By Volker Sommer, Area VP DACH at SailPoint
Volker Sommer, Area VP DACH at SailPoint
In the world of technology, it is exciting to look into the future and imagine potential new developments. However, it can sometimes be exciting to think about how things would change if certain technologies did not exist.
One example is identity security: without it, managing user lifecycles efficiently would be challenging, complying with ever-changing regulations and standards would be utopian, and protecting an organization from escalating risks would be nearly impossible. Automation and scalability? No sign.
And what would life be like without access management? If you had to remember every single password for every single application you use for your daily work, that would be a productivity killer.
Fortunately, identity security is now considered a cornerstone of IT security in the modern workplace. When an employee starts a new job, they don’t have to wait for the IT department to deploy one application at a time. Instead, he gets instant access to a number of resources relevant to his field of activity. For example, if he changes the department within the company, the access rights are automatically adjusted. On the other hand, if he leaves the company, access to the resources is immediately denied. By immediately withdrawing the rights, the IT department is able to restrict access to authorized employees and thus increase security.
Access management also has its advantages: users no longer have to keep track of a large number of passwords, as there is no need to enter them manually. This minimizes the error rate, so that the IT department has to process fewer help desk requests.
Prevent risks before they arise
One thing is clear: to protect valuable corporate data and combat ransomware, organizations need a holistic strategy with multiple layers of defense. Identity security and access management offer a high level of security individually – when used together, they significantly increase the resilience of companies.
The bottom line is that organizations need an identity platform that gives them the tools to not only maximize efficiency, but also ensure compliance and network security. It is also important to ensure that users have access to the applications they need for their area of responsibility. At the same time, it is important to check whether the granting of the respective access rights is appropriate and to what extent a user exploits his rights.
The devil is in the details. How exactly do the individual applications authenticate the users to ensure that they are who they claim to be? This is where access management comes into play. Each time a user switches to a different application, it is necessary to check whether that user is authorized to access the respective application so that the authentication level can be adjusted. Such a solution is invisible to the user and works completely in the background. Considering that, according to the Thales Data Threat Report 2021, 27 percent of organizations use more than 50 SaaS applications, simplifying authentication for these applications is critical.
If companies benefit from both identity security and access management, a number of advantages come into play:
- Improved user experience with single sign-on (SSO) and passwordless authentication options
- A lower burden on the IT department, as password problems are a thing of the past
- Configure policy-based access controls, deploy employee self-service tools, and offer multi-factor authentication (MFA) in the digital ecosystem in minutes
- Lower operating costs as a result of automating labor-intensive lifecycle management processes and lower total cost of ownership (TCO) thanks to cloud-based identity and access management (IAM) and Identity Governance & Administration (IGA)
- Thanks to improved compliance and audit performance, audit and compliance teams can provide positive reports documenting how the company has met all security and privacy requirements.
- Zero trust security enforcement can be demonstrated with detailed insight into the logs of each access attempt (failed/successful).
Seven steps to greater security
When developing an identity security and access management strategy, organizations should consider a few factors:
1. The goal firmly in mind
In many cases, the trigger for finding a suitable solution is a bottleneck in the IT department, which is overloaded by a high number of help desk inquiries, for example, or has encountered problems with compliance audits or user permissions. Then the first step in developing a suitable strategy is to define goals: should time and cost savings be achieved or is it more about restructuring the business processes? New technologies may also be introduced that increase complexity and thus pose a threat to security.
2. Eliminate high-risk systems
Protecting local data systems from cyber threats ties up many resources. With automated updates, encryption, and secure access, cloud service providers offer numerous security measures that companies cannot maintain with their onsite resources.
3. Routine verification and deletion of inactive accounts
If employees change or leave the organization, their accounts must be properly removed from the network. If these inactive accounts remain undetected without an appropriate identity management system, hackers could exploit this vulnerability and collect login data almost unnoticed to infiltrate the company. Therefore, it is important to take appropriate measures for onboarding and offboarding.
4. Automated onboarding and offboarding
If the IT department needs to manually check which permissions to assign when onboarding new employees, suppliers or partners, this process can be extremely complicated for large companies and lead to a high error rate. An identity and access management solution is recommended here, with the help of which onboarding and offboarding can be automated quickly and easily.
5. Developing a zero trust approach
Zero Trust means that users and applications inside and outside the network should not be trusted until their identity has been verified. Once verified, the user will continue to be subject to the security measures until he leaves the network. Because more and more people work outside of corporate networks, use different devices and applications, and use both on-premise and SaaS applications, companies should act on this principle.
6. Multi-factor authentication
Poor password hygiene is one of the main reasons for hacker attacks. By implementing an access management tool with multi-level authentication, organizations create an additional layer of security when logging in to applications and devices.
7. Centralize the system
As the company grows, it is important to maintain a 360-degree view of identity security. One of the best practices for identity management is to create a centralized visibility system to get an overview of who in the organization has access to what. Therefore, it is advisable to select an identity management solution that provides a centralized view of all user identities.