What Is Asset Discovery & Why Is It So Important?

What is asset discovery in cyber security

Few concepts are as crucial to modern cyber security as asset discovery. As its name suggests, asset discovery refers to the process of cataloguing the assets present in your network. By assets we mean physical devices, computer applications and even cloud functions. We know that this still sounds a little vague, so let’s make things clearer with a real-life example.

Let’s say you want to install new security measures in your home to avoid break-ins at all costs. What would be your first step? To identify all the potential entry points for burglars. You would keep a check on all your windows, doors, fences, gates and so on This would allow you to identify and correct your weaknesses – in turn strengthening your overall security.

Asset discovery is basically what has been described above, but in an IT environment. By ensuring that all your assets are identified, you gain complete visibility of your IT systems and networks. Asset discovery simplifies complex cyber security processes by detecting security risks such as outdated software, disabled firewalls or unencrypted networks.

But how does this all work exactly? Let’s have a look…

How does asset discovery work?

Like many other areas of cyber security, asset discovery originated in a physical environment. Companies would go to great lengths to monitor all their hardware – from desktop computers and laptops to scanners and routers. With remote and hybrid working more prevalent than ever, hardware tracking is still a key part of asset discovery. Any organisation that wants to be on the safe side should keep track of every single device that’s used for business purposes.  

But how do you track your hardware? Luckily, it’s not a matter of inspecting every single desk in an office anymore. By using specific asset discovery software, companies can scan a network and provide accurate information on every single device connected to it. This includes location, last known activity, IP addresses and assigned users. It certainly beats the pen and paper method.

Fortunately, asset discovery has evolved past its hardware-only stage. Cataloguing software and cloud assets has become just as important, as it allows companies to identify vulnerabilities in their programmes and applications. By using network scanners, an asset discovery tool can detect new and old network connections. Once detected, these scanners can also look for vulnerabilities and suspicious activity in the networks.

Why is asset discovery important?

The short and sweet answer is that asset discovery provides round-the-clock visibility into active and inactive assets. This makes vulnerability management a lot easier, as organisations know which assets they need to protect first. It also allows companies to monitor their threat landscape in real time – meaning they’re protected against known and unknown risks.

But on top of this general benefit, asset discovery is extremely helpful in many specific areas. These are some of them…

It streamlines tracking procedures

Remote working is here to stay. And that means that many companies are happy to let their employees use their personal devices for business purposes. However, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies can lead to dire cyber security consequences. An unmonitored device infected with malware might connect to a company network and spread the virus to other assets.

The chances of this happening with asset discovery procedures in place are extremely slim. Why? Because asset discovery allows network managers to automatically scan new and changing assets – in turn making anomaly detection much easier.

It helps companies to cut down on unnecessary costs

Most companies that start using asset discovery software come to a shocking realisation – they’re wasting thousands of pounds on hardware and software that are not being used. Apart from monitoring active assets, asset discovery can also track down inactive assets – such as laptops or applications that are rarely used.

In some cases, it makes sense for a company to have inactive assets such as replacement laptops or desktop computers. But what about duplicate software? There are many organisations that are inadvertently paying hefty licence fees for software they stopped using ages ago. Asset discovery makes it easier for network administrators to identify which applications they should delete, and which ones are essential.

It simplifies patch management

We use the term patch management to refer to the process of managing and installing updates in a computer or network. Updating software and operative systems isn’t just about benefitting from the latest features. It’s about keeping hackers at bay. Having updated software greatly reduces the risk of a cyber-attack in your organisation, as it fixes common vulnerabilities targeted by cyber-criminals.

But what does asset discovery have to do with patch management? Let us explain. Because asset discovery tracks down all installed software in a device, it allows system admins to identify which applications are outdated. Once all assets are consolidated in a centralised dashboard, system admins can decide which software updates they should prioritise. 

It is a pro-active cyber security strategy

There are two ways that companies can implement cyber security – reactive and pro-active. With reactive cyber security measures, companies wait for their vulnerabilities to be exposed to take action. The focus here is on how to respond to security incidents. On the other hand, pro-active cyber security makes sure that those vulnerabilities aren’t exposed in the first place. It’s about closing gaps and strengthening weaknesses before an attack takes place.

As useful as reactive cyber security measures are, they’re only truly effective when paired with pro-active measures such as asset discovery. Companies with asset discovery procedures in place can identify and placate potential vulnerabilities before they’re exploited – meaning they’re a lot safer than those waiting for an attack to happen.

Strengthen your defences today

Why sit down and wait for an attack when you can start preparing for the worst today? CyberGuard’s fully managed SIEM solutions can provide you with a complete package of cyber security measures – both reactive and pro-active. From asset discovery and vulnerability assessment to intrusion detection, a SIEM solutions package can provide round-the-clock security to keep cyber criminals at bay.

Learn more about Managed SIEM