Combating The Hidden Threats Of Unmanaged Connected Assets

Combating The Hidden Threats Of Unmanaged Connected Assets

Digital transformation has led to an explosion of connected devices, going far beyond what we traditionally associate with IoT. But how can we secure these connected assets, particularly unmanaged ones?

The business world has fundamentally evolved. More agile organizations have adopted a cloud-first approach and have long integrated digital transformation at every stage of the value chain to achieve more with fewer resources and be more accountable. This strategy requires the integration of new connected assets and the management of new technologies.

We estimate that the number of connected objects will reach 75.66 billion devices by 2025, up from 26.66 billion in 2019. However, these connected assets encompass much more than we traditionally associate with IoT. Indeed, nowadays, all-in-one connected assets include both hardware and software: operational technologies (OT), industrial control systems (ICS), connected medical devices (IoMT), IT, cloud, 5G, and much more.

Some of these assets are managed, meaning an agent is already installed like computers and smartphones. Other assets are connected to the Internet and used on corporate networks but do not have a security agent and are, therefore, unmanaged (for example, MRIs, connected switches, remotely controlled thermostats, etc. ).

Mastering both managed assets and these “hidden” unmanaged assets is essential to properly functioning any security program, whatever the size of the organization, particularly for large companies with more points of control exposure. Here’s what business leaders need to know as they seek to improve their overall security posture by keeping these unmanaged assets front and center.

The challenges posed by unmanaged assets

Unmanaged assets can leave significant security gaps if not considered in active security management.

As mentioned previously, these assets generally do not allow the installation of traditional security agents. These agents are necessary for IT and security teams to identify what is connected to the company network, which means they have no visibility into the assets present in their IT environment and, therefore, no information on the behavior of these technologies. This makes the task considerably more complex: managing assets you cannot see makes incident prevention, detection, and response a thousand times more difficult.

Another major challenge is that some devices cannot be patched due to the unavailability of patches or the use of obsolete technologies still in use well past their intended initial end-of-life date. And what about well-intentioned Vulnerability Disclosure Policies (VDPs)? It is a double-edged sword, as VDPs are a prime target for threat actors, who align their sights accordingly.

Given these challenges, it becomes clear why security leaders struggle to sleep at night.

Security must be integrated into the digital transformation process.

Every business globally is vulnerable to threats from this new and vast attack surface created by connected assets, particularly unmanaged ones, and, therefore, is more likely to go unmonitored. If security isn’t considered from the start and an organization’s cybersecurity posture is weakened, what’s the point of having all these shiny new tools? More than acquiring these new technologies is required; the management and implementation of appropriate security measures ensure lasting organizational success.

Mastering these assets is imperative. Although it is difficult, it is not impossible with the right tools, continuous training of IT teams, and security awareness.

Tools and men

First, IT teams must place the highest importance on visibility by identifying all assets connected to their IT environment, whether managed or unmanaged, and use this information to update their digital asset inventory. At the same time, IT teams must maintain continuous, real-time monitoring of their inventories to reflect the true nature of what is connected to their networks at any given time. In an ever-changing business world, this is essential as assets within IT inventory will experience frequent variations.

Tools with full visibility will help security managers secure these endpoints for better vulnerability management, incident response, and more immediate prioritization of those that need their attention. Additionally, IT managers can easily isolate suspicious or malicious devices when necessary by disconnecting or quarantining them.

The formation continues

Malicious actors are persistent and increasingly sophisticated in their attacks. IT professionals must constantly stay one step ahead to defend their organization effectively. It is, therefore, imperative to ensure continuous and regular training on security best practices and strategies for IT teams to implement.

For example, is your network segmented into several subnetworks to ensure security barriers in the event of unauthorized access to a connected asset? Knowing and implementing this strategy can immediately cut off any intrusion by an attacker if they can bypass a badge reader or security camera, preventing them from moving laterally to reach and potentially disrupt assets critical to the company’s strategy: for example, a connected medical device that helps save lives or an industrial control system (ICS) guaranteeing the safety and efficiency of food or pharmaceutical production.

IT team members must keep themselves informed as part of their continuing education. What recent industry news indicates future trends? What courses and webinars should you follow to stay on the cutting edge? What major IT industry events offer the most learning and networking opportunities to encourage collaboration among IT team members beyond their organization?

Cybersecurity awareness

There is no “set and forget” configuration in cybersecurity. Therefore, security awareness must be taught throughout the organization so that all employees, regardless of their assignment, understand the impact of their actions and their respective domains on the company’s overall cybersecurity posture. This involves establishing an open dialogue between departments so that when a department manager installs a new smart TV, they automatically notify the IT department. This approach ensures that the most recent software is installed and that the IT department monitors this device as part of its asset inventory. Without this security awareness, data silos and communication gaps can create unnecessary vulnerabilities. Cybersecurity should always remain at the forefront of every team member’s concerns.

As new technologies are added to our arsenal of tools, security professionals have the opportunity to evolve and innovate best practices for managing cyber risk. It is also an opportunity to highlight our added value and differentiate ourselves from the competition while continuing to face vulnerabilities and cyber threats.

Security leaders must embrace security and digital transformation initiatives by integrating and leveraging all their managed or unmanaged assets. Having the right visibility, vulnerability, monitoring, and security solutions in place from the start can stop cybercriminals in their tracks and prevent them from hijacking innovation for malicious purposes.

Also Read : What Is An EDR And How Does It Protect Your Computer Systems?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *