enhancing cybersecurity identity access management

Enhancing cybersecurity through identity and access management

As organizations advance from limited IT environments with few systems physically located in their office environments, to complex webs of connected systems in many locations, the importance of identifying and verifying human users before granting them access has grown to a non-negotiable critical protection for systems and data.

Organizations have a wide array of users who need access to systems, such as employees, contractors and vendors, customers, guests and visitors, and many more. Each of these user types require different access to systems for various periods. Implementing a robust identity and access management (IAM) program – including processes and technologies with the appropriate people to manage – can help manage risks, such as:

IAM solutions play a crucial role in overall cybersecurity by providing centralized control and visibility over user access across the organization's IT infrastructure. By continuously monitoring access rights, detecting anomalies, and responding to security incidents in real-time, IAM helps organizations proactively defend against cyber threats.

IAM helps to ensure that only authorized individuals can access systems, applications and data. By implementing strong authentication mechanisms like multi-factor authentication (MFA) and robust authorization policies, IAM helps prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data.

Unauthorized access to sensitive data can lead to data breaches. IAM helps reduce the risk of data breaches by controlling access to sensitive data based on the principle of least privilege, helping to ensure that users only have access to the data necessary for their roles.

Unauthorized access to user credentials through phishing attacks, social engineering, or other means can lead to credential theft. IAM solutions mitigate this risk by implementing secure authentication mechanisms, such as biometrics, smart cards, and token-based authentication, which are less susceptible to credential theft compared to traditional passwords.

IAM helps protect against identity theft by verifying the identity of users before granting access to systems and resources. By employing identity verification methods like identity proofing and identity verification services, organizations can help ensure that users are who they claim to be, reducing the risk of impersonation and identity theft.

IAM solutions monitor user activities and behavior to detect suspicious actions that may indicate insider threats. By implementing techniques such as user behavior analytics (UBA) and privileged access management (PAM), organizations can identify and mitigate the risk of malicious activities by insiders.

Organizations are subject to varied regulatory requirements regarding cybersecurity and data protection, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), and Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC). IAM solutions can help organizations achieve compliance with these regulations by enforcing access controls, maintaining audit trails, and implementing policies for data protection and privacy.

To evaluate how effective your organization’s IAM program is for managing these risks, an assessment should be performed to measure the maturity of the program and identify opportunities for improvement. This assessment can be based on leading practice guidance in the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) 2.0 and National Security Agency (NSA)/Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Identity and Access Management Recommended Best Practices for Administrators.

Organizations should take a proactive approach by evaluating the following areas of the current IAM program to identify opportunities to mature practices and reduce risks:

  1. Policies and procedures - do they align with industry best practices, regulatory requirements and organizational goals?
  2. Governance and oversight - does it support roles, responsibilities and accountability?
  3. Identity lifecycle management - how are user identities created, managed and deactivated throughout their lifecycle? (join, move and leave processes)
  4. Authentication mechanisms - how strong and effective are authentication mechanisms used for user verification, such as passwords, multi-factor authentication (MFA), biometrics and single sign-on (SSO).
  5. Authorization controls - how granular are the access controls and permissions to ensure the principle of least privilege is applied?
  6. Privileged access management (PAM) – how effective are privileged session monitoring, session recording and audit trails? 
  7. Identity federation and integration – how does the organization manage federated identities across multiple systems, applications and cloud services? 
  8. Monitoring and compliance – what are the mechanisms for monitoring user activity, detecting anomalous behavior and responding to security incidents? 
  9. IAM technologies and tools – how effective, scalable, and resilient are technologies and tools deployed within the organization? 
  10. User awareness and training – do the user awareness programs and training initiatives cover IAM best practices, security policies and data protection? 
  11. Risk assessment and gap analysis – have the potential risks and vulnerabilities within the IAM program been identified? 
  12. Improvement roadmap – what is the roadmap for enhancing the organization's IAM program?

How can Baker Tilly help my organization?

Baker Tilly’s team of cybersecurity and IT risk professionals can guide your organization in many ways.

My organization needs to...

  • 1. Evaluate our current IAM program
  • 2. Address external audit findings/recommendations related to IAM
  • 3. Implement a new IAM solution.

Baker Tilly can help by performing an...

IAM program assessment or audit using leading practice guidance, including your cybersecurity framework of choice, to determine the highest priority improvements.

Baker Tilly can help by performing a...

Root cause analysis of prior audit findings to identify improvements to the IAM program for eliminating ineffective practices.

Baker Tilly can help by performing a...

Gap assessment between the current IAM solution and future needs to synthesize key requirements for implementing an IAM solution that includes critical cybersecurity protections and internal controls.

Mike Cullen
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