The wheels of industry are spinning 24 hours a day, all year long. This continuum is great for business, but the same unending bridge between you and your customers also leaves you open to the looming threat of a cyber attack. A resilient, effective cyber security asset management (CSAM) strategy is vital to your company’s well-being. This thorough guide explores cyber security asset management and illustrates the importance of a comprehensive cyber security plan.
A cyber security asset is an organization’s tangible and intangible components and resources representing any significant value to that organization’s stakeholders. These assets benefit the company and would also represent a loss if they needed to be replaced.
The value of assets is considered in their impact across all aspects of a company’s lifecycle, including its operations and mission. This includes applications, support systems, software, infrastructure, employees, physical location, and any critical components that must be protected for security and maintained operations.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) explains that there is an essential distinction between tangible and intangible assets.
Tangible assets are items like hardware, firmware, platforms, all network devices, and any other physical components that need protection from a cyber attack.
Intangible assets are often more difficult to assign the exact value of replacement, where they are sometimes tied directly to a company’s reputation. This can include the company’s workforce, software, data, Intellectual property (IP), services provided, and the public’s perception.
On the surface, it is easy to assume cyber security asset management is only about securing tangible assets.
But intangible assets like your company’s reputation, carefully trained workforce, patents, and trade secrets are central to your company’s success and are equally important in asset management. Cyber security frameworks are most effective when they include the entire range of your company’s resources to accurately represent the impact of an attack at any vector.
Since regulatory compliance and displaying responsible procedures are paramount in maintaining consumer trust, imagine how a data breach could affect your reputation. How you ultimately distribute your security resources will largely be determined by tangible and intangible assets that are the most vital to operations and the most vulnerable.
Cyber security asset management is the practice of identifying, tracking, and managing all of your company’s assets. This includes all resources across your entire network: hardware, software, data, network components, and applications.
Cyber threats are the inevitable cost of our reliance on technology. Exhaustive defenses are vital to a company’s financial stability, public reputation, and productivity.
To safely conduct business, organizations need to have total visibility of their assets, along with insight into associated risks. Without a cyber security system in place, an attack could be crippling and could come from any angle at any time.
Your cyber security asset management strategy needs to include the following critical processes:
Identify and log all of your tangible and intangible assets that can potentially introduce risks and vulnerabilities.
You need to rank all of your company’s assets according to their importance to operations and their degree of vulnerability.
A comprehensive log and classification of your assets isn’t enough. Assets change over time, so you must keep a continuing record of those asset changes to ensure your security plan is thorough and accurate.
You must evaluate all your potential risks and asset vulnerabilities to keep watch of them.
You need absolute certainty about who can access your systems and what aspects each individual can access. Cyber security requires robust administrative privilege management to prevent unauthorized logins and ensure each user only has access to the files, data, or programs they are meant to.
Every program and connection point in networks and cloud systems will likely have routine updates, feature changes, and patches. You must remain vigilant in staying current with these changes, and also remain aware of any technical issues or delays surrounding updates.
Your asset management strategy needs to be designed around your greatest ability to prevent all foreseeable attacks while being able to respond quickly and effectively if a breach does occur.
Managing your assets has to remain within the regulatory framework required for companies in your industry. The specific requirements can change over time, so it is vital to remain aware of current laws and policies.
Throughout the asset management lifecycle, it is essential to maintain accurate and thorough records. This includes providing data required for audits and other reporting and also keeping records of data that can be used for detailed analysis.
Every individual in your company is a part of your cyber security asset management. Your workforce is not only counted among your intangible assets, but each person is also a unique potential point of vulnerability. Proper training and unification are necessary to maintain a vigilant security protocol.
Asset management provides a foundation for you to build up your defenses. When planned correctly, your organization can balance day-to-day operations and productivity with a responsible strategy for protection. This allows you to assign your company’s resources where they’re the most effective.
Managing your assets effectively provides the following benefits:
Managing your assets reduces the likelihood of an attack on vulnerable assets while maximizing your potential to respond to an incident quickly.
Placing the most protection where you gain the greatest benefits and security helps you remain productive without overextending your budget or workforce resources.
Better visualization of your assets and risks means you are prepared for the broadest range of potential attacks, greatly reducing the chances an incident occurs that you cannot immediately manage.
Placing maximum defenses on all company assets equally can be crippling to operations and present too high a cost. Asset management lets you prioritize where money and other resources are the most effective.
Every industry has to face unique regulatory compliance. Because of the high-profile nature of past security breaches, all eyes are on how companies manage sensitive data. Careless planning isn’t just dangerous to equipment and intellectual property (IP): It can substantially impact public perception.
