Security used to be as simple as a lock and key: if you had a key, you had permission to open a given door and access the room behind it. In its early stages, company network security followed this real-world methodology, using a straightforward system where every employee was given the same key to access the same information.
Back then, employees and systems were on-site, and getting access to that key wasn’t easy for threat actors. But physical boundaries have since been extended, becoming more fluid as factors like increased cloud usage and demands for remote work capabilities rewrite the rules of engagement in enterprise security.
With these changes, hackers have uncovered methods for opening doors that protect stores of valuable information without being in physical proximity to those systems. Their primary target: user identities. In fact, 81% of all security attacks are aimed at stealing credentials so that they can be sold on the dark web to other bad actors looking to access other accounts.
So, if we know the issue, why is it so hard to prevent it? The reason identity hacking is so successful is because of that ‘one key, one door’ policy. In order to better protect their user data, companies need to implement modern identity governance practices that address security in a more comprehensive manner.
The new security battlefield
Most enterprises make sure that users only have access to the information and systems they need, but they do so using manual processes. As their workforces and systems increase in complexity and diversity, this system is becoming unmanageable.
Recent research shows that on average, 33% of internal users are inactive but haven’t had permissions removed. These could be employees who have permanently left, those on leave, or those whose job description—and thus the tools they use—has changed. Another 30% of companies leave sensitive folders open to every employee, with no identity access management applied. This not only places unnecessary additional demands on IT teams, but opens businesses up to the security risks that inevitably accompany human error.
Businesses need to look to identity access governance to protect themselves from evolving security threats and comply with industry regulations.
What is identity governance?
Identity governance provides enterprises with policy-based user identity management and access control. It supports their security and regulatory compliance efforts, enabling them to define, enforce, and review identity access management policies, map them to compliance requirements, and audit user access.
The primary features of identity governance include user administration, privileged identity management, identity intelligence, and role-based identity administration and analytics. Combined, these characteristics enable businesses to automate workflows, manage user permissions, stay compliant with data security regulations, and scale their organization.
Identity governance ensures compliance, and protects businesses from complexity
Modern employee lifecycles are more complex than ever before. It used to be that an employee would start in the mailroom, and slowly work their way up the company ladder to the top. Today, it’s more likely for an employee to change departments, leave and return, work as a contractor before coming on full-time, or transition from vendor to employee. With this massive network of permissions, it’s important to assign policies that are capable of automatically managing changes as user lifecycles evolve.
Implementing identity governance can be the best approach for protecting your organization and its employees by offering three three distinct areas of protection:
- Access discovery: Identity governance and administration begins with access discovery, which provides insight into user accounts and permissions (who needs what, and when), and reconciles user identity and other target resources the enterprise doesn’t have control over (what outside apps and services users are accessing). Armed with this knowledge, IT is better prepared to protect against identity theft and other attacks.
- User access: Enterprises can then provide users with rule-based and request-based access to cloud applications, preventing unauthorized users from accessing sensitive data. They can also extend legacy integrations to their on-premises and hosted applications, implementing a request approval process that tracks user access requests and approvals.
- Compliance reporting: Once this provisioning is in place, enterprises can produce compliance reports that provide a snapshot of which users have access to which information at any given time. These reports can also provide insights on user and application access and as well as password changes, which can indicate anomalies or threats in their systems.
As enterprise networks and workforces expand beyond the network edge, identity governance becomes crucial to protecting them from the latest security threats and complying with evolving regulations.