Historically management provided IT with a listing of assets for review. This listing was maintained to track physical assets and software for depreciation purposes. As our reliance on technology has increased, this listing has grown, and now some IT departments are independently tracking their assets. If your IT department doesn’t have a complete inventory of your hardware and software assets, you may want to create one now. As you will see, it is becoming increasingly more important in today’s interconnected environment to identify all your assets to help prevent a security breach.
We have seen a growing number of security breaches in both large and small companies alike (i.e. -Sony, Target, and Home Depot). Each of these security breaches can be attributed to some extent to a lack of cybersecurity preparedness. In a recent Fortune article, the President and CEO of the Council of Cybersecurity discussed four measures that can be used to prevent up-to 80% of all known cybersecurity attacks. I will only discuss two of these measures in this article today because we have covered the other measure in past articles. The measures below are a critical step in protecting your infrastructure and are included in the Cybersecurity Framework released by the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST).
Measures to Improve Cybersecurity
Perform periodic hardware inventories – Having a complete and accurate inventory of all your technology assets is one of the first steps in protecting your network and sensitive data. NIST’s Cybersecurity Framework lists this as their first step in evaluating and protecting your infrastructure (ID.AM-1). It is important to identify all connected devices because every connected device has the potential to be exploited. If old or outdated hardware exists on your network and you don’t know about it then it provides a launching point for an attack. Keeping a current list of hardware allows your security team to identify outdated hardware and replace or remove it, increasing security.
Perform periodic software inventories – The most recent reported cybersecurity attacks have occurred through either exploited software of through software installed by an end user. While it is important to identify the physical devices deployed, it is just as important to inventory the software applications installed. NIST includes this as the second step in identifying potential risks (ID.AM-2). Identifying installed software can help the IT department reduce security risks. When IT is aware of the software deployed, they are able to monitor these applications for security updates and patches. Unsupported software should be identified and removed to reduce the potential attack surface.
While asset management has traditionally been used for financial purposes, these listings will become increasingly more important in managing a business’ technology footprint. Various software applications can be used to perform these inventories, but as mentioned above the most important factor is knowing what exists.