The financial sector stands as one of the pillars of the global economy, and its security is paramount. With the rapid digitization of services and the increasing reliance on online platforms, the importance of cybersecurity in the financial sector has never been more pronounced.
The financial sector is a prime target for cybercriminals due to the vast amounts of sensitive data it holds. This data, if compromised, can lead to significant financial losses and damage to the reputation of institutions. In 2022, the number of data compromises in the United States reached 1,802 cases, affecting over 422 million individuals. These compromises include data breaches, leakages, and exposures, all of which result in sensitive data being accessed by unauthorized threat actors. Specifically, the financial sector saw a near doubling of data compromises between 2020 and 2022. These statistics underscore the critical need for robust cybersecurity measures in the financial domain.
Attack Surface Management (ASM) is a proactive approach to cybersecurity that focuses on identifying, assessing, and securing all external digital assets accessible from the internet. For financial institutions, this means securing web applications, databases, servers, and other digital assets that might be exposed to threats. CISOs, as the guardians of an organization's cybersecurity strategy, play a crucial role in the implementation and oversight of ASM. Their expertise and leadership ensure that the institution's attack surface is minimized, vulnerabilities are promptly addressed, and the organization remains resilient against cyber threats. In today's interconnected world, where the attack surface of organizations is continuously expanding, the role of the CISO in guiding and refining ASM strategies becomes even more vital.
In the subsequent sections, we will delve deeper into ASM and how Cyber Threat Exposure Management (CTEM) plays a pivotal role in enhancing ASM. CISOs, with their strategic vision and hands-on approach, are instrumental in leveraging CTEM to fortify their institution's cybersecurity posture. By the end, we will explore how solutions like NST Assure CTEM, when championed by visionary CISOs, can be a game-changer for financial institutions, ensuring a safer and more secure financial ecosystem for all.
How ASM Tools Typically Work
Here's a detailed breakdown of how ASM tools typically work:
- Asset Discovery
Exposed Asset Enumeration: ASM tools identify all external-facing assets associated with an organization. This includes web servers, domain names, cloud assets, IoT devices, and more.
Shadow IT Detection: These tools can discover assets that might not be officially recognized or managed by the organization's IT department, or inadvertently exposed to outside often referred to as "Shadow IT."
- Vulnerability Assessment
Vulnerability Scanning: ASM tools scan identified assets for known vulnerabilities, listed in databases like the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) list.
Configuration Checks: The tools assess assets for misconfigurations that could be exploited by attackers, such as open ports, default credentials, or unnecessary services running.
- Threat Intelligence Integration
Real-time Threat Feeds: ASM solutions often integrate with threat intelligence feeds to identify emerging threats or vulnerabilities that might impact the organization's assets.
Historical Data Analysis: By analyzing historical threat data, ASM tools can predict potential future attack vectors or areas of concern.
- Risk Prioritization
Criticality Assessment: Not all vulnerabilities are equal. ASM tools categorize vulnerabilities based on their severity and the criticality of the affected asset.
Threat Contextualization: By understanding the broader threat landscape, ASM solutions can prioritize vulnerabilities that are currently being exploited in the wild.
- Continuous Monitoring
Change Detection: ASM tools continuously monitor assets for changes, ensuring that new vulnerabilities or misconfigurations are promptly identified.
Alerting: In case of a detected threat or vulnerability, the tool sends alerts to the organization's security team for immediate action.
- Reporting and Visualization
Dashboard: Most ASM solutions provide a centralized dashboard that offers a holistic view of the organization's attack surface, vulnerabilities, and potential threats.
Detailed Reports: For deeper dives, these tools generate detailed reports that can be used for audits, compliance checks, or internal reviews.
- Remediation and Mitigation
Guided Remediation: ASM tools often provide guidance on how to address identified vulnerabilities or misconfigurations.
Integration with Security Tools: Many ASM solutions can integrate with other security tools, automating certain remediation tasks or coordinating responses.
- Feedback Loop
Continuous Improvement: By understanding the vulnerabilities and threats faced, organizations can refine their security policies, practices, and infrastructure.
Integration with Incident Response: Insights from ASM can feed into the organization's incident response plan, ensuring a swift and effective reaction to threats.
