Today’s business world is fast moving, entails more applications, involves more categorizations of users, and is exponentially more complex for IT to enable and secure than ever before. What once used to be straightforward has become a giant, inter-connected ecosystem teeming with thousands of applications, people, and devices. This has created a web of access points and connections — potentially millions or even billions of access points, each one representing a potential security risk or incident. 

It’s no surprise that security professionals are looking for a next-gen identity security solution that can address today’s challenge of improving efficiency while reducing security risk. And with the right solution in place, your organization can become more secure, more efficient, save costs, and ease frustration from ineffective practices and policies.

To help, we’ve identified seven best practices you should be following as you develop your identity security strategy.

1. Begin with the End in Mind

The impetus for an identity security solution is usually the result of a pain point within the enterprise. Perhaps the helpdesk is overburdened with access requests and password resets. Maybe the organization recently failed a compliance audit, or the IT team has discovered excess user permissions. It could also be that the adoption of cloud-based applications has decreased security visibility while increasing the complexity of the IT ecosystem. Or worse, perhaps you’ve experienced a data breach.

As with any large enterprise project, the first step is to determine where you want to end up. This means aligning the project to the organization’s overall strategic objectives. You can’t reach a destination if you don’t know where you’re going.

2. Eliminate High-Risk Systems

Historically, organizations have been hesitant to move from on-premises solutions to those in the cloud because of potential security threats. But on-prem data centers and applications are, in fact, riskier than their cloud-based counterparts. This is because cloud service providers offer a wealth of security capabilities that can’t be matched by onsite resources. Furthermore, onsite data systems require considerable manpower, money and resources to keep hackers and data breaches at bay, with more resources required every day. This is not sustainable.

By sunsetting legacy systems and switching to a cloud service provider, enterprises can boost security through patch management, segmentation, encryption, integrations, and secure access requirements.

3. Routinely Review and Remove Orphaned Accounts

Within every organization, there is constant change particularly in regard to the workforce. For example, when a user moves to a different area of the organization, or leaves, that user’s access needs to be adjusted or properly removed from the network. Failure to deprovision and remove an account leads to what’s called an “orphaned” account — it contains the previous user’s data but no longer has an assigned user.

Left undetected, orphaned accounts are a goldmine for hackers. These accounts can allow them to gather credentials and ultimately take on the identities of these previous users, leading to security breaches and attacks. This is why it’s essential for enterprises to have comprehensive onboarding and offboarding measures in place.

4. Automate Onboarding and Offboarding

Identity security involves the task of onboarding and offboarding an organization’s workers. When onboarding a new employee, contractor, vendor, or partner, for example, IT always needs to assess which privileges and permissions the worker should be granted based on their unique user roles. But for large enterprises, this can be extremely complex, especially if there is only a manual process of provisioning in place which often leads to a high margin of error.

Fortunately, with an Identity Security solution in hand, companies can automate onboarding and offboarding processes, saving IT departments time and money, increase productivity by ensuring new employees have the access they need from day one, and reduce risk by quickly deprovisioning users as needed (such as when they leave or move to another department within the company).

5. Embrace a Zero Trust Approach to Security

Zero trust is a network security framework that is becoming essential for every enterprise, and Identity Security is the cornerstone of an effective zero trust strategy. The zero trust approach dictates that no user or application – whether inside or outside of an organization’s network – should automatically be trusted until their identity has been fully verified. This is also known as the principle of never trust, always verify. In addition, a successful identity-centric Zero Trust model relies on the principle of least privilege, ensuring that all users have the least amount of access to do their job successfully — no more, no less.

With more and more employees now working entirely outside of a corporate network – and using multiple devices across various applications – organizations need to fully embrace the zero trust philosophy in order to better protect critical systems and data.

6. Utilize Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)

Digital transformation, work from anywhere, and adoption of new enterprise apps have introduced so many user entities and points of access that it has become overwhelming to IT departments to keep up with access controls and governance. A human-based identity security approach can only scale so much and has its limitations.

Organizations need to leverage technologies built on a foundation of AI and ML that can reduce the identity security friction so their operational processes can keep pace with the change of business. With AI and ML organizations can gain new visibility and insight into specific user access needs and risks associated with user access. AI and ML can also help automate and streamline identity processes and decisions such as access requests, role modeling, and access certifications, driving greater efficiencies across an organization.

7. Centralize Your System

With such an explosion of activity (including number of users, applications, databases, and portals), it’s imperative that IT teams have broader visibility across all identities. But as an enterprise scales, it becomes increasingly difficult to get a 360-degree view into identity security. The best practice here is to create a centralized system so security teams have broader visibility into resource and application access, user behavior and anomaly tracking across the entire organization. This means that your organization will need to select an identity security solution that can provide this centralized view into every user identity.

Why Programs Fail

Now that we’ve identified best practices for success, let’s take a quick look at why identity security programs can fail:

  • No executive support
  • Lack of funding
  • Not involving the business users
  • Insufficient communication of project value
  • Poor understanding of program depth

The takeaway here is that enterprises must employ champions and sponsors within the organization throughout the project’s progression in order to realize the full value of a well-implemented identity security solution. During the initial implementation, for example, creating smaller projects will help to keep timelines short and focused, while also giving periodic achievements to celebrate. This “short sprint” approach will help when additional modules need to be integrated or the identity security program expands to include more aspects of the digital ecosystem. Furthermore, it’s important to remember that identity security as a program needs to continue to evolve with your organization well after the initial implementation is complete.

Final Thoughts

While technology can help automate and speed up an organization’s key processes, it can’t solve every issue an enterprise may face. Companies should incorporate a virtual feedback loop where learnings from the software are then used to improve existing systems and further fine-tune access policies. 

Implementing a comprehensive identity security program for the enterprise is journey – one that requires complete organizational commitment – but an essential one. The risks to a company’s reputation, productivity, and bottom line from a major cyberattack or data breach are simply too great to ignore; while the benefits from a successful identity security implementation can ensure that an organization is poised for growth and future success for years to come.

SailPoint Identity Security Cloud takes the guesswork out of building a strong identity solution — even if you’re building from the ground up. Click here to learn more.

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