Identity access management is one of the pillars of keeping data safe in the cloud. Read on to learn more about it in this comprehensive guide.
The way companies conduct business is changing. Storing data in the cloud is becoming the norm. Cloud-based platforms are convenient to use and come with plenty of storage, but they can also be vulnerable to cyberattacks. One way hackers are gaining access to data is through the cloud. The platform can also make it difficult for companies to manage access to the network.
Cloud computing is a tool that businesses will continue to use, even with the inherent risks. Remote employees and external devices connected to the company’s network are the “new normal” and for some businesses, external employees are a vital part of their operations.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to keep data safe in the cloud so a business can operate smoothly and continue to grow. You’ll also find helpful tips on identity and access management in cloud computing.
What is Identity Access Management
Identity access management (IAM) is defined as managing who can view protected data. Information that is classified as “private or protected” applies to everything from personal healthcare data to details about credit and debit cardholders. All information must be protected from cybersecurity breaches, which includes unauthorized access.
Managing who has access to protected data is paramount for good cybersecurity practices, even if the information is stored in the cloud. There are guidelines currently in place that are designed to help with identity management in cloud computing that include:
- A guide to the personal information the systems uses to identify authorized users
- Tools for adding/deleting authorized users
- Regulates user access by enforcing security policies
- Auditing and submitting user access reports
These tools help companies manage who has access to personal protected information, but it’s not enough to protect data from unauthorized users.
Identity and Access Management in Cloud Computing Best Practices
Even though cloud platforms often come with basic guidelines that are designed to prevent unauthorized access to data, these controls are not enough to protect consumers’ personal information. There are some extra steps companies can take to keep data secure and still enjoy the convenience of cloud-based storage.
Treat Identity Verification is an Additional Security Measure
Firewalls are no longer enough of a security threshold in cloud computing. There are too many access points for a firewall to be effective. Since the cloud can be accessed almost anywhere from a portable device, businesses need to focus on verifying employee identification.
IAM protocols need to include layers of identification verification. This means employees will need to provide more than a password before they’re allowed access to protected data. This is also one of the guidelines companies are expected to follow to meet some industry compliance standards.
Require Strong Employee Passwords
Vendor supplied passwords have always been considered “weak”. These passwords should always be changed before access to protected data is authorized. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has guidelines for creating strong passwords.
- Should contain at least 8 characters
- Special characters should be used
- Repetitive and sequential characters should be restricted
- Commonly used words – birth dates, family names, etc. – should not be used as passwords
- All passwords from a previous cyberattack or breach should be replaced
Companies also want to restrict their employees from writing their passwords down. This could allow the password to be used for unauthorized access. The best passwords are easy for employees to remember, but still difficult for someone to guess.
Implement Multi-factor I.D. Authentication
Multifactor I.D. authentication is key to protecting cloud-stored data. It basically requires network users to have more than one form of identification. The first is usually a strong password that was not vendor-supplied. Other forms of I.D. will either be something the employee has or inherited. This includes.
- Employee badges or keys
- Additional passwords
- Voice recognition
- Retina scan
Requiring additional authentication from employees before allowing access will significantly reduce some cybersecurity risks. Another way companies authenticate network users is to have set times and locations where access is granted.
Limit “Privileged” Account Usage
Privileged accounts that require authorized access should not be used for daily operations. This statement should be included as a part of every company’s cybersecurity program. Privileged accounts will need to be accessed by employees to perform some of their job duties. However, how the account is used should be limited – with a set time period – and clearly outlined.
If the time expires and access is revoked, employees performing a legitimate job and requiring access to protected information will be allowed to sign back in. However, if access is automatically cut off after 30 minutes, employees that are working outside the scope of their authorization privileges are more likely to discontinue using the system.
Create Groups to Define Authorization
This mainly applies to larger companies with hundreds of employees. It is difficult to monitor all access points, along with every “authorized” entry. One of the best practices for cloud computing cybersecurity is to create groups within the organization.
