The opportunities and benefits from an increasingly connected world also present their own unique set of challenges to cybersecurity. The increasing popularity of remote work as well as reliance on cloud services and SaaS apps has made it difficult for cybersecurity teams to keep track of the potential threats. These shifts in the organizational culture across the world have changed the perception of IT asset management (ITAM) and have made them an integral part of an organization’s cybersecurity strategy.
Let's start with the basics.
What is IT Asset Management or ITAM?
IT asset management is a strategy to keep an organization’s assets accounted for, maintained, upgraded, and secured. The hardware, software, and even the information used by an organization are part of its asset. In the case of hardware, it is important that they’re not lost or stolen, working properly, and upgraded periodically. Meanwhile, in the case of software, they have to ensure that it is available as per the organizational needs, by purchasing and licensing them accordingly.
An IT asset management software helps the IT department in an organization to enforce and implement its asset management strategy.
With the rise of cloud and IoT devices, the scope of ITAM has grown. It now encompasses cybersecurity strategies to deal with potential threats from the organization’s assets.
What is Cybersecurity Asset Management?
Cybersecurity asset management is an improved or modern asset management strategy with an emphasis on securing the assets of an organization from potential cyber threats. Organizations are reliant on the internet now more than ever, and the popularity of digital workplaces is on the rise.
Companies store their data on third-party cloud servers and third-party apps for processing sensitive information. Many organizations rely on IoT devices for access control, automation, security, convenience, and efficiency. Potential bad actors can attack any of them, or even exploit security issues in them to gain access to other assets.
Cybersecurity asset management takes into account the potential cybersecurity threats each asset may present and the strategies needed to counter them. The cybersecurity team analyses every asset and develops strategies to manage potential cybersecurity threats against them. As the name suggests, cybersecurity asset management blends asset management and cybersecurity to protect and provide security to the organization’s assets.
Key Concepts of Cybersecurity in IT
To develop a robust cybersecurity asset management strategy, a clear understanding of various cybersecurity concepts is essential. Let’s explore some of them.
Asset in information security
An asset is a broad term used to represent all the hardware and software an organization uses, from a computer mouse and MS Office to company servers and digital workplace solutions, as well as the information the organization handles.
Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability: The CIA triad
The CIA triad (it has nothing to do with spies, fyi) is one of the fundamental concepts that organizations use to develop their cybersecurity asset management strategy. In simple terms, confidentiality means the organizational data should not fall into the hands of an outsider, or anyone who shouldn’t see it. Maintaining integrity means the data should not be changed or deleted or corrupted. And being available means anyone who has the right to access the data should be able to whenever they need.
Risk management is the science of balancing the threats faced by the assets, the vulnerability of the assets towards these threats, as well as the value of these assets against the countermeasures deployed for defending against these threats.
That is, the higher the value of an asset, the larger the threat faced by the asset, and its vulnerability towards it, the higher an organization would have to invest against defending them. On the other hand, an organization could afford to invest less in a low-value asset that is least vulnerable to an attack.
Despite your best efforts, it is inevitable that you will face a cybersecurity incident. Therefore a strong cybersecurity plan must have an incident management policy. This covers how a threat will be contained and eradicated as well as the subsequent investigation.
Disaster recovery and business continuity (DR/BC)
There is some overlap between DR/BC and incident management. But here a disaster is more or less defined as an incident that will take down the IT infrastructure of the organization either partially or completely. Every minute the infrastructure is down, it will cost the organization significantly and you need a good disaster recovery and business continuity plan to get it back up and running in the shortest time possible. While the term disaster does bring images of natural calamities to the mind, in this context it also includes cyber threats that may affect the IT services within the organization.
How is IT Asset Management Key to Cybersecurity?
A robust IT asset management is one of the building blocks of the cybersecurity framework of an organization. Here’s how ITAM helps create a solid cybersecurity operation in an organization.
- ITAM helps IT teams identify the assets and the threats they face
ITAM creates an inventory of the organization’s assets, the stage in their life cycles, the last software update they had, the threats they may face, as well as the strategies to keep them safe. For example, hackers are known to use phishing emails and social engineering attacks to gain access to confidential information, while IoT devices may be used as botnets to carry out DDoS attacks. ITAM software helps IT teams keep track of both the physical and digital assets and continuously monitor their status in real-time.
- ITAM helps the IT team to manage the risks associated with threats
IT asset management reduces the unknown risks or uncertainty with cyber threats. ITAM helps define the purpose of an asset and the threats it faces. For example, an asset storing the banking credentials of its customers will require a higher level of security than the attendance management system in the organization. By connecting the purpose to an asset, security teams gain a better understanding of the risks associated with it.
- ITAM streamlines asset security
Security and convenience are often at loggerheads in almost all contexts. Making a system more secure often means making it less convenient to use. And vice-versa. ITAM streamlines asset security without compromising on convenience. For example, before using a new device, the IT department will have to systematically check its security aspects. Using an ITAM tool, the department can quickly classify a new device or software and commission it for use much faster.
