What is Exposure Management?

The New Priority in Cybersecurity and Why Services will Play a Critical Role


The situation in the average security team looks something like this: multiple different systems are sending off endless alarms, often to the point of overload. Each one has to be validated. And provided it’s not yet another false positive, the team must leap into action…because they’re already behind.

First, they have to scramble to locate and understand the incoming threat. Then, they have to predict its path and decide how to defend against it. Only then can the real remediation effort begin – and it’s often too late to matter. No wonder so many teams get burned out, so many attacks succeed, and so much about cybersecurity feels like it’s getting worse.

It’s time to do things differently. Security teams need new tactics, techniques, and tools to fight threats like ransomware and face off against state-sponsored cyber criminals. More than that, they need a new mindset that treats cyber attacks like a critical business risk. Exposure management delivers on both fronts.

Exposure management is an effort to understand the exploitability of an IT environment. The term exploitability refers to any weakness in an IT environment that an attacker could leverage to reach sensitive assets. By finding and resolving these weaknesses, companies make themselves harder to exploit.

Industry analysts emphasize the need for exposure management as companies utilize more dispersed and complex IT environments. They are more exposed than ever, often in ways they don’t realize, giving the security team little hope of finding and stopping attacks coming in from all sides. Modern IT makes exposure management essential. Cybersecurity doesn’t work without it.

The key is to proactively think like an attacker- they always take the path of least resistance that will cause the greatest harm. Exposure management uncovers every conceivable attack path based on the infrastructure, security, and threat landscape, and ranks those paths by risk based on the vulnerability of the attack path and sensitivity of the final target. Essentially, exposure management gives the defense a copy of the offensive playbook. Instead of playing catch up, the security team is already ahead.

What Makes Exposure Management Different?

Cybersecurity is full of vendors and service providers offering to help clients manage various cyber risks: attacks, threats, vulnerabilities and more. So what makes exposure management any different?

Consider an analogy from physical security. Many security tools, from cameras to alarms, are designed to call attention to bad actors when they are inbound. Stopping them sooner depends on seeing them earlier. But what if they go unnoticed or move too fast to stop? Exposure management isn’t about finding threats lurking in the shadows. Rather, it’s about locating cracked windows and unlocked doors – places where something could bypass security and gain unauthorized entry/access to the most critical assets. That may seem like a small distinction, but it represents a radical shift for cybersecurity. Instead of chasing after the attack itself (and often failing to catch up), exposure management systemically closes off entry points and shuts down attack paths, focusing on the highest priorities in record time. In that way, it transforms porous, unprotected organizations into impenetrable blocks of iron where attacks (known, unknown, aggressive, or otherwise) have no way to enter, advance, or gain traction anywhere.

Why is Exposure Management So Important?

The emergence of exposure management aligns with changing attitudes about cybersecurity. For most of the recent past, the prevailing attitude has been that attacks are inevitable, putting the emphasis on detection and response. It was taken for granted that attacks were unstoppable – we could only hope to contain the damage.

Until it became uncontainable. Today’s attacks are more frequent, sophisticated, and successful than ever before. Worse, they extract a terrible toll on victims, doing millions of dollars in damages, creating long-term reputational harm, and putting the future in jeopardy. Modern cyber attacks are an existential threat. Therefore, cybersecurity must stop them before they take hold by taking a holistic approach to detection, response, and remediation across the spectrum.

This expectation is driving cybersecurity to be more proactive and less reactive, and to essentially lessen the load on our overstrained defensive resources. Exposure management plays a central role. It’s an important piece of any modern cybersecurity strategy, not just because it makes infiltration exceedingly difficult but also because it shuts down the riskiest attack paths first. It’s proactive about immediately making the biggest impact possible. The philosophy is different, and so is the level of urgency.

What Does Exposure Management Entail?

The first component of exposure management – mapping and finding attack paths – is a technical undertaking. The right tools and platforms can map complex IT environments, uncover every possible attack path, and do so largely automatically. The correlation and context, fed by raw data from technologies already in place, makes this solution very powerful.

The second and more challenging component is ranking those paths by business-level risk, which is a combination of technology and human undertaking. Technology can reveal what’s at risk and to what extent, even recommending prioritization based on business impact. What it can’t do is validate the recommendations to identify the most critical attack paths and most importantly, remediate to erase the attack paths before they are infiltrated. Humans have to make both that calculation and a remediation plan based on a careful understanding of how IT (and cyber attacks) affects everything an organization does.

Exposure management entails both tools and teams. When they work in sync, cybersecurity doesn’t just improve – it becomes a manageable business risk from the IT department to the board room.

Where Does Exposure Management Fit Into Your Cybersecurity Strategy?

Fully operationalized, exposure management serves as both the formidable front lines of cybersecurity and as a force multiplier for all the defenses standing behind it. A systematic effort to find and rank potential attack paths leads into smart remediation efforts, where time, staff, budget and other resources put out the biggest fires first. Remediating those attack paths lowers the frequency, severity, and efficacy of incoming attacks, which in turn takes the pressure off tools that detect and respond to those attacks. Cybersecurity maturity requires more than just exposure management alone. That being said, it requires significantly less overall when exposure management is involved.

Getting Started With Exposure Management – Within Reach Today

In the context of today’s cybersecurity landscape, exposure management looks like both an opportunity and an obligation. So, what’s the best way to get started, especially for security teams with limited resources to invest in technology or the expertise to tie it all together? Reveald has turned exposure management into a complete solution and is revolutionizing the security marketplace in the process. In fact, it’s already proven and delivering results at our customers in the public sector. We provide all the requisite parts and handle the vast majority of the work, making exposure management accessible to all. That’s our commitment and passion – to drive true change. Our value is that we cement cybersecurity around business outcomes, linking one to the other so that organizations become (increasingly) immune to digital disruptions.

What could exposure management do for your own organization? Contact Reveald to explore the answer.