Let us take a stroll down memory lane and consider how IT environments used to look like approximately ten years ago. Businesses owned datacenters with in-house IT, including servers, operating systems, client machines, applications, and other services. There were no BYOD devices at the time, and third-parties rarely accessed company systems and networks.
Things are substantially different today. Organizations are prioritizing digital transformation by embracing cloud services at a breakneck speed. An article on Forbes in September 2020 indicated that the previous six months alone produced more digital transformation than the last decade, with increased acceleration and scalability. This year, 5G and quantum computing are predicted to go mainstream. The hybrid cloud will dominate the enterprise architecture, analytics and big data will continue to increase, and organizations will democratize AI at scale. Additionally, the newly embraced remote working strategies will outlast COVID-19. These trends make it difficult to define the network perimeter.
Other than emerging technologies, software developers are scattered throughout the company and report to different stakeholders. Developers are not necessarily employees; they may be consultants entirely outside the internal network. Cloud services have made it possible for employees to work from any device located remotely and owned by the company or other third-parties. Broadly speaking, companies have limited control over these services and devices' security.
Unfortunately, many companies engaging in digital transformation fail to make the necessary updates in their security strategies to protect the porous perimeter. Wrapping new technologies around legacy security tools that secured the perimeter, rather than redesigning reliable solutions for new IT environments, leaves organizations vulnerable to emerging and sophisticated cyber threats. Simply put, companies can no longer rely on network firewalls and antivirus programs for adequate security.
Identity is the New Security Perimeter, Across All Industries
Technologies like cloud computing are expected to last. Cloud and mobile computing services allow users to access systems and information from any device and location, breaking off the legacy IT environment perimeter. Companies lack clearly set out network edges to put security tools like firewalls and antimalware software. For that reason, companies should leverage identity and access management (IAM) to secure external clouds.
Why Does it Matter?
Identity ensures that only the right people access and use organizational IT resources, such as systems and data. Apart from identifying the user, an identity strategy provides users with access to the right resources at the right time and for the right reasons.
The identity solution features the following components:
- The Right Users (Authentication): establishing identity is the first layer at the security perimeter. Identity systems identify both human users, services, machines, and other entities attempting to access a network. Frequently, the process involves identifying who the entity is, their role, and other contextual details associated with them. In essence, this layer requires each client machine, server, user, IoT device, and process to carry unique identities, which become the new perimeter to prevent unauthorized access to systems and information. Organizations can use a wide range of solutions to determine identity, including user authentication (passwords, tokens, public key infrastructure (PKI), biometrics), customer identity and access management, and identity governance services. Identity systems restrict access to users, machines, and processes that fail to provide an identity while allowing authorized activities to continue.
- Access Management (Authorization): the next layer in the identity approach involves controlling the resources that a specific entity can access. Companies can incorporate protocols and automation in access management to resolve authorization requests in real-time.
- Security and Governance: after authentication and authorization, an identity process ensures that entities access IT resources at the right time and for the right reasons to achieve the desired results. Organizations should determine the criticality of different information assets and adjust access accordingly. For instance, businesses can restrict access to confidential data to authorized users in a trusted location or device. Organizations can also monitor user behavior in this layer. For instance, security teams can implement ways to track the amount of data an entity consumes and flag anomalies, such as access to many files at once. Overall, this third level provides a basis for perpetual and flexible trust assessments in identity systems.
As data-access go beyond the internal network, the perimeter is shifting to processes and endpoints. In effect, combining the above three identity approach layers delivers an adequate security paradigm for businesses adopting different technologies across all industry verticals.
Identity Management Best Practices
Some of the best practices that organizations can implement to maintain a robust security posture with identity solutions include:
- Treat identity as the primary security perimeter and center security controls around service and user identities
- Centralize identity management by integrating different identity directories for on-premises and cloud services. This practice enhances user productivity by providing a common identity for accessing resources in hybrid environments. Centralizing identities also reduce security risks from configuration complexity and user errors
- Elevate the identity approach to manage all connected tenants, such as remote workers, vendors, and customers, to ensure security teams can view all users and services connected to the IT environment
- Turn on conditional access. Authenticating entities is not sufficient, and companies can enhance their cybersecurity postures by ensuring that user devices and processes meet acceptable security and compliance levels
- Plan for routine security improvement in the identity management framework
- Employ appropriate security policies to enable password management while preventing abuse. For instance, companies can set up reliable self-service password reset (SSPR) for users
Strengthening Identity Systems
While implementing identities to secure sensitive information, organizations should also deploy measures to strengthen users' identities and access management to mitigate user credentials vulnerabilities. With new technologies enabling organizations to store and access software and services from any location and device, malicious cyber actors target weak credentials, such as usernames and passwords used in the authentication process.
Companies can improve identity management security by banning commonly attacked passwords. Instead, they can adopt a modern password policy based on standards like the NIST Special Publication 800-63B – Digital Identity Guidelines that provide technical requirements for implementing digital identity services.
Furthermore, security teams can enhance the identity approach through multifactor authentication (MFA) that requires users and devices to provide two or more verification factors to access systems and information. Rather than just asking for passwords, MFA systems require additional verification methods, such as:
- something you know (PIN, answers to security questions),
- something you have (smartphone, badge), or
- something you are (fingerprint, voice recognition),
These MFA methods effectively decrease the likelihood of a successful cyber incident.
Take control of your digital identities and enhance your organization's security and access control by talking to KeyData today. We are a recognized leader in cybersecurity services specializing in identity and access management (IAM), customer identity and access management (CIAM), and privileged access management (PAM).