Cybersecurity has become a top priority for everyone—each data breach only underscores the need to protect networks and systems from unauthorized and unwanted intrusion. If you’re not vigilant, the results can be catastrophic, ranging from loss of customer confidence to business closure.
The truth is that in our connected world, all networked devices and systems can be vulnerable. Organizations today are well aware of the critical need to secure their networks, and many have deployed the most cutting-edge software technologies to do just that. These measures have proven effective and have certainly made it harder for the bad guys to access networks and the sensitive data they contain. But they represent only part of the story.
When it comes to cybersecurity, there’s an equally important and often overlooked component that can go a long way toward ensuring networks and the critical data they contain are protected from threats and vulnerabilities. It’s called lifecycle management.
At first glance, managing the lifecycle of physical assets may seem to be completely unrelated to protecting digital assets, but nothing could be farther from the truth. The reality is that cybersecurity challenges have become a primary driver for lifecycle management, and vice versa.
When we talk about lifecycle management, we are talking about two types of lifetimes that are associated with each device. The longer of the two is functional lifetime, meaning how long a device will operate and function.
The second factor is a device’s economic lifecycle. As better capabilities become available, there eventually comes a time when it makes financial sense to adopt new, more efficient technology.
“The idea is that all devices have a functional lifetime—how long they will run and function—which is typically longer than their economic lifetime,” said Ryan Zatolokin, Business Development Manager, Senior Technologist for Axis Communications, Inc. “With the introduction of better capabilities, features and functions, there comes a time when you get to a place where older technologies simply don’t make economic sense.”
Proactive Maintenance Equals Secure Systems
In today’s ecosystem of connected and interdependent devices and solutions, proactive maintenance leads to a more stable and secure system, and responsible manufacturers constantly release firmware updates and security patches that address vulnerabilities in a consistent manner, while also fixing any bugs and other factors that affect performance over time.
Like any other software-based technology, security devices must be patched to prevent those with less-than-admirable intentions from exploiting known vulnerabilities. Network administrators must stay on top of these threats by keeping up to date with new developments and following cybersecurity best practices. In addition, the video management system (VMS), which controls the overall system also must be regularly updated and patched, along with the operating system on which it runs.
While it is essential to update software when new firmware is available, the unfortunate reality is that many organizations fail to do so, mainly because of the time and effort involved in updating each and every device on the network. A major stumbling block in this effort is that many organizations simply don’t know what technologies are deployed on their network.
Hope is Not a Plan: How to Secure an Enterprise Network
The first step in securing an enterprise network is to have a solid understanding and comprehensive inventory of the devices that are deployed on that network. This must include documentation about every device, as any overlooked device can provide an entry point for attackers.
In particular, older technologies and devices present tremendous risk to an organization in many ways, including on the cybersecurity front. As mentioned earlier, updates and patches are the best way to ensure cybersecurity, but many older technologies have little to no update capabilities and in fact may no longer be supported by the manufacturer. Unpatched technology can leave your network vulnerable to a cyberattack. Following lifecycle management practices —knowing where your risk areas are, and keeping current on those risks—allows you to keep your business more secure.
While all technologies, regardless of their function, will eventually expire, in many cases this can be predictable if you’re engaged in a structured lifecycle management program. Security is a critically important function, and a network camera outage could potentially have dire consequences. For example, the functional lifetime of an IP camera could be upwards of 10 to 15 years. During that time, security vulnerabilities will change rapidly, making it difficult for manufacturers to keep pace with the cybersecurity threat landscape.
Implementing, monitoring and managing product lifecycles allows organizations to better plan for introducing new technology in their environment. Lifecycle management allows organizations to keep pace with the constantly evolving threat landscape while ensuring they are utilizing the appropriate and most advanced technologies while minimizing security threats and vulnerabilities in the process.
A lifecycle management program allows you keep on top of what is critical in your environment and helps you avoid the negative costs associated with cyber breaches. This type of program allows organizations to identify devices that are nearing end of life, which will likely have no firmware updates released, making them susceptible to risk. Additionally, some of these technologies may be running on outdated operating systems that are incapable of being updated or secured. In either case, these devices must be replaced with newer solutions that are supported by the manufacturer.
“You can hope your devices run forever but hope is not a plan,” Zatolokin says. “A good lifecycle management program takes away the surprise or shock that comes from suddenly—and unexpectedly—needing to replace a major system component. Instead, you’re able to plan and budget for replacing a certain number or percentage of devices each year rather than facing a very large and very expensive replacement of an entire system or major component.”
Streamlining Lifecycle Management
Effective lifecycle management can be a daunting task for organizations and network administrators. Thankfully there are device management software solutions that provide automation that alleviate and in many cases eliminate this often significant burden.
We have technology that can implement critical lifecycle management policies and practices by automatically providing a full real-time inventory of all Axis devices (cameras, encoders, access control and audio devices) connected to the network to deliver an easy, cost-effective, time-saving and secure way to manage all major installation, deployment, configuration, security and maintenance tasks.
How does it work?
First, Axis devices are automatically discovered on the network. Then these devices are imported into a program to display information about the device, including model, IP address, MAC address, current firmware loaded on the device and certificate status. This provides integrators, installers and system administrators with a highly detailed look at Axis devices, allowing them to actively engage in a variety of maintenance tasks for their customers, including user management, password changes, firmware updates and configuration changes, in an organized and efficient manner, which is a critical part of lifecycle management and cybersecurity best practices.
More so, being able to push out changes or firmware updates, rather than individually, to hundreds of devices simultaneously is crucial. This provides users with a highly efficient way to manage a large numbers of devices. A main cybersecurity component of our technology is the ability for users to easily manage the product lifecycle and set up other users and passwords. Creating security policies and applying it across multiple devices to maintain certificate and upgrade firmware has never been so easy.
For example, take managing and deploying HTTPS certificates, and uploading IEEE 802.1x certificates to multiple Axis devices. When users are notified of expiring certificates, our technology can push new certificates to Axis devices. It also manages firmware upgrades of multiple devices and automatically verifies that they are running the latest—and most secure—version.
“Users can push out security settings and configurations to all Axis devices on the network at once,” Zatolokin said. “In the past, this was time-consuming, but today, the process is not only more efficient but it ensures devices comply with the cybersecurity configurations the organization needs.”
This function can save device managers a lot of time and stress when it comes to cybersecurity risk while helping them address new vulnerabilities in a timely manner.
“When a vulnerability is announced, people panic and try to figure out whether the devices they have on their network may be at risk,” Zatolokin says. “Our technology becomes an integral component of a proactive plan that eliminates that sense of panic. Organizations know in real time where they stand from a cybersecurity perspective and what steps need to be taken. This ensures that vulnerabilities are addressed in a timely and consistent manner, which leads to a more stable and secure system.”
In addition to ensuring cybersecurity, device managers can also obtain a wide breadth of information that is helpful for planning their lifecycle management and device replacement schedule. IT departments prefer to never swap out all devices at once, but rather plan for periodic replacement. Predictable.
Cybersecurity is everyone’s concern. For protecting networks, state-of-the-art software solutions are a good starting point, but to be most effective, these must be augmented by strong lifecycle management practices. We build solutions in a way that can ensure integrators, installers and system administrators have all the necessary tools to protect businesses like yourself. They can automate lifecycle management processes to provide organizations with the real-time insight required to ensure that devices are up to date with the latest patches and updates provided by manufacturers while also making them better prepared to deal with inevitable device failures.