Recognising which assets are most critical to your organisation’s operation—the digital crown jewels—is paramount. Following the establishment of a robust risk management framework, as discussed in our previous blog, the next step in enhancing your cybersecurity posture is effectively categorising your assets. This process is vital for prioritising remediation efforts and allocating resources efficiently, ensuring that the most significant threats to your most valuable assets are addressed promptly.

Why Asset Categorisation Matters

Asset categorisation is more than just an inventory exercise; it’s a strategic approach that enables organisations to understand the potential impact of vulnerabilities. By categorising assets based on their exposure level—Internet-facing, Internet-accessible, and internal—you create a hierarchy of risk that informs your vulnerability management strategy. This hierarchy helps in distinguishing between assets that, if compromised, could directly impact your organisation’s ability to operate versus those with a minimal operational impact.

1. Identifying Your Assets

The first step in asset categorisation is identifying what assets you have. This process involves creating an inventory of every piece of hardware and software within your organisation. While this may seem daunting, leveraging automated tools and integrating asset discovery with your existing IT management solutions can streamline the process. Remember, an asset inventory is not a one-time task but a continuous process, as the corporate environment is always changing.

2. Categorising Assets by Exposure Level

Once you have identified your assets, the next step is categorising them based on their exposure level:

  • Internet-facing Assets: These are directly accessible from the Internet and, as such, are at a higher risk of being targeted by external threats. Examples include web servers and email systems.
  • Internet-accessible Assets: While not directly exposed to the Internet, these assets can be accessed through various means such as VPNs, proxies, and firewalls. They include internal web applications and databases that can be accessed from outside the network.
  • Internal Assets: These assets are not intended to be accessible from the Internet and are typically used within the internal network. They include file servers, employee workstations, and internal-only applications.

3. Prioritising Efforts Based on Asset Criticality

With your assets categorised, the next step is to prioritise your vulnerability management efforts based on asset criticality. This involves assessing which assets are essential to your organisation’s daily operations and which, if compromised, could lead to significant disruptions or breaches. This prioritisation should align with your organisation’s risk management framework, focusing on protecting your digital crown jewels first and foremost.

4. Implementing a Dynamic Categorisation Approach

Asset categorisation is not a set-and-forget process. It requires a dynamic approach that accounts for the ever-changing digital landscape. Regular reviews and updates to your asset categorisation ensure that new assets are correctly classified and that changes in the business environment are reflected in your prioritisation of vulnerability management efforts.

5. Integrating Asset Categorisation into Your Vulnerability Management Program

Integrating asset categorisation into your vulnerability management program involves aligning your remediation efforts with the criticality of each asset. This means prioritising patches and security measures for Internet-facing and critical internal assets, while also considering the potential pathways attackers might use to access less critical assets.