With a greater number of users comes an increased risk of security threats. Robust enterprise identity management practices are essential to mitigating these risks while allowing for continued growth. Follow best practices and avoid common pitfalls to meet user access needs and keep your organization’s data secure.
Enterprise Identity and Access Management
Enterprise identity and access management (IAM) policies define who has access to systems and assets and how that access is managed. Following IAM best practices helps prevent cyberattacks, makes sure internal users have access to the resources they need, and prevents them from accessing data they’re not authorized to access.
Identity and access management needs are unique to each organization, and the right IAM solution will follow best practices, avoid common mistakes, and include tools and procedures that fit the requirements of the organization.
Enterprise Identity Management Best Practices
Following IAM best practices will ensure the appropriate permissions and limitations are applied to user accounts to grant necessary access and prevent unauthorized access. Consider these principles and best practices during the development of enterprise identity management solutions.
Identity Lifecycle Management
Identity lifecycle management (ILM) is a core aspect of IAM, and it refers to the creation, management, and deletion of user and other accounts. It encompasses the following:
- Provisioning – This refers to the creation of new accounts and, in some cases, the assignment of hardware. After successful identity verification, unique identifiers are created and the appropriate level of access is granted to the user.
- Account maintenance – This often involves updating permissions when a user’s access requirements change. Diligent maintenance ensures users always have access to what they need, and prevents unauthorized access.
- Defining new roles – When no role or user group already exists to match the needs of a specific user, then a new one should be created. That user’s identity will then be updated to the new role or added to the new group.
- De-provisioning – This is the process of securing data, revoking access, and removing accounts upon a user’s departure from an organization. This step is crucial for preventing unauthorized access and network pollution via idle—or “orphan”—accounts.
- Account reviews – Review identities regularly to confirm compliance with policies, identify procedures that need revision, and maintain reports on the state of the implemented enterprise IAM solution.
Identity lifecycle management is a necessary, ongoing process, and enterprise IAM solutions will make it more manageable at a large scale.
Robust password policies
Passwords are a baseline of defense for most digital identities. Unfortunately, it’s common for users to opt for simple passwords that can be prone to brute-force attacks. Implementing strict password controls improves identity security across your organization.
Policies to consider include the following:
- Unique passwords – Implement requirements for passwords to be unique to mitigate security risks.
- Password strength – Simple passwords are most at risk for brute-force attacks. Set policies that will encourage complex, more secure passwords. Options include requiring a minimum length, certain character combinations, and barring the reuse of old passwords.
- Unallowed passwords – Protect against breaches by preventing users from using the most common passwords or other passwords that may be especially vulnerable to attacks.
- Limit password lifespan – Require passwords to be updated after a designated amount of time. Even if there haven’t been any breaches within an organization, there’s always a possibility of passwords being compromised in other ways, so requiring regular updates can help mitigate this risk.
- Secure password storage – Even the strongest password will be at risk if it isn’t appropriately stored. Apply protective measures—such as a salting and hashing process—to keep stored passwords secure.
Many systems will allow organizations to enable and configure these policies to simplify password management.
Passwords alone are not always sufficiently effective at protecting digital identities. Multifactor authentication (MFA) takes things a step further by combining at least two of the three forms of authentication.
These three forms are defined as follows:
- Something you know – This form of authentication uses information that the user knows to authenticate their identity, and it’s the most common. Submitting a username and password to log in to an account is an example of this form of authentication.
- Something you have – This form of authentication uses a physical or digital token that provides a code or generates a key to sync with the server of the system being accessed. Examples of these tokens include keycards and authenticator apps.
- Something you are – Often referred to as biometrics, this form of authentication relies on a unique physical feature of the user. Retina and fingerprint scanners are examples of this form of authentication.
Pairing “something you know” and “something you have” is the most common approach to multifactor authentication. Even if one set of credentials is compromised, the other will MFA will help prevent attackers from gaining access to an account, so it’s a much more robust security practice than relying on passwords alone.
When following the need-to-know access principle, a user is only given access to the data and resources they need to perform their tasks. Even when user groups or other methods are used to manage and limit access, it could still result in a user having access to information that they don’t need.
Some IAM solutions will help automate this process by adding and removing access based on certain criteria, such as their titles or location. This is known as “role-based access control” (RBAC).
Using need-to-know access measures prevents unnecessary access to data, which will keep it more secure.
Principle of Least Privilege
This principle is similar to the need-to-know access principle, but it focuses on only granting the privileges necessary to perform tasks.
This can apply to a user’s ability to:
- Access and manipulate data
- Perform system tasks
- Access parts of a network
- Access hardware
The principle of least privilege can also apply to applications and processes that run on a system. Following this principle will protect the integrity of data and systems by preventing unauthorized access and unauthorized actions within the system.
Monitoring and Audits
Monitoring and auditing are necessary to know how secure your organization’s user profiles are. Perform audits to check for inactive accounts, appropriate use, and appropriate permissions and privileges.
