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What is Continuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM)?


CTEM is a workflow process created by Gartner to enable Cyber Security senior management with an optimal and strategic approach to managing cyber threats and risks.


The Case for CTEM


For CISOs, the key benefit of Implementing CTEM is to provide your organization with strategic advantages, aligning cybersecurity efforts with business goals. It ensures that security investments are prioritized based on actionable intelligence, reducing the likelihood of breaches.


Strategic Outcome of CTEM: Gartner predicts that by 2026, organizations employing CTEM will be three times less likely to suffer from a breach.


Understanding the motivation for a CTEM strategy


CTEM is a systemic approach to refining an organization's security posture amidst a landscape where threats outpace traditional defenses. The premise is simple: zero-day vulnerabilities, while significant, are not the primary culprits behind breaches. Instead, a successful protection approach marries the readiness for unknown threats with a strategic emphasis on publicly known vulnerabilities and identified control gaps.


As organizations adopt technological advantages both on-premises and in the cloud, the attack surface widens as does the risk landscape.  New technologies and business initiatives like SaaS applications, IoT, and supply chain touchpoints introduce new vulnerabilities.


CTEM in Action: A Five-Step Cycle with Practical Steps


Once fully mature, a CTEM led program encompasses a five-step cycle: scoping, discovery, prioritization, validation, and mobilization.


This cycle ensures that outputs from exposure management contribute to multiple parts of the security and IT organizations, facilitating a holistic management approach to a wide set of exposures. It's a cyclical, iterative process that demands regular, repeatable steps to ensure consistent outcomes.


1. Scoping: Define the Battlefield


  • Examples of Scoping related activies:

    • Inventory digital assets, including cloud instances, endpoints, and operational technology.

    • Defining business-critical systems and data, focusing on what is essential to protect.

    • Establish governance to manage CTEM with clear roles and responsibilities.


2. Discovery: Identifying the Known and Unknown


  • Examples of Discovery related activies:

    • Implementation of comprehensive scanning tools for vulnerability assessment.

    • Increased maturity of resources that leverage threat intelligence services.

    • Regular penetration testing to uncover hidden vulnerabilities.


3. Prioritization: Making Informed Decisions


  • Examples of Priorization related activies:

    • Using risk-based vulnerability management tools to evaluate the severity and impact of threats.

    • Aligning security measures with business impact, prioritizing actions that protect the most critical assets.

    • Collaboration between IT and business units to ensure risk assessments are business-aware.


4. Validation: Testing Your Defenses


  • Examples of Validation related activies:

    • Remediation and mitigation actions are validated through simulated attack scenarios.

    • Regular reviews of security policies and practices to ensure they are effective and up-to-date.

    • Establishing metrics and KPIs to measure the effectiveness of security posture.


5. Mobilization: Orchestrating Response and Remediation


  • Examples of Mobilization related activies:

    • Continuous developing, testing and improving incident response plans that include CTEM insights.

    • Training employees on security awareness and response protocols.

    • Establishing and maintaining a cross-functional team to manage and act on CTEM outputs.


CTEM in Action: Use Cases


The use cases for CTEM vary from the strategic, to tactical, but the key objective is alignment - each use case should map to the process.

Enhanced Risk-Based Decision Making


Objective: Shift from reactive to strategic, risk-based cybersecurity decisions.


Use Case: Organizations leverage CTEM to assess and prioritize vulnerabilities across their digital assets, focusing on those with the highest potential impact on business operations and financial stability.

Optimization of Security Investments


Objective: Maximize ROI on cybersecurity efforts by focusing on the most effective measures.


Use Case: An organization that uses CTEM analysis to compare the risk reduction potential of various security technologies, choosing solutions that offer the greatest outcome for their investment.

Cross-Functional Alignment and Collaboration


Objective: Break down silos and foster unity among all departments around cybersecurity goals.


Use Case: Through CTEM-driven insights, different departments within an organization—ranging from IT and security to marketing and operations—collaborate more effectively to ensure all new initiatives are secure by design.

Proactive Compliance and Regulatory Advantage


Objective: Stay proactive in compliance efforts to avoid penalties and maintain trust.


Use Case: An organization employs CTEM to continuously monitor and adapt to evolving regulatory requirements, ensuring compliance across all facets of its operations and thereby mitigating the financial risk of fines.

Strengthened Supply Chain Security


Objective: Enhance the security of the supply chain by effectively managing third-party risks.


Use Case: Utilizing CTEM, a company systematically evaluates the security posture of its suppliers and partners, identifying and addressing vulnerabilities to safeguard its supply chain from potential breaches.

Data-Driven Cybersecurity Culture


Objective: Cultivate a culture where cybersecurity is a shared responsibility, informed by data.

Use Case: Organizations implement CTEM to gather and analyze security data, using these insights to inform and engage all employees in the importance of cybersecurity, encouraging proactive and vigilant behaviors across the board.

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