How Asset Management Bolsters Cybersecurity

Asset management plays an increasingly important role in cybersecurity. More than just a mere inventory list that you track in a spreadsheet, effective cyber asset management is a strategic weapon that, when wielded correctly, can fortify your digital defenses and give your business the upper hand against threat actors. This article dives into asset management, exploring why it matters in cybersecurity, what its key components are, some best practices and more.

Why Asset Management Matters in Cybersecurity

When you maintain up-to-date asset information, you can better manage user access and permissions, ensuring only authorized individuals can access specific resources. When cybersecurity incidents occur, an accurate asset inventory allows your security teams to quickly identify affected systems and data, helping to expedite the response and recovery process.

Data breach and data loss incidents regularly involve threat actors exploiting vulnerabilities in systems and apps. Without a complete and up-to-date understanding of your IT assets, it’s nearly impossible to ensure that you’re managing vulnerabilities effectively.

These vulnerabilities arise from outdated systems or applications. With an effective IT asset management process, you can keep track of the version and patch level of your software assets, ensuring they’re kept up to date.

Assets go through different stages – procurement, deployment, maintenance and decommissioning. Efficient asset management ensures that you account for security considerations at each of these stages, which helps you mitigate risks throughout the asset’s lifecycle.

4 Useful Steps in Cybersecurity Asset Management


You need to know what assets you have before you can manage and protect them, then record this information in a centralized inventory. Identification must be comprehensive enough to include all hardware, such as servers, IoT devices and workstations. Don’t forget your digital assets like data files, software apps, digital intellectual property and web properties. The information worth adding to your inventory includes the location of assets, the owner or person responsible for the asset, the condition of the asset (if physical), installation dates and estimated replacement costs.


Classifying your IT assets makes it easier to report on them, find similar assets and perform other asset management tasks. You can use any number of labels to gather similar assets into groups.


It’s important to sort assets based on their sensitivity and importance to your organization. Factors that can help prioritize assets include their criticality to business operations, the fact they contain sensitive information, or that they are subject to regulatory compliance. Prioritizing assets guides your cybersecurity efforts toward protecting the most important assets first.

Risk Assessment

With your assets identified, classified and prioritized, you can now evaluate the risks associated with each asset. You should consider both the likelihood of a threat occurring and the impact such an event would have on your organization.

Understanding the risk landscape allows you to make informed decisions about where to focus your security efforts. And remember that since cyber risk is dynamic, your assessments should be too. Regularly evaluate the risks to your assets and update your strategies as needed. Try and quantify the likelihood and potential impact of each risk.

Asset Management and Compliance

Asset management is not directly mentioned in the main data privacy regulations (apart from PCI DSS, which requires businesses to inventory all assets connected to cardholder data). However, asset management is an important part of complying with a number of important voluntary frameworks and controls that your company might be interested in.

  • ISO 27001: This is an international standard for implementing an Information Security Management System (ISMS) to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data. While compliance with ISO 27001 is not mandatory, it does provide assurance to customers and business partners that your business takes information security seriously. Companies operating in areas like finance, healthcare, government contracting and IT are most likely to benefit from getting certified. And most importantly in the context of asset management, ISO 27001 includes a requirement for organizations to maintain an inventory of assets and apply appropriate protection based on the classification of those assets.
  • NIST Cybersecurity Framework: The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) framework is a voluntary set of guidelines aimed at helping organizations manage their cybersecurity risks. Like any framework, it provides systematic methods and best practices to improve how you do things (in this case, manage cyber risk). The first function of the framework is “Identify,” which involves developing an understanding of the organization’s systems, assets, data and capabilities.
  • SOC2: This is a set of auditing procedures that a service organization undergoes to ensure it securely manages data to protect the interests of the organization and the privacy of its clients. Companies comply with SOC2 because clients in some areas, like SaaS and B2B, demand to see this certification before doing business. Part of achieving SOC2 certification involves ensuring you retrieve assets during employee offboarding and designate assets to users/owners; these tasks together fall under the scope of effective IT asset management.
  • CIS Controls: This set of 20 actions was designed to help organizations safeguard their systems and data from known cyberattack vectors. The first two CIS Controls specifically focus on asset management:
    1. Control 1: Inventory and Control of Hardware Assets: This control emphasizes the need to actively manage (inventory, track and correct) all hardware devices on the network so that only authorized devices are given access and unauthorized and unmanaged devices are found and prevented from gaining access.
    2. Control 2: Inventory and Control of Software Assets: Similar to Control 1, this control pertains to software assets. It requires organizations to actively manage (inventory, track and correct) all software on the network so that only authorized software is installed and can execute and that unauthorized and unmanaged software is found and prevented from installation or execution.

4 Best Practices for Effective Cyber Asset Management

1) Try to Discover Shadow Assets

Make sure you attempt to uncover any shadow (unmanaged) digital assets in your environment, like SaaS apps, that your employees might be using without your central IT team knowing about them. A recent study highlighted the prevalence of shadow apps by finding that these unsanctioned apps represented 37% of the total number of apps at the average company.

2) Automate Where Possible

Remote work and cloud computing make today’s IT environments more complex and distributed than ever. Manual approaches to asset management are unlikely to sufficiently capture all the information you need about assets, or even find all your assets for that matter. It’s often beneficial to use automated tools for asset discovery and management. These tools can scan your network to identify assets and capture relevant details from many sources, saving time and improving accuracy.

3) Track Asset Lifecycles

Record each asset’s lifecycle stages, from procurement and deployment to maintenance and decommissioning. This can help ensure that assets don’t “fall off the radar” when they’re no longer in use or retired. The root cause of the 2017 Equifax breach, one of the most infamous in cybercrime history, was improper asset management that failed to find a vulnerable legacy customer dispute portal that had been in use since the 1970s.

4) Secure Your Inventory

It’s easy to forget that your IT asset inventory contains sensitive information and could be a valuable target for cybercriminals if they manage to slip past defenses and gain access to your network. Ensure you protect the inventory using appropriate security measures, such as access controls and encryption. Don’t allow staff access to this file unless they strictly need it for their daily tasks.

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