What is an Attack Surface?

An attack surface is the sum of all possible malicious points of entry on a digital surface. The smaller the attack surface, the fewer exploitation options cyberattacks have.

An attack vector is a specific path of entry within an attack surface, for example, a zero-day exploit.

Though not a digital solution, humans account for a major region of the attack surface since they are usually tricked into divulging sensitive network credentials in phishing attacks.

The basic objective of cybersecurity is to keep the attack surface as small as possible. 

Attack Surface Examples

All digital solutions are attack surfaces. The adoption of new digital solutions - a process known as digital transformation - expands the attack surface, giving cyber attacks more entry options to sensitive resources.

The most common cause of attack surface expansion is the implementation of third-party software. Because of this, the third-party region of the attack surface is a common initial point of entry in data breach attacks.

Some examples of attack surfaces include:

  • Staff
  • Third-party software
  • Third-party vendors
  • Endpoints
  • Smartphones
  • Mobiles devices
  • Laptops
  • Desktops
  • Servers
  • Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices.

How to Secure the Attack Surface

The best method for securing the attack surface is to keep it minimal. Avoid using unnecessary third-party solutions.

Third-party solutions that are necessary for meeting business objectives can be safely implemented with the support of an attack surface monitoring solution

It’s also important to keep such critical digital solutions updated with the latest security patches.

Key takeaways

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    Humans account for a major region of the attack surface.
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    Safe digital transformation is possible with an attack surface monitoring solution.
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    A regular software patch update schedule will reduce the attack surface.
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    Third-party breaches are the most common type of data breach.
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