Benefits of ASM in Financial Services
Attack Surface Management is not just a security tool but a strategic asset for financial institutions with multiple benefits:
- Enhanced Visibility of Digital Assets
Comprehensive Inventory: Financial institutions often have a sprawling digital landscape, from online banking platforms to mobile apps and internal databases. ASM provides a holistic view of all these assets, ensuring none are overlooked.
Identification of Shadow IT: With the rise of cloud services and decentralized IT practices, many departments in financial institutions might deploy digital solutions without formal IT oversight. ASM helps in identifying such "Shadow IT" assets, ensuring they are brought under the security umbrella.
- Proactive Threat Detection
Real-time Monitoring: ASM tools continuously scan the digital environment, identifying vulnerabilities or misconfigurations in real-time.
Predictive Analysis: Advanced ASM solutions use AI and machine learning to predict potential future threats based on current vulnerabilities and historical data.
- Regulatory Compliance and Risk Management
Meeting Regulatory Standards: Financial services operate under strict regulatory frameworks like GDPR, CCPA, and PCI DSS. ASM ensures that all digital assets are compliant, reducing the risk of non-compliance penalties.
Risk Assessment: By identifying and categorizing assets based on their criticality and vulnerability, ASM allows financial institutions to prioritize their risk mitigation efforts.
Reduced Incident Response Costs: By proactively identifying and addressing vulnerabilities, ASM can significantly reduce the costs associated with incident response and data breach remediation.
Optimized Security Investments: With a clear view of the attack surface, financial institutions can make more informed decisions about where to invest their cybersecurity budget.
- Strengthened Customer Trust
Secure Digital Interactions: Customers expect their financial interactions to be secure. ASM ensures that all customer-facing digital platforms are free from vulnerabilities, ensuring safe transactions.
Brand Reputation: In the age of information, news of data breaches spreads quickly. By proactively managing and reducing their attack surface, financial institutions can protect their brand reputation.
- Streamlined Security Operations
Integration with Security Tools: ASM solutions can integrate with other security tools like SIEMs, vulnerability scanners, and threat intelligence platforms, providing a unified security view.
Automated Workflows: Advanced ASM solutions can automate certain tasks, like triggering incident response actions, leading to more efficient security operations.
- Competitive Advantage
Innovation with Security: Financial institutions are continuously innovating, offering new digital services to their customers. With a robust ASM in place, they can ensure that innovation doesn't come at the cost of security.
Market Trust: Institutions known for their cybersecurity practices can leverage this as a competitive advantage, attracting customers who prioritize security.
The Role of Cyber Threat Exposure Management (CTEM) in ASM
While ASM can function as a standalone tool, it is often more effective when integrated into a broader CTEM framework. This integration ensures that vulnerabilities identified by ASM are assessed in the context of real-world threats, providing a more comprehensive and actionable security posture for organizations.
Cyber Threat Exposure Management (CTEM) is a specialized approach within the broader cybersecurity framework that focuses on identifying, assessing, and managing the exposure of digital assets to cyber threats. It goes beyond traditional vulnerability management by considering the entire digital exposure of an organization, including forgotten or unknown assets, misconfigurations, and other potential weak points that could be exploited by malicious actors.
Attack Surface Management (ASM) is about understanding and reducing the number of potential entry points (or the "attack surface") that an attacker can exploit. CTEM enhances ASM by:
- Continuous Monitoring: While ASM identifies potential entry points, CTEM ensures continuous monitoring of these points for any emerging threats or vulnerabilities.
- Real-time Threat Intelligence: CTEM provides real-time intelligence on emerging threats, ensuring that the organization is always a step ahead of potential attackers.
- Holistic View: CTEM offers a comprehensive view of the organization's digital exposure, ensuring that no asset, no matter how insignificant it might seem, is overlooked.
- Prioritization: Not all vulnerabilities are equal. CTEM helps in prioritizing threats based on their potential impact, ensuring that the most critical threats are addressed first.
In the fast-paced digital world, threats evolve rapidly. Traditional methods that rely on periodic vulnerability assessments can leave organizations exposed to emerging threats. CTEM's real-time approach ensures that:
- Immediate Identification: As soon as a new vulnerability or threat is detected, CTEM tools alert the organization, ensuring immediate action.
- Rapid Assessment: CTEM solutions assess the potential impact of the threat, considering factors like the criticality of the affected asset and the nature of the vulnerability.
