Every technological advance starts with an original idea, and in 2017 the co-founder of Axonius realized he had one.

Dean Sysman, now the CEO at Axonius, knew that most of his fellow cybersecurity experts were focusing primarily on stopping cyber threats and finding the culprits. But what was even harder than pinpointing threats was getting a count of the assets that could be compromised.

If only, Sysman reasoned, a new tool could collect, correlate, and keep up with the proliferation of desktops, laptops, mobile devices, cloud instances, and other devices making agency systems ever-more complicated. “That was the big idea,” said Tom Kennedy, vice president of Axonius Federal Systems.

Sysman and his colleagues ran with it and created something truly original. They coined a new category: cybersecurity asset management, along with a new product: a cybersecurity asset management platform.

Today, Axonius ranks on the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 as the third fastest-growing company in North America and the fastest-growing cybersecurity company. The firm has significant operations in the Federal space.

Last year, Gartner referred to the Axonius concept as cyber asset attack surface management (CAASM) and included the category in its Hype Cycle for Network Security 2021. This year, CAASM was named an emerging technology in the Gartner Hype Cycle for Security Operations 2022.

A Unique New Tool to Spot Assets and Fix Vulnerabilities

What separates CAASM from many of the tools aimed at IT and security professionals that frequently pop up in the marketplace, according to Gartner, is that it “enables organizations to see all assets (internal and external), primarily through API integrations with existing tools, query consolidated data, identify the scope of vulnerabilities and gaps in security controls, and remediate issues.”

Kennedy said in a recent interview with MeriTalk that Axonius is “excited about the Gartner coverage. It validates the big problem we’re trying to solve,” which he identified as “the lack of a comprehensive cyber asset inventory … We’re out there educating the government marketplace and growing our brand.”

Axonius Federal Systems’ clients include the Department of Homeland Security, for which the company creates adapters for various cybersecurity tools, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Department of Defense (DoD).

The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) also awarded the firm a prototype in cyber asset inventory management. DIU said the project is aimed at increasing “the comprehensiveness, speed, and accuracy of DoD inventory management on its network.”

Growing awareness of cyber asset attack surface management comes as Federal agencies work to implement the Biden administration’s May 2021 cybersecurity executive order and the subsequent zero trust strategy issued by the Office of Management and Budget. Federal officials said recently that while notable progress has been made, the cybersecurity effort still has a long way to go.

Agencies are also working on putting into effect the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s Binding Operational Directive 23-01 on Improving Asset Visibility and Vulnerability Detection on Federal Networks, while DoD recently released its first zero trust strategy.

Among the biggest challenges laid out by the overall zero trust strategy is a requirement for Federal agencies to develop a complete inventory of every device they operate or authorize for government use by the end of 2024 – a foundational need and starting point for zero trust architecture.

Many legacy approaches to asset management and visibility have focused on a subset of assets, resulting in widespread fragmentation of device data. In addition, Axonius has found that 10 to 20 percent of devices in Federal agencies are not properly managed, Kennedy said. These devices may not be registered with the agency network, or network access control is not recognizing them.

CAASM gives organizations a comprehensive asset inventory by integrating with hundreds of existing data sources to compile a comprehensive, normalized inventory of all assets – internal and external, cloud and on premises. Once that is obtained, queries can be created and executed to identify assets that deviate from security policies, security and management tool coverage, and approved configurations, as well as vulnerabilities affecting those assets. From there, organizations can trigger automated response actions.

Doug Graham, chief trust officer at Lionbridge, said the Axonius CAASM platform helps enable his company to stay ahead of threat actors because it gives security and IT teams a more accurate view of what is within their environment. “We rely on Axonius to give us that solid foundation that we can build our more advanced controls on top of,” he said.

Kennedy, of Axonius Federal Systems, said he hopes CAASM winds up having a profound impact on Federal cybersecurity practices. “I’d be really proud if CAASM became a foundational step for zero trust,” he said.

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