How to understand the human threat through identity management

Have you ever thought to yourself, ‘who has access to what’ across your applications and systems? With news of data breaches every other day it seems, this is a common concern.

Beyond headline breaches of the likes of Ashley Madison, there are many more breaches that never achieve notoriety. In fact, on average there are more than four per day.

Whether you are responsible for the security of a small, medium or large organisation, you are at risk of exposure. Last year there were at least 1,400 data loss events recorded, releasing over 169 million records. There is a red thread running throughout these events – someone inside the company did something they weren’t supposed to do.

The human factor

We know that cyber criminals’ techniques for breaking through perimeter defences are advancing. In response to this threat, new technologies are needed to help secure enterprises and their data silos. Just as we have evolved our thinking about how our employees work and access data, so too have we adapted our approaches to protect against digital threats.

> See also: The new face of identity and access management: how businesses are finding the balance

Network security alone is no longer sufficient, as the large scale breaches of the recent year have demonstrated. The perimeter that once held our information safe has been eroded.

Instead of brute force attacks and SQL injections being the norm, intruders have begun to favour social engineering as the primary attack vector, allowing them to instigate a breach from within. Phishing emails and other means through which people inadvertently release information represent the greatest threats to companies today.

Greater numbers of exposure points

Businesses operate with multiple internal and external users entering their systems and accessing their data everyday: employees, contractors, vendors and suppliers, partners and customers.

Considering the sheer volume of users, applications and various levels of data access, it is easy to imagine an enterprise managing over a billion points of access.

These points of access can easily become points of exposure. Out of those billion points of exposure, it only takes one to be compromised for an organisation to suffer damage worth millions.

This should imply that the security vector companies need to focus on is human, but it is something they seem to struggle with handling today. Whether intentional or inadvertent, people cause a large portion of data breaches, and likewise are responsible for some of the largest breaches we have experienced. As hackers advance their strategies, more data breaches will occur from users doing something they weren’t supposed to do.

Identity is everything

User identities ‘hold the keys to the kingdom,’ and for an organisation to be safe, securing those identities is everything. With the inevitable occurrence of a data breach, the network perimeter disappearing and the ever-present risk from the human vector, organisations must adapt and secure identities, which are their best asset and simultaneously their greatest threat.

To do this, identity management must be at the core of an organisation’s security programme. Since identities are most likely to be targeted, securing them must be the top priority. By focusing on all the systems to which users connect, whether they are on-premises or in the cloud, security can be holistic. Only when IT departments have all the information can they make the right decisions.

The good news is that managing this complex network of users, systems and access is possible for IT departments with the right technologies. Those billion points of exposure are dynamic, constantly changing and extend beyond the physical walls of the enterprise to customers, partners, vendors and contractors.

> See also: Connected car security: why identity should be in the driving seat

Therefore, organisations require a governance-based identity management solution. One that can holistically and automatically manage identities at granular levels.

By employing a governance-based approach to identity and access management (IAM), knowing ‘who has access to what’ should no longer be a concern. It gives you a view across all users and the applications to which they have access as they move in the company throughout their lifecycle.

Give IT visibility into your entire security ecosystem by harnessing a user-centric approach and integrating all the systems together (such as data governance, network security, user behaviour analysis) into the IAM platform. Put identity at the core of your security infrastructure to ensure the protection of your most crucial information and the long-term reputation of your business.

Sourced from Juliette Rizkallah, chief marketing officer, SailPoint

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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