Why Data Centralization is Key to Proactive Cybersecurity

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If there’s one constant in cybersecurity, it’s that change is inevitable. Not only is change inevitable, but it has continued to accelerate drastically throughout recent years. The way in which technology is delivered to the modern business—through multi-public cloud, containerization, hyper-segmentation, infrastructure automation, etc.—has become increasingly complex.  

As these environments continue to evolve, conflicting data, siloed tools, and lack of coordination between independently empowered teams makes it impossible to stay on top of change. So, while organizations continue to fixate on large-scale digital transformations, many neglect the most fundamental principle in cybersecurity: you can’t defend what you can’t see.  

The Data Disbursement Challenge

Without the ability to maintain an accurate accounting of all of the cyber assets in their infrastructure, all other cyber initiatives are hampered. Dynamic environments require equally progressive data management strategies. The challenge, however, is despite the sophistication of today’s security tools and programs, most organizations are still left to aggregate and analyze data from mixed environments within outdated, error-prone spreadsheets.  

Subsequently, the average cyber asset inventory still takes 89 person hours to complete, is notoriously inaccurate, and is already outdated by the time it’s completed. Threat actors, on the other hand, can infiltrate and wreak havoc in a fraction of that time.  

It’s clear that attackers are taking full advantage of the gap between the efforts and effectiveness of today’s cybersecurity initiatives. Without an efficient, accurate way to aggregate and correlate that data, there’s no way of assessing the composition and security posture of your environment. And by ignoring this challenge, due to its complexity, we create a false sense of security centered around ineffective legacy metrics and incident response KPIs.  

Prerequisites for Proactive Cybersecurity 

Today, over 40% of security and risk professionals agree the lack of coordination between teams and conflicting data from different tools makes it difficult to gather an accurate picture of their hybrid IT infrastructure. Therefore, it’s no surprise as to why most teams are still leveraging spreadsheets for their asset management process. 

Traditional asset management platforms rely on unreliable updates from other tools and processes, network scanning and manual input and tuning. While they can pull together intelligence from a limited number of sources, and conduct automatic discovery to a certain extent, these tools fail to identify the majority of unknown assets in a typical sprawling, multi-cloud, decentralized, and well-segmented modern network.  

Thus, less than 1% of organizations today have achieved visibility of at least 95% of their assets. By 2026, however, that number is expected to grow over 20x because of organizations are proactively shifting their priorities to improve asset intelligence by leveraging the data from the dozens of tools, systems and controls they’ve already implemented. 

Still, the average enterprise runs over 50 security tools. These oftentimes force teams to manually extract information and combine reports, limiting the accuracy and availability of data across their digital estate. Fortunately, the ability to sync systems and exchange data using APIs is revolutionizing cyber asset management as we know it.  

Data Integration 

With dynamic asset intelligence tools, teams leverage sophisticated API integrations to centralize data and identify coverage gaps using information from the broad range of tools already deployed in their environment. 

This consolidated approach to cyber asset visibility enables teams to detect changes as they happen, and significantly reduces the workload associated with collecting information and generating reports. It gives them one timely and accurate ‘source of truth’ with a comprehensive view of each asset. 

Revised Definition of Asset 

The traditional devices currently monitored across existing asset inventory and management tools are not the only vehicles for exploitation. The biggest threats are the ones that remain unknown, and organizations are already at a disadvantage by not considering all the assets that exist across their digital estate.  

To truly understand their attack surface from an attacker’s perspective, defenders must acknowledge everything that holds value or risk to their organization. This includes compute assets and their misconfigurations and vulnerabilities. But it also must consider other asset types including data sets, users, networks, business services, and more.  Without this broader perspective important risks are inevitably missed. 

Organizations that maintain a continuous, holistic cyber asset inventory are in a much better position to transition to a proactive cybersecurity strategy. Still, data centralization isn’t the ultimate fix. Although today’s security asset management tools collect a trove of information, asset lists and their properties alone are not sufficient in understanding the risk they may represent to the organization.  

Centralized Visibility is the Way Forward for Security and Risk  

Ultimately, the goal and value of a foundational asset intelligence initiative is to gather the insights and context necessary to drive informed, risk-based, prioritization decisions. It’s no secret that gaining full-stack visibility is much easier said than done. However, when done correctly, it then becomes of a force multiplier for any other cybersecurity initiative you decide to undertake.  

Fortunately, the intelligence required to achieve this level of visibility is already at the fingertips of today’s security and risk teams. Yet, rather than throw more money at the problem or undergo a major technological transformation, organizations must realize the opportunity in optimizing the investments they’ve already made and forming a nucleus for modern and proactive cybersecurity.