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Why Asset Management is Critical to Cybersecurity

[SECURITY | 4 MIN READ] For robust IT security, it’s important to document all your organization’s assets. A complete asset tracking solution will help you track hardware, software, data, facilities, and people. 1910_BP_Types_Network_Security_720x356_v1_BT

Today’s businesses and managed services providers (MSPs) need an impressive array of resources to get the job done. Proper hardware—including desktops, laptops, phones, tablets, routers, and printers—is essential. From there, each piece of hardware also needs to be equipped with the right software. This software helps enable the collection and organization of data, which is another key asset. Businesses must maintain databases of everything from product details to customer information. Finally, companies can’t forget about their human resources—the skills, knowledge, and expertise of a company’s workforce may be its most valuable asset.
 
Keeping track of all of these resources is an easily neglected but critical part of an organization’s cybersecurity strategy. This practice is called asset management, also known as asset tracking. In this article, we’ll explain why asset management is so important as we explore the elements of a complete asset tracking strategy.
 

What is asset management?

Simply put, asset management is the practice of documenting all of an organization’s resources, both tangible and intangible. This includes physical resources (hardware and facilities), digital resources (software and data), and human resources (employees and contractors).

Successful companies understand the need to create an inventory of everything they use to do business. Asset management, however, is more than a one-time deal—it’s a continuous process. As hardware is replaced, software is updated, and employees and customers come and go, an asset tracking system must be kept up-to-date to provide value.

Why is asset tracking important?

Without effective asset management, an organization’s cybersecurity plan is missing a crucial component. The reasons why should be clear when you stop and think about it. How can you keep your IT resources secure if you don’t know precisely what those systems contain? Outdated hardware and software quickly become vulnerable to attacks. Asset tracking enables an organization to keep these updated on a regular schedule to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

In the unfortunate event your MSP is the victim of a successful cyberattack, asset management can be used to ascertain which systems were compromised and what data may have been stolen. Human factors are also vital to IT security. Knowing which employees have access to what data is the first step in investigating a potential breach. For these reasons, asset tracking is a component of many contemporary cybersecurity compliance standards. In the NIST Cybersecurity Framework for instance, identifying an organization’s systems, assets, data, and capabilities is step one for implementation.

Elements of asset management

Asset tracking has five main elements: hardware, software, data, facilities, and people.

1) Hardware: IT hardware needs have greatly expanded in recent decades. Hardware used to be confined to items in the office: desktops, monitors, routers, printers, and maybe laptops for working at home. The mobile revolution has changed all that. Now, in addition to the above, businesses must keep an inventory of smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The growing popularity of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs complicates the situation further. Hardware asset tracking solutions need to manage the lifecycle of all these devices, providing reminders when it’s time to replace or service them.

2) Software: What software programs are being run by an organization? How long are their licenses? How often do security updates need to be downloaded? When is it time to upgrade to new versions? It’s wise for asset managers to create a whitelist so only approved and secure software can be installed. Asset tracking solutions must be able to account for both traditional software and Software as a Service (SaaS) subscriptions.  

3) Data: Sensitive data is arguably even more important to properly track than hardware or software. After all, damage to hardware or software will never result in a monetary loss of more than the purchase price (and it will likely be less, given depreciation). The loss of private data, on the other hand, could subject a company to millions of dollars of legal liability. Data asset cybersecurity means having an inventory of what data you’re storing—and who is able to access it—at all times. If a breach occurs, effective asset management will allow you to quickly understand the extent of the damage to minimize your losses.

4) Facilities: It’s easy to forget about facilities asset management in the context of cybersecurity, but that would be a mistake. Asset managers should have a handle on their organization’s physical spaces, ensuring they are secured from intruders and protected from fire, flooding, and other disasters. Is there a backup electrical source in the event of a power failure? Are HVAC systems equipped for keeping server rooms at the optimal temperature and humidity? Asset management of facilities can help organizations check the boxes and ensure their physical spaces are as secure as their cyberspaces.

5) People: When it comes to cyberattacks, IT security professionals know that human resources represent both the greatest risk and the first line of defense. Asset managers should keep a list of every employee, contractor, and vendor, updating it as individuals come and go. The list should specify who has access to which secure systems, with the provision that people should only be able to log in to systems they need to do their jobs.

An asset tracking software solution

As illustrated by its various elements, asset management is a much more complex endeavor than it may initially seem. Fortunately, today there are asset tracking tools that can help MSPs and other organizations handle asset management with ease.

By integrating Solarwinds® Passportal + Documentation Manager with SolarWinds RMM you can create a fully featured asset tracking software solution. The integration allows you to use a system that stores everything from your passwords to your asset documentation in one spot. And as things update in RMM, Passportal + Documentation Manager automatically updates them as well. The tools help ensure that you can do things like quickly revoke a staff member’s access if they leave the company, automatically update out-dated software, or ensure that all hardware is correctly under management.

Additional Reading

 



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