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June 7, 2024

What is CTEM? The Basics of Continuous Threat Exposure Management

This article discusses the basics of CTEM and its five phases. For a detailed guide, including a checklist, for organizations looking to migrate to CTEM, don’t miss our Comprehensive CTEM ebook.

What is CTEM?

Gartner introduced Continuous Threat Exposure Management, or CTEM, as a new cybersecurity strategy focused on improved proactive measures to respond to vulnerabilities and other threats. CTEM operates as a comprehensive five-stage process aiming to minimize exposure to cyber threats through continuous real-time monitoring and effective vulnerability management.

What are the steps of CTEM, according to Gartner?

Gartner details CTEM into five key phases. The first phase begins with taking inventory and moves toward gaining insight into an organization’s current cyber risks. The last phase focuses on proactive prevention through mobilization and ultimately reduces risks.

  • Step 1: Scoping – Scope your organization’s “attack surface.”
  • Step 2: Discovery – Develop a discovery process for assets and their vulnerabilities and misconfigurations.
  • Step 3: Prioritization – Prioritize the threats most likely to be exploited.
  • Step 4: Validation – Validate if the current response plan is sufficient to protect the business.
  • Step 5: Mobilization – Mobilize people and processes. The “mobilization” effort aims to ensure teams operationalize the CTEM finding by reducing obstacles.

How does CTEM differ from Traditional Vulnerability Management?

CTEM represents a departure from the conventional approach to vulnerability management. Instead of relying on periodic scans, CTEM strongly emphasizes real-time threat detection and prioritization based on their potential impact on the business.

The traditional Vulnerability Management (VM) system has limitations, including limited visibility into assets, which can lead to missing vulnerabilities in mobile, IoT, and cloud systems. Periodic scans may cause delays in identifying new vulnerabilities. In this strategy, threat intelligence is not used to prioritize vulnerabilities, and no mitigating controls exist. It’s also tricky to link vulnerabilities with their impact on the business, and there is limited integration with other tools. Reporting is not automated, and visualization options are limited.

On the other hand, the Continuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM) approach offers a more comprehensive solution. It provides extensive coverage across mobile, IoT, and cloud environments, enables real-time detection of vulnerabilities through continuous scanning and analysis, and uses threat intelligence to identify active exploitations.

It integrates existing or compensating controls into the prioritization process, links vulnerabilities with business impact and financial risk, prioritizes risks based on business impact, and has broad integration with various IT and security tools for a holistic security approach.

Additionally, CTEM automates detection, prioritization, and remediation processes and offers advanced reporting and visualization tools with metrics such as Mean Time to Detect (MTTD), Mean Time to Resolve (MOVA), Mean Time to Patch (MTTP), and estimated breach impact in financial terms.