardware and software associated with the organization’s network, such as websites, applications, code, servers etc. 
Physical. All devices such as desktop computers, laptops, hard drives, mobile phones, and any other physical gadget the organization uses would fall under the physical attack surface.
Social Engineering. This attack surface focuses on your team members. Social engineering attacks use human psychology to exploit their victims to share sensitive information.

According to a University of Maryland study, on average, a cyberattack takes place every 39 seconds. By defining your organization’s attack surface, you can help protect yourself and your team from an attacker breaching your network.

How to define your attack surface area

Use these steps below to define your attack surface area:
Identify vulnerabilities — Look at the three major attack surfaces: digital, physical, and social engineering. Create a list of all potential attack vectors.
Understand types and permissions — Review which team members have access to each point in your network. Consider user types and determine which users need access to specific areas in your system. Restrict access to areas based on each member’s role. 
Measure vector risk — After reviewing your company’s cyber attack surface and identifying the attack vectors, determine which areas are at the highest risk. Your team should prioritize these areas.
Create an action plan — Once you have identified the high-priority attack vectors, create a plan in response to a threat. Answer questions such as: How will your company know when there is a breach? 
– Who needs to be notified once a breach has been identified? 
– What steps need to be taken to limit the amount of damage?

How Armis can reduce your cyber attack surface 

The Armis Cybersecurity Asset Management platform gives you complete visibility of your managed, unmanaged, and IoT assets. Teams can identify the type of risk that each device poses to allow you to increase security and prioritize attack vectors that are highest at risk, improving your attack surface management. 

Teams can also expand their security with Armis Asset Vulnerability Management (AVM), which enables organizations to prioritize mitigation efforts across their entire asset attack surface. 
Register for an on-demand webinar with Armis executives for more information on how to identify your attack surface and strengthen security with unified asset intelligence.