How To Maximize Your Security with Asset Management: Step-by-Step!

By Dr. Jerry Craig | July 3, 2024
Jerry is Ntiva’s Sr. Director of Security and CISO, offering more than 20 years in the IT and cybersecurity industry. Certified CISO, CISSP and CCSP, Jerry also serves part-time as Adjunct Professor in the University of Maryland Global Campus.

Imagine finding out that a data breach happened because of an untracked piece of hardware or some outdated software. It's a nightmare scenario that puts your sensitive data at risk and could seriously damage your organization's reputation and financial health. Managing all your IT assets and staying on top of compliance requirements can feel like an uphill battle.

These days, keeping an eye on your hardware and software is more important than ever, especially with all the new apps and tools constantly coming out. Many organizations face challenges with asset management, which can lead to security risks and compliance headaches.

This is where Cybersecurity Asset Management (CSAM) comes into play. By implementing a comprehensive CSAM strategy, you can effectively track, secure, and manage all your IT assets, ensuring compliance and mitigating risks.

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In this how-to guide, we’ll take you through the three key steps of CSAM. Whether you're just getting started or refining your current practices, this guide provides all the tools and knowledge you need to enhance your asset management. Let's delve into the intricacies of managing your IT assets with precision, ensuring compliance, and mitigating risks effectively.

Step 1: Hardware Asset Management

IT hardware

Effective hardware asset management is the backbone of a secure and compliant IT environment. By keeping a close eye on your tangible assets, you can outsmart security breaches, streamline workflows, and ensure you're ready for cyber insurance renewals. Let's take a look at the key steps for managing your hardware assets effectively.

1. Determine What Assets to Document

The first step in hardware asset management is deciding which assets to document. This includes identifying serialized assets—those with unique identifiers like laptops, monitors, and docking stations. These items should be meticulously tracked due to their value and potential security risks. On the other hand, consumables like keyboards and mice might not require detailed documentation, but it's essential to make this decision based on your organization's needs and policies.

2. Establish Secure Naming Conventions

Creating a standardized naming convention for all assets is crucial for preventing unauthorized access and simplifying inventory management. A common nomenclature ensures consistency and makes identifying and tracking assets across your organization easier. For example, use standardized labels such as "Laptop-001," "Monitor-001," and "Dock-001" for clear and consistent identification.

3. Build Workflows for Real-Time Inventory Updates

Set up workflows that allow for real-time updates as assets are distributed and collected to keep your inventory accurate and up-to-date. This helps prevent any discrepancies and potential security issues. For instance, you could opt for inventory management software or a simple Excel sheet for smaller organizations to track asset movements in real-time.

4. Implement Secure Destruction and Recycling Processes

To avoid any data mishaps, it's crucial to have secure processes in place for properly disposing of and recycling hardware. Make sure to securely destroy any sensitive data on retired hardware and establish eco-friendly recycling programs to responsibly manage asset disposal. Consider utilizing a certified data destruction service to ensure complete erasure of all sensitive information and partnering with eco-friendly recycling programs for the physical disposal of hardware.

5. Define Your Record Keeping System

Choose a reliable system of record to maintain your asset inventory. Depending on your organization's size and needs, this can be a sophisticated inventory management system or a low-tech solution like an Excel spreadsheet. The key is to ensure that this system is consistently updated and matches your IT and cybersecurity product inventories.

By following these steps, you can establish a robust hardware asset management system that supports your organization's security and compliance goals. Next up, let's take a look at your software assets.

CTA-Infrastructure Management

Step 2: Software Asset Management

Managing software assets is just as critical as managing hardware. By keeping a close eye on your software inventory, you can mitigate security risks, ensure compliance, and optimize costs. Here are the essential steps for effective software asset management.

1. Collect and Document Software Assets

The first step in software asset management is to compile a comprehensive list of all software used across your organization. This includes applications installed on desktops, laptops, servers, and network devices. Given the variety of devices and software, using multiple tools will provide a more complete picture. For example, utilize different software discovery tools to scan and record all software installations on various devices, ensuring no application goes undocumented.

2. Track Software Renewals and Licenses

Keeping meticulous and always-up-to-date records of software renewals, license quantities, and associated expenses is key to avoiding any unexpected mishaps and security vulnerabilities. A well-organized renewal schedule helps you stay on top of these critical deadlines, ensuring continuous compliance and maximizing software efficiency. Create a renewal calendar that keeps tabs on each software's renewal date, costs, and license usage, making it easier to conduct regular reviews and ensure timely renewals.

