Application Programming Interface (API) is a method of accessing digital information through various channels, such as mobile applications, cloud, and the Internet of Things (IoT). API allows companies to share their data with wide audiences, including customers, partners, or employees. Even though APIs have become an integral part of standard enterprise architecture, they can offer major security vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers and external developers. Organizations that rely only on network security solutions are open for API application breaches since API security is fundamentally different from web application and network security from the identity and access management (IAM) standpoint. This article provides an overview of security concerns of APIs and offers ways to mitigate the risks.

APIs give access to valuable information and this article provides an overview of the API security and IAM risks as well as ways to mitigate the risks.

API Security Risks

APIs give access to valuable data that may include information about business processes or are protected by privacy laws. Therefore, API platforms are to be properly protected by carefully managing authentication, authorization, identity mediation, data privacy, Denial-of-Service (DoS) threats, and threat detection. The unique nature of APIs allows malicious users to expand the surface area of attacks. The security concerns are often connected to IAM since hackers can get unintended rights to manipulate different aspects of API.

One of the most evident IAM risks while managing API is the identity and session threat. A hacker can exploit a real session ID to gain access to the user’s account if an API lacks adequate authentication and authorization controls. This problem may become even more complicated in the situation with multi-party authentication schemes. Another risk connected with IAM is the SQL injection technique used by malicious users to manipulate the database of an enterprise through API. Additionally, service information leakage can also lead to “unauthorized access through authentication factors that are not functioning because of poor security design or technology bug” according to F5 Labs. Exploiting the flaws of APIs management system may be associated with considerable impact on business.

Case Studies

API security vulnerability connected with IAM may lead to various problems. The adverse events associated with security breaches are usually the loss of service, compromise of personal and identifiable information, and theft of private data. In IoT, API hackers can get access to devices and use them in dangerous ways. The potential business impact of such events is lost revenues, legal liability, reputation damages, competitive disadvantage, contract breaches, and loss of trust from all the stakeholders. In 2018, the organizations that experienced the consequences of API security breaches were US Postal Service, T-Mobile, Valve, and even Facebook. These events led to various implications, such as exposing information on 50 million Facebook users. Hackers often decompile and examine the mobile application for API vulnerabilities. For instance, in 2017, Instagram allowed access to user contact information due to IAM flaws of API. The examples provided above demonstrate the importance of finding strategies to mitigate the IAM risks in API.

Mitigating the Risks

Protecting API from hackers is a laborious endeavor; however, the time to prevent attackers is worth spending. The first step for an enterprise to make is to realize what APIs are being used and what they can do. Modern application has many layers and may have hidden APIs of which only developers may know. Malicious users are more than glad to invest their time and effort into looking for these covered layers and finding security holes. The second step is to understand the API by reviewing the permissions and functions that are allowed. According to F5 Labs, “many APIs have identity access management privileges hidden within a configuration setting” that need to be eliminated. Even though these two steps seem obvious, they are often overlooked by companies.

Another security solution is to control access to API and mitigate the risks of identity and session threats. Akana suggests separating the identity of the user and the application that is accessing an API. However, it is a major challenge for API to become a part of a broader IAM apparatus since the providers will need to take into account authorization based on details such as user, application, geo-location, device type, and time. However, there are simple methods of dealing with security problems. They are to monitor, audit, log, and analyze the API traffic since excessive API use may be associated with greater losses than with using no API. A good API management platform may enable companies to apply the strategies mentioned above, along with other numerous ways of protecting sensitive information.

Identity and access management certifications

Conclusion

APIs are crucial for many businesses to acquire new partners and clients. The use of APIs is associated with increased risks of security