From ransomware and DDoS attacks to AI-enabled disinformation and zero-day exploits, today’s threat landscape is constantly shifting, and rewriting the challenges facing cybersecurity. For many organizations the complexity of managing identities and access in a hybrid cloud environment is only exacerbating the risk. More than half (52%) of all breaches are directly related to access issues, according to a recent report from Saviynt and Ponemon Institute, while compromised credentials were the most common initial attack vector in 2022, per IBM’s data breach report.
Against this backdrop, zero-trust security strategies have become the collective choice as the best defense against today’s threats, with PWC finding that more than a third of CISOs have already started to implement elements of zero-trust and another 25% will start in the next two years. However, these strategies won’t be effective if organizations haven’t first established strong Identity and Access Management (IAM) practices, which enable them to gain visibility and control over all types of identities (human and bots) that have all types of access permissions in their system infrastructure.
Alarmingly, Saviynt and Ponemon’s research found that only 16% of respondents have a fully mature IAM strategy in place, while 84% range between early, middle and late stages of program maturity – with challenges related to budgets and a lack of senior-level awareness and sponsorship standing in the way of progression. Considering 52% of all breaches are directly related to access issues, organizations need to improve their IAM security postures to build resilience against today’s ever-evolving threat landscape.
Get visibility over user access
The first step to building resilience and improving your IAM posture, and ultimately your zero-trust strategy, is to identify and address key areas of risk related to access. According to Saviynt and Ponemon’s research, respondents cited “users accessing data not associated with their job functions” (70%) and “not enough staff to grant and enforce privileged user access” (56%) as the top problem areas in their organization relating to user access. The risk here, is that without proper authority controls, organizations are exposed to an increased danger of credential abuse and a general growth of their overall attack surface.
Knowing who has what type of access to which systems in your network and for how long is fundamental to identifying risk areas – and to an effective IAM strategy. This applies to the entire organization, whether large or small, and as distributed workforces with cloud-based infrastructure become commonplace, excessive access remains one of the key areas of risk. Indeed, with Gallup finding that 61% of remote workers say they anticipate working hybrid going forward, and 27% expect to be fully remote, organizations will need greater visibility into how their remote workers – as well as third-party supplier and vendors – are accessing their network ecosystems in order to ensure they are doing so securely.
Yash Prakash is the Chief Marketing Officer of Saviynt.
Leverage the cloud to manage identities
The second step to building a resilient security strategy is to make use of the cloud. This especially true when it comes to managing the increased number of cloud-based human and machine identities, with recent research finding 80% of firms have suffered identity-related breaches.
There are several challenges when it comes to managing identity in the cloud, including ensuring secure and reliance access control, maintaining compliance and user privacy, managing third-party identities and integrating identities across multiple cloud and on-premise environments. So, ensuring your identity security posture is fit for purpose in a cloud world is essential.
Moving your IAM program itself to the cloud enables organizations to gain control over identities, no matter where they are based, authenticate users from any device, at any time, and to secure access to resources across cloud and on-premise systems. As the number of identities continue to grow, being able to authenticate who users say they are and authorize the correct access permissions will be essential. Having your IAM practices based in the cloud also improves the agility and efficiency of your IAM practices by reducing the requirement for IT infrastructure and enabling scalability.
A resilient zero-trust strategy
A strong IAM foundation is key to building a successful, resilient zero-trust architecture in today’s cloud-first world. Indeed, moving to the zero-trust model requires adopting identity as a security perimeter, enforcing least privilege access to the growing number of human and bot identities, no matter where they’re based. Furthermore, solid IAM practices help protect against unauthorized access, mitigate security risks in a modern work environment, and defend against current and future threats.
IAM practices are essential building blocks to improving security resilience, and, when combined with cloud services, enable organisations to fully benefit from zero-trust strategies by improving visibility and control. A holistic security strategy with IAM at the centre helps organisations provide seamless and secure access to organisational resources while also reducing costs. And by taking advantage of the capabilities of the cloud, organisations can gain greater visibility into user activity and unify access management.