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Attack Surface Reduction: A Guide For Personal and Corporate Life

Written by: Stephen Nelson

Introduction

A few weeks ago, I posted on LinkedIn, sharing that I am doing “attack surface management.” Now, you might be asking yourself, what does he mean by attack surface management, and why should I care? Attack surface management is a concept that refers to minimizing the potential avenues of an attack that a hacker can use to exploit a system.
This concept is crucial when securing your personal accounts and information, especially when they are chained to a corporation. For instance, if an attacker somehow retrieved a user’s password from a website (i.e., social media), and the password had been reused throughout the user’s work, the attacker could then access the user’s work environment. This occurred in the past when Dropbox employee’s password reuse led to 60+ million in overall credential theft, demonstrating the impact these attacks can have on your personal information as well as your business.
In this blog, we will explore how attack surface management can be applied to your personal life, why it’s essential, and what steps you can take to reduce your attack surface.

Benefits of Attack Surface Reduction

Reducing your attack surface can bring numerous benefits. First and foremost, it can significantly lower your risk of being a victim of a cyberattack. By limiting the number of entry points into your digital life, you can make it harder for a hacker to gain access to your sensitive data. Additionally, an attack surface reduction strategy can also help you become more organized and efficient. By taking stock of your digital life, you can identify areas where you might be wasting time or resources and streamline your digital footprint.

Steps You Can Take Today

Reducing your attack surface doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are a few simple steps you can take today to get started:
  1. 1.
    Delete unused accounts: If you’re not actively using a social media account or other online profiles, delete them. This will limit the number of accounts that could potentially be hacked and provide less opportunity for cybercriminals to exploit. For example, if you are signing up for a PayPal account only for a singular and old transaction, ask yourself, do you need that account anymore?
  2. 2.
    Use strong and unique passwords: A secure password should be unique, complex, and contain a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using the same password across multiple accounts since this will limit the possibility of compromising multiple accounts. For instance, I tend to use the maximum number of characters allotted by each website that I sign up for.
  3. 3.
    Periodically check breached websites, such as haveibeenpwned.com: Websites like this show what breaches that your email has been a part of and also checks what passwords have been a part of breaches.
  4. 4.
    Keep software updated: It is vital to keep all software, including your operating system, up to date with the latest security patches. This will help protect against known vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit.
  5. 5.
    Limit data sharing: Be mindful of the information you share online and avoid sharing sensitive data, such as your home address, phone number, or financial information.

Why Attack Surface Reduction is Important

The consequences of a successful cyberattack can be severe. Hackers can steal your personal information, hold your data for ransom, or even lock you out of your own accounts. By proactively managing and reducing the attack surface, businesses can significantly lower the risk of security breaches, data leaks, and financial losses. A smaller attack surface translates to fewer entry points for malicious actors, making it more challenging for them to exploit weaknesses and gain unauthorized access. Ultimately, a vigilant approach to monitoring and reducing the attack surface enhances a company’s ability to safeguard sensitive information, maintain customer trust, and ensure uninterrupted business operations in an increasingly digital and interconnected world.

Conclusion

In conclusion, attack surface reduction is an essential strategy for protecting your digital life from cyber threats. By taking simple steps, such as deleting unused accounts, using strong passwords, keeping software updated, and limiting data sharing, you can significantly reduce your attack surface and minimize your risk of being a victim of a cyberattack. Remember, the best defense against cyber threats is a proactive approach to security.
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