Why do you need automated asset inventory management in OT?

The secret to a successful operational technology (OT) cyber security program is real-time, automated asset inventory management. These solutions provide the visibility, accuracy and scalability needed to effectively manage OT environments. Knowing the assets you have, how they are configured, and their specific impact on operations, helps to best protect your network from attacks. 

Top 5 benefits of automated OT asset inventory management

Unlike manual asset inventory methods, which are typically done on a monthly or even quarterly basis, an automated asset inventory solution is discovering and monitoring devices in your network in near real-time.   

Here are 5 key benefits of automated asset inventory and how it can help improve OT security.

Increase accuracy

An infographic illustrating the layers of an asset inventory software system. The top layer, labeled 'Passive Inventory Discovery,' lists features such as OT device identification, protocol analysis, and data export. The middle layer, 'Passively Inferred IT Attributes,' includes running services, detected OT/IT protocols, and hardware types. The base layer, 'All of the Above Plus,' expands on the features with passive vulnerability detection, open port discovery, endpoint details, behavioral anomaly detection, and more. The entire system is visualized as a cylindrical structure with icons and text indicating each layer's functionalities, with a boat and lighthouse on the top symbolizing guidance and oversight.

Automated OT asset inventory software offers improved accuracy compared with manual processes, providing a real-time view of which assets are connected to a network. 

It’s important to use an asset inventory tool built specifically for OT that discovers the unique asset types seen in the OT space. For example, when rolling out Verve’s automated asset inventory piece for a customer, an entire undocumented wireless network with a handful of unknown assets was discovered. 

This wireless network provided river water level data to the plant, which was essential to safe operation of steam turbines. This was a significant find because the network used WEP encryption. The river water sensor had a web interface and could have been easily hacked to send false readings to the plant and compromise plant safety. 

Real-time data means you’ll make more informed decisions on emerging threats while better protecting your networks. 

Save time

Previously, the only way to get an accurate inventory of assets was to do a “walk down,” physically locating and documenting every asset in the plant.

Even a perfectionist may inaccurately record data on operational technologies. We are only human and prone to errors. When walking around a massive industrial plant that covers a large area of real estate, the chances of missing a room full of assets are great.

An automated real-time asset inventory software saves time by discovering all of your assets with minimal intervention. The best part is reducing walk-downs.

You free up staff time to focus on other tasks within minutes of deploying an automated discovery tool.

Leave an audit trail

OT has an interesting love-hate relationship with transient assets, like laptops, which pose massive security risks to delicate OT networks. 

Engineers use special software packages, which can be quite costly, to troubleshoot operational issues. This usually means the software is installed on a single laptop that is rarely used.  These laptops often don’t get updated with security patches or anti-virus signatures and have been connected to countless networks, making it a necessary evil that requires unique policy and procedural documentation. 

Wouldn’t it be great to keep tabs on where these devices have been in your network? 

Automated asset inventory solutions provide this information in real-time, letting you audit which assets migrate around your system. It also tracks vendor or third-party equipment that connects to your network. In the event of a cyber breach, this data could be crucial in determining the point of infiltration. 

Automate detection and investigation

Discovering new assets connected to your network is critical to maintaining your system’s integrity. 

In some cases, real-time OT inventory software detects new assets expected to be on the network. But in the event the assets are not actually on the network, an automated discovery tool is your saving grace, providing real-time detection of all unapproved assets. 

Automated real-time asset detection and investigation catches threats before they become critical, so you can respond to unwanted or malicious assets connected to your network and start remediation immediately.  

Find unauthorized devices

Many OT systems use network segmentation to minimize risk and protect their assets from attacks. 

The issue with network segmentation is that without some auditing body, it is relatively easy for someone to plug something into the wrong network or bridge segmented networks. Even if this is not done intentionally or maliciously, the result could be just as dangerous.  

With an automated asset discovery software tool, OT asset owners can protect themselves from incorrectly networked devices by discovering the assets and the networks they are plugged into. With this enhanced real-time visibility, owners can quickly remediate these issues. 

Elevating OT security with real-time automated asset inventory management

The importance of real-time, automated asset inventory management in the realm of OT cybersecurity cannot be overstated. It serves as the cornerstone of a robust defense against cyber threats targeting industrial assets. Organizations can fortify their networks and proactively address security challenges by identifying asset types, understanding their vulnerabilities, and streamlining asset management.  

The benefits are clear: heightened accuracy, time efficiency, comprehensive audit trails, rapid threat detection, and the ability to swiftly remove unauthorized device connections. Embracing automated OT asset inventory tools translates into improved OT and network security, ultimately safeguarding critical operations and assets in an ever-evolving threat landscape. 

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