3. Identify and Remove Outdated Software

Regularly conducting software audits on your inventory is essential for spotting outdated, expired, or unauthorized applications, including freeware and shareware. By removing these, you can significantly lower security risks and ensure that all software aligns with your organization's policies. Make it a routine to audit your software quarterly to weed out non-compliant or unsupported applications, maintaining a secure environment with only approved and up-to-date software in operation.

4. Implement Application Blacklisting and Whitelisting

Regulating the installation and operation of applications on your systems is a critical security practice. By implementing application blacklisting and whitelisting, you can ensure that only authorized software runs on your network, minimizing the risks associated with malware and unauthorized software usage. Utilize application control software to establish a list of approved applications (whitelist) and prohibited ones (blacklist), effectively enforcing these regulations across all devices within your organization.

Step 3: Integrating Security Controls

cyber access controls

Integrating security controls into your asset management processes is essential to protect your organization from threats and ensure compliance. Following these steps can strengthen your security posture and streamline your operations.

1. Make Sure Sensitive Data Is Destroyed

Ensuring the proper destruction of sensitive data is crucial for maintaining compliance and enhancing security measures. By guaranteeing that data is irreversibly erased and obtaining certification for the process, you can effectively prevent data breaches and adhere to regulations. Utilize certified destruction services for sensitive data stored on retired hardware to securely and permanently erase all information, safeguarding your organization from potential risks.

2. Secure Physical and Digital Access To All Assets

Keep on top of access controls by regularly reviewing and beefing up security measures to keep out any unwelcome guests. Set up strong access controls on all devices and make sure to audit them regularly to ensure they're up-to-date and tailored to your organization's needs.

3. Update Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plans

Updating your disaster recovery and business continuity plans regularly to account for any changes in your asset inventory is crucial for ensuring your organization can tackle incidents effectively. Be sure to review and revise these plans quarterly to keep up with the evolving landscape of your hardware and software assets.

4. Review Third-Party Vendor Access and Maintenance Requirements

Keeping a watchful eye on third-party access to your hardware and software is essential for maintaining top-notch security measures. By making sure these vendors follow your security policies to a tee, you shield your assets from any potential external threats. Implement strict access controls for third-party vendors and monitor their activities closely to ensure they align with your top-notch security standards.

5. Conduct Regulary Vulnerability Assessments

Stay one step ahead by regularly conducting vulnerability assessments and leveraging your inventory lists to tackle any security vulnerabilities head-on. This proactive strategy ensures that potential threats are nipped in the bud before they have a chance to wreak havoc. Keep up with routine scans and implement patch management strategies to swiftly address any identified security gaps.

RELATED READING: Vulnerability Management 101: Scanning & Remediation

6. Verify and Maintain Your Baseline Configurations 

Ensuring that all devices meet and maintain baseline configurations is key for boosting security and compliance. By establishing and routinely checking these settings, you can pinpoint and fix any deviations. Keep up with setting baseline configurations for all devices and regularly reviewing them to uphold top-notch security and compliance standards.

7. Deploy User-Installed Software Monitoring

Monitoring software installations by users prevents unauthorized applications from compromising your security. Implementing monitoring tools helps enforce compliance and detect any deviations from approved software. Use endpoint monitoring tools to track software changes and ensure that only authorized applications are installed on your devices.

8. Make Sure Your Passwords Are Rock Solid

Make sure your passwords are as tough as nails! Strong password policies are crucial for keeping your organization safe from unauthorized access. Double-check that all systems and applications meet the minimum password requirements to ensure compliance and protect your cybersecurity. Keep up with enforcing strong password policies and conducting regular audits across all systems and applications.

By integrating these security controls into your asset management processes, you can enhance your organization's security, ensure compliance, and streamline operations. Make sure to watch our full webinar for more tips and tricks.

Asset Management Is Key To Staying Secure and Compliant

Managing your assets effectively is key to keeping your IT environment secure and compliant. By regularly documenting your hardware and software assets, keeping records current, and implementing robust security measures, you'll not only reduce risks but also boost efficiency. And by integrating these practices into your daily routine, you'll always be audit-ready and confidently in control of your IT resources. Here's to a stronger, more resilient IT infrastructure!

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Tags: Cybersecurity