Each group will be responsible for maintaining and monitoring cybersecurity practices within their assigned department.
Don’t Embed Keys
It’s quick and convenient to store keys in the network or code. However, this also creates vulnerability. Even if the keys are encrypted, it’s still an appealing target for hackers. To keep keys safe from cyber threats it’s recommended that companies use specified software and other tools for storage.
Regularly Review Authorized Access
Every business should keep updated access logs. These logs show everyone that accessed data in the company’s cloud. The logs will show what data was accessed and by whom. This allows management to easily track who is accessing cloud-stored data.
Regularly reviewing the logs will also ensure that authorized users have current access codes and that all non-authorized users are deleted from the account. These reviews help to add another cybersecurity layer to the ones already protecting data.
The “world of cloud computing” is rapidly changing and evolving which means that companies also have to regularly review their cybersecurity policies to ensure they’re up-to-date.
What Identity and Access Management Means For Compliance
Identity and access management in cloud computing is a compliance standard required by several regulations. Some of these include Gramm-Leach-Bliley (GLB), Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). These and other information privacy acts apply to companies that do business in the United States.
International companies will also have to meet the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) standards that include identity and access management for cloud-stored data. Compliance regulations for the GDPR went into effect in 2018.
States are also passing legislation to protect cloud-stored consumer data. These regulations may not be required across the country but will apply to any company doing business in that state. For example, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) enacted new cybersecurity regulations. One of the compliance standards required by New York state is for businesses to have updated identity and access management logs.
What Are the Benefits Of Identity Access Management Programs?
Identity management in cloud computing comes with several benefits that include meeting industry compliance standards. Identity and access management (IAM) programs can also improve employee efficiency while also reducing operating costs.
There are several ways an IAM program can help companies accomplish this.
- A company can safely expand access to the information system across a variety of platforms that include on-site applications, mobile devices, and apps, along with other authorized tools. This can increase collaboration across departments resulting in improved employee job satisfaction, productivity, and revenue.
- The number of IT calls reduces with an IAM program. It allows system/network administers to automate some mundane tasks like resetting passwords. This frees up the IT team to concentrate and identify and prevent any cybersecurity attacks.
- Reduce the number of internal data breaches which are estimated to account for up to 60 percent, according to the IBM Cyber Security Intelligence Index. It was found that 75 percent of these breaches were malicious and the remainder were employee accidents. Reducing the risk of internal breaches helps to ensure compliance and avoid potential fines and penalties.
Companies will also find that there are additional benefits to IAM in cloud computing. Some of these can include improved customer trust and a boost in brand reputation.
Challenges and Risks of IAM Programs in Cloud Computing
Even though there are several advantages to implementing an IAM program, there can also be risks and challenges. One of the largest risks is depending on an identity and access management program to prevent unauthorized use of the system. For many large and small companies, this is their biggest concern.
If the access controls are breached, hackers could be able to move unimpeded throughout the network. This would include accessing private protected information (PPI). The risk of this is greater in cloud computing. With more access points, it can be easier for hackers to breach without efficient and effective identity authorization protocols.
The challenge many businesses face in implementing an IAM program. Depending on the size or scope of the project, it can be time-consuming and expensive. Company IT teams can be tied up for weeks implementing the protocols. During this time, other cybersecurity practices might be allowed to temporarily lapse. This can be an invitation for hackers to exploit a weakness.
There are cybersecurity professionals that can help businesses implement an identity and access management program. This will allow the IT team to continue to monitor existing protocols. Even with the risks and challenges, the benefits of an IAM program outweigh any potential problems.
Identity management in cloud computing has become an essential part of most businesses’ cybersecurity plan. Storing data in the company’s cloud is convenient and cost-effective but it also comes with the risk of cyberattacks. There are steps companies can take to protect data by managing identity and access.
If your business has questions about identity and access management in cloud computing or needs help implementing the protocols, the professional technicians at RSI Security are here to answer your questions.