As your company grows, so too does its infrastructure needs. Physical space, personnel, and other resources multiply in number and complexity over time. This is especially true of information technology (IT) and cybersecurity infrastructures, such as your firewalls, network protections, and security controls.
Infrastructure lifecycle management best practices are essential to keep all your stakeholders safe over your company’s evolution.
Read on to learn more.
Infrastructure Lifecycle Management Best Practices
There is no company for whom infrastructure lifestyle management is not a critical necessity. Regardless of size and industry, you need to account for all of your assets. This guide will cover five infrastructure asset management best practices, including:
- Inventory management for all physical and digital assets and user accounts
- Maintenance of all legally required licensure, registration, and regulatory compliance
- Comprehensive management of threats and vulnerabilities across all infrastructure
- Advanced analytical methods for optimal cyberdefense (such as penetration testing)
- Planning for and promptly responding to security incidents as they occur in real-time
First, let’s address the elephant in the room: what is infrastructure lifecycle management, and why is it so essential for the success of your company’s cybersecurity?
Let’s take a look.
Why is Infrastructure Lifecycle Management Critical?
Infrastructure asset lifecycle management is essential to your business’s success because it’s part and parcel of its very well-being. Put simply, it’s critical because cyberdefense is critical. The only way to keep your systems protected is to take an active (rather than passive) approach to manage them. This is the only way to stave off the growing threats of cybercrime.
Cybercrime has progressively worsened over the past decade, and cybercrime’s adverse effects will only continue to scale moving forward. Per Cybercrime Magazine’s 2021 report, cybercrime costs will grow to ~10.5 trillion dollars by 2025. It’s a steep increase from the ~3 billion dollar price tag in 2016, according to a Microsoft report on the then-current, emerging era of cybercrime.
Cybercriminals will exploit the slightest vulnerability when given a chance. Infrastructure asset management best practices help winnow those chances down and eliminate them outright in some cases.
Practice #1: Comprehensive Inventory Management
Asserting a robust inventory management system is the first and most essential practice for establishing a foundation for effective infrastructure lifecycle management. Inventory management must be weaved into the fabric of your architecture implementation, and you need to account for every single asset — physical and virtual.
The things you need to inventory and monitor include, but are not limited to:
- Computers, laptops, cellular devices, and other computing devices on the network
- Network infrastructure and access points, including physical and virtual barriers
- All kinds of information stored on or within all devices, networks, and servers
The inventory needs to be dynamic rather than static. All practices in this guide are considered infrastructure change management best practices, as changes are the most critical (and challenging) elements of the entire management scheme. Your inventory needs to be updated continuously, ideally automatically, whenever any new assets are added or any other change occurs. It should also index for shifting compliance requirements (see below).
Inventorying Individuals’ Accounts and Behaviors
The most critical asset to inventory is also the hardest to keep track of; user accounts. An overlooked part of infrastructure lifecycle management is accounting for the software and hardware and every person using it and how they’re using it.
The field of identity and access management is known for its basic requirements for credentials, such as passwords being a particular length or requiring a specific character combination. But it also comprises other elements, such as strict thresholds for how often credentials need to be updated and protections that move beyond passwords, like multi-factor authentication.
Identity management requires access session monitoring and control. Authenticated users are monitored when accessing data to ensure they uphold protocols. This can also empower insights about how, when, and why pieces of your infrastructure need repairs.
Practice #2: Legal and Regulatory Maintenance
The second critical infrastructure asset management best practice involves ensuring all your software and hardware is up to spec concerning legally required licensing. Depending on your industry, this may require regulatory compliance with one or more frameworks:
- HIPAA – The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) applies to covered entities adjacent to the healthcare industry. It safeguards privacy and security (and ensures breach notifications) for protected health information.
- PCI-DSS – The Data Security Standard of the Payment Card Industry’s Security Standards Council applies to all businesses that process card payments. It requires stringent protections for cardholder data and hardware that processes and stores it.
- NIST/CMMC – Companies that contract with the Department of Defense (DoD) need to comply with NIST SP 800-171 and the Cybersecurity Model Maturity Certification, both of which enforce strict mandatory controls for controlled unclassified information (CUI).
Many of these frameworks have built-in controls for asset management, such as inventory protocols or requirements to replace factory default security settings with more robust options.
Patch Reporting and Compliance Advisory Services
To keep up with all compliance and other legal requirements weighing on your security infrastructure, inventorying is often not enough. Many companies can benefit from a patch monitoring report that identifies gaps in the system that need to be corrected, both for immediate efficacy and long-term preventive care. An effective patch report will also provide a clear path toward correction, including short – and long-term fixes for your infrastructure.
This is primarily for compliance requirements, but a robust patch monitoring program also assesses all weaknesses. Still, periodic reports on problems in your system do not suffice for effective lifecycle management. They are a precursor to more comprehensive measures.
Practice #3: Threat and Vulnerability Management
Third, your infrastructure management needs to include measures for monitoring, analyzing, and mitigating any risks present (or risks on the horizon) that could jeopardize the lifespan of your systems. This is the threat and vulnerability management domain, a practice baked into most cybersecurity implementations, including most regulatory compliance frameworks.
