Many organizations continue to make critical identity management mistakes in an evolving work environment and lifestyle that includes remote and temporary workers, adoption of cloud solutions and Internet of Things (IoT) technology, working from home, and leveraging employees’ own devices (BYOD) across enterprises which introduce new concerns associated with identity and access management (IAM). For networks to remain secure, enterprises seeking the benefits of updated technology must implement concurrent IAM policy improvements. However, over 90% of IT and security professionals around the world admit to facing “at least one challenge” when it comes to identity management. Such challenges can lead to several common mistakes known to leave networks vulnerable to breaches.
Critical Identity Management Mistakes
Identity management mistakes can lead to security breaches and operational inefficiencies. One common error is weak password policies that allow users to create easily guessable or reused passwords, making it easier for malicious actors to compromise accounts. Another mistake is insufficient access control, where users are granted excessive privileges, leading to unauthorized access to sensitive information. Inadequate user provisioning and deprovisioning processes can result in lingering access for former employees, posing a significant security risk. Neglecting multi-factor authentication (MFA) leaves systems vulnerable to credential theft, and poor user education on security best practices increases the likelihood of social engineering attacks. These identity management missteps can compromise data integrity and confidentiality, disrupt business operations, and damage an organization’s reputation. Let’s dive deeper into some of the more critical identity management mistakes.
Failing to Research IAM Solutions
Affordability and usability are key characteristics to look for in an IAM solution, but enterprises don’t often think beyond such basic functionality when choosing platforms and services. Prior to implementation, platforms must be examined to determine if the tools are appropriate and compatible. IAM solutions lacking smooth integrations can disrupt the seamless experience customers expect and employees require and may actually lead to more security problems.
Evaluating typical use cases and workflows can act as a guide in ensuring a good fit. Enterprise IT teams should ask:
• How many identities need managing?
• What level of access control is required to maintain security?
• Does the platform meet compliance requirements?
• Who needs to access which resources, and what is the typical access environment?
• Can the company’s budget support the cost of implementation and maintenance?
• Is operation straightforward and intuitive for users?
Not Cracking Down on Misuse of Credentials
Employees who become frustrated by complex or confusing access requirements or who are forced to wait for IT teams to fix access problems may unintentionally abuse credentials. Password sharing is a common problem in enterprise environments as employees try to “help” colleagues work around their access issues. Logging in with someone else’s credentials may give a user greater access privileges than those granted by his or her own account, which can leave sensitive information vulnerable to loss or theft.
Malicious insiders may also gain unauthorized access to sensitive areas of the network by taking advantage of lack of IAM oversight. According to the Privileged Access Threat Report, insider threats were the suspected cause of breach activity at 64% of organizations. Correcting the problem requires a commitment to IAM policy enforcement and employee education, as well as greater diligence vetting candidates during recruitment.
Clinging to Passwords
Despite growing evidence of the inadequacy of password-only access control, some businesses still continue to rely on single-factor authentication (SFA). The danger of SFA is twofold: Employees have notoriously poor password management habits, and hackers can easily guess passwords or steal them through social engineering or from databases if proper encryption is not in place. Employees reuse the same password 13 times on average, so if a malicious third party obtains access credentials to one asset, access is likely to be possible in other areas of the network.
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) with an option for single sign-on (SSO) combines stronger authentication methods with streamlined operation to create a more secure, user-friendly form of IAM for enterprise environments. MFA typically uses passwords along with one or more other authentication methods to make unauthorized access more difficult, and SSO allows users to access the network without inputting credentials numerous times during a single workflow.
Not Performing Device Audits
Forty-eight percent of enterprises can’t detect all the devices connected to their networks. This lack of visibility provides multiple infiltration opportunities for hackers and malicious insiders. Many IoT devices remain configured with default settings, including access credentials, which offer little or no protection against potential breaches.
Because every device an enterprise can’t see is tantamount to a breach waiting to happen, routine device audits are essential. Audits examine the network for previously “unseen” devices and determine configurations, authentication services, and software versions. Devices in need of reconfiguration are updated to provide better antivirus and antispam protection, stronger encryption, and improved device-level security.
Having a Fragmented Approach to IAM
Thirty-one percent of companies say they don’t have enough people on their information security teams with IAM responsibilities, which suggests the need for a shift toward a model with a core team of dedicated IAM experts. Creating a central IAM team can require a long search for qualified IT and cybersecurity professionals, but it’s worth the effort for enterprises relying on IoT technology to reap the benefits. Without a unified approach to the development, deployment, enforcement and maintenance of IAM policies, enterprises risk falling victim to vulnerabilities created when software and hardware updates are allowed to lapse and oversight of privileged accounts falls by the wayside.
Shifting focus to better IAM policies and consistent enforcement of access rules equips enterprises to leverage the power of technology without putting networks at risk. By working closely with in-house and third-party IT professionals, it’s possible to maintain the level of diligence and agility necessary to identify and respond to potential threats in a continuously evolving security environment.