The Importance of Building a Strong Cyber Asset Management Plan

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Read more about author Keith Neilson.

One of the most challenging aspects of cybersecurity is that it’s a moving target of ever-expanding threats and attack surfaces. Especially as enterprises cope with a post-pandemic era of remote work and online collaboration, they are expanding services and access across hybrid multi-cloud environments. This is making IT and user ecosystems more complex and distributed – with every new connection, node, sensor, and device comes a potential weak link for malicious exploits and cyber risk.  

The sheer volume and variety of these specific vulnerabilities can overwhelm security teams in a tactical game of Whack-a-Mole; it’s an increasingly losing proposition as IT architectures scale to the point where it becomes impossible to keep up manually. What’s needed is a holistic approach to cybersecurity that is both strategic and tactical in scaling security across the entire IT estate. Let’s examine how a strong cyber asset management plan can be the framework for this – aligning grand strategy with the visibility and tactical capabilities needed to follow through on the asset level. 

Modern IT Systems Pose Unprecedented Cybersecurity Challenges

The scale of modern enterprise systems is leading to widespread cyber incidents that are more powerful and dangerous than ever. A key driver of this is the shift in many companies toward multi-cloud, distributed IT infrastructures to cope with the need for remote work in the pandemic era. These increasingly complex and far-flung IT estates lead to more risk from poor access control and misconfigured systems. 

Security suffers because of this, as each gap in alignment and policy governance represents a new security gap across expanded networks of distributed assets, resources, and people. The human element remains a central challenge – especially as traditional social engineering attacks, like phishing, are now being augmented by zero-click exploits that can infect employee computers and mobile devices without them having to take any action on their device. 

The current Great Resignation has further exacerbated the human element in the form of cyber risks from a rise in employee offboarding. Remember that each employee offboarding instance requires an IT ticket that involves shutting down access to what may be multiple enterprise systems, accounts, and devices. Any delay in securing IT systems increases the vulnerability to data breaches and compliance violations. This remains a considerable challenge, given that many user-focused tools include a plethora of integration points with other business systems, which creates unseen layers of risk and exposure.

Cyber Asset Management Can Optimize Cybersecurity Enterprise-Wide 

The root of all the problems mentioned above lies at the cyber asset level, especially the configuration and management of assets around credentials, identity, access management, data privacy, and related concerns. That means the solution must also lie at the cyber asset level – in the form of a strong cyber asset management plan. Especially in the case of cyber risks tied to user access and behavior, the goal is to ensure cyber assets are protected and accounted for even when attacks are potentially invisible to the user. In these complex scenarios, cyber asset management satisfies the first principle of cybersecurity: visibility. 

The process starts with a comprehensive inventory of all cyber assets – including everything that’s remote and on-prem, and across all centralized and distributed networks. This provides the basis for real-time comprehensive visibility of an entire IT environment, ideally with the context needed to help prioritize where the most critical threats can be found in systems and any connected infrastructure or underlying data. As this happens, security teams are better able to mitigate risk both from human error and from system misconfigurations that crop up as IT assets grow and expand.

These are just some considerations demonstrating how a strong cyber asset management plan can serve as a powerful and holistic framework to align the entire cyber security operation across an enterprise.  A well-designed cyber asset management plan can help organizations with the big picture and the tactical follow-through to ensure an agile, resilient, and continually improving security posture across the entire IT estate.

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