IT Guide to Asset Discovery

What is Asset Discovery?

Asset discovery is the process of identifying the systems that an organization has connected to its network, including on-premises computers, cloud-based infrastructure, mobile devices, and more.  Organizations need to perform asset discovery to gain a better understanding of their cybersecurity risk, especially in a time where bring your own device (BYOD) policies and remote work have become common.

The Many Uses of Asset Discovery

The goal of asset discovery is to provide an organization with a complete inventory of the IT assets connected to its network.  The organization can benefit from this asset listing in various different ways, including:

  • Managing IT Inventories: An organization’s IT assets, both hardware and software, represent a significant investment by the company.  A complete listing of these assets and their current status enables the organization to better manage these assets and maximize the impact of its investments.
  • Network Visualization: With full knowledge of its IT assets, an organization can generate visualizations of parts of all of its network.  These visualizations can then be used to make data-driven decisions, such as how to optimize an organization’s existing network infrastructure based on the assets connected to the network and how they interact.
  • IT Automation: Some processes, like applying software updates, need to be performed for a large subset of an organization’s assets within a tight window.  With a complete asset inventory, the company can automate the process of identifying which assets need a particular update and pushing the update to them, saving time and money.
  • Patch Management: Software vulnerabilities are publicly reported and patched on a daily basis, and cybercriminals move rapidly to exploit newly published vulnerabilities.  The process automation enabled by a complete asset inventory can help an organization to perform software security detection, stay on top of its patching, and manage its cyber risk.
  • License Management: License management is important but complex as an organization may have hundreds or thousands of licenses on different renewal schedules.  With asset discovery, an organization can determine its exact licensing needs and eliminate the risks associated with the use of unlicensed software.
  • Streamlined Issue Tracking: IT support staff need to manage many different types of devices.  With asset discovery, information about these assets and their needs is centrally tracked and stored, simplifying the asset management process.
  • Simplified Reporting: An organization may be subject to a number of different data protection regulations and other requirements.  Asset discovering enables an organization to more easily generate the reports needed to demonstrate.
  • Cost Savings: A comprehensive IT asset inventory enables an organization to identify what software and hardware it has and what is and isn’t being used.  This helps to ensure that the company doesn’t purchase software that it doesn’t need and to cancel licenses that aren’t being used.  By eliminating waste and optimizing an organization’s existing investments, an organization can make significant cost savings.

A complete asset inventory provides an organization with deep visibility into its IT assets.  This visibility is vital to an organization’s efforts to manage these assets and make informed decisions about its IT infrastructure.

Asset Discovery Tools

Having a complete IT asset inventory can be invaluable, but a complete listing is difficult to create and maintain manually.  As new assets come online and older ones reach end-of-life, tracking an organization’s IT asset inventory becomes a never-ending task.

Asset discovery tools enable an organization to automate and streamline this process.  These tools work by installing a small software agent on all corporate assets.  This software can monitor the state of the asset as well as respond to remote commands from the organization.

In addition to enabling an organization to perform discovery of its IT assets, asset discovery solutions like Prey can offer additional device management functionality as well, such as:

  • HW Inventory: With the rise of remote work, inventorying an organization’s IT assets becomes much more difficult as “wall to wall” audits are no longer possible.  With Prey, an organization can rapidly conduct a complete inventory of all of its IT assets.
  • Device Loan Management: Loaned devices are a great way for an organization to minimize waste of its IT investments; however, these devices can be difficult to track.  Prey enables an organization to centrally track and monitor loaned devices so that it is always aware of who is officially responsible for a given device and to ensure that devices are not lost or stolen.
  • Device Location Tracking: Prey also enables an organization to determine the location of mobile devices.  This helps to respond to the potential loss of theft of a device and can be vital for maintaining compliance with regulations with geographic restrictions.  For example, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) does not allow the data of EU citizens to be brought outside of the EU except to countries deemed to have “adequate” data protection regulations in place.

These features not only enable an organization to maintain visibility into its IT assets but also to protect them against threats like loss or theft.  Misplaced devices can be remotely locked or wiped to protect sensitive corporate data against exposure.

Final Thoughts

A complete listing of an organization’s assets can be invaluable for IT management, security, governance, and regulatory compliance.  Asset discovery tools can enable an organization to generate these inventories and maintain consistent visibility into its IT assets.

Prey provides asset discovery functionality alongside a number of device management features.  This enables an organization to not only track its IT assets but to take action to manage its cyber risk and the threat of data compromise if a device is lost, stolen, or otherwise placed at risk.

About the author

Norman Gutiérrez

Norman Gutiérrez is our Security Researcher at Prey, one of the leading companies in the security and mobility industry, with more than 8 million users worldwide. In addition to this, Norm is Prey's Content and Communication Specialist, and our Infosec ambassador. Norm has worked for several tech media outlets such as FayerWayer and Publimetro, among others. In his free time, Norman enjoys videogames, cool gadgets, music, and fun board games.