IAM Problems and how CISOs can address them in today's digital world

IAM is one of the paramount domains of cybersecurity. IAM problems are some of the most common IAM challenges every CISO or board must handle.

Taking control of your users and their access is a crucial part of cybersecurity. However, the number and type of devices, internal and external users, numerous workloads in the cloud, and various applications and software systems in an enterprise IT environment are just some of the key IAM problems that make this very difficult. In this article, we go deeper into these challenges and how you can cope with these.

Key IAM Statistics

IAM is one of the strong foundations of enterprise cybersecurity, and the stats talk about it. The wide adoption of cloud technologies and rising numbers of hybrid and remote workers have increased the risk of credential theft-based cyberattacks. Multiple factors influence these high incident rates, but some of the top most are unmonitored user access, legacy IAM systems, or no IAM at all. The following statistics reveal the high significance of Identity and Access Management and User Access Management in the current scenario:

  • The market associated with Identity and Access Management (IAM) is projected to grow to USD 34.52 billion in 2028 from USD 13.41 billion in 2021.
  • 65 to 70 percent of all security-related incidents arise from insider threats to information systems and data security.
  • According to Verizon's 2022 Data Breach Incident Report, 82 percent of data breaches involve human elements related to poor access management, such as employee misuse or mishandling of information, phishing, credential theft, etc.
  • Ponemon Institute’s Cybersecurity Report states that as many as 50 percent of global organizations still need a policy in place to regulate the security practices of their remote and hybrid workers.
  • Identity abuse is responsible for over 60 percent of the attacks on financial institutions. However, implementing the proper access control solutions can prevent up to 90 percent of these attacks.

IAM challenges: What are the Key IAM Problems Facing Organizations?

Finding the right solution to various IAM problems, like protecting critical assets, reducing risks & compliance costs, and ensuring employees have the right access to the right assets, still remains a crucial challenge for organizations. The following are the prominent reasons that make the existing IAM frameworks of organizations inadequate and vulnerable, leading to serious cybersecurity issues.

  • Legacy Systems and Limited or No IAM 

Legacy applications, systems, and networks are costly, difficult to operate and maintain, and ill-prepared to detect or prevent advanced cybersecurity threats. Legacy systems were designed to handle internal user access. Hence, the vast exposure to external users and stakeholders such as contractors, partners, and third-party vendors in today's business models makes these systems highly vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. Having limited IAM or the absence of IAM tools, technologies, and processes makes it easier for threat actors to barge into the enterprise network periphery. 

  • Slow IAM processes

Over 72 percent of organizations have a gap of 3-7 days in granting employee access to and revoking it from the network. Besides the risk of providing prolonged access to confidential files to employees who recently left the organization, there is also the risk of adversaries misusing this access to launch cyberattacks. With too many dangling accounts in the network and the absence of robust means of revoking employees' access from systems they no longer need to work with, the risk of user-access-based cyberattacks increases.

  • Little or No Insights into Assets and Their Corresponding Accesses

This factor pertains to insider threats and the possibility of malicious actors misusing employees' access to the organization's assets. Organizations must keep tabs on which assets employees and third-party users can access. Organizations often overlook this vital aspect of IAM and lose access to high-risk confidential data and assets.

  • Access-Related Compliance Failure

Compliance failures and gaps in the form of inadequate training and monitoring, lack of transparency and controls, inefficient risk management strategies, etc., may culminate in the loss of access to sensitive files and information assets or permanent data loss.

  • Lack of Clarity Around Access Permissions and Access Requests

Organizations must keep all stakeholders in the loop, enhance communication, establish transparency, and increase productivity. It demands granting of editing and managerial access to information assets to individuals from different levels within and outside the organization. However, most organizations lack an organized tracking of these permissions, resulting in a complex web of untraceable user rights and requests.

Strategies CISOs Can Adopt to Overcome the Key IAM Problems?

The above-listed IAM challenges can cause organizations extensive financial, business, and goodwill losses. CISOs need to strategize their IAM solutions and incorporate systems befitting their organization's work culture. Here are a few measures that CISOs can adopt to overcome the various IAM problems:

  • Assessing Your Current Information Infrastructure

One of the foremost things to do is evaluate your organization's current information infrastructure. That includes everything from your on-premise and legacy system assets to your cloud and third-party assets. Having a complete 360-degree view of what assets you have, who has access to those assets, and what happens once those assets are no longer in use (temporary and permanently).

  • Continuous Monitoring and Access Reviews

A key component of IAM is constant monitoring and reviewing of access. Organizations must choose tools with automation that allow timely and continuous reviewal of user access to the organization's assets. Removing the compliance gaps concerning granting and revoking access ensures protection from several identity theft-based security breaches.

  • Implementing IAM Governance - Policies, Procedures, and Prodcuts

The governance part of IAM allows security administrators to monitor and manage user identities and access within the enterprise. Various IAM governance tools and procedures, controls associated with Segregation of Duties (SoD), access review, role-based access control, etc., can restrict inappropriate access to assets.

  • Establishing an Access Control Framework

An access control framework that corresponds with the organization's operational setup is of utmost importance. An example is an access based on association, wherein only those employees/users currently associated with a project or account will have access to the related assets. Several other access control models, like role-based and mandatory access control, can be incorporated.

  • Choosing the Right Identity and Access Management Tool

The readiness to invest in IAM solutions must be accompanied by an impetus to find the right IAM tool that meets the organization's needs. The essential features of an IAM tool include a database to record and modify users' identities and access privileges and a reporting and logging system for access and auditing history. For SMEs with less financial reserves and bandwidth, it is recommended to go with simpler IAM systems that do not require security experts.

  • Training Users and Staff

While implementing IAM solutions, CISOs must also consider training users and staff to maintain cybersecurity. Irrespective of whether there is an automated access regulatory system, users must be encouraged to log out of systems they don't need access to anymore. Making employees and users aware of identity-related breaches is essential for the organization's security.

  • Role-Based Access Control

Role-based access control (RBAC) implies an individual's access to organizational assets based on their role in it. This access could be based on their role in terms of responsibility, authority, or job competency. This may include permission to perform specific tasks (as needed for a person's role) like viewing, creating, or modifying files.

  • Enforcing Fundamental Cybersecurity Principles – 'Least Privilege' and 'Need-to-know' 

The principle of least privileges (PoLP) is vital to cybersecurity and forms a guiding principle for RBAC (role-based access control). Creating a zero-trust network by granting users the minimal access required to perform a task is known by the names' principle of least privileges' (providing minimal access required to do the job) and 'need-to-know basis' (providing access only if the user needs to know or use the information). It is necessary for IAM because it ensures that no inappropriate or unauthorized parties have access to sensitive organizational assets.

PS: Don’t forget to take a look at Elimity Insights, a powerful access governance solution which enables you to stay ahead of the IAM challenges.



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