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Continuous Threat Exposure Management

Widespread, rapid digital transformation across industries presents a unique, unprecedented challenge when it comes to managing the sheer scale and risk of an organization’s attack surface.

Traditional vulnerability and risk management solutions lack the level of visibility and control necessary to keep environments safe and secure, calling for a new approach to vulnerability management that addresses the changed landscape and the limitations of traditional vulnerability management programs.

What is CTEM?

Continuous threat exposure management (CTEM) is a process framework designed by Gartner to help organizations proactively evaluate the accessibility, exposure, and exploitability of enterprise IT in a consistent, repeatable, and scalable fashion. CTEM was named a 2024 Gartner Top Technology Trend because of cyber security challenges like lack of visibility into the volume of exposures, difficulty tracking issues and remediation progress across siloed environments, lack of clarity around remediation owners, and increased dependency on third party technology.

A CTEM program helps organizations shift from a reactive approach, to a proactive approach, where steps are taken to strengthen security and compliance throughout the organization proactively.

Components of CTEM

The CTEM framework is a process made up the following five steps:


CTEM recommends strategically mitigating risk by adopting the “attacker’s point of view” which means going beyond traditional vulnerabilities and CVEs. This starts with organizational collaboration to identify which assets and systems are most business-critical, and therefore attractive to attackers; examples could include production or development environments, cloud infrastructure, on-prem assets, APIs, or other systems that are most valuable to organizational stakeholders and attackers. This step establishes a foundational level of context and visibility and helps with prioritization later on in the process. 


The discovery stage of the CTEM process aims to uncover any and all assets and vulnerabilities that exist in your attack surface, from third-party to on-premises environments, and from misconfigurations to insecure APIs to noncompliance and more. The CTEM framework leverages the context and conclusions from the Scoping step to help you project how each vulnerability impacts the rest of your attack surface. Further, understanding the types and levels of vulnerabilities  that exist in your attack surface helps organizations prepare remediation and security plans accordingly. 


Understaffed security and development teams aside, solving for every single weakness in your attack surface is untenable and an inefficient use of time; therefore organizations need to identify their most urgent issues. Rather than solely relying on risk scores provided by their security testing tools or risk scoring systems, Gartner recommends organizations consider a combination of urgency, severity, availability of compensating controls, risk appetite, and level of risk posed to the organization as inputs to determine how critical the weakness is. Insights from the “Scoping” and “Discovery” stages of the CTEM process, like business context and asset relationships, can also be part of the equation.


The validation stage tests whether vulnerabilities and other security gaps discovered and prioritized during the earlier phases can actually be exploited in a meaningful way, by leveraging pentesting, breach and attack simulation, attack path analysis, and red teaming exercises. 

Although success varies on each organization’s level of risk acceptance, there are a few factors to look at:
Attack success: If the attackers could actually succeed at exploiting the discovered vulnerabilities in your organization
Potential impact: How far the  attacker could get into the attack path before reaching a critical asset
Response efficacy: How effectively and efficiently the processes respond to and remediate vulnerabilities


The mobilization stage operationalizes the CTEM process by defining communication standards, creating process documentation, assigning roles across stakeholders, and implementing automated workflows. 

Although full automation is rarely possible or even desirable, automating basic patching or configuration changes can help organizations refocus remediation efforts toward more complex vulnerabilities. For example, in the event that a detected vulnerability has multiple fixes, the remediation team must decide which fix makes the most sense for the business. 

Mobilization is often the most difficult part of implementing the CTEM framework because it requires a change in how the organization approaches risk management as a whole. 

CTEM vs. Traditional Vulnerability Management

While they’ve been in use for decades, traditional vulnerability management methods are not equipped to handle the growing complexity and dynamic nature of today’s attack surfaces. Further, traditional methods of gathering vulnerability findings are often siloed and separate from the processes used to remediate those findings. As a result, vulnerabilities are typically triaged and remediated in a manual, ad-hoc way.

CTEM innovates on traditional vulnerability management and transforms it into a proactive, repeatable, and scalable process. By broadening the scope to consider all physical and digital assets, attack paths, likelihood of exploit, and current processes, organizations can achieve a holistic and actionable vulnerability management program that prioritizes with context and eliminates the most critical risks at a pace that works for your organization. Further, the emphasis on repeatability creates space for organizations to evaluate process efficacy and continuously improve on inefficiencies.

