5 Identity and Access Management Best Practices

With the annual costs of damage associated with cybercrime expected to reach $6 trillion by 2021, businesses need to focus on improving network security measures and controlling user access. Identity and access management (IAM) is a critical component of a successful protocol and requires the implementation of best practices to maintain the integrity of user and device identities. 

Centralize Your Approach

Visibility is a big challenge for growing businesses. As more users join a network, more devices become active and new tools are added to support diverse workflows, it becomes difficult to get a handle on who has access to what resources and at what privilege levels. Centralizing both identity management and sign-on procedures achieves the dual goals of greater visibility and smoother user experiences. 

Because identities must be defined when a user is onboarded into a network and managed throughout the user’s lifecycle, businesses must select a reliable centralized option with strong security. Active Directory is a common choice for managing all network identities in one place, but the possibility of using blockchain technology to create, verify and store unchanging identities in a protected neutral environment may become a reality in the near future. 

Pinpoint and Eliminate High-Risk Systems

Despite the wide availability of cloud-based frameworks and applications, many businesses are still clinging to legacy systems for which support has long since ceased. Unpatched systems can become sources of data leaks and make sensitive information readily available to hackers. 

Companies relying on these systems out of habit or in an attempt to avoid the hassle of upgrading need to take a step back and assess which needs these legacy tools are addressing and how they’re being used in workflows so that suitable replacements can be found. It may be possible to safely continue using systems for which support is still available, but seeking a fresh solution is still preferable because legacy tools often lack the options required for seamless integration into modern systems with diverse access requirements. 

Find the Best Software Solution

Every business needs an IAM solution tailored to the specialized needs of its industry in general and its onsite systems in particular. Threats, risk levels and compliance regulations differ according to the unique combination of devices, user access requirements and tools needed to integrate applications with incompatible authentication protocols. The retention of legacy systems adds another element of complexity with its own related concerns. 

Streamlining workflows and optimizing productivity without sacrificing security are top priorities in an IAM platform, along with scalability to accept the introduction of new systems, applications and devices. IT professionals require an administrative dashboard with analytics tools, straightforward reporting and a high level of visibility to ensure all endpoints can be monitored continuously. 

Crack Down on Orphaned Accounts

Active user accounts contain all the information related to a user’s identity and his or her movement within a network, including access privileges. When a user is promoted to another position or leaves the company, these accounts should be removed. However, with the increasing burden on IT professionals and the lack of visibility in most business networks, this often doesn’t happen. Improper deprovisioning of users leads to an accumulation of accounts with no associated users. 

Known as orphaned accounts, these sets of credentials and provisions are easy targets for hackers inside and outside the network. Logging into an orphaned account makes it possible to launch phishing attacks using apparently legitimate email addresses, make unauthorized changes to the system and steal sensitive data. Fifty-five percent of enterprises fail to revoke the permissions for privileged accounts, which creates an even greater security threat due to the higher levels of access allowed by these accounts. 

Implement Zero-Trust Security

In the complex environment of modern business networks, the best approach is to assume no one is trustworthy until proven otherwise. This “zero trust” model relies on continuous authentication methods in which user behaviors are monitored and risk levels assessed throughout the duration of each session. By taking a dynamic and sophisticated approach, zero trust equips a system to detect aberrant behaviors indicative of a breach. Instead of taking the average 197 days to discover an intrusion into a system, businesses can identify potential threats and launch a proactive response the moment behavioral discrepancies arise. This prevents hackers from gaining free reign once inside a system and can avert the serious consequences associated with extensive breaches. 

Developing a new IAM protocol or strengthening existing security measures is a necessity in an era where 230,000 new malware samples appear every day and ransomware attacks on businesses occur as frequently as one every 14 seconds. Routine security and access audits and regular system assessments reveal areas where security is lacking, and businesses must be ready to incorporate new solutions and build robust protocols based on IAM best practices.

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