On a Friday afternoon before a long holiday weekend, a company’s security operations center receives a potentially serious alert: It appears that a domain controller has been tampered with. After examining event logs and overlaying network traffic, a SOC analyst confirms that a suspicious system did in fact connect to the controller, extracted credentials, and performed other actions.
Worried this could be a hacker, the SOC team spends hours doing network analysis. Eventually they determine it’s a false alarm: An administrator had logged into the network to check his email with his personal laptop, whose use the company had authorized a month before.
Why did it take the SOC team so long to solve this mystery? They lacked a comprehensive IT asset inventory that would have allowed them to either quickly find that laptop on a list of devices owned by employees and approved for work use, or else determine it was a rogue device.
This hypothetical incident shows the importance of a continuously updated IT asset inventory, which would have slashed the SOC’s investigation time, and made a big difference if instead there had been an attack, according to security experts from SANS Institute and from Qualys.