Benefits of CTEM

Although CTEM can take some time and resources to implement, the overall long-term benefit is monumental. According to Gartner, organizations that prioritize their security investments based on a CTEM program will realize a two-thirds reduction in breaches by 2026.

Quicker MTTR 

CTEM’s emphasis on scoping and discovery enables vulnerability management teams to understand the existing environment and set a critical foundation to anticipate and defend against the risk in their environment. Further, the context-driven prioritization and clearly defined roles and responsibilities set during the mobilization stage help security teams reduce triage time and accelerate remediation before vulnerabilities turn into incidents. 

Enhanced Security Posture 

Continuous vulnerability scanning and context-based prioritization ensures that your organization is remediating the risks that matter most. It’s neither feasible nor a good use of resources to attend to every single vulnerability, so focusing on the most critical risks offers the greatest return. Continuous monitoring and risk assessment also helps security teams identify new attack vectors and stay ahead of risk.  

Business and Regulatory Alignment 

All too often, compliance is a point in time, check-the-box activity that puts stress on the security team to quickly whip up all relevant compliance materials. Not only does this give an inaccurate picture of compliance health and security posture, but can also leave the organization open to unknown risks and failed audits. 

The CTEM framework is great for establishing business and strategic alignment with any governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) mandates. Both CTEM and GRC activities have a symbiotic relationship to further the vulnerability management strategy as a whole. CTEM follows and informs GRC status, and GRC helps drive and prioritize CTEM processes. This way, GRC is a part of the broader vulnerability management strategy rather than an afterthought. 

Implementing a CTEM Program

Once again, it’s important to note that CTEM is a process framework rather than a product category, meaning that organizations should expect to leverage a variety of different platforms to enforce it. Although a mature, optimized CTEM program can take some time to build, organizations can start by knocking down silos and strengthening the weakest points of their existing vulnerability management processes. While these weak points are often prioritization and mobilization, it’s not uncommon for individual stages to vary in levels of maturity.

Organizations can also start by leveraging the tools they already have in place. For example, after scoping the environment, security teams can add findings from external attack surface management (EASM) and breach and attack simulation (BAS) products to achieve a clearer picture of the attack surface and the attack paths that pose critical risk. In doing so, security teams are removing the boundary between findings from vulnerability scanners and the context needed to prioritize and create a holistic approach to security.

CTEM with Seemplicity’s RemOps

CTEM signals the need for a next generation approach to vulnerability management, and the Seemplicity Remediation Operations platform is a response to that need.

Remediation Operations (RemOps) is the coordination and automation of processes that minimize vulnerability risk by mobilizing the right teams with the data and context they need to eliminate, reduce, or accept risks. The Seemplicity RemOps platform aligns with the five stages of CTEM, making it a comprehensive solution for CTEM implementation.

Seemplicity helps teams scope their environment by tagging each asset to encourage flexibility in how vulnerabilities are identified and prioritized later on.

Seemplicity collects, normalizes, deduplicate, and aggregates findings across risk assessment tools to help security teams achieve a clear understanding of the severity and potential impact of the vulnerabilities found.

Seemplicity enables tailored prioritization based on data source, risk severity, ticket status, and remediation owner to ensure consistent progress and mitigate alert fatigue.

Organizations can adopt the attackers point of view with Seemplicity by integrating with validation-oriented assessment tools like BAS and Pen Testing services. Further, Seemplicity bi-directionally integrates with work management tools like Jira or ServiceNow to ensure that vulnerabilities are actually remediated when tickets are closed.

Arguably the hardest part of CTEM implementation, the Seemplicity RemOps platform turns risk and vulnerability data into automated workflows and actionable remediation tasks that are grouped by their root-cause and routed to the appropriate teams in the right order of priority.

The Seemplicity Remediation Operations platform was recognized as a Gartner Cool Vendor for addressing CTEM challenges in a holistic, actionable manner. To learn more about implementing CTEM into your organization with Seemplicity Remediation Operations for cloud, application, infrastructure, and on-premise environments, click here.

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