CMDB stands for Configuration Management Database. Roughly put, it’s a database used to store and manage information about the configuration and relationships of the components within an IT infrastructure. This typically includes information about your hardware and software assets under your watch and their dependencies, configurations, and relationships with other components.
But it’s not a product per se. It’s actually the gathering of information coming from different products, reflecting a broad stragegy and the evolution of an organization. It comes before the ITSM
The primary purpose of a CMDB is to provide a comprehensive and up-to-date view of your organization’s IT infrastructure. It allows organizations to track and manage the configuration of their assets and ensure that they are correctly configured and maintained all along their lifecycle to help organizations improve the availability, performance, and security of their IT systems and, ultimately, reduce the risk of outages or other disruptions.
A CMDB can also be used to support other IT processes, such as change management, incident management, and problem management. It can provide a centralized repository of information that can be used to support these processes and help organizations respond to incidents and resolve problems more effectively.
So the CMDB is an important piece of your IT infrastructure and one of the core elements of your cybersecurity posture. Some professionals are indeed talking about a Cybersecurity Asset Management stragegy to highlight the fact that, even though CMDB is traditionnally considered as being an IT concept, the risks it covers makes it incredibly important for cybersecurity as well.
It helps improve your systems’ availability, performance, and security and reduces the risk of outages and other disruptions. In other words, it helps protect your CIA triad. However, manually managing it can be pretty intensive in terms of time and resources, besides being prone to errors as the IT infrastructure can change fast, especially in the cloud. This is why automation is increasingly sought after to help in its management.
What are the risks of manual CMDBs?
A CMDB will typically try to fulfill three broad challenges: properly documenting entries, maintaining configuration throughout the assets’ lifecycles, and making these sets of information actionable for different purposes. An improper CMDB can have impacts on these goals and, potentially induce risks in IT but also compliance and security as the database can be deprecated, non exhaustive or not actionable.
As organizations become increasingly digitized, the number and variety of assets is too and the need to create CMDBs is growing making the task of keeping track of all assets under watch becomes more challenging. Doing it so manually can generate several risks that are, as said above, implying consequences across the whole organization:
Unauthorized access to sensitive data: If an asset is not correctly configured to protect against unauthorized access, it could put sensitive data at risk of being accessed or stolen by unauthorized individuals. This could result in a data breach – loss or theft of sensitive information such as financial data, PII, or trade secrets – which could have severe consequences for the organization as a whole like financial losses, legal fines, damages to reputation to name a few.
Botnet compromise: unsecure or factory-new configurations can put your assets and your organization at risk of being compromised in a network of compromised assets. Botnets don’t stop at computers, with the spread of IoT, the number of targets to be enrolled in a botnet has exploded. Worse, IoT typically comes with unsecure configurations that, if not changed by the owner, can be easily accessed and be under control of a masterbot. This could put the organization at risk of being used to participate in malicious activities, potentially leading to legal or reputational consequences.
Vulnerability management loopholes: A CMDB can be used to track and manage the vulnerabilities in an organization’s IT infrastructure as it stores their configurations. It thus can provide information about the potential vulnerabilities following the discovery of new ones and the assets that could be affected by them. This can help organizations prioritize their efforts to address vulnerabilities and reduce their cybersecurity risks.
Compatibility issues: Assets that are not properly configured may not be compatible with the rest of the organization’s IT infrastructure, which could lead to issues with connectivity, performance, or functionality.
Compliance risks: Protecting the data of your organization, your customers or your employees is a legal requirements. Failing to comply with these requirements put you at risk of legal fines and reputational damages. Assets unproperly configured can put you at risk as they can allow unauthorized access through unsecure configurations or assets left in public access.
Fractioned incident response: An uptodate CMDB can provide valuable information that can be used to support incident response operations. It can provide detailed information about the components of the IT infrastructure, including their configurations and relationships with other components to provide precious information about the possible extent of an incident or help to better quarantine the damage. This information can help organizations understand the impact of an incident and develop an effective response plan.
