Like a lot of organizations today, your company is facing increasing demands to support and protect countless systems, applications, and platforms that contain sensitive business data by controlling access to this critical information. On top of this, you are pressured to meet ongoing regulatory compliance and industry mandates.
Nearly every industry today has specific regulatory requirements and standards that organizations in those sectors must comply with. Adhering to cybersecurity mandates like HIPAA, SOX, PCI-DSS, GDPR, and countless others is challenging. But proving your organization is compliant can be even more difficult.
Demonstrating full compliance means that companies must prepare and produce compliance reports that are submitted to independent, third-party auditors or regulators. And adherence to these laws, rules, and standards requires organizations to disclose their practices and ensure proper controls are put in place regarding the accuracy and legality of their reporting. Even if your organization is not legally governed by compliance mandates and regulations, adherence to these regulations have quickly become baseline best practices in the management of compliance-related internal and third-party audits.
As industry standards and government regulations grow more complex, satisfying compliance and auditor requirements alone may not be enough to stay ahead of increasing identity-related access risks. Without proper identity governance and administration (IGA) and privileged access management (PAM) programs, it is incredibly difficult to manage access rights across systems, and to ensure that least privilege access is effectively enforced across your organization. Let’s take a look at five of the top identity-related access risks you should address before an audit reveals them in your business and find out how identity governance and privileged access management can help you identify where your greatest access risks exist.
Key Access Risks to Keep a Lookout For
Understanding where the greatest identity-related access risks can hide in your business is the first step in tackling them. According to the 2021 Identity and Access Management Report, 77 percent of organizations indicate that providing too much access to users is a known issue within their business. While not an exhaustive list, here are five top access challenges to be aware of that can be lurking in your organization:
#1: Over-Provisioned or Under-Provisioned Users: Whether it happens from a sudden increase in granting access across the business, like in the case of people working remotely, or from mergers and acquisitions, or it happens over time as users are granted increasing levels of access during their tenure, known as access creep, over-provisioning occurs when more access is provided to users than required for them to do their jobs.
Conversely, under-provisioning happens when users do not receive enough access, which can lead to employee frustration and inefficiencies, especially for roles that require greater levels of access. Under-provisioning can also introduce an unexpected security risk where users without the appropriate level of access may be forced to borrow that access with shared passwords and accounts, creating an entirely new threat and lack of accountability.
#2: Privileged Accounts: These are elevated accounts that have access to valuable data and can execute any application, collaboration tool, or transaction, typically with inadequate or no tracking. Often, hundreds of privileged accounts can be found in organizations and they can be used to do virtually anything, leaving them with greater potential of exploit or abuse.
#3: Orphaned Accounts: These are accounts not associated with a valid business owner, which lack proper oversight. Orphaned accounts are often the result of people leaving an organization and their accounts not being removed in a timely fashion. This means no one in the business is responsible for the account and it is overlooked when access reviews are performed.
#4: Abandoned Accounts: These are accounts that belong to various users, including employees, contractors, or even contingent workers, but have been inactive for a long period of time. Abandoned accounts magnify risk and likely indicate that a process is lacking or broken where accounts would normally be disabled when no longer needed. Frequently, these accounts are the result of internal transfers or job changes, where access may no longer be needed, but is not removed. They also can be the result of over-provisioning or copying access from one employee to another.
#5: Nested or Hidden Access: Many organizations look primarily at access that is directly assigned to users. But nested access, or access relationships stacked and hidden underneath the top tier of access, is often overlooked and not well understood. This happens because assigning one entitlement with nested access can actually create more access than anticipated and open the organization to more risk. Simply, you cannot manage what you cannot measure—and you cannot measure what you cannot see.
When organizations fail to identify these key access risks, they may encounter negative impacts across the business. Again, according to the 2021 IAM report, some of the top negative impacts that organizations have experienced from unauthorized access to sensitive data, applications, or systems in the past 12 months include disrupted business activities (22 percent), system downtime (21 percent), reduced employee productivity (20 percent), and deployment of IT resources to triage and remediate the issue (19 percent), among others. With so many different sources of identity-related access risks, let’s see how identity governance and privileged access management can reveal these challenges before an audit does.
The Key Role of Identity Governance and Privileged Access Management in Reducing Access Risks
Organizations today depend on IGA and PAM to not only demonstrate their compliance with governmental regulations and industry mandates, but to ensure they are enforcing least privilege access and addressing the types of access risks just described. Identity governance helps prevent disclosure of personal and private information, enables organizations to attest to compliance with relevant regulations and standards, and more easily respond to audit demands.
But perhaps most important, with the right identity governance and access management tools, you can determine on a regular basis if any inappropriate access exists in your business and mitigate those risks before they result in negative impacts from unauthorized access. Core Security Identity Governance and Administration solutions help ensure your organization has increased visibility into the identities and access privileges of users, so you can intelligently and consistently manage who has access to valuable data and systems.
Privileged access management is another essential security control that enables organizations to simplify how they define, monitor, and manage privileged access across their IT systems, applications, and infrastructure. Only a few PAM solutions, like Core Privileged Access Manager (BoKS), centralize management of administrator profiles and restrict native privileged commands from being executed by unauthorized users. By offering granular control of privileged account delegation, you can enforce which commands can be executed by role—eliminating password sharing and ensuring least privilege access is better enforced by giving users only the access they need.