Asset discovery is the continuous process of finding all digital assets connected to an organization. It is a critical first step in several security processes, such as attack surface discovery, attack surface management (ASM), and vulnerability management.

Asset discovery is not a one-time process. Organizations need to identify all assets regularly since their IT environment constantly changes. New technologies are added, applications are deployed, systems are upgraded, and configurations are modified. Continuous asset discovery will help capture all new assets added from ongoing changes.

Read More about Asset Discovery

Learn more about asset discovery and how it can help strengthen an organization’s cybersecurity posture.

How Does Asset Discovery Work?

Performing asset discovery is like taking an inventory of a giant digital warehouse. It involves the following steps:

How does asset discovery work?
  1. Scanning and enumeration: Nowadays, most organizations use automated tools that employ techniques, such as network scanning, subdomain enumeration, agent deployment, and API calls, to discover technologies, applications, and systems on a network.
  2. Data collection and inventory: The information gathered from various scanning techniques is centralized and stored in an asset inventory. This inventory should include asset types, software versions, IP addresses, locations, and other relevant details.
  3. Continuous monitoring: Organizations need to continuously monitor their IT environment for new devices, applications, or changes in existing ones. This can involve regularly scheduled scans and using ASM solutions with real-time monitoring capabilities.

While asset discovery typically employs automation, IT teams may need to manually verify the assets discovered to confirm the accuracy of automated scans and ensure no assets get overlooked.

What Are the Benefits of Asset Discovery?

Some key advantages of regular asset discovery include:

  • Reduced attack surface
  • Enhanced security posture
  • Proactive patch management
  • Streamlined IT operations

Let’s explore each of these advantages in detail.

Reduced attack surface

The attack surface is the sum of all potential attack entry points, including digital assets. By performing continuous asset discovery, organizations can protect assets against threats, making it difficult for attackers to find vulnerabilities to exploit.

Enhanced security posture

A complete picture of all assets allows organizations to prioritize security measures and allocate resources more effectively. They can identify critical assets that require the strongest protection and focus their efforts on patching vulnerabilities, addressing misconfigurations, and hardening security controls.

Proactive patch management

Knowing what software versions are running on assets allows security teams to pinpoint systems vulnerable to known exploits. This process enables them to prioritize patching efforts and address critical vulnerabilities before attackers can weaponize them.

Streamlined IT operations

A centralized asset inventory provides a single source of truth for all asset information, simplifying IT operations tasks, such as troubleshooting, user provisioning, and license management.

What Are Examples of Digital Assets?

In its broadest sense, digital assets include documents, media, social media accounts, website content, and other digital information sources.

However, in the context of cybersecurity, some examples of digital assets are software, cloud resources, third-party applications, domain names, subdomains, IP addresses, ports, and integrated services.

How Are Digital Assets Created?

Knowing the activities that lead to the creation of assets can help ensure that asset discovery coverage is enough and encompasses all potential sources. Here are some ways digital assets are created or added to an organization’s IT infrastructure.

  • Deploying new technologies: Implementing new hardware, software, or cloud resources typically requires new domain names or opening ports to activate certain services.
  • Adding new users and devices: Granting access to new users or allowing them to connect their personal devices to the network creates additional assets. Unmanaged devices or weak user credentials can serve as gateways for attackers.
  • Business growth and acquisitions: As a company grows, it may acquire new subsidiaries or integrate with third-party systems. These integrations create new assets that must be identified, assessed, and secured.
  • Shadow IT: The unapproved use of unauthorized software or services by employees creates unmanaged assets outside of the IT department’s control. Shadow IT is not usually appropriately secured, increasing an organization’s attack surface.

In today’s highly digitalized world, digital assets are continuously added or updated, exponentially increasing the number of assets organizations need to identify and secure. To put things into perspective, consider that one domain can have up to 500 subdomains. Organizations have dozens or even hundreds of other types of digital assets.

Key Takeaways