Working with asset groups

Asset groups provide different ways for members of your organization to grant access to, view, scan, and report on asset information. They are critical in allowing for targeted reporting of assets with similar characteristics and can also be used as the scope of scanning in Sites. Asset groups allow you to create logical groupings that you can configure to dynamically incorporate new assets that meet specific criteria. You can define an asset group within a site in order to scan based on these groupings.

Using asset groups to your advantage

The following use case illustrates how asset groups can spin off organically from sites. A bank purchases Nexpose with a fixed-number IP address license. The network topology includes one head office and 15 branches, all with similar cookie-cutter IP address schemes. The IP addresses in the first branch are all 10.1.1.x the addresses in the second branch are 10.1.2.x and so on. For each branch, whatever integer equals .x is a certain type of asset. For example .5 is always a server.

The security team scans each site and then chunks the information in various ways by creating reports for specific asset groups. It creates one set of asset groups based on locations so that branch managers can view vulnerability trends and high-level data. The team creates another set of asset groups based on that last integer in the IP address. The users in charge of remediating server vulnerabilities will only see .5 assets. If the .x integer is subject to more granular divisions, the security team can create more finally specialized asset groups. For example .51 may correspond to file servers, and .52 may correspond to database servers.

Another approach to creating asset groups is categorizing them according to membership. For example, you can have an Executive asset group for senior company officers who see high-level business-sensitive reports about all the assets within your enterprise. You can have more technical asset groups for different members of your security team, who are responsible for remediating vulnerabilities on specific types of assets, such as databases, workstations, or Web servers.

The page for an asset group displays charts so you can track your risk or number of vulnerabilities in relation to the assets in that group.

The Assets by Risk and Vulnerabilities chart to the right of the Asset Risk and Vulnerabilities Over Time line graph appears as a scatter chart, unless you have 7,000 assets or more in the asset group. In that case, it appears as a bubble chart, and you can click on a bubble to see a scatter chart of a specific group of assets.

On the scatter chart, each dot represents an asset. Hover over the dot to see information about the asset. Click it to go to the page for that asset.

Comparing dynamic and static asset groups

One way to think of an asset group is as a snapshot of your environment.

This snapshot provides important information about your assets and the security issues affecting them:

  • Their network location
  • The operating systems running on them
  • The number of vulnerabilities discovered on them
  • Whether exploits exist for any of the vulnerabilities
  • Their risk scores

With Nexpose, you can create two different kinds of snapshots. The dynamic asset group is a snapshot that potentially changes with every scan and the static asset group is an unchanging snapshot. Each type of asset group can be useful depending on your needs.

Using dynamic asset groups

A dynamic asset group contains scanned assets that meet a specific set of search criteria. You define these criteria with asset search filters, such as IP address range or hosted operating systems. The list of assets in a dynamic group is subject to change with every scan. In this regard, a dynamic asset group differs from a static asset group. See How are sites different from asset groups? for more information. Assets that no longer meet the group’s Asset Filter criteria after a scan will be removed from the list. Newly discovered assets that meet the criteria will be added to the list.

Note that the list does not change immediately, but after the application completes a scan and integrates the new asset information in the database.

An ever-evolving snapshot of your environment, a dynamic asset group allows you to track changes to your live asset inventory and security posture at a quick glance, and to create reports based on the most current data. For example, you can create a dynamic asset group of assets with a vulnerability that was included in a Patch Tuesday bulletin. Then, after applying the patch for the vulnerability, you can scan the dynamic asset group to determine if any assets still have this vulnerability. If the patch application was successful, the group theoretically should not include any assets.

You can create dynamic asset groups using the filtered asset search. See Performing filtered asset searches.

Some examples of common Dynamic Asset Group criteria filters used for grouping assets together are:

  • Operating System (ie Servers, Workstations, Network Devices)
  • Software
  • Services

You grant user access to dynamic asset groups through the User Configuration panel.

A user with access to a dynamic asset group will have access to newly discovered assets that meet group criteria regardless of whether or not those assets belong to a site to which the user does not have access. For example, you have created a dynamic asset group of Windows XP workstations. You grant two users, Joe and Beth, access to this dynamic asset group. You scan a site to which Beth has access and Joe does not. The scan discovers 50 new Windows XP workstations. Joe and Beth will both be able to see the 50 new Windows XP workstations in the dynamic asset group list and include them in reports, even though Joe does not have access to the site that contains these same assets. When managing user access to dynamic asset groups, you need to assess how these groups will affect site permissions. To ensure that a dynamic asset group does not include any assets from a given site, use the site filter. See Locating assets by sites.

