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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 prioritizing investments based on 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.

It’s important to understand that the CTEM process has two distinct phases, ‘Diagnose’ and ‘Action’.

Diagnose ensures the stages of planning and discovery are not classified as and end goal in isolation, and become more valuable as part of the CTEM process.  In isolation, discovery of vulnerabilities or compromised third party infrastructure  should not be classified as a success independent from corporate priorities

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Action defines the operational phase of the CTEM model.  It factors in examples such as an assessment being made to validate if a vulnerability is exploitable and if a known threat actor has exploited it.  It encapsulates the need manage business risks and threats in collaboration with stakeholders through dissemination of the CTEM findings to refine process, create new workflows or take remedial actions based on optimal situational awareness.

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.

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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

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