Managing your company’s assets comes with several unique challenges:
Organizations may have dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of assets, each presenting distinct vulnerabilities to address. Assessing these assets has to be comprehensive for you to defend them confidently, but this can take considerable time and resources.
Once all assets are discovered, they must be classified to optimize and prioritize their protective measures.
Network hardware has to be replaced. Software requires patches and updates. Cloud systems are continuously updated, or you may change services. New employees are hired, and individuals change positions. Every change to company assets has to be addressed and updated for cyber security to be effective.
Despite best efforts, there is always the potential that an employee will attempt to connect an unauthorized device to a computer within your network. Proper training across the entire company is essential for aligning the entire company to a unified set of security standards and protocols. Still, if someone intentionally or accidentally introduces a threat to systems, you need to be able to identify that point of entry.
Companies from different industry sectors must follow different regulatory standards to keep their systems secure. This includes protecting private data stored for customers, sensitive records, proper monitoring, and audits and reporting.
Each of the following will help you protect your company’s digital assets end-to-end.
Taking an asset inventory requires thorough identification and cataloging of all your IT assets. During asset discovery, you want visibility of all your known assets, and any potential shadow IT.
You will need to accurately record the following for every asset:
Organizations rely on specialized, automated scanning and tracking tools to categorize and monitor their digital assets.
Traditional manual categorization processes lack the efficiency needed to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities. Proper categorization and prioritization require a platform to assist in providing context for vulnerabilities so they can be properly monitored and safeguarded.
With automated prioritization for your applications, cloud servers and backups, and infrastructure, you can streamline your mitigation strategy based on actual risk.
Assets should be categorized based on criticality and sensitivity, meaning you need to assess how severely an attack might impact your company, how important each asset is, and how great the potential is for each asset to be targeted by a cyber attacker.
Risk assessment helps you identify vulnerabilities to properly plan and map out protective measures. Risk assessment also plays a vital role in saving on costs, time, and resources by placing your resources where they serve your organization best. Thus, you aren’t allocating resources heavily in areas where they are less effective.
Like other aspects of asset management, risk assessment must be continuously monitored and updated based on changes in your organization, staff, and changes to your assets. Taking this thorough approach to identify, evaluate, prioritize, treat, and report your vulnerabilities is called risk-based vulnerability management (RBVM).
Whether it is a new hire, or new hardware, introducing different assets or conditions opens your company to new potential vulnerabilities.
Asset lifecycle management is synonymous with following an inclusive vulnerability management process. The following are seven stages of this lifecycle:
Centralize your risk data into a single platform with a comprehensive dashboard to view and control all of your assets.
Group your vulnerabilities together to better understand them and to improve remediation.
Use information from root cause analysis, intelligence sources, and attacker path context to enrich your scan data.
Organize your vulnerabilities so they align with your risk-based policies.
Automate remediation and mitigation tasks to streamline these processes and reduce any downtime.
Asset management is a collaborative effort between every team, not just security and IT.
Summarize vulnerabilities, their severity, and any associated remediation efforts.
An all-encompassing asset management plan requires a strong framework to regulate user access to company assets.
Define every employee’s roles and privileges. Require strong authentication mechanisms using multi-factor authentication and biometrics where appropriate.
How you respond to and recover from a cyber attack is just as important to your asset management strategy as your efforts to prevent an attack. Response and recovery are about having already planned out your step-by-step procedure for managing a security breach. This includes protocols for recovering systems and data with the least disruption to operations.
Every situation is a learning experience, and in the case of a security breach, you will review the breach and the vulnerabilities that allowed access and seek stronger measures to prevent the incident from repeating.
Cyber security isn’t a practice reserved for your security and IT teams. The entire company needs to be properly trained so each individual and department understand their roles in maintaining safe practices.
Just like other stages of assessment, training and awareness aren’t a one-time event. Conduct ongoing, regular training sessions and promote a culture of cyber security awareness across your entire company.
Every company needs to understand the compliance and regulatory standards expected from others in its industry. Standards are in place for good reasons, so remaining within mandated regulatory bounds is a good practice for your cyber health and not just to avoid penalties or fees.
Standards may include regulations like GDPR or HIPAA, but every standard is highly specific to different industries.
Cyber security is always in a state of change. Attackers are always looking for new vulnerabilities to exploit, and companies are always seeking ways to stay ahead of the next threat. Your best defense is continuous monitoring and updating systems to remain aware and engaged in the battle for security.
This includes being vigilant in procedures whenever you have to make a system update or software patch, or replace a piece of hardware.
You need to know that sensitive information is completely wiped clean or destroyed when retired, and everyone involved is trained in your procedures for secure hardware disposal.
Vulcan Cyber facilitates comprehensive vulnerability and risk management from assessment through mitigation and remediation. Book a demo today.
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