Four IAM Best Practices to Secure Customer Identity

4 IAM Best Practices

61% of 2021 breaches involved credentials. Almost every company has employees, users, and/or customers who enjoy access to proprietary information and critical data. And while this information may not be accessible via direct links, they may still inadvertently gain access to content they shouldn’t have. These same companies often struggle with managing customer identities to ensure access for each user that’s appropriate: the correct data for the right user at the appropriate time—nothing more or less. 

On average, every employee has access to more than 11 million files. Enterprises know that files can potentially link to other files, providing a backdoor to sensitive information. As enterprises continue to grow, scale, and expand, this becomes a tougher challenge for IT and information security professionals. Not to mention the struggles with identities for systems, devices, networks, work from home, and external customers. How can IT and InfoSec personnel use customer identity to implement solutions that reduce risk and minimise security risks to their organisations? Read on to learn best practices for securing customer identities through developing a strategy for access management.

1. Design your user lifecycle + workflow 

As enterprises continuously grow and expand, their processes and identities tend to become increasingly challenging to manage. To combat this, IT teams must map a clear user lifecycle and workflow via a proper access management strategy. After all, different departments within an organisation require different levels of access to existing documents and files. By fully understanding the needs of these different departments and organisations within the enterprise, an IT team can outline the needed workflow and access patterns. To that end, there are several tools, such as Miro or Zoom, that can be used to whiteboard lifecycle and workflow approaches. 

Any lifecycle or workflow map design should include considerable input and feedback from the affected team or customer. Invite these stakeholders to provide their requirements. This allows the IT team to truly understand the day-to-day needs of their stakeholders. Another good approach is to observe or “shadow” the user(s). This approach allows the IT team to identify specific areas of access potentially missed in general workflow meetings. 

2. Define your least-privileged user and administrative identity roles

After designing and mapping the user lifecycle, the next step is to define the user and administrative roles. Not every employee, customer, or user needs access to every drive, file, or network. Assigning access roles and rights early on simplifies the complexity of managing an expanding company and allows IT team members to focus on other security threats.

During the mapping process, understand who the admins are, versus the general users, identities, or customers. Implement least privilege across all roles. If roles and rights are structured properly, it’s easy to manage and scale access for specific identities and users— continuously. It’s also suggested that you test access thoroughly before putting the roles and rights into action. Gather a control group of users within a department to simulate the daily activity of accessing information and data. This allows an IT team to verify what works while avoiding employee productivity disruption. 

There are additional benefits to the use of roles. Once roles and rights are implemented, a company can utilise a cyber kill chain to restrict access, mitigate a breach, or tightly control the spread of any attacks or breaches. An InfoSec team can also assign the delegation of specific roles to allow control or limit the access of management and administrators. 

3. Utilise simple, out-of-the-box integrations

IT and data sprawl is a challenge for growing companies. Every day brings new identities, users, systems, devices, and networks. Managing integrations is difficult to scale with customisations to independent systems and code. A simple way to control access management is to use solutions that allow for out-of-the-box integrations and implementations that reduce complexity. 

If you already have an identity management platform, but partnering with another organisation, focus on utilising a system that integrates seamlessly. This allows for more popular protocols like OpenID Connect or SAML and supports LDAP or Microsoft Active Directory for SaaS integrations. 

As growth continues (whether in the form of partnership expansion or scaling a product with customer growth), focus on simplicity. Development teams can utilise solutions that have turnkey integrations to solve issues and enable easy functionality. 

4. Use a centralised view to simplify oversight 

Governance, oversight, and compliance of identities can be managed easily through a centralised view. A single view allows InfoSec departments to easily manage identities and access controls. This centralised view of users and identities also makes governance and compliance simple. Rules and alerts can be implemented internally to restrict access or notify InfoSec team members of potential violations. This can shorten the length of time for a potential breach or increase the priority for the InfoSec team to investigate the alert and mitigate access. 

One view of your company’s environment creates simplicity for identity and access management, enabling you to Implement solutions that scale, innovate, and allow for governance for users and customers. 

Bringing it all together

Securing customer identities throughout enterprises is no easy task. There is IT sprawl, new employees, newer customers, technology expansion, and files created daily. All these elements make the challenge of securing customer identities and access management increasingly difficult for IT teams. The best practices described above can be implemented for any sized organisation—from a new company to a restructuring IT organisation. 

To recap,

  • Design and map the user lifecycle to understand customers' access and usage. 
  • Define identities and their roles and rights that provide the least privilege
  • Integrate with out-of-the-box solutions that promote simplicity and an amazing user experience. 
  • Manage your environment through a centralised view of oversight and governance, allowing for quick response, easy management, and access compliance. 

Interested in digging deeper? Look here for more information on solutions for access management for customer identities.