Because unmanaged assets are not continuously monitored for security risks, they likely contain cybersecurity exposures, like software vulnerabilities and cloud security misconfigurations. When these assets are connected to the internet, they become active attack vectors heightening your risk of suffering a data breach.

If you’re looking for ideas for reducing your organization’s attack surface, start by locating and decommissioning unmanaged internet-facing assets. This low-hanging fruit will shave a significant portion of your attack surface very quickly.

Learn how UpGuard streamlines attack surface management >

Why are Unmanaged Assets Security Risks?

Unmanaged Assets are critical security risks for three primary reasons.

Reason 1: They Can Become Initial Attack Vectors Leading to Data Breaches

Before a threat actor launches an attack, they complete reconnaissance - a period in which they meticulously scan a target’s network to map its design and discover potential entry points. Hackers search for outliers, assets running peripheral services that aren’t critical to operations, and, therefore, unlikely to sit within a prioritization system of a remediation program. 

Despite not processing sensitive data, these assets are network footholds, eventually leading to a data breach. Such a foothold doesn’t necessarily need to sit within a first-party network. With digital transformation multiplying and expanding sensitive data pathways to the third-party network, an unmanaged third-party asset could establish a foothold leading to a supply chain attack.

Reason 2: They Can Bypass Firewalls

Unmanaged assets are dangerous because they can bypass firewalls and introduce cyber threats to segmented network regions. A USB device infected with ransomware can easily bridge an air gap between an IT and OT network, compromising a critical infrastructure and disrupting a nation.

Unauthorized access security controls such as a Zero-Trust architecture could prevent sensitive resource compromise even if a firewall is breached.

Reason 3: They are LIkley Running Vulnerable Software

Since unmanaged assets are not regularly monitored in vulnerability detection programs, they are likely running end-of-lifecycle software for multiple security patch cycles. Without the proper security controls in place, such assets are vulnerable to direct compromise without the need for phishing attacks to gain a foothold, such as unsecured API exploitation. This was the attack vector that led to the Optus data breach.

Manual Attack Surface Management is No Longer an Option

We’re currently living in a period of digital asset explosion. According to the 2022 State of Cyber Assets Report by JupiterOne, which analyzed over 210 million cyber assets from 1,270 organizations, the approximate ratio of cyber assets to a single security practitioner is 120,000:1. It comes as no surprise that nearly 7 in 10 organizations analyzed in the JupiterOne report admitted that they experienced at least one cyber attack.

Besides the sheer volume of IT assets, asset management efforts are further complicated by the vast dispersion of asset inventories. An organization’s digital ecosystem now spans remote work environments, cloud assets, IoT devices, physical devices, cloud services, endpoints, and on top of all that, Shadow IT.

Nearly 7 in 10 organizations admit they have experienced at least one cyber attack that started by exploiting an unknown, unmanaged, or poorly managed internet-facing asset.

- The State of Cyber Assets Report 2022, JupiterOne.

The dawning of the AI area will only exacerbate the problem of vast attack surfaces. AI apps now introduce the possibility of self-developing digital assets and web applications - a problem the cybersecurity industry has never had to contend with before. The cybersecurity implications of the first wave of AI apps will only be fully realized when the digital dust storm finally settles in the future, but before then, security teams must begin refining their attack surface management tactics.

With digital transformation and automation expanding attack surfaces beyond the control of security professionals, manual risk management efforts, such as manual asset inventories and manual vulnerability management, are no longer viable options. Attack surface management programs must evolve into real-time monitoring of emerging cyber threats, patching management, and security postures.

Learn how to detect internet-facing assets >

A New Era of Attack Surface Management

The problem of unmanaged internet-facing assets ultimately comes down to poor attack surface management. Security teams cannot contend with the size and speed of expansion of their organization’s attack surface, so critical attack vectors go unnoticed. Introducing automation technology to attack surface management solutions allows risk management teams to monitor their attack surface in line with its expansion rate.

An example of such a solution is the UpGuard platform. With UpGuard, risk management teams can easily map their digital footprint by searching for assets in a given IP range. UpGuard also includes a cyber risk category devoted explicitly to unmanaged internet-facing assets. These assets are located using search indicators such as server pages, 404 errors on a domain’s index page, or DNS records.

Unmaintained page discovery on the UpGuard platform.
Unmaintained page discovery on the UpGuard platform.

Watch the video below to learn how to quickly reduce your attack surface with UpGuard.

Experience UpGuard’s attack surface management features with this self-guided product tour >

While digital footprinting efforts allow internet-facing assets to be accounted for, they only constitute one component of the risk management equation. An attack surface management solution should sit within a broader risk management framework, such as third-party or Vendor Risk Management.

A Vendor Risk Management program includes security questionnaires and assessments in its risk management workflow, allowing security teams to investigate complex third-degree interactions with assets that could facilitate cyberattacks if exploited. According to the JupiterOne report, only 8% of surveyed users addressed such security risks, with 92% unknowingly leaving this region of their third-party attack surface vulnerable to breaches and supply chain attacks.

UpGuard can Help you Avoid the Cybersecurity Risks of Unmanaged Internet-Facing Assets.

UpGuard’s attack surface management solution helps quickly locate all of the unmanaged internet-facing assets in your footprint, allowing you to secure them before they’re exploited by cybercriminals. By also offering a complete Vendor Risk Management program, UpGuard feeds discovered security risks through a complete risk management lifecycle, ensuring all first and third-party vulnerabilities are rapidly shut down following discovery.

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