Implement policies and practices for identifying and responding to changes in roles, the efficacy of existing protocols, and any potential security threats.
The Benefits of Following Best Practices
Improved security is one of the most significant benefits an organization will reap from following enterprise identity management best practices, but it’s not the only one.
Following best practices will improve the user experience for members throughout the organization. If external user profiles are being managed as well, those users will also benefit.
Effective enterprise identity management solutions also contribute to improved productivity and efficiency across the organization. Automation and well-organized procedures for managing user access ensure that employees are provisioned with the resources they need to get things done, helping to mitigate setbacks.
Enterprise Identity Management Mistakes to Avoid
Alongside following best practices, avoiding common mistakes when implementing enterprise IAM solutions is crucial to keeping user profiles and data secure.
Poor enterprise identity management increases the risk of identity theft and leaves an organization more vulnerable to other security breaches. Implement a solution that guards against these mistakes to protect your IT environment.
Shared Account Credentials
Accounts and their credentials should never be shared. Shared credentials are at higher risk of being leaked to unauthorized parties. They also create confusion and make it more difficult to accurately monitor user activities and manage accountability.
The identifiers that are used to grant access to data and systems should be unique to a single user. Manage users’ access to any shared resources via user groups or whatever controls are defined by the organization’s IAM strategy.
Revealing Sensitive Data
Sensitive data like passwords, encryption keys, and other credentials must be stored securely. Of course, this means they should not be written down on paper or otherwise recorded in plain text. But organizations also need to ensure these identifiers aren’t included in any codebase or coding environment.
Poor Remote Access Policies
Allowing remote access to an organization’s systems often requires additional security measures. If users access your IT environment and its data from outside the organization, poor policies and procedures can pose significant vulnerabilities.
NIST outlines the following as essential security objectives to consider when making configurations for remote access:
- Confidentiality – Preventing unauthorized parties from reading remotely accessed or stored data and communications.
- Integrity – Detecting changes to remote access communications during transit.
- Availability – Ensuring users have consistent remote access to necessary resources.
As a user’s role or responsibilities change over time, the permissions and privileges granted to their identity will change. But without diligent identity management practices (and the assistance of automation), the risk of “privilege creep” — also known as “permission bloat” — increases.
Privilege creep happens when a user profile is granted additional privileges over time as their role changes, while those no longer needed are not removed. This goes against the principle of least privilege and creates unnecessary security risks.
Overlooking Non-Human Identities
Human users are often not the only identities that exist within a system. The profiles and activity of applications, processes, and other non-human accounts also require management, maintenance, and monitoring.
Unmanaged applications and processes are at risk of running unnecessarily or inappropriately, leading to undesired effects or wasted resources. Failing to sufficiently manage these accounts also leaves them especially vulnerable to attacks, so they should be considered and addressed in any enterprise identity management plan.
“Orphan accounts” are those that still have access to data or a system despite no longer having an owner. This happens when the account owner departs from their role or the organization without their identity being de-provisioned.
Delayed or incomplete deprovisioning puts any data and systems the account has access to at risk of being breached by the former owner or other attackers. And orphan accounts become more vulnerable over time, so follow best practices to prevent orphan accounts and ensure any that exist are identified and removed immediately.
Enterprise Identity Management Tools
Enterprise-level identity management is a major undertaking, but several tools can be used as part of an effective, sustainable solution:
- Auditing tools – Auditing tools are used to perform monitoring and auditing tasks and log the results. These tools and their generated reports make managing account reviews, oversight, and accountability easier.
- Identity stores – These serve as repositories for information about the users and groups within an organization. They keep this information secure and centrally located to facilitate more efficient management of digital identities.
- Password management tools – These tools store user credentials securely, reducing the temptation to save or take note of them in an insecure way. Having easy access to passwords via one of these tools also helps ensure consistent access to accounts by reducing failed login attempts.
- Provisioning tools – These tools help manage the provisioning and de-provisioning phases of identity lifecycle management. Tools that can automate these processes will mitigate errors that could be made during account creation and help prevent orphan accounts.
Analyze the needs of your organization to identify which tools are needed to plan and establish a suitable enterprise identity and access management system.
Developing an Enterprise Identity Management Strategy
Identity and access management is a critical aspect of an effective, compliant digital security strategy. Effective enterprise IAM solutions require planning, customization, and reevaluation to ensure they meet the needs of a given organization.
Enhance Your Organization’s Enterprise Identity Management Solution
Knowing the dos and don’ts of enterprise identity management will arm your organization with the foundational knowledge needed to develop an effective IAM solution.
Digital security is paramount, and protecting against cyberattacks requires a robust strategy. By following enterprise identity and access management best practices and tools as part of a comprehensive solution, your organization will provide a better user experience and benefit from improved security and productivity.
Contact RSI Security today to strengthen your organization’s security with a customized enterprise identity management solution.