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How Asset Attribution Can Improve Your Mean-Time-to-Remediate

Why Asset Attribution Matters

Let’s imagine for a moment that all of your organization’s internet-connected assets are stars in the galaxy. Think of each server, application, and device as a different point of light in your corner of the cosmos.

In cybersecurity, we can think of asset attribution as the process of mapping each of these stars. Asset attribution ensures that every digital entity on the attack surface is not only identified, but also tagged with ownership, purpose, and its place within the organizational architecture.

This mapping is crucial. In the event of a zero-day or discovery of a critical threat, knowing exactly where each asset lives and who owns it can significantly accelerate your security team’s ability to prioritize and respond. This kind of swift, informed response is essential for minimizing exposure and mitigating risks effectively. And, importantly, it can help improve your team’s Mean-Time-to-Remediate (MTTR) metric.

Mean-Time-to-Remediate: A Metric to Note

Mean-Time-to-Remediate is a critical gauge by which security teams can measure the effectiveness of their function. Low MTTR signals that your team has the ability to quickly and effectively address a threat, usually before it negatively impacts the organization. High MTTR? Well, that might signal the need for more tools, training, or process improvements as vulnerabilities are left unaddressed for too long.

Unfortunately, many security teams struggle with achieving a reasonable MTTR. In 2023, the average time to remediate critical severity vulnerabilities took 65 days, according to a study from EdgeScan. That’s over two months that assets are left vulnerable to action from adversaries. For comparison, CISA recommends that critical vulnerabilities be remediated within just 15 days.

What prolongs the remediation process? While there can be many factors at play,  asset attribution can be one of the most time-consuming.

How Asset Attribution Impacts MTTR

Teams often struggle with asset attribution when they don’t have a complete, updated, contextualized view of their attack surface. In other words, they don’t fully know what they own. They might have a static asset inventory, but it’s not updated on a continuous basis. They only have a point-in-time view, which becomes outdated in between scheduled inventory exercises. For example, when someone from the team provisions a new SaaS solution without following protocol, your security team is left none the wiser until their next asset inventory effort.

This means that when a critical vulnerability hits, these teams have more manual work cut out for them.

As they attempt to assess a vulnerability’s potential impact, these teams have to build a current view of their attack surface. An outdated view might omit assets that a critical vulnerability could hit. Achieving this updated view can require launching new asset discovery efforts and referring back to raw data sets. When these data sets are fragmented, or when asset details within the data sets are sparse, teams can be led down time-consuming rabbit holes attempting to gain clarity. This in turn draws out the remediation process and drives up MTTR.

Automating Attribution with Attack Surface Management

Attack Surface Management (ASM) can help bridge this gap. Attack surface management is a proactive solution that continuously discovers and provides context about assets, both known and unknown, across an organization’s attack surface. ASM gives security teams a powerful map of their entire attack surface, and continuously refreshes the attack surface view as new assets come online or go offline. An ASM solution, like Censys Attack Surface Management, will automatically discover unknown assets on the attack surface and provide context about ownership.

By mapping and attributing each asset to specific locations and owners, organizations can achieve a more complete understanding of their attack surface. This detailed knowledge becomes invaluable for identifying potential vulnerabilities and accelerating the remediation process. With ASM, when a zero-day hits, your team doesn’t have to scramble to manually piece together where affected assets might live or how a previously unknown, now vulnerable, asset fits into your organization’s attack surface. ASM provides the complete, contextualized, up-to-date view you need.

Data Plays an Important Role, Too

ASM solutions are only as effective as the data they rely on. To continuously and accurately discover and identify assets on the attack surface, ASM solutions need to use complete, accurate, and up-to-date information about global internet infrastructure. Scanning only parts of the internet to discover unknown assets won’t cut it. Nor will scanning intermittently, or failing to collect enough details about an asset to provide teams with relevant context.

Why emphasize data? ASM’s ability to effectively conduct asset attribution depends on it. It’s also a factor that can get overlooked. That’s because security teams can assume that “data is data” and that ASM solutions are probably using similar data sources. In reality, however, there is significant variance in the quality of internet scan data ASM vendors rely on. Some data is only refreshed weekly, or on an intermittent basis. Other data reflects only a portion of global internet infrastructure. For a sense of what we mean, you can check out our recent article about what unmatched internet intelligence looks like.

Finding Clarity with Censys Attack Surface Management

Teams looking for a way to improve asset attribution and lower MTTR might be interested in Censys EASM, which uniquely brings together best-in-class ASM technology with industry-leading internet intelligence. Censys is the only ASM vendor that runs an attribution engine daily, demonstrating a significant advantage in the number of services enumerated and decreasing false positives by 70%. Our automated daily attribution provides a complete view into customer’s assets, increasing customers’ visibility up to 80%. The Censys attribution algorithm also helps security teams understand asset connections, current configurations, and discover threat details, and maintains a >95% attribution accuracy rate.

 

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, so too must our strategies for protecting it. Asset attribution through Atttack Surface Management is more than a tactic; it’s a critical component of a proactive cybersecurity posture. Embrace it, and discover how your team can improve its MTTR!

About the Author

Rachel Hannenberg
Content Marketing Manager
As the Content Marketing Manager at Censys, Rachel Hannenberg focuses on creating content that engages and informs the Censys community. Rachel has worked in marketing content strategy for nearly a decade, including at B2B SaaS companies and in higher education.

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