Browse Definitions:
Definition

attack surface

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

An attack surface is the total sum of the vulnerabilities in a given computing device or network that are accessible to a hacker.

Anyone trying to break into a system generally starts by scanning the target’s attack surface for possible attack vectors, whether for an active attack or passive attack, ethical hacking or a hacking competition.

 Attack surfaces can be divided in to a few categories:

  • The network attack surface.
  • The software attack surface.
  • The physical attack surface.

Every point of network interaction is a potential part of the network attack surface. A network attack surface can be reduced by closing unnecessarily open ports and limiting the resources that are available to untrusted users and to the Internet in general, through methods like MAC address filtering. Limiting  network attack vectors can also limit the exposure of existing software vulnerabilities by blocking access to them.

 As all running code has the possibility of having exploitable vulnerabilities, one of the first and simplest ways to limit software attack surface is to reduce the amount of running code. The more a piece of malware can use various exploits, the more chance it can get in via a hole in a target system’s attack surface.

Physical access also constitutes an attack surface, which overlaps with the social engineering attack surface. This surface is exploitable by inside vectors such as rogue employees or hired workers. External risks include password retrieval from carelessly discarded hardware or from password sticky notes. Best practices for physical attack surface remediation include enforcing strong authentication, destroying hard drives before throwing them out and refraining from leaving hard copy access data -- like sticky note passwords – in proximity to a computer.  

Knowledge of all elements of an organization’s attack surface is crucial to proper setup of breach detection systems (BDS), firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, data policies and other security measures.

This was last updated in November 2014

Continue Reading About attack surface

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

Powered by:

SearchCompliance

SearchSecurity

  • password

    A password is an unspaced sequence of characters used to determine that a computer user requesting access to a computer system is...

  • adware

    Adware is any software application in which advertising banners are displayed while a program is running.

  • botnet

    A botnet is a collection of internet-connected devices, which may include PCs, servers, mobile devices and internet of things ...

SearchHealthIT

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • call tree

    A call tree -- sometimes referred to as a phone tree -- is a telecommunications chain for notifying specific individuals of an ...

  • mass notification system (MNS)

    A mass notification system is a platform that sends one-way messages to inform employees and the public of an emergency.

  • disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS)

    One approach to a strong disaster recovery plan is DRaaS, where companies offload data replication and restoration ...

SearchStorage

  • data migration

    Data migration is the process of transferring data between data storage systems, data formats or computer systems.

  • compact disc (CD)

    A compact disc is a portable storage medium that can be used for recording, storing and playing back audio, video and other data ...

  • secondary storage

    Secondary storage is used to protect inactive data written from a primary storage array to a nonvolatile tier of disk, flash or ...

SearchSolidStateStorage

  • SSD RAID (solid-state drive RAID)

    SSD RAID (solid-state drive RAID) is a methodology commonly used to protect data by distributing redundant data blocks across ...

  • Tier 0

    Tier 0 (tier zero) is a level of data storage that is faster, and perhaps more expensive, than any other level in the storage ...

  • PCIe SSD (PCIe solid-state drive)

    A PCIe SSD (PCIe solid-state drive) is a high-speed expansion card that attaches a computer to its peripherals.

SearchCloudStorage

  • RESTful API

    A RESTful application program interface breaks down a transaction to create a series of small modules, each of which addresses an...

  • cloud storage infrastructure

    Cloud storage infrastructure is the hardware and software framework that supports the computing requirements of a private or ...

  • Zadara VPSA and ZIOS

    Zadara Storage provides block, file or object storage with varying levels of compute and capacity through its ZIOS and VPSA ...

Close