- Automated Mitigation: Advanced CTEM solutions can even automate the mitigation process for certain well-defined threats, ensuring that the organization's exposure is minimized even before human intervention.
It is evident from the growing emphasis on real-time cybersecurity solutions that tools like CTEM are becoming indispensable. As cyber threats become more sophisticated, the need for proactive and real-time solutions like CTEM will only grow, especially in sectors like finance where the stakes are exceptionally high.
Case Study: Strengthening Financial Institution Security Through NST Assure CTEM Platform
Background of the Financial Institution
The Customer in this study is a large Multi-national Financial Institution with a significant online presence, including multiple customer-facing applications and services. With assets worth billions and operations across various countries, the organization faces heightened risks from cyber threats, given the high-value data and transactions it manages.
Role of NST Assure CTEM
The organization has opted for NST Assure's Continuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM) platform for ongoing, proactive detection of security vulnerabilities targeting its external attack surface. Shortly after commencing operations, the NST Assure CTEM platform swiftly identified and validated multiple critical issues. Among these were several significant cybersecurity flaws that could compromise the organization's network and applications from outside. One interesting observation includes identifying, validating, and safely exploiting a highly critical, CVSS 10 rated Spring Cloud Gateway remote code execution vulnerability (CVE-2022-22947). An inadvertently exposed Spring Cloud Gateway Actuator endpoint from the customer environment could have allowed attackers to gain Initial Access to the institution's network through remote code execution. Such an intrusion could have had a cascading impact across the organization, affecting multiple applications and resulting in potential financial loss, operational disruption, and severe reputational damage.
Upon identifying the vulnerability, NST Assure acted without delay, alerting the client's security team and supplying them with detailed information about the identified risk as well as recommended actions for immediate remediation. Leveraging the speed and precision of the NST Assure CTEM platform's discovery, the organization swiftly neutralized the vulnerability and validated the effectiveness of their corrective measures within just a few hours.
- Quick resolution: The vulnerability was resolved in a matter of hours, minimizing the potential impact.
- Risk mitigation: The financial institution averted a major cyber crisis, safeguarding its reputation and maintaining customer trust.
- Operational continuity: The institution ensured the uninterrupted operation of its services, saving time and money.
- Enhanced security posture: The organization adopted NST Assure's CTEM for continuous monitoring and assessment, strengthening its overall security posture.
- Real-time monitoring: Continuous threat monitoring is essential in today's rapidly evolving cyber landscape.
- Speed is of the essence: Quick identification and resolution of vulnerabilities can significantly reduce potential damage.
- Comprehensive security approach: A single vulnerability can have cascading impacts across various organizational facets, reinforcing the need for a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy.
NST Assure CTEM: A Game-Changer for Financial Services
Financial institutions are constantly under attack from cyber threats. These threats are becoming increasingly sophisticated, making it more difficult for traditional security measures to keep up.
NST Assure CTEM is a game-changer for financial services cybersecurity. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) to provide proactive external cyber threat management. NST Assure CTEM continuously discovers vulnerabilities in an organization's external attack surface, prioritizes them based on their potential impact, and validates them with safe exploitation methods. It also automates responses to potential risks, helping organizations to stay compliant with industry regulations.
Here are some of the key benefits of NST Assure CTEM:
- AI-driven proactive security: NST Assure CTEM platform uses AI to anticipate threats and take action before they happen. This helps organizations stay ahead of the curve and avoid costly data breaches. NST Assure CTEM platform can help organizations improve their security posture by providing a comprehensive view of their external attack surface and threats.
- Rapid threat assessment and continuous vulnerability prioritization: NST Assure CTEM platform can quickly discover and prioritize vulnerabilities based on their potential impact. This helps organizations to focus their resources on the most critical threats.
- Automated responses while maintaining compliance: NST Assure CTEM platform helps you automate defense response by operationalizing security observations to Cyber Threat Informed Defense (CTID) intelligence while ensuring compliance with industry regulations.
- Reduced risk of data breaches: NST Assure CTEM platform can help organizations reduce the risk of data breaches by proactively identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities.
If you are a financial institution looking to improve your external cybersecurity posture, NST Assure CTEM is an excellent option. It is a powerful and effective solution that can help you stay ahead of the curve and protect your organization from cyber threats.