Hallmarks of effective vulnerability management include:
- Collection and utilization of threat intelligence, including both proprietary data and governmental lists, such as the index of common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVE)
- Integration across all systems, including both on-location hardware and all software, applications, web presence, and cloud-based networking and computing
Maintenance may seem like the most critical thing to keep track of, at least for your system’s physical parts. But accounting for and mitigating risks of lapsed cybersecurity protocols and cybercrime is arguably more essential in an increasingly digitized, mobile environment.
Accounting for Risks Across Third-Party Networks
Another overlooked element of lifecycle risk management for your infrastructure is the impact that your vast network of business associates and strategic partners can have on it. Vendors, suppliers, and third-parties in your orbit entail risks you need to account for systematically.
Hence the critical importance of third-party risk management (TPRM).
You should compile a comprehensive inventory of all third-parties and their infrastructure that contacts yours. This inventory should come with interactions available from a single dashboard. That way, TPRM integrates seamlessly into your vulnerability management and infrastructure and asset lifecycle management overall.
Practice #4: Complex Analytical Tools Deployment
The fourth practice for infrastructure lifecycle management involves moving beyond a risk management system’s basic protections and into the most complex and advanced analytical methods. One of the most essential is root cause analysis, which seeks to understand the problem’s base cause and eradicate its source rather than treating surface effects (symptoms).
For example, consider a situation in which your company falls victim to regular malware and phishing attacks. These can take a significant toll on infrastructure, not to mention the company’s bottom line. If a quick analysis determines that faulty web filters are the problem, repairing them might temporarily halt the viruses and other adverse outcomes.
But a deeper analysis might unveil a lack of awareness among a particular contingent within the staff. If so, a targeted IT training program dedicated to training personnel about the potential cybercrime threats and consequences would likely be more impactful as a countermeasure.
Penetration Testing Throughout Infrastructure Lifecycles
One of the most advanced analytical tools available to companies improving their asset lifecycle management is a form of “ethical hacking” known as penetration testing. It involves a simulation of a cyber-attack, performed by a benevolent “attacker,” to study how a malicious attacker would operate. Overall, there are two primary forms of penetration testing to take advantage of:
- External pen-testing – Also called “black box,” these tests begin with the attacker having no privileged information about your company’s security infrastructure. They’re ideal for measuring outermost weaknesses and ways hackers get “into” your system.
- Internal pen-testing – Also called “white box,” these tests begin with the attacker in a privileged position to your security systems. They’re ideal for simulating insider threats or understanding what hackers will do once already inside (and how).
Either form is optimized for any individual asset or asset class, as in network pen-testing or firewall pen-testing. Many companies opt for hybrid, “grey box” style tests that use elements of both internal and external penetration. A robust offense empowers your defense.
Practice #5: Contingency Planning and Accountability
Finally, the last essential practice for infrastructure lifecycle management involves planning for and adequately responding to cybersecurity incidents as they happen. Even the best-protected systems will inevitably be targeted by attacks or fall victim to errors that compromise your assets. That’s why it’s critical to implement a robust, dedicated incident response program.
The most effective incident response solutions need to deliver six core functionalities:
- Identification of an incident and immediate notification to all relevant stakeholders
- Logging of the incident in inventory systems and indexing against threat intelligence
- Investigation and deep analysis of root causes and short- and long-term solutions
- Assignment of responsibilities and resources to personnel for recovery measures
- Resolution of the incident, including both seizure of attack and recovery of resources
- Customer satisfaction and business continuity, getting back to normal operations
As with all other practices highlighted above, incident response is most effective if integrated into a holistic cybersecurity system. These actions will extend the lifecycles of all your infrastructure.
The Benefits of Comprehensive Managed IT Services
As hinted at just above, the best way to keep your infrastructure’s lifecycles in check is to integrate all of your practices into one seamless solution. For smaller and medium-sized companies with modest IT budgets, this can often be a challenge. Enter external IT security services from a managed security service provider (MSSP).
By working with a third-party MSSP or cybersecurity partner, such as RSI Security, you can tailor all of your management and operations to your company’s exact needs and means. The team of experts can work with your internal staff to inventory and maintain assets while also empowering deep analytical processes that might be too much of a burden for your team alone.
Furthermore, managed IT comes in many shapes and forms. You can purchase individual services or suites thereof, up to and including top-level management via a virtual Chief Information and Security Officer (virtual CISO). Whatever you need, we have you covered.
Professional Infrastructure Lifecycle Management and Cybersecurity
Here at RSI Security, we are dedicated to helping companies of all types and sizes perfect their cyberdefenses. We know a vast and essential part of cyberdefense is optimizing infrastructure planning, design, and lifecycle management.
For help with the infrastructure lifecycle management best practices detailed above and all other elements of your overall cyberdefense framework, contact RSI Security today. Our team of experts’ decade-plus experience is sure to help.