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Exposure management: a strategic ally in essential eight cybersecurity resilience
Mon, 5th Feb 2024

Today, businesses and government agencies find themselves confronting a rising tide of cyber threats that are growing in sophistication and severity. This includes attacks on critical infrastructure, new variants of ransomware, and phishing messages that are almost impossible to distinguish from authentic communications.

In bolstering the cyber resilience of Australian organisations, the Australian Signals Directorate has updated its 'Essential Eight Maturity Model' (E8MM) to meet the changing nature of the industry and to help organisations defend themselves against threat actors. The E8MM delineates eight mitigation strategies aimed at minimising the risk of falling prey to targeted attacks. While the Essential Eight provides a robust framework for organisations, integrating exposure management as a fundamental component of the strategy is vital to fortify cybersecurity measures.

Exposure management takes a proactive approach to help organisations gain visibility across the modern attack surface, focus efforts to prevent likely attacks and accurately communicate cyber risk to support optimal business performance. It focuses on identifying and prioritising threats based on their potential impact on a business. This approach aligns with the broader goals of the Essential Eight model, enhancing the organisation's ability to mitigate cyber threats.

The first pillar of exposure management is its capacity to provide a panoramic view across the modern attack surface. Traditional vulnerability management focused solely on the technical aspects of cyber risk, neglecting the broader business context. Exposure management breaks free from this limitation by integrating both technical and business contexts, offering a more nuanced understanding of the organisation's cyber risk landscape. It examines various controls, misconfigurations and recommended remediation strategies.

This supports Essential Eight foundational strategies like Application Whitelisting and Patch Applications that become more effective when informed by exposure management insights. By understanding the organisation's attack surface in its entirety, including both technical vulnerabilities and business-critical applications, organisations can prioritise and tailor their application whitelisting efforts for maximum impact.

Exposure management also facilitates a more precise identification of vulnerabilities. Rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach, organisations can tailor their vulnerability management efforts to address specific threats that are most pertinent to their operations. This aligns closely with the user education and awareness strategy in Essential Eight, as organisations can tailor their training programs based on specific risks they face, making them more relevant and impactful.

The second pillar of exposure management is its ability to communicate cyber risk more accurately. Often, cybersecurity discussions are confined to technical jargon that may not resonate with stakeholders outside the IT department. Exposure management transcends this barrier by translating complex technical information into business language. This enhanced communication is a valuable asset when aligning cybersecurity initiatives with broader organisational goals, a key aspect of Essential Eight's emphasis on fostering a cybersecurity mindset across all levels of the business.

By articulating cyber risk in terms of its potential impact on business operations and the bottom line, exposure management bridges the gap between technical teams and business decision-makers. This is particularly crucial for network segmentation and multi-factor authentication in Essential Eight, where the collaboration between IT teams and non-technical teams is imperative. 

In modern organisations, understanding cyber risk is not solely an IT concern; it is a fundamental aspect of risk management. By providing a comprehensive and accurate view of cyber risk, exposure management empowers decision-makers to allocate resources effectively, prioritise cybersecurity initiatives, and align security efforts with business objectives. This synergy between exposure management and the broader goals of the Essential Eight model creates a symbiotic relationship where each component reinforces the efficacy of the other.

As organisations navigate the intricate cyber threat landscape, this unified approach transcends best practices, becoming a necessity to build resilience against ever-evolving challenges posed by cyber threats.