Dynamic Asset Groups do not gather retroactive or historical data. In order to report on historical data at the asset level, add assets into the report scope as a list of assets (i.e. using Static Asset Group).

Using static asset groups

A static asset group contains assets that meet a set of criteria that you define according to your organization’s needs. Unlike with a dynamic asset group, the list of assets in a static group does not change unless you alter it manually.

Static asset groups provide useful time-frozen views of your environment that you can use for reference or comparison. For example, you may find it useful to create a static asset group of Windows servers and create a report to capture all of their vulnerabilities. Then, after applying patches and running a scan for patch verification, you can create a baseline report to compare vulnerabilities on those same assets before and after the scan.

You can create static asset groups through any of three options:

Configuring a static asset group by manually selecting assets

Only Global Administrators can create asset groups.

Manually selecting assets is one of three ways to create a static asset group. This manual method is ideal for environments that have small numbers of assets. For an approach that is ideal for large numbers of assets, see Creating a dynamic or static asset group from asset searches.

Start a static asset group configuration

  1. Click the Assets icon to go to the Assets page, and then click view next to Groups.
  2. Click New Static Asset Group to create a new static asset group.
  3. Click Edit to change any group listed with a static asset group icon. The Asset Group Configuration panel appears.

You can only create an asset group after running an initial scan of assets that you wish to include in that group.

  1. Click New Static Asset Group.
  1. Type a group name and description in the appropriate fields.
  2. If you want to, add business context tags to the group. Any tag you add to a group will apply to all of the member assets. For more information and instructions, see Applying RealContext with tags.

Adding assets to the static asset group

  1. Go to the Assets > Asset Group Configuration panel.
  2. Use any of these filters to find assets that meet certain criteria, then click Display matching assets to run the search. For example, you can select all of the assets within an IP address range that run on a particular operating system.
  1. Select the assets you wish to add to the asset group. To include all assets, select the check box in the header row.
  2. Click Save.
    The assets appear on the Assets page.
    When you use this asset selection feature to create a new asset group, you will not see any assets displayed. When you use this asset selection feature to edit an existing report, you will see the list of assets that you selected when you created, or most recently edited, the report.
  3. Click Save to save the new asset group information.

You can repeat the asset search to include multiple sets of search results in an asset group. You will need to save a set of results before proceeding to the next results. If you do not save a set of selected search results, the next search will clear that set.

Bulk Add Assets to a Static Asset group

To bulk add assets to a static asset group you must first build a tag and then create an asset group with the criteria of having that tag.

  1. In Nexpose, navigate to the assets module.
  2. Select Tagged Asset which is located on the rightmost side of the screen.
  3. Click Add Tags.
  4. Enter a descriptive name for the tag.
  5. Confirm the name and save the tag by clicking Add.
  6. Navigate to the details of the tag you just created by clicking on the tag name.
  7. Click add assets from file. Import a file of IP addresses, one per line.

You can change the contents of a static asset group by appending or overwriting assets already included within the definition of a tag. After assets are included within a tag, create an asset group with the criteria of being labeled with that tag. This will effectively allow you to change the contents of a static asset group by altering the asset scope of the tag you created. To build an asset group, refer to Creating a dynamic or static asset group from asset searches and choose the User Added Custom Tag option.

You can create a new dynamic or static group by copying an existing one. This method is useful when you want to create an asset group that is similar to an existing one, but with some differences.

Copy an asset group

  1. From the Home page, in the Asset Groups listing, select the Copy icon for the asset group you want to copy.
  1. The asset group configuration page appears. Make the changes to the settings and rename the asset group appropriately.

By default, Copy will be appended to the original name. Additional copies of the original group will have a number appended (for example, Copy 2 and so on).

  1. Click Save. The new asset group will not be created until you save.

Tags Vs Asset Groups

Tags can help to accomplish some of the more complex asset grouping needs you have by allowing for the combination of AND/OR criteria filters. Below is a table that describes the situations when it is best to use Tags and Asset groups.

SituationAsset GroupsTags
Assign permission to assets for usersNoNo
Part of site scopesYesNo
Adjust risk scores of assetsNoYes
Asset filteringNoYes

Adding a large number of Asset Groups or Tags may impact performance.

While creating asset groups or assigning tags does provide better segmentation for reports and scans there is some performance impact when adding a large number of either. Risk is calculated on asset groups and tags, therefore if an asset is a member of many asset groups or has a large number of tags, they all must be updated when the asset changes its risk.