ITAM will also ensure that the assets are staying within its security policies. For example, it will ensure that devices are not connected to unsafe networks, or that documents are not being accessed without the necessary authorization. It helps enforce the IT security policies while handling cyber assets.
- ITAM will create a faster incident response
As you can imagine, having a clear plan results in a faster response in case of any incidents. A cybersecurity ITAM empowers the security team to respond fast, contain the ramifications of a breach or a hack, and mitigate its effects.
Modern ITAM tools can even automate a response in case of an incident. For example, if someone outside the organization’s firewall tries to access an asset, an ITAM can alert and start the automated response for the incident.
ITAM Best Practices And How They Apply to Cybersecurity
Over the years cybersecurity experts and teams all over the world have gained significant experience developing and deploying ITAM, and have come up with industry-wide practices to get the best results. Here are some of the ITAM best practices that will help cybersecurity teams, as recommended by experts.
Involve the team in developing the ITAM, not just implementing it.
You’ll need a hands-on team to implement ITAM across the organization. It’s best to involve people from different departments, to develop something that works over departments. And get the team involved from day one, instead of developing a plan, and then gathering a team to implement it.
Refine, but don’t reinvent the wheel
Even if the organization is not using an ITAM software, or even if they don’t have a structured ITAM practice, they’ll still have their own way of managing and maintaining the assets. So instead of introducing something completely brand new, it’s best to make small changes to refine the existing processes. Start small, and ramp it up at a steady pace to make it part of the organizational culture.
Integrate, Integrate, and Integrate
To get the best results, don’t make updating the ITAM another task. Integrate it with your service desk, with your collaboration and digital workplace solution, and every tool your employees handle the information assets with to make it a seamless process.
Automate as much as you can
Automation leads to faster response to incidents. Most cybersecurity ITAM solutions offer automation for many tasks, which will both reduce the workload for the cyber security team as well improve the response times.
Work on a continuous improvement model
Don’t create something and let it run its course. Be active, take feedback, and improve the IT asset management to get squeeze the most out of it.
Possible Repercussions of Poor Asset Management
Poor asset management will cost you and your organization significantly in the long run.
Without an inventory of your assets, your organization will be left undefended and vulnerable to cyber threats. Many devices will miss the security patches and won’t have the latest firmware, and software licenses may be out of date or not on the latest version, essentially giving bad actors a red carpet welcome.
In the event of an attack, poor cybersecurity asset management may be your worst enemy. Containing and managing an attack will be difficult when you don’t know the devices used in your organization or the threats they pose. Even after containing the attack, without an effective cybersecurity ITAM, the IT and cyber security teams in the organization will struggle to rebuild and bring the business back to normal.
Poor asset management will also make your security team less efficient. Every task will have to be performed manually, from adding a new device to updating all the devices and assets in the company. This will cost both time and effort which could be spent on other meaningful tasks.
What to Look For in an IT Asset Management Tool
Here are some of the features that you’ll find only in the top asset tracking software. These features will make your life easier and get you the most out of your investment.
ITAM should be able to collect device data automatically
Your IT asset management tool should be able to automatically generate an inventory and collect data about the devices connected to your network. Using SNMP (simple network management protocol), a robust ITAM can collect, organize, and even modify information about servers, switches, printers, routers, and other devices on your IP network.
Your ITAM tool should continuously monitor your assets and alert you about any changes.
While choosing an asset management solution, make sure the solution can continuously monitor your hardware, software, and other assets for any changes, and report them to the correct department or individual.
Your ITAM tool should let you update the employee workstation software remotely
This is a highly specific feature that will save you and your team a lot from running around the organization updating the software. A must-have for a distributed workforce.
Make sure your ITAM tool helps you manage the finances related to your assets
Maintaining and upgrading your assets will eat up a significant chunk of the IT budget. With an effective asset finance management tool, you can easily manage the rising costs of assets without driving up your organization’s IT expenditure.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does an IT asset management solution work?
An IT asset management tool creates an inventory of all the assets in the organization, such as the hardware, software, as well as other information assets. It helps the organization keep track of them and update them as required.
How can I use my IT asset management for improving cybersecurity?
Modern asset management solutions automatically send alerts in case of any changes on your assets. It will also help you keep your devices and software updated with the latest security patches, defending you from potential cybersecurity threats.
Can I remotely install software on my employees’ workstations using ITAM tools?
Yes. You can automate the software distribution across your organization using an ITAM tool. You can also completely take control of your employee workstations for troubleshooting any issues or to respond to a service request.
Will an ITAM tool help an organization make the best use of the available software licenses?
Yes. An ITAM will help you connect the available licensing models to how they’re used in your organization. This will help you avoid spending on unnecessary software. You can also ensure that the software is deployed on the correct workstations and can remove unused software periodically and utilize it elsewhere.