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A fundamental element of any cybersecurity program is a comprehensive inventory of all IT assets across the enterprise. Without a comprehensive knowledge of all the systems, programs, patch levels, and types of information within its area of responsibility, no organization can plan adequate defenses from a coordinated cyberattack. You cannot secure that which you don’t even know exists.

Up until a few years ago, the process of asset management was essentially a side-task for most IT departments. But, nowadays, it has become an essential part of cybersecurity.

Asset inventory is a process used by organizations to list and provide insights into the IT resources  they own. The International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers (IAITAM), describes IT Asset Management as a set of business practices that incorporates IT assets across business units within an organization.

In other words, asset management consists of the tools and processes required to maintain an up-to-date inventory of all hardware and software within the enterprise network. This inventory should include every software license and all devices used by business employees, whether mobile or fixed, managed or unmanaged, as well as IoT connected devices and sensors, and Industrial Control System (ICS) cyber-enabled assets. These assets should also be mapped with their risk profiles to facilitate vulnerability management.

An up-to-date and accurate asset inventory can drive informed decisions about a corporation’s cybersecurity risk posture to ensure that all assets are covered by security policies and practices. Having a deep and clear understanding of the risk environment enables organizations to make better decisions about the security and privacy tools and controls to mitigate these risks.

An up-to-date asset inventory should be the bedrock of every organization’s cybersecurity program. Enterprise assets change constantly, with devices being added and retired, physical machines migrating to virtual, staff turnover, and various stakeholders installing and updating software (with or without approval). Without an accurate and up-to-date asset inventory, managing compliance and cyber-risk is difficult, if not impossible to achieve.

Organizational practices and technology trends, such as digital transformation, IoT proliferation, and cloud mitigation, have increased the complexity and the need for better asset management. These include:

  • The rise of shadow IT and BYOD
  • Cloud migrations, virtualization, and containerization initiatives to transform business processes
  • Software license cost uncertainty, caused by virtualization and migration to the cloud
  • Increasing pressure to reduce costs without disrupting operational performance and productivity
  • Regulatory and legislative requirements

As organizations embark on new digital journeys, they need to always think about their digital footprint and consider the following questions:

  • Is the asset inventory up to date, covering everything from users, to apps and devices?
  • Is real-time visibility into the state of the organization’s cybersecurity posture available at any given time?
  • Are corporate assets classified into categories, ranging from mission-critical, and tiered downward towards the non-essential?
  • Are there established systems and processes to continuously audit and monitor corporate assets across a broad range of attack vectors?
  • Is the in-place asset inventory management program helping to keep the organization safe?

IT asset management differentiates between software and hardware asset management. These resources need to be managed slightly differently as each one has specific requirements, but they are both closely related.

As businesses opt for hybrid hardware deployments – on-premises data centers and cloud-based workloads – managing these “hardware” assets becomes a complex task. Hence, an effective hardware asset management method becomes a crucial business function. Also, as IoT devices proliferate, businesses need to have an efficient and effective way to gain continuous visibility into these sometimes-ephemeral assets.

Although cost reduction might be the obvious reason for adopting a hardware asset management solution, there are many more benefits:

  • Increased procurement efficiency
  • Improved regulatory compliance
  • Heightened asset and corporate security posture
  • Reduced financial, contractual, and reputational risk

On the other hand, software asset management enables IT departments to track data regarding software procurement, use, license entitlements, compliance, and risk. Organizations are therefore in a better place to control and reduce their software spending. A key factor to excessive software spending is the cost of unused software licenses.

With the adoption of an abundance of cloud-based software platforms, the ability the effectively track software licenses and usage offers SMBs a wide range of benefits, including:

  • Tracking and monitoring all software licenses in one dashboard
  • Effectively managing Software as a Service (SaaS) and software licenses
  • Gaining insight into unexpected costs
  • Maintaining compliance
  • Understanding the software lifecycle

Assets are continually evolving and changing. To address all inventory challenges of modern businesses, asset discovery and management should be woven into a seamless process that provides full visibility and control over all corporate assets.

The best solution is to invest in a platform that allows continuous and automatic  discovery of all devices, applications, users, and their associations. Automation is the only effective way to understand, manage, and secure the wide range of assets. Opting for a manual solution will result in an error-prone and time-consuming processes which will leave organizations open to hidden risks and vulnerabilities.

A strong, robust, and mature security model must include asset inventory management as a core component. Once assets are in the inventory, they are readily accessible via dashboards. They can be tracked and analyzed across attack vectors to identify vulnerabilities that may be exploited. In addition, a panoramic asset management process will send warnings once rogue and unauthorized assets violating security policies are detected.

However, the truth is that asset inventory can be quite a complex process, requiring skilled personnel and resources. SMBs may not be able to afford to roll out an automated asset inventory solution. This is where managed asset inventory services can help.

Instead of struggling with factors such as the cybersecurity skills gap problem, and learning curves for new products, SMBs can use the on-demand services offered by specialized businesses to achieve a high level of asset visibility. Managed service providers establish robust and effective processes for asset inventory, helping SMBs identify risks and vulnerabilities and implement adequate protections.

Before selecting either an automation platform or a managed asset inventory service, businesses can better understand their current risk exposure by taking the ITEGRITI Cybersecurity Risk Assessment. These risk assessment questions are based on the essential cybersecurity controls that help companies avoid hacks and minimize business impact during cybersecurity events. You will receive a copy of the risk baseline report along with a cybersecurity maturity score, based solely on this attestation, along with control implications in areas where cybersecurity controls may need improvement.

This SMB Guide is part of a series to assist small and medium-sized businesses with their cybersecurity needs. You can read others in the series here:

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