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External Penetration Testing vs. CyFlare Assure CTEM 

External Penetration Testing vs CyFlare Assure CTEM

Cybersecurity demands constant vigilance as attackers relentlessly seek new ways to exploit systems. Continuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM) is a powerful new tool that helps organizations identify, assess, and fix vulnerabilities before attackers can exploit them.

While CTEM is gaining traction, traditional external penetration testing remains familiar. This article will delve into the strengths of both approaches, clarify their differences, and explain why CTEM offers a more robust and proactive way to secure your systems.

What is External Penetration Testing?

a security expert performing external penetration testing

External penetration testing (external network penetration testing) evaluates the security of an organization’s external-facing systems and infrastructure. External-facing systems include web applications, network devices accessible through the internet, email systems, file transfer services, remote access services such as VPNs, web services, and APIs. 

During an external pentest, ethical hackers mimic the tactics of real-world cybercriminals, attempting to find and exploit vulnerabilities in these external systems. This helps organizations identify and fix potential weaknesses before attackers can exploit them.  

Key benefits of external penetration testing: 

  • Proactive security: Uncovers vulnerabilities before they become major problems. 
  • Improved defenses: Provides actionable recommendations to strengthen security measures. 
  • Identifies weaknesses: Pinpoints specific areas where attackers could compromise systems.

What is Continous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM)

continuous threat exposure managementContinuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM) is a proactive cybersecurity framework that helps organizations outpace attackers. Unlike periodic penetration testing, CTEM involves ongoing monitoring, assessment, and remediation of vulnerabilities across an organization’s entire attack surface. Key elements include:
  • Constant Vigilance: Continuously identifies and assesses network, system, and data risks. 
  • Simulation-Based: Employs attack simulations to uncover potential exploits before attackers do. 
  • Prioritization: Prioritizes threats based on severity and potential business impact for focused remediation.

The CTEM framework, according to Gartner, involves five steps:

five stages of continuous threat exposure management CTEM
  1. Scoping: Defines the assets and attack surfaces to be monitored. The major areas for scoping include external attack surfaces that attackers can use to gain entry to systems and software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms.
  2. Discovery: Identifies assets, vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and other security risks. Various software tools and processes can be used to identify these risks.  
  3. Prioritization: Rank threats based on severity, urgency, and potential impact to guide remediation efforts. According to Gartner, prioritization should factor in urgency, security, availability of compensating controls, tolerance for residual attack surface, and level of risk posed to the organization.
  4. Validation: Simulates attacks in production to test defenses and assess potential damage.
  5. Mobilization: Communicates findings to stakeholders and develops the remediation plan.

According to Gartner, CTEM aims to get a consistent, actionable security posture remediation and improvement plan that business executives can understand and architecture teams can act upon.

Why Do You Need CTEM?

Every organization prioritizes keeping systems secure. However, attackers constantly evolve, making traditional periodic security checks like external penetration testing less effective. This leads to slow responses and leaves systems vulnerable to new threats. 

CTEM offers a proactive solution. It continuously monitors and assesses risks in real-time, allowing you to address issues before they become significant breaches. Gartner’s research indicates that organizations prioritizing this approach are 3x less likely to suffer a breach by 2026. 

To implement a strong CTEM strategy, consider a powerful tool like CyFlare Assure.

What is CyFlare Assure?

CyFlare's continuous threat exposure management

CyFlare Assure is an Enterprise CTEM (Continuous Threat Exposure Management) platform harnessing AI, ML, and human validation to detect and manage cyber risks. It continuously identifies exposed assets and vulnerabilities and uses machine learning to identify potential attack patterns from an outsider’s perspective. CyFlare Assure triggers security assessments for validation and response when a threat emerges.

Some of the benefits organizations can expect from using CyFlare Assure include: 

  • Continuous Monitoring: Timely vulnerability detection enables proactive mitigation. 
  • Machine Learning-Enhanced Detection: Advanced algorithms spot complex threats early. 
  • Automated Assessments: Swift validation prioritizes high-impact risks. 
  • Prioritized Risk Identification: Rankings enable effective resource allocation for mitigation. 
  • Cyber Threat Informed Defense (CTID): Actionable insights integrate seamlessly for proactive defense. 
  • Compliance Assurance: Leverage data, findings, and reports for compliance and audit requirements.

To help distinguish the service from traditional external penetration testing, let us look at the differences between traditional external pen testing and CyFlare Assure CTEM.

Differences Between External Pen Testing and CyFlare Assure CTEM

Use Case External Pen Testing Continuous Threat Exposure Management 
Scope Limited to externally defined parameters Focuses on assets discovered externally, particularly on the internet, within predefined parameters of your organization TLD’s and extends to External Third-party assets 
Targets Predefined, scoped external assets All assets associated with your Top-Level Domains (TLDs), including domains, IP addresses, ports, services, codebases, repositories, and domain analytics for DNS records and anything that can be found on the internet relevant to your domains  
Asset Unique public IP addresses Limited within the CSP portal 
Testing One-time assessment Continuous monitoring and testing to identify and manage emerging threats and assets, ensuring ongoing security improvement 
Reporting Consolidated bulk report Dynamic, continuous monitoring portal providing real-time threat and vulnerability management for all assets 
SOC Integration None SOC receives contextual inputs on observed threats for better triage and elimination of false positives, facilitating proactive security measures 
Visibility Full visibility and actionable insights are available through the centralized CSP portal Full visibility and actionable insights available through the centralized CSP portal 
Remediation Guidance Limited guidance on exploit remediation CTEM portal offers expert engagement for additional guidance and remediation recommendations with ease of access 
Whitelisting Requirement Whitelisting required for scoped assets No whitelisting necessary; employs a broader approach akin to adversary perspectives, focusing on TLDs and DNS configurations 
Dark Web Monitoring Not included Includes Dark Web monitoring for insights related to your organization’s domains 
Differences between external penetration testing and Continuous Threat Exposure Management

Conclusion

Whereas external penetration testing has its place in cyber security strategy, it is a reactive approach that leaves organizations playing catch up to attackers. Continuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM) overcomes the shortcomings of external penetration testing by providing a proactive way of identifying, assessing, and fixing vulnerabilities before attackers can exploit them.

To start using CTEM, Schedule a Demo with CyFlare to see how CyFlare Assure can bolster your cyber security efforts.