Identity And Access Management
June 16, 2022
With the right identity and access management best practices being used internally, businesses can introduce another layer of cybersecurity that protects their people and their data from cybercriminals.
Read on to learn more about identity and access management, what goes into it, how it helps, and why it’s become a crucial part of a larger cybersecurity strategy.
Identity and access management (IAM) is the cybersecurity practice of managing how people are able to access your system by managing digital identities and their access to information and resources in a system.
From password management to privilege policies, IAM helps to restrict access to data to only those who absolutely need it to do their jobs using an array of tools, policies, standards, and training.
IAM is a critical part of cybersecurity for businesses because 61% of all breaches involve misused or stolen credentials. Having access controls in place can help limit access to anyone with ill intent who gets access to your system and mitigate the risks of a data breach which can cost businesses an average of $4.24 million.
Identity and access management introduces standards and policies to organizations to strengthen security measures like password creation, multi-factor authentication, and privilege management, as well as limiting the damage a cybercriminal can do if they gain access.
To stay secure, businesses should follow these identity and access management best practices:
Passwords are the most well-known authentication method and businesses need to ensure their employees are using strong ones. To do this, establish a password policy that outlines things like when people should change passwords and length and complexity standards. When properly enforced, this guarantees at least a certain level of security thanks to uniform complexity among all passwords.
Related: Passphrases Vs. Passwords
Additionally, you can choose to enforce additional layers of password security like multi-factor authentication and passwordless solutions (face scanning, fingerprint, physical keys, etc.).
Password management also extends to how users store their passwords and how they protect them against scammers and cybercriminals. First, passwords should always be stored using secure software that uses multi-factor authentication and, ideally, biometrics or physical keys.
Users also need to know how to spot social engineering attacks that attempt to get them to expose their login information. Phishing attacks are some of the most common cyberattacks in the world because bad actors know the value of obtaining privileged credentials. Frequent training is essential in preparing your workforce to protect themselves, their data, and your business from criminals online.
Automation can be a useful tool for identity and access management by creating workflows to remove the human element of security. Businesses can automate password changes, account creation, access provisioning and de-provisioning, and more. Using automation eliminates errors that come from manual tasks, streamlines these processes, and can even support a business’ compliance efforts.
Automation can also be used to record and audit access privileges regularly by producing a detailed log that can be easily used to identify who can access what, who still needs access to certain information, and whose access can be removed.
The principle of least privilege—restricting access and permissions to information and data to only those who need it to perform their daily duties—is one of the most common best practices for IAM. Businesses should define the minimum amount of access privileges each user should have in their role to perform their tasks.
This is especially important when it comes to who has the ability to administrative capabilities such as changing access privileges for users and making sure admins don’t have more control than they need.
Businesses who want additional layers of security can utilize both main types of access control: role-based and attribute-based.
Here’s a quick rundown of what each entails and how they help businesses decide on privilege levels in a secure way:
Role-Based: This form of access control restricts access based on an individual’s role in an organization. Similar to the principle of least privilege, role-based access control means limiting a user’s access privileges to just the data they need to perform their daily job tasks.
Attribute-Based: Attribute-based access control relies more on a series of unique attributions to define how much access privilege to grant to a user. These attributes include:
- User attributes—Information about the user (name, title, department, etc.)
- Object attributes—Information about the data that needs to be accessed and its sensitivity
- Action attributes—What is being done with the data and why it’s needed by the user
- Environmental attributes—Information about the data as related to its location and date of access
Last but not least, it’s critical that businesses frequently review user privileges to make sure all policies are being followed and users don’t have access to information they don’t need. As mentioned above, automation can be a big help in logging and reporting this information to make it easier to audit privileges organization-wide.
It’s important to do this frequently because of the amount of change that can happen to IAM privileges over time. New employees, employees leaving, third-party vendors, changing software, new tools, and changing roles can all institute necessary changes in access privileges for multiple people in an organization. Without consistent auditing, it’s easy to lose track of who needs what which can lead to data leaks from improper use of access.
Effective identity and access management policies protect everyone in a business by giving them the tools and guidance to stay secure while protecting a business’s most valuable data assets. With training, password management, access controls, and strong policy enforcement, your business can add a layer of needed security with IAM.
IAM is just one part of a layered cybersecurity strategy. Does your business have everything it needs to stay covered against modern cybersecurity threats? We've put together a free checklist to help you see where you stand and what you need to stay protected. Download it here.