What is cybersecurity asset management?
Cybersecurity asset management is the process of identifying, on a continuous, real-time basis, the IT assets that your organization owns and the potential security risks or gaps that affect each one.
In this context, assets take many forms. They could be traditional devices, like PCs and servers. Or, they could be specialized IoT, IoMT, IIoT, or OT devices or software-defined resources, like a cloud-based database or a company-owned domain.
Any device, resource or service that exists within your IT estate could be subject to risks or vulnerabilities that lead to a breach of the individual resource and your network as a whole, in the event that attackers use one compromised resource as a beachhead to launch a broader attack.
Why is cybersecurity asset management important?
Cybersecurity asset management empowers your security team, as well as the overall business, with the visibility it needs to build a comprehensive security strategy that mitigates threats quickly and proactively. Such an approach delivers several key benefits:
Cybersecurity is not a distraction: With a strong cybersecurity asset management process in place, businesses can deploy new IT services or resources without letting security become a distraction or hindrance. They can make decisions based on business priorities, confident that whichever changes they make, their cybersecurity asset management process will catch potential vulnerabilities.
Proactive response: Cybersecurity asset management helps ensure that security teams detect threats before they evolve into serious problems. By continuously monitoring the IT estate for new deployments and risks, teams don’t have to wait until they detect an active attack in order to respond.
Security visibility: If an attack does occur, cybersecurity asset management provides the security team with an inventory of assets and risks that it can use to gain context on what went wrong and when. Instead of having to reconstruct the state of resource deployments and configurations in order to research the origins of a breach or vulnerability, teams have an up-to-date record that they can refer to immediately.
In all of these ways, cybersecurity asset management places businesses in a stronger position to identify and react to security risks. Although cybersecurity asset management is only one component of an effective cybersecurity strategy, it’s impossible in most cases to maintain proactive security operations without cybersecurity asset management in place.
Risks associated with poor cybersecurity asset management
Lack of cybersecurity asset management, or poor implementation of it, does not merely make security operations more challenging. It creates critical risks for the overall business.
Chief among them is a higher risk of business disruptions. If essential data or systems are made unavailable by a breach, the business may not be able to operate. Not only will such disruptions harm the business’s reputation, but they also have serious financial consequences: IT downtime costs businesses $5,600 per minute on average.
Poor cybersecurity asset management also makes it difficult to maintain an continuous and accurate inventory of IT resources. Without knowing what exists where within your business’s IT estate, you are left guessing about where the most serious risks lie. Lack of certainty makes it difficult to deploy security resources efficiently or respond to issues when they arise.
Along similar lines, ineffective cybersecurity asset management undercuts security teams’ ability to operate efficiently. It’s difficult to automate security operations when you lack an accurate listing of which resources and risks exist. Instead, your team is left to find and secure devices manually, which is a poor use of time and money.
Examples of cybersecurity asset management
Because IT resources and security risks come in so many forms, cybersecurity asset management is a process that involves a variety of activities. The exact nature of cybersecurity asset management will vary from one organization to another depending on the types of resources at stake, but following are the cornerstones of the process for the typical business:
Device discovery and protection: By identifying network endpoints and assessing each one for security vulnerabilities, teams can take immediate steps to address problems by, for example, segmenting insecure endpoints from the rest of the network.
Vulnerability management: Cybersecurity asset management helps detect and address active vulnerabilities, such as unpatched software running on a device.
Cloud security: Modern clouds are complex, multilayered environments that consist of a range of services and resource types. Cybersecurity asset management includes the identification of cloud resources that are vulnerable due to insecure software or lack of access control.
Incident response: When an incident warrants further investigation, cybersecurity asset management plays a role in providing the incident response (IR) team with the information it needs to determine the root cause and remediate.
Continuous policy enforcement: In the event that a resource violates security policies that your team has defined, cybersecurity asset management enables the rapid discovery and remediation of the problem. When new devices are added to the network that match a particular device profile with an active policy, they are automatically protected.
Remember that many of the resources described above change constantly. Network devices may come and go as application instances spin up and down in response to fluctuations in demand, for instance, and cloud services may change their configurations continuously as they scale. This is why cybersecurity asset management processes must be performed continuously and in real-time, in order to keep up to date with rapidly evolving environments.
Why prioritize cybersecurity asset management?
Historically, organizations placed little priority on cybersecurity asset management simply because the tools necessary to automate cybersecurity asset management processes didn’t exist. It wasn’t practical to maintain real-time and continuous inventories manually.
Thanks to the advent of automated resource discovery and threat identification tools, however, cybersecurity asset management now plays a major role in security operations across a variety of verticals. It’s critical not just for software and IT businesses, but for any organization that relies on software and hardware to power its operations—which virtually every business does today, given that every company is now a technology company.