External Cybersecurity

 

What is External Cybersecurity?

External cybersecurity focuses on protecting an organization’s external attack surface, which includes all the points where an attacker could potentially breach the organization’s defenses.

This involves securing publicly available systems, such as websites, cloud servers, social media profiles, and business collaboration tools.

The primary emphasis of external cybersecurity is to monitor an organization’s external attack surface to generate actionable intelligence.

Security teams then use that intelligence to reset leaked credentials or session tokens, take down phishing sites, and mitigate the risk associated with company data that’s been disclosed on the dark web.

The Difference Between Internal and External Cybersecurity

The main difference between internal and external cybersecurity lies in their focus and scope of protections:

Internal Cybersecurity

  • Focus: Protects the network, systems, and data from internal threats originating within the organization.
  • Scope: Includes employee activities, internal applications, databases, and internal network traffic.
  • Threats: Insider threats (e.g., disgruntled employees), accidental data breaches, internal malware infections, and misuse of access privileges.
  • Practices: Access controls, internal firewalls, endpoint protection, user behavior monitoring, data encryption, regular security training, and internal network segmentation.

External Cybersecurity

  • Focus: Protects the organization from cyber threats that come from outside its network.
  • Scope: Includes internet-facing systems such as websites, email servers, public cloud services, and external network connections.
  • Threats: Hacking attempts, phishing scams, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, external malware infections (e.g., stealer logs), and other activities by malicious actors.
  • Practices: Monitoring the dark web, criminal marketplaces, CT logs, infostealer logs, combo lists, Telegram channels, DNS brute-forcing for typosquating, homoglyph, and lookalike domains.

Why is External Cybersecurity Important?

While internal cybersecurity protects devices within the organization’s internal network, hackers can still gain unauthorized access to company assets like web applications, mobile apps, and social media profiles via leaked or stolen credentials.

External cybersecurity gives security teams visibility into threats that traditional security devices like firewalls and WAFs (Web Application Firewalls) are unable to stop.

Having early warning about leaked employee credentials or a potential phishing domain registered, allows security teams to mitigate the risk before attackers exploit them.

Most Common External Cybersecurity Threats

The most common external cybersecurity threats include:

  • Credential Stuffing: Attackers use lists of stolen usernames and passwords from one breach to attempt to log in to other accounts, taking advantage of reused credentials.
  • Phishing Attacks: Cybercriminals use deceptive emails or websites to trick users into revealing sensitive information, such as login credentials or financial details.
  • Malware: Malicious software, including viruses, worms, trojans, ransomware, and spyware, can infect systems to steal data, including credentials, or disrupt operations.
  • Ransomware: A type of malware that encrypts an organization’s data and demands payment for the decryption key or to not disclose the captured data, often causing significant operational and financial damage.
  • Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) Attacks: Attackers flood a network or website with an overwhelming amount of traffic, causing it to slow down or crash, rendering services unavailable.
  • Domain-Based Attacks: Attackers create lookalike domains to trick users into believing they are legitimate, often used for phishing or spreading malware.
  • Dark Web Threats: Information, such as leaked credentials or sensitive company data, is leaked or sold on the dark web, posing a significant risk to organizations if not monitored and addressed.
  • Impersonation: Attackers pose as trusted individuals or entities, such as executives or service providers, to trick victims into revealing sensitive information, making unauthorized transactions, or installing malware.

How Does External Cybersecurity Work?

  • Monitoring the Public Attack Surface: Continuous scanning and monitoring of the dark web to detect external threats such as leaked credentials, session tokens, impersonated accounts associated with the organization, and phishing domains.
  • Resetting Leaked Credentials: Detecting leaked credentials and session tokens and resetting them to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Taking Down Phishing Domains: Identifying and taking action to remove lookalike or phishing domains that could trick users, leading to account fraud and compromised credentials.
  • Dark Web Monitoring: Tracking the dark web for mentions of the organization, leaked data, planned attacks, or other threats to proactively mitigate the risk.