Identity lifecycle management (ILM) is one of the cornerstones of identity and access management (IAM). Keeping your organization’s data secure against all threats requires diligent, ongoing user account management and monitoring.
Read on to learn about the phases of the identity lifecycle and how management best practices keep your organization’s data secure while providing users access to the data and services they need.
Identity Lifecycle Management
Also known as the identity and access provisioning lifecycle, identity lifecycle management is essentially the management of digital identities from the time of creation until deletion.
The International Information System Security Certification Consortium ((ISC)²) describes the management of the identity lifecycle in the context of the following phases:
- Defining new roles
- Account maintenance
- Access Review
Comprehensive ILM will improve digital security throughout your organization and ensure all users have timely access to the tools and data they need to stay productive. And using an identity and access management system will help keep the process smooth and sustainable over time.
The Phases of the Identity Lifecycle
In the context of the identity access and provisioning lifecycle, identities usually refer to user accounts but can also be computer or service accounts. Breaking the lifecycle down into the five phases outlined by the (ISC) will provide a framework for setting sufficient policies and procedures for long-term user account management.
User Creation and Provisioning
Be they an employee, contractor, or student, creating a new account is the first step in the user lifecycle management when someone joins an organization. Provisioning will ensure that the appropriate policies and procedures are followed during the account creation process so that users are granted access appropriately.
Here are some things to keep in mind during the provisioning process:
- Identity Verification – Establish policies and procedures for verifying the identity of new users before enrollment. Options include ID cards, background checks, and security clearance, but the appropriate option depends on the needs of your organization.
- Unique Identifiers – Each new user requires a unique identifier—such as a username—at the very least. Any additional information that will be associated with a user’s identity should be determined by policy to ensure consistency.
- Permissions – Ensure each user is granted the level of permission required to access the data and systems they need to complete their tasks and nothing further. Roles and user groups are a common way of managing this step, and it also helps facilitate ongoing management of the user account.
- Hardware – This is also the time to issue and provide access to any hardware a user may need. Establish and follow strong record-keeping practices to keep track of hardware and make sure it’s being used safely and appropriately.
Remember that provisioning processes—whether manual or automated—should always adhere to the “Principle of Least Privilege” for optimal cybersecurity. This ensures that users are provided with the precise access their role’s responsibilities necessitates, but no more than that.
De-provisioning and Account Termination
A user may leave an organization for any number of reasons, and de-provisioning is crucial to protecting data integrity and overall security when an account needs to be terminated. Depending on the configuration, immediately deleting an account could compromise important data associated with it, so establish a process that revokes the departing user’s access while preserving access to critical data. Here’s an example of how that process could look:
- Reclaim and examine any hardware assigned to the user
- Disable the account as soon as the user’s relationship with the organization is terminated
- Review any data associated with the account
- Take steps to preserve any necessary data
- Delete the user account
Make sure to define a timeframe within which de-provisioning and account deletion should take place to ensure that unused accounts aren’t unintentionally left active. Unused accounts—especially those that can still be accessed—could be compromised not only by the departing user but also by outside attacks, so taking the proper steps to secure them is crucial to mitigating this risk.
Defining New Roles
When an individual’s role within an organization changes—such as when they move to a new position or get promoted—their digital identity will need to be updated to reflect this.
Suppose their new role is one that already exists within the organization. In that case, this could be as straightforward as updating the role attached to their digital identity or assigning them to a new user group. If not, a new role may need to be created. Define policies and procedures for assessing needs and setting privileges when new roles are created to ensure a smooth, secure process for both transfers and onboarding.
Account maintenance mostly involves adjusting privileges as needed, so the same best practices that apply to creating new roles are applicable here.
When the requirements or responsibilities of a role within an organization are updated, follow the defined process for reassessing the appropriate level of privileges for that role to determine what changes—if any—are needed. Then, update the role and add it to a different user group as required. This will ensure the user gains or retains access to the data and services they need and prevent unauthorized access or changes to organizational assets.
Reviews and Monitoring
In addition to updating account privileges when known changes are needed, regular account reviews and monitoring are essential throughout the lifecycle of an identity. These processes should be performed to confirm policy compliance, appropriate privileges, and accountability.
As changes happen within an organization, user accounts may end up with too many privileges at some point. This access accumulation is referred to as “privilege creep” or “permission bloat.” Regular reviews (i.e., “attestation and reconciliation” processes) provide opportunities to evaluate and adjust privileges in alignment with the “Principle of Least Privilege” as needed.
Account monitoring will help identify any misuse of assets or data security threats, ensuring that users who are not following the organization’s policies can be held accountable.
The Benefits of Diligent Identity Lifecycle Management
- Efficiency – Well-defined procedures will help get new users fully onboarded faster, make role changes smoother and prevent delays during the de-provisioning and termination process.
- Productivity – Smooth processes and proper access management will ensure users can accomplish what they need to do without interruptions, which will support organization-wide collaboration and productivity.
- Scalability – A very small organization may be able to manage things effectively with minimal policies and procedures, but as an organization grows, a user lifecycle management system that scales is critical. Otherwise, your IT team’s bandwidth will be consumed with menial data entry. Planning for scalability will support sustainable long-term management, even as the user base grows.
- Compliance – Following industry standards from the start will make it easier to achieve and maintain cyber security compliance, but well-defined and documented policies and procedures will also make the transition to standard-compliant management easier.
How an Identity Access Management System Can Help
Manual management of the identity and access provisioning lifecycle may be possible for very small organizations, but using an IAM system will make management easier. Using an IAM system offers:
- Improved security by mitigating human error
- Enhanced efficiency, productivity, and scalability through automation
- Consolidated management of policies, procedures, and practices
- A suite of tools to perform management tasks per your organization’s needs
At scale, effective and standard-compliant IAM is virtually impossible to execute manually.
Optimize Your Identity Lifecycle Management Today!
A strong approach to identity lifecycle management is an essential part of keeping your organization running smoothly and keeping data and systems secure.
An identity and access management system will facilitate these tasks while helping clarify policies and procedures. RSI Security can help you identify your organization’s needs, select the best tools, and build a system for sustainable, secure identity lifecycle management.
Contact RSI Security today for a free consultation.