In our first blog of this series, we discussed the concept of digital pathogens, or digital diseases if you will. Bad things in the digital world are everywhere and always looking for a place to grow and flourish. External attack surface is what you present to the world.

Once you understand this concept, the next stage is determining the likelihood that your organization will be the next battleground, and, as we have learned from the world of biological pathogens, the more attack surfaces you have exposed the higher the likelihood that it will happen.

The reality is that it is just a matter of time, and any exposed attack surface is likely to be exploited as the world of digital diseases continues to grow. So let us consider both the attack surface and likelihood scenarios a bit. Just like biological diseases, the more attack surfaces that are exposed the higher the likelihood that you will get sick. In order to address these points of ingress, it is important to know they exist and then also know what needs to be done to effectively prevent things from getting in.

 In both the biological and digital worlds such mitigations are very specific and in order to be the most effective you need to know as much as possible about how the attack works, how effective it is, and how big your exposure is. Moreover, your organization needs to understand that new attack surfaces can appear at any time because new digital pathogens are created every single day, either by design or by some sort of digital Darwinian chance.  

So how many of an organization’s network connections are susceptible to becoming an attack surface? Well … all of them … all the time. That is exactly why it is so important to constantly monitor all digital pathways for potential attacks, but also monitor those you do business with because their attack surfaces can lead them to become an attack vector. Making things worse, a business partner is a trusted attack vector.

It is just like being someone who stays in isolation during a pandemic (like many of us today) that ends up getting sick because uncle Jimmy brings something in when he visits during Christmas. Knowing how likely uncle Jimmy is to have something you don’t want could certainly help prevent it from getting to you. If you know that he is not paying attention to what is going on and also is coming from a place where there are a lot of outbreaks, you can block him from entering your home, or, at least strongly request that he does a better job at monitoring and mitigation.

Of course, the same is true in the digital world. The attack surface of partners and customers that have trusted access to your organization contributes to your attack surface as well. Having a way to effectively monitor and assess such risk is the key to digital wellness.

Next in the series: managing cybersecurity threats in the world of digital pathogens