IT Asset Management (ITAM) is the complete and accurate inventory, ownership and governance of IT assets. ITAM is an essential and often required stipulation of an organization’s ability to implement baseline security practices and become compliant with rigorous industry standards. As IT continues to transform, organizations face the challenge of maintaining an accurate inventory of IT assets that consist of both physical and virtual devices, as well as static and dynamic spin-up-spin-down cloud infrastructures.
The absence of ITAM can result in a lack of asset governance and inaccurate inventory. Without a formalized process, companies might unknowingly be exposed to insecure assets that are open to exploitation. On the contrary, proper ITAM helps enable organizations to leverage a centralized and accurate record of inventory in which security measures can be implemented and applied consistently across the organization’s environment.
Risks Without ITAM
Assets that are not inventoried and tracked in an ITAM program present a very real and critical risk to the business. Unknown assets seldom have an appropriate owner identified and assigned. In essence, nobody within the organization is owning the responsibility to ensure that the unknown asset is sufficiently governed or secured. As a result, unknown assets can quickly fall out of sync with regulatory or compliance requirements leaving them vulnerable for exploitation.
In a world of constant patches and hotfixes, an unknown asset can become vulnerable after only a single missed update. Bad actors rarely attack the well-known and security hardened asset. It is far more common for a bad actor to patiently traverse the organization’s network, waiting to attack until they have identified an asset which the organization itself doesn’t know exists.
Benefits of ITAM
Before a company can sufficiently implement programs designed to protect its operational assets, it must first have the ability to identify and inventory those assets. Companies should put into place processes and controls to automate the inventorying of assets obtained via procurement and virtual machine provisioning. Assets can be inventoried and continuously tracked using a Configuration Management Database (CMDB). Each asset can be inventoried in the CMDB and assigned an owner, who is responsible for asset governance and maintenance until the decommission, or destruction, of the asset.
Processes must also be put into place to continuously monitor and update the CMDB inventory. One example of how Adobe monitors its CMDB is by leveraging operating security controls. For example, Adobe performs an analysis to determine if all assets sending logs to a corporate log server are known assets inventoried in the CMDB. If the asset is not inventoried in the CMDB, then the asset is categorized as an unknown asset. Once unknown assets are identified, further analysis is performed so that the asset can be added to the CMDB and an appropriate owner assigned.
At Adobe, we have created the Adobe Common Controls Framework (CCF), which is a set of control requirements which have been rationalized from the complex array of industry security, privacy and regulatory standards. CCF provides the necessary controls guidance to assist teams with asset management. ITAM helps provide Adobe internal, as well as third party external, auditors a centralized asset repository to leverage in order to gain reasonable assurance that security controls have been implemented and are operating effectively across the organization’s environment.
As described above, maintaining a complete and accurate ITAM in an organization of any size is no easy task. However, when implemented correctly, the benefits of ITAM allow organizations to consistently apply security controls across the operating environment, helping result in a reduced attack surface for potential bad actors. If organizations are not aware of where their assets are, then how can they reasonably know what assets they need to protect?
Sr. Analyst, Risk Advisory and Assurance Services (RAAS)