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Breaking Down the Phases of CTEM
Jessica Amado, June 5th, 2024

What is CTEM?

Continuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM) serves as a strategic framework for evaluating an organization’s security posture. CTEM is specifically designed to identify and address vulnerabilities and other security gaps within an organization’s  digital infrastructure. In essence, CTEM is a systematic approach to fortify cyber defenses and mitigate potential security risks effectively. Gartner, which created CTEM, sees it as a sort of Vulnerability Management 2.0.

 

This blog post will give you a great understanding of what CTEM is, and it will also talk about how to put CTEM into action because, in the end, CTEM is a business process framework, not a specific product or set of products.

 

Why is CTEM Important?

CTEM has emerged as a cornerstone in modern cybersecurity strategies, earning its place among Gartner’s Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2024. That is because Gartner believes that organizations that invest in a CTEM program will have a 67% lower chance of experiencing a breach compared to those that do not. Unlike traditional approaches that solely address vulnerabilities, CTEM casts a wider net, encompassing the expansive threat landscape of today’s digital environment. This adaptability is crucial in an era where cyber threats evolve rapidly, spanning from common vulnerabilities to sophisticated attacks. By embracing CTEM, organizations can bolster their defenses comprehensively, ensuring resilience against a multitude of potential risks.

 

Moreover, CTEM empowers security teams to adopt a proactive stance in their defense strategies. Rather than waiting for vulnerabilities to be exploited or breaches to occur, CTEM encourages an ongoing, automated approach to threat exposure management, enabling organizations to anticipate and preemptively address emerging threats. This shift from reactive to proactive security measures not only reduces the likelihood of successful cyber attacks but also minimizes the potential impact on business operations and reputation.

 

Additionally, CTEM optimizes resource allocation by prioritizing vulnerabilities based on their severity and potential impact. This strategic approach allows security teams to allocate their time, manpower, and financial resources more efficiently, focusing their efforts on mitigating the most critical risks first. Ultimately, CTEM equips organizations with the model and mindset needed to navigate the complex cybersecurity landscape proactively and effectively.

 

Breaking Down CTEM

CTEM is structured around a five-step model, strategically divided into two halves: Diagnose and Action. Each step plays a crucial role in the ongoing process of identifying, prioritizing and mitigating vulnerabilities within an organization’s digital infrastructure.

 

 

Diagnose

Step 1 – Scope: In the Scope phase, organizations identify and define the mission-critical priorities within their infrastructure. This could include departments, technology stacks, applications, and data sensitivity levels. By assessing business importance, organizations determine the areas where vulnerability management efforts will be focused.

Step 2 – Discover: This phase involves identifying all relevant assets within the defined scope, both visible and hidden. Employing a mix of tools like automated scanners, manual testing, and penetration testing, that scrutinize systems and networks for weak points. This comprehensive approach ensures that no blind spots exist, allowing organizations to identify vulnerabilities across their entire digital landscape.

Step 3 – Prioritize: Once vulnerabilities are identified, they are prioritized based on their risk to the organization. Factors such as the likelihood of exploitation and the potential impact of compromise are considered. This step ensures that resources are allocated effectively, focusing efforts where they are most needed.

 

Action

Step 4 – Validate: In Validate, organizations assess the real-world applicability of prioritized vulnerabilities within their specific context. This involves testing whether vulnerabilities are truly exploitable and evaluating the adequacy of existing response plans in protecting the business from potential threats. Regular validation is essential, ensuring ongoing effectiveness and bolstering system safety against evolving threats. Validation tools such as Breach and Attack Simulation (BAS) and Penetration Testing as a Service (PTaaS) come into play here.

Step 5 – Mobilize: The final step, Mobilize, entails a coordinated response to remediate or mitigate prioritized vulnerabilities. Additionally, it’s crucial to educate all stakeholders about the CTEM program, providing necessary training and updating policies and procedures as required. By executing a well-planned response strategy and fostering stakeholder awareness, organizations effectively close the loop on the management cycle, fortifying their systems and assets against potential threats.

 

By following the five steps of the CTEM framework, organizations can systematically identify, prioritize, and address vulnerabilities within their digital infrastructure, enhancing their overall security posture and resilience against evolving cyber threats.

 

The CTEM Framework in Action

CTEM, a cornerstone of modern cybersecurity, equips organizations with proactive defense strategies and systematic vulnerability management. Through its five-step framework, CTEM enables organizations to identify, prioritize, and mitigate vulnerabilities effectively.

However, CTEM is ultimately only a framework. Organizations need to complement it with appropriate tools and technologies, such as External Attack Surface Management (EASM), Vulnerability Scanners, BAS products, to effectively implement and operationalize CTEM in practice.

Beyond applying point solutions to address specific aspects of each CTEM phase, organizations also need a Remediation Operations (RemOps) platform to bring CTEM to life by delivering end-to-end coordination and tracking, from scoping to vulnerability identification to remediation, and fostering continuous improvement so they can strengthen their security posture in an ever-evolving threat landscape.

Learn more about putting CTEM into practice with RemOps.

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