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Identity Access Management: How to Lower Risks to Your Business Data

Jeremy Agnew

Who has access to your sensitive business data? Odds are good someone who shouldn’t. Forrester finds that 80% of cybersecurity breaches involve access to privileged credentials. If too many people had access to the vaults of the Royal Canadian Mint, it wouldn’t be a surprise if a key card, followed by millions in gold and silver, went missing. That same scenario applies to data, though few businesses recognize how strong identity access management (IAM) counteracts some of the worst cybersecurity threats.

The Importance of Identity Access Management

In a nutshell, effective identity access management determines that only the right files and systems are accessed by the right people at any given time. When it’s working smoothly, an IAM system governs user permissions in a way that facilitates the ordinary flow of business while maintaining a vigilant gatekeeper mentality. Since businesses deal with a myriad of user identities and accounts accessing their IT systems daily, threats now emerge from an expanding number of fissures in their security.

For starters, there is no longer a narrow and controlled access point to sensitive data. Disruptive changes to business operations like wireless accessibility, cloud computing services, BYOD practices, and telecommuting advanced the ways employees work while punching holes in access governance practices. Hackers exploited that expanded accessibility, using vulnerabilities in less protected devices and platforms to bypass network security. Though the pros of these trends outweigh the cons (and options like secure cloud storage solutions minimize threats), data security management needs to be cognizant of the threat.

Additionally, there are just more accounts out in the IT ether than ever before. The web of different ones associated with user identities grew exponentially as the tech-as-a-service model exploded in prevalence. Once again, the more avenues of access, the more opportunities hackers have to compromise larger systems, making the art of dictating who accesses which resources all the more crucial.

The Common Threats Effective IAM Systems Prevent

Almost all roads cyberattacks can take result in data breaches. Identity and access related threats are no different, but by using a strong IAM strategy, businesses are able close routes that hackers could sneak down. The most common identity and access threats range widely but are handled like this:

Privilege creep – This occurs when users progressively gain more permissions than is necessary or safe. Very rarely does this happen the same way twice. Overinflated permissions can occur when a user account is cloned during setup from another more established user, when permanent instead of temporary access is granted to a system, or through other management oversights.

Prevention of privilege creep requires clear documentation and regular audits. The right identity access management tool allows for automated oversight of permissions based upon a business’ specific access criteria, fixing and restricting privilege creep in instances where access rights are too broad or indulgent.

Orphan accounts – Whether an organization is large or small, employee turnover tends to wreak some access havoc in an unmonitored system. Orphan accounts, inactive identities no longer connected to a current employee, provide a juicy target for cybercriminals to exploit.

The trick is finding and removing all user accounts created for a specific employee. Unfortunately, the process is like removing a deer tick – on the surface it may be extracted, but a few remaining barbs might remain hidden and lead to infection. Frequent audits are once again essential for these identity and access strategies, as they are essential to turning up issues with provisioning and lingering access.

Unnecessary super users – There are even some instances of access combinations that are outright toxic. Though these combos are functional and might appear safe on the surface, the universal privileges provided by certain overlapping permissions is calamitous in the hands of cybercriminals.

Proactive access management is crucial in these moments. If managers or directors move across departments, it’s important to verify that needless privileges don’t make the transfer with them. In some instances, it’s even better to grant temporary access to systems that would be volatile when compromised together than allow potential hackers a chance at system-wide omnipotence.

Staying Ahead of Cybersecurity Threats

Though tracking all of these potential identity and access threats manually would be tedious, plenty of tools exist on the market to automate their management. Awareness of IAM best practices are still crucial, as is remaining current with the full spectrum of cybersecurity threats.

Looking for guidance on how to mitigate looming cybersecurity threats? Download How to Fight the Biggest Cybersecurity Threats to Your Business and Win. You’ll learn world-class strategies to protect your business. 

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Identity Access Management: How to Lower Risks to Your Business Data

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