Reducing the Surface Area of Attack in Information Security


In our evolving digital landscape, the 'surface area of attack' represents the vulnerability quotient of an organization's assets to potential threats. As this area burgeons, so do the associated risks. A significant yet often overlooked factor magnifying this vulnerability is the indiscriminate duplication of files, particularly via email.

The Role of Email in Data Duplication

Once hailed as the harbinger of modern business communication, email's omnipresence has become a double-edged sword. Its greatest boon – the ease of sending attachments – is simultaneously its bane. It's alarming how casually we generate duplicate files, firing them off to multiple recipients without pause.This widespread practice, seemingly benign, has underpinned numerous security breaches. A single misattached file or an email dispatched to the wrong address can inadvertently expose critical information.

The Dangers of Data Duplication

Imagine every file duplicate as a new potential breach point in your organization's digital fortress. When that file, especially if confidential, lands in multiple inboxes, the risk magnifies exponentially. To cyber adversaries, this presents a smorgasbord of vulnerabilities. The analogy is simple: a home with multiple unlocked entrances is far more susceptible to intrusion than a well-guarded one.

Cloud Services: Double-Edged Digital Swords

Cloud services have revolutionized the way businesses store and access data, offering unmatched convenience and scalability. Yet, with every silver lining, there often lurks a cloud. The automated syncing of email attachments to cloud storage inadvertently widens the attack surface. What's more, the practice of migrating files from one cloud environment, such as Microsoft 365, to another like Box, amplifies these risks. While a document in its original cloud repository may have a secure haven, its duplicate in a different cloud might not be as fortified. Cybercriminals, ever watchful, can exploit these security inconsistencies, making each additional copy a potential breach point.

Blind Spots in Data Management

The crux of the challenge isn't merely the proliferation of duplicates but the subsequent shadow they cast. Post-emailing, oversight on these files wanes, especially if they're dispatched outside the organization. Consider sharing a strategic document with an external stakeholder. In the absence of comprehensive monitoring, its onward journey – be it further sharing, printing, or local storage – remains obscure. These are the critical blind spots, often the soft underbellies in an organization's cybersecurity armor.

Steps to Reduce the Surface Area of Attack

  • Centralized Data Storage: Embrace unified storage ecosystems. By centralizing data, we don't just streamline its management but also bolster its security.
  • Access Control: Be deliberate about access. Set clear parameters on copy creation, distribution channels, and mandate rigorous email protocols.
  • Email Best Practices: Champion the shift from attachments to secure file-sharing links. This seemingly minor switch can dramatically slash the risk quotient.

Embracing a 'Copy-Less' Culture

In our quest for digital security, it's pivotal to nurture a culture that actively discourages gratuitous data duplication and reckless emailing. By harnessing cutting-edge tools, instilling best practices, and fostering responsible email habits, businesses can significantly contract their attack surface.


In an era where data is both an asset and a liability, it's imperative to recalibrate our approach to information sharing. By recognizing and addressing the perils of expansive attack surfaces, especially the role played by email, we pave the way for a more secure, resilient digital future. As custodians of data, the onus is on us to act with foresight and responsibility.


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Mike Parrella

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