A Guide to Continuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM)

In an era where traditional vulnerability management programs fall short in addressing the persistent and sophisticated nature of cyber threats, Continuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM) emerges as a comprehensive solution. This guide is your roadmap to understanding and implementing CTEM. From establishing a foundational framework to uncovering the myriad advantages of adoption, we’ll explore the intricate steps and tools to embrace a modern exposure management framework.

What is Continuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM)?

Continuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM) is a proactive and risk-driven approach to cybersecurity that involves the ongoing scope, discovery, prioritization, validation, and mobilization of potential threats across the cyber attack surface. This comprehensive framework involves the constant analysis of the organization’s digital environment, including networks, applications, and devices, to proactively detect and address potential exposures before they can be exploited.

The goal of CTEM is to enable a dynamic and adaptive security posture, ensuring that organizations can effectively and promptly respond to emerging threats and vulnerabilities based on how they align with the wider business objectives. Success in CTEM is contingent upon the seamless execution of each step, from the initial scoping and discovery phases to the prioritization, validation, and mobilization stages.

The 5 Steps to Build a CTEM Program

1. Scope

2. Discover

3. Prioritize

4. Validate

5. Mobilize

  • Scope: Align on what falls within the current CTEM cycle.
  • Discover: Identify all assets as defined within the scope and assess their cyber risk profile.
  • Validate: Evaluate response and preparedness based on attacker behavior.
  • Mobilize: Collaborate and adjust as necessary.

This holistic approach ensures that organizations not only identify and understand their threat landscape, but also respond and remediate vulnerabilities in a proactive and strategic manner— ultimately fortifying their cybersecurity posture against evolving threats.

Conventional Vulnerability Management Programs vs. Exposure Management

Attack surface management as we’ve come to know, is no longer sufficient in the face of evolving cyber threats due to several key factors. First and foremost, these programs often operate on a periodic and static basis, conducting assessments at predetermined intervals. In today’s dynamic and rapidly changing digital landscape, such an approach falls short of providing real-time insights into emerging vulnerabilities and threats.

Additionally, unlike traditional security models that may rely on periodic assessments, CTEM emphasizes the need for continuous monitoring and proactive measures to address and reduce exposures according to criticality. This framework cannot be implemented through a single tool or platform. Rather, it involves the use of advanced technologies, threat intelligence feeds, and business enrichment data to detect and respond to emerging threats on an ongoing basis.

Why implement CTEM?

There are many tangible advantages that organizations can realize by embracing CTEM as a pivotal component of their business strategy. From proactive risk management to continuous monitoring, CTEM offers a suite of benefits that go beyond traditional security models.

The benefits of CTEM include:

  • Proactive Risk Mitigation: CTEM emphasizes continuous monitoring and analysis of the attack surface, providing organizations with real-time awareness of potential exposures and threats. This ensures that security teams stay ahead of the evolving cybersecurity landscape and can respond promptly to emerging risks.

“By 2026, organizations prioritizing their security investments, based on a continuous threat exposure management program, will realize a two-third reduction in breaches.”

-Gartner®, Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2024: Continuous Threat Exposure Management

  • Efficient Resource Allocation: By prioritizing risks based on criticality and potential impact, CTEM helps organizations optimize resource allocation for remediation efforts. This ensures that security teams focus on addressing the most significant threats, maximizing the effectiveness of their efforts and resources.
  • Comprehensive Security: CTEM goes beyond traditional security models by considering not only vulnerabilities, but also the broader threat landscape. This comprehensive approach allows organizations to assess their overall security posture, including factors like misconfigurations, counterfeit assets, and responses to phishing tests.
  • Strategic Decision-Making: The insights gained from CTEM contribute to informed strategic decision-making in cybersecurity. By understanding the organization’s specific threat landscape and vulnerabilities, leaders can make well-informed decisions on resource allocation, security investments, and long-term resilience strategies.

CTEM Tools and Solutions

There isn’t a single tool or service that can enable organizations to successfully implement CTEM on its own. Rather, it’s a combination of technology, people, data, controls, and adversary behaviors that combine to power this risk-driven approach to exposure management.

To enable CTEM, organizations may leverage a combination of the following cybersecurity solutions:

  • Threat Intelligence Platforms: These platforms collect, analyze, and disseminate threat intelligence data, helping organizations stay informed about emerging threats and vulnerabilities relevant to their environment. Integrating threat intelligence enhances the proactive aspect of CTEM.
  • Cyber Asset Attack Surface Management (CAASM): Most CAASM platforms deliver significant value throughout scoping and discovery. Implementing a CAASM capability that encompasses a comprehensive perspective on all types of cyber-relevant assets and incorporates the relationships and business context that shed light on risk, you establish a robust foundation upon which to develop your program.
  • Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) Tools: For organizations using cloud services, CSPM tools assess and ensure the security of cloud configurations, identifying potential exposures in cloud environments.
  • Vulnerability Scanners: These tools identify and assess vulnerabilities in systems, networks, and applications. They play a crucial role in the discovery phase of CTEM by scanning for potential weaknesses that could be exploited.
  • Configuration Management Tools: These tools help in managing and ensuring the security of configurations across an organization’s IT infrastructure. They contribute to minimizing risks by addressing misconfigurations, especially in the prioritization phase.
  • Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) Solutions: EDR tools monitor and analyze activities on individual endpoints to detect and respond to potential threats. They play a role in understanding and managing exposures on devices.
  • Security Automation and Orchestration (SOAR) Platforms: SOAR tools automate and streamline security processes, enabling faster response to security incidents. They can integrate with other security tools for a more cohesive defense.
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) Systems: SIEM systems collect and analyze log data from various sources across an organization’s IT infrastructure. They provide real-time insights into security events and help in detection and response.
  • Breach and Attack Simulation (BAS) Tools: These tools simulate cyberattacks to test an organization’s defenses and response capabilities. They are used in the validation step to assess the likely success of potential attacks.

It’s important to note that the choice of tools may vary based on the organization’s specific needs, the complexity of its IT environment, and the nature of potential threats it faces. And most notably, successful threat exposure management involves integrating tools to create a cohesive and effective security ecosystem tailored to an organization’s specific needs and risk profile.

The Role of Noetic Cyber in Modern Exposure Management

Noetic’s Continuous Cyber Asset Management & Controls Platform is an award-winning solution that plays a critical role in exposure management.

The Noetic platform thrives on the principle that the more input it receives, the greater the output it delivers. Unlike standalone tools that often offer mere quick fixes and contribute to information overload through isolated lists, or first-generation CAASM platforms that fail to consider business context and relationships, Noetic takes a distinctive approach.

By harnessing the existing tools and datasets organizations are already using, the Noetic platform extracts, correlates, and aggregates additional layers of third-party insight, unveiling critical areas of risk tailored to each organization’s context. Noetic stands apart by providing a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of risk-driven criticality to offer a more effective, personalized risk reduction strategy.

A table breakdown of how Noetic supports each stage of the Continuous Threat Exposure Management lifecycle.

The Future of Threat and Exposure Management

As organizations embark on the journey to implement and optimize CTEM, they must remember that success lies not just in the completion of each step, but in the synergy of these steps working together. By leveraging the right tools, methodologies, and collaborative approaches, they can not only identify and address vulnerabilities but also cultivate a security mindset that evolves with the ever-changing threat landscape.

In the face of sophisticated cyber adversaries, CTEM stands as a beacon of resilience, guiding organizations towards a future where security is not just a measure but an ongoing and adaptive strategy. The journey does not end here; it is an ongoing commitment to vigilance, collaboration, and continuous improvement in the pursuit of a secure digital future.