Increased maintenance costs: Incorrectly configured assets may require frequent maintenance and repairs, increasing the organization’s IT costs.
Increased downtime: If an asset is not configured correctly, it may be prone to failures or outages, resulting in costly downtime for the organization.
Lack of threat intelligence propagation: A CMDB can be used to integrate with threat intelligence sources to automatically update the information in the CMDB with the latest information about potential threats and vulnerabilities. As the threats grow in variety and compelxity, continuously updating the threat intelligence bases becomes tickier and can produce loopholes where newest IOCs aren’t ingested fast enough to prevent attacks that could be deciphered using them.
Unregular asset management: A CMDB can be used to manage and track the hardware and software assets in an organization’s IT infrastructure to ensure that their assets are properly configured and maintained from the get-go and throughout their lifecycle. However, the digitization of the assets and the advent of IoTs dramatically increase the population of assets under watch in terms of quantity and diversity which in turn increase the difficulty of keeping a clear management practice.
Benefits of improving your CMDB through automation
We see that there are lots of use cases advocating for an adequately configured CMDB.
Automation platforms and CMDB technologies can provide a comprehensive solution for managing and protecting an organization’s IT infrastructure. The platform can integrate with CMDBs to provide a more complete and up-to-date view of the IT infrastructure by orchestrating the different tools in use, automating the configuration of assets during their lifecycle, helping to monitor the potential extent of newly found vulnerabilities in your network or continuously check for compliance violations that could put you at risk on the judicial plan, and overall to support a range of IT and cybersecurity operations.
For example, an automation platform can use information made actionable by the CMDB to automate and streamline incident response operations. It can use the information in the CMDB to understand an incident’s impact and develop an appropriate response plan. The platform can then automatically execute the response plan predetermined in a playbook, using the information in the CMDB to identify the affected assets and take appropriate action.
Additionally, an automation platform can dynamically manage and maintain the information in the CMDB. It can automate the process of updating the CMDB with information from other systems and validate the accuracy of the information in the CMDB. This can help ensure that the CMDB is always up-to-date and accurate and can support a range of IT and cybersecurity operations.
To summarize, we can list many benefits of using automation with a CMDB. Some of them include the following:
Improved efficiency: Automation can help organizations improve the efficiency of their IT operations by automating repetitive tasks and processes. This can reduce the time and effort required to manage and maintain the IT infrastructure, freeing IT staff to focus on more strategic tasks.
Incident response: A CMDB can also help to improve the organization’s incident response capabilities by providing a single source of truth about the organization’s IT assets and current state. This can help IT teams to more quickly identify and address any issues that may arise, reducing the risk of downtime or other disruptions.
Increased visibility: Automation can provide greater visibility into the IT infrastructure and the relationships between its components. Automated processes can be used to automatically discover and map the relationships between components in the IT infrastructure, providing a more complete and up-to-date view of the infrastructure. This can help organizations understand the dependencies and impacts of changes to the infrastructure, and it can improve the effectiveness of IT operations.
Reduction of attack surface: having an adequately configured Configuration Management Database (CMDB) can help to reduce an organization’s attack surface by providing a comprehensive and accurate view of the organization’s IT assets and their dependencies. This can help IT teams identify and address potential vulnerabilities and misconfigurations that attackers could exploit. Fewer loopholes are left behind.
Take the risks of having assets compromised in botnets for instance. To reduce this risk, it is essential for organizations to properly configure their assets and ensure that they are protected against malware and other security threats. This can typically be done through the automation of the enrollment of new assets in your network and ultimately to prevent your systems from being recruited into a botnet and used for nefarious purposes.
Overall, automation can provide many benefits when used with a CMDB. It can help organizations improve their IT operations’ efficiency, accuracy, and visibility and support various IT processes, such as change management, incident management, and problem management.