Last Updated on 28 July 2023 by admin
External Asset Discovery is the process of identifying and mapping all the digital assets that exist outside an organization’s internal environment. Some examples of digital assets are web applications, cloud services, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and network devices.
This is a crucial practice for security and IT leaders, as it helps to mitigate the risk of cyber-attacks that often originate from outside the organization. In today’s digital world, cyber-attacks continue to pose a significant threat to businesses of all sizes, and external asset discovery is an essential tool in the fight against these attacks.
External discovery, also known as attack surface discovery, is critical for security and IT leaders because it provides a complete and accurate picture of the organization’s attack surface, helping them to identify vulnerabilities and implement measures security controls to protect against cyber threats.
One of the primary reasons why discovering your assets is essential is that it provides visibility into the organization’s digital ecosystem. Modern businesses have an extensive online presence, including numerous web applications, cloud services, and other technologies that can be accessed from outside the organization.
Attackers often exploit these technologies to gain unauthorized access to an organization’s systems or steal sensitive data. By conducting an in-depth and continuous discovery process, security and IT leaders can gain visibility into their digital ecosystem and identify potential vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit.
In this article, we discuss what exactly is asset discovery and how security leaders and IT professionals can take control of their organization’s digital ecosystem.
What you’ll learn in this article
Monitoring your evolving attack surface
The attack surface refers to the total sum of all security risk exposures (known as attack vectors) that a malicious attacker can use in order to gain privileged access to a digital environment. These points may be known or unknown assets, and lie within hardware, software, and networks. Because attack surfaces are constantly growing and evolving, combatting their associated risks can seem intimidating.
Many security and IT professionals opt for the easy and possibly most obvious solution to this universal problem – reducing their attack surface. However, although it’s a start, this will not totally protect your network. And of course, this is almost impossible for larger organizations and those experiencing growth. Therefore, scalable security is becoming not only a popular but necessary solution.
What is asset discovery?
Asset discovery refers to the process of identifying, categorizing, and documenting all the assets within an organization’s digital ecosystem. These assets can include software applications, virtual machines, databases, IP addresses and cloud services. Asset discovery provides a comprehensive view of an organization’s assets, allowing for better asset management, improved security, and streamlined operations.
This form of live and continuous security monitoring offers round-the-clock vulnerability management – notifying you of changes to your attack surface as soon as they appear.
Things like changes to firewalls, spinning up new VPNs, and using additional cloud services unavoidably increase your online exposure. So, it’s critical to have complete visibility of your attack surface as it grows and evolves over time.
Why is asset discovery important?
Asset discovery is vital for several reasons. Firstly, it helps organizations maintain an accurate inventory of their assets, enabling effective resource allocation and cost management. Additionally, asset discovery plays a crucial role in ensuring security and compliance. By identifying all assets, organizations can better assess vulnerabilities, apply necessary patches, and implement security measures to protect sensitive data and prevent unauthorized access.
Key benefits of asset discovery:
In today’s technology-driven world, businesses face an increasing number of cyber threats. Without a clear understanding of all assets present in their environment, organizations leave themselves vulnerable to security breaches. Asset discovery helps identify potential entry points for attackers, enabling businesses to proactively strengthen their defenses and implement robust security measures.
Improved IT Infrastructure Management
For businesses to operate efficiently, a well-organized IT infrastructure is paramount. Asset discovery empowers IT teams to gain visibility into the entire network, allowing them to monitor and manage assets effectively. By knowing what assets are present, their locations, and their configurations, IT professionals can optimize resource allocation and promptly address any issues that arise.
Compliance and Regulatory Requirements
In the face of ever-changing regulations and compliance standards, businesses must ensure they meet all requirements relevant to their industry. Asset discovery simplifies compliance efforts by providing a comprehensive view of assets and their compliance status. This helps organizations avoid penalties and legal consequences while fostering a culture of trust and credibility with customers.
Common challenges in asset discovery
Effective management of an organization’s attack surface requires overcoming various challenges in asset discovery. Addressing these challenges is crucial for comprehensive and proactive attack surface management. Some of the common challenges include:
Scale and Complexity
Large organizations with extensive IT infrastructures may find it challenging to discover and manage all assets accurately.
Assets can be constantly added, removed, or modified, making it difficult to maintain an up-to-date inventory.
Lack of Standardization
Different asset types, vendors, and data formats can complicate the discovery process, requiring compatibility and integration efforts.
With the rise of employee-owned devices and cloud services, organizations may struggle to identify all assets used within their environment.
Lack of automation
Limited time and resources alongside using manual processes hinder efficiency and scalability of asset discovery efforts. If you are still using spreadsheets then you need to consider adopting asset discovery software.
How does asset discovery work?
Asset discovery works by using in-depth automated OSINT techniques to search the internet to identify and map assets that comprise your organizations digital perimeter. Assets can be defined as domains, IPs and FQDNs. Managing asset discovery manually is a complex and time consuming task and can often lead to unknown assets not being identified which could lead to increased risk.
In order to maintain an accurate asset inventory asset discovery needs to be conducted regularly as an organizations digital perimeter is constantly evolving. It’s critical to have tools in place that can identify and alert you of new services but also changes to know assets that could pose a risk.
Scanning the network
The asset discovery process typically starts with network scanning tools. These tools traverse the network, identifying and logging devices and software running on them. They can discover both physical assets, such as computers and servers, and virtual assets, such as virtual machines and containers.
Data collection and analysis
Once the scanning phase is complete, the collected data undergoes thorough analysis. This step involves organizing the information into a structured format, such as a centralized database or asset management system. It also includes identifying relationships between different assets to better understand dependencies and potential risks.
Asset discovery is not a one-time event but an ongoing process. Continuous monitoring ensures that the asset inventory remains up-to-date, accounting for changes, additions, and removals. Regularly updated asset data allows businesses to make informed decisions and adapt quickly to emerging challenges.
Why should I use asset discovery?
This form of passive automated inventory management offers a wealth of benefits as a more efficient way to take control of your security posture.
Below are some of the main advantages of continuously mapping assets, outlining its importance in today’s cyber-climate.
Gain real-time attack surface visibility of your digital environment
Dynamic asset discovery reveals all of your internet-facing assets, keeping the focus on real (and not perceived) risk. With a full view of your external attack surface, you can see vulnerabilities as they are introduced at both the application and infrastructure level, and be alerted to potential security issues before they escalate into serious threats. This also means you can stop spending valuable time and resources manually updating spreadsheets to maintain an accurate and up to date asset inventory.
Take control of your attack surface
This type of threat intelligence uses automatic asset-tracking which provides organizations with confidence and assurance in their cyber defense. It enables them to make smarter vulnerability management decisions – knowing where their vulnerabilities lie before attackers do allows for better overall analysis. Such insight is crucial for an organization’s efficient threat-response and saves valuable time.
Be proactive with always-on automated security
To confront and combat the abundance of threats posed, a more modern, proactive approach to security is essential. As a form of continuous security surveillance, asset discovery tools detect online environment changes that you might not be aware of.
For example, Informer uses a range of open-source intelligence techniques in order to mimic an attacker’s active approach to finding online assets (our geolocation of assets is accurate to 99%), including scraping, website code analysis, and active DNS discovery.
Harness scalability with asset monitoring
As an organization’s digital footprint expands, so must its defensive capabilities – this will help guarantee that capacity problems don’t hinder responses to security incidents. So, scalable security is a strategy and toolset that can increase or decrease in capacity to support a larger or smaller load, subject to variations in demand, readily safeguarding your systems.
With today’s mounting risk, using a combination of defenses isn’t efficient. Many traditional methods of cyber security are quickly becoming outdated too. Live asset discovery offers an affordable solution that scales accordingly to your organization, making security both easier to achieve and cost-effective.
Ensure compliance with data security regulations
It’s fast becoming a legal and regulatory requirement to have a security platform connected to your assets. Some of these legislations include the General Data Protection Regulation, the New York SHIELD Act, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
Informer’s asset discovery tools are being improved to signal potential data protection issues – assets with personal information received by websites outside of the EU are pinpointed as a potential compliance issue within the platform.
Best Practices for Asset Discovery:
To overcome the challenges and ensure effective asset discovery, organizations can follow these best practices:
- Establish Clear Objectives: Define the goals and scope of the asset discovery process to align it with organizational needs.
- Collaborate Across Teams: Involve stakeholders from various departments, such as IT, security, and compliance, to gather comprehensive information.
- Employ Automated Tools: Leverage asset discovery tools that automate the identification and tracking of assets, ensuring accuracy and efficiency.
- Regularly Update and Validate Data: Implement processes to keep asset information up to date and validate the accuracy of discovered assets.
The key functions asset discovery tools perform for your organization
Discovering assets on your digital perimeter enables a holistic approach to cyber security and allows you to identify and prioritize assets that may be at risk. Knowing this information can help you take remedial action before an incident occurs.
The role of automation in asset discovery
Automation plays a crucial role in asset discovery, enabling organizations to efficiently manage large-scale infrastructures. By automating the discovery process, organizations can reduce manual effort, improve accuracy, and speed up response times. Automation tools can continuously scan and update asset information, ensuring that the inventory remains up to date, even in dynamic environments.
Asset discovery in cloud environments
With the increasing adoption of cloud services, discovery in the cloud has become crucial. Cloud asset discovery involves identifying and tracking virtual machines, storage resources, containers, and other cloud-based assets. Specialized cloud asset management tools, like AWS Config and Google Cloud Asset Inventory, can help organizations gain visibility and control over their cloud assets.
Overall, asset discovery is a critical practice for organizations looking to protect their systems and data from cyber threats. By identifying and mapping all the technology assets that exist outside the organization’s firewall, security and IT leaders can gain visibility into their digital footprint, identify vulnerabilities, and implement measures to protect against cyber-attacks.
How Informer helps you discovery and manage your digital assets
Asset discovery is a critical process for organizations to maintain a comprehensive understanding of their digital ecosystem. By implementing best practices, leveraging appropriate tools, and considering the specific requirements of different environments, organizations can effectively discover, manage, and secure their assets. With the constant evolution of technologies, asset discovery will continue to adapt, enabling organizations to navigate the complexities of modern IT landscapes more efficiently.
Informer shines a light on blind spots in your attack surface and highlights potential risks using over fifty data sources to keep you informed in real-time. Our scalable technology accelerates asset discovery time, completing it in a fraction of the time that manual techniques take.
Discovery against large domains containing thousands of assets can take place in seconds. Informers attack surface management solution revolutionizes defense, allowing organizations to catalogue their assets in a single frictionless platform.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I use asset discovery software?
Software plays a critical role in IT asset discovery by automating the scanning and data collection process. Specialized asset discovery tools can scan networks, query devices, and collect detailed information about hardware, software, and configurations.
How often should attack surface discovery be performed?
Attack surface discovery should be performed regularly to maintain an accurate and up-to-date inventory. The frequency depends on factors such as the size of the organization, the rate of asset changes, and the industry’s compliance requirements. Quarterly or biannual asset discovery scans are common practices.
What is the difference between IT asset discovery and IT asset management?
IT asset discovery focuses on identifying and cataloging IT assets, while IT asset management involves the ongoing processes of tracking, monitoring, and optimizing those assets throughout their lifecycle. Asset management includes activities like license management, contract management, maintenance scheduling, and asset retirement.
Can IT asset discovery be used for cloud resources?
Yes, IT asset discovery can be extended to cloud resources. Cloud-native discovery tools and integrations with cloud service providers allow organizations to discover and manage virtual machines, storage instances, containers, and other cloud assets. This helps maintain a comprehensive view of the entire IT infrastructure, including on-premises and cloud environments.