4 Attack Surfaces to Prioritize NOW

In today’s interconnected world, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) must prioritize securing their attack surfaces to stay resilient against cyber threats. The outcome of neglecting these vulnerabilities – data breaches, financial losses, and reputational damage – can otherwise be devastating.

Our previous article on the top cyber threats in 2024 highlighted the evolving landscape of cybersecurity risks. Now, we shift focus to the critical attack surfaces that your SMB needs to secure immediately. These are the points of entry cybercriminals exploit to infiltrate systems.

By understanding these attack surfaces, you can better bolster your IT defenses, make informed decisions around whether you require assistance from an external partner such as a managed services provider (MSP), and ensure overall business continuity.

Attack surface #1: Email

Email systems are essential communication tools for our businesses, enabling seamless interaction with clients, suppliers, and employees. However, naturally these systems are also a significant attack surface due to their ubiquitous use, and the vast amount of sensitive information (business and personal) they handle in our daily workflows.

Cybercriminals specifically target email as a vector for malicious tactics like phishing, spoofing, and malware distribution via attachments. Phishing emails can trick your employees, if unprepared and uneducated about social engineering threats, into revealing confidential information or downloading malicious software, potentially compromising your entire network. 

Email is the most exploited initial attack vector for cybersecurity incidents, according to Cloudflare’s Phishing Threats Report, with deceptive links being the #1 methods for cyber actors, comprising 35.6% of threats. Additionally, email accounts often serve as gateways to other critical systems and data, making them high-value targets, and particularly dangerous for SMBs; a survey by Digital.com revealed SMBs, typically with fewer than 250 employees, receive the highest rate of malicious, targeted emails at one in 323.

To safeguard your email systems, your SMB should prioritize the implementation of robust application security measures such as spam filters, anti-phishing tools, and multi-factor authentication (MFA) immediately. Regular employee training using available cyber awareness training courses on recognizing phishing attempts and safe email practices is crucial. Additionally, maintaining up-to-date software and applying security patches from vendors promptly can reduce vulnerabilities. Email encryption should also be considered to protect sensitive data in transit. Finally, if your existing IT department is unable to enact protections for your email systems, consider partnering with a MSP to learn your options for better protections.

Attack surface #2: Endpoint devices

Endpoints include any hardware devices that connect to a network, such as desktops, laptops, smartphones, tablets, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. These devices are typically critical for your daily operations, but also represent significant entry points for cyber threats.

Endpoints are often targeted by malware, ransomware, and other malicious activities as entry vectors into your infrastructure. Unsecured devices can particularly serve as gateways for attackers to infiltrate the network, steal data, or launch broader attacks. The increasing use of personal devices for work (BYOD) as part of the modern workplace and remote work model further complicates security efforts.

To secure your endpoint devices, you need to implement endpoint protection platforms (EPP) and endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions, such as those offered by specialist cybersecurity MSPs. These tools excel in identifying and responding to everything from common malware to sophisticated zero-day attacks, along with providing behavioral analytics to better analyze for attack patterns, spot suspicious activity, and protect your network of devices.

Enforcing strong password policies, regular software updates, and device encryption also go a long way in enhancing your overall endpoint security. Additionally, establishing a comprehensive BYOD policy, and providing regular security training to your employees can mitigate risks associated with endpoint devices.

Your business network infrastructure is a critical attack surface that needs to be defended against cyber attacks.

Attack surface #3: Network infrastructure

Network infrastructure encompasses all the hardware and software resources that enable network connectivity, communication, and management within your organization. This includes routers, switches, firewalls, servers, and any connected devices. It is the backbone of your IT operations, facilitating data exchange and resource sharing.

The complexity and interconnected nature of network infrastructure unfortunately makes it susceptible to various cyber threats, such as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS), Man-in-the-Middle (MitM), and network intrusions, and one of the most commonly chosen attack surfaces for cyber attackers. Compromised network infrastructure can lead to unauthorized access, data breaches, and operational disruptions, which can be devastating.

To protect your network infrastructure, your SMB needs to adopt a layered security approach, implementing firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention systems (IDS/IPS), and virtual private networks (VPNs). Regular network monitoring and audits help identify and address vulnerabilities. Segmentation of the network can limit the spread of attacks, and ensuring secure configurations and timely updates for all network devices is essential.

Of course, if your small business lacks network expertise in-house, it’s best to consider the assistance of a MSP with network security experience to manage the implementation of your latest protections, and handle 24/7 monitoring on your organization’s behalf.

Attack surface #4: Cloud services

Cloud services refer to the delivery of computing resources, such as storage, processing power, and applications, over the internet. They offer scalability, flexibility, and cost-efficiency, making them popular among SMBs. Common cloud services include SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), while the most popular cloud platforms, such as Microsoft Azure, offer public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud deployment models.

Cloud services often get overlooked when discussing attack surfaces due to the stellar in-built security that major cloud vendors like Microsoft automatically provide as part of their services. However, there are some security challenges when using cloud infrastructure that can be exploited by cyber-attackers. Data stored in the cloud can still be vulnerable to unauthorized access, data breaches, and loss of control over sensitive information if you aren’t vigilant, while.  misconfigurations, inadequate access controls, and lack of visibility into the cloud environment can increase risks.

Your SMB should implement strong access controls, encryption, and regular security assessments to protect all cloud-based assets. Choosing reputable cloud service providers that adhere to stringent security standards and compliance requirements is crucial. 

Additionally, you need to ensure that you are able to enact proper configuration and continuous monitoring of cloud environments to detect and respond to threats promptly – if you lack the internal resources to confidently execute these tasks following your cloud migration, it is highly recommended to seek the assistance of a MSP with expertise in cloud services to help guide your security strategy, platform assessment, and deployment of proper protections.

4 attack surfaces to prioritize NOW: Next steps

As with any new technology deployment, doing your research and familiarizing yourself with the latest tools, benefits and risks is essential to getting the most out of your investment. Now that you understand some of the most significant attack surfaces for cyber threats, now is the time to begin strengthening your protections and formulating your long-term cybersecurity strategy.

Understandably, as a small business you may not have all of the internal resources you would like to spearhead a cybersecurity project on your own. We always recommend investigating IT partners to help you deploy these sophisticated solutions and technologies following best practices, rather than risk misconfiguration or misunderstanding the platform you adopt.

Speak to the team at SparkNav today to learn how we can help build a custom-made cybersecurity solution that meets your business requirements and protects your business.

Robert Griffin
Robert Griffin
As COO, Robert Griffin plays an instrumental role in aligning operational excellence with strategic goals by leveraging his decades of experience in enterprise leadership. With deep knowledge and expertise in security, governance, risk, and compliance (GRC), and AI, his insights are often shared through thought leadership channels, including LinkedIn and blogs. → Follow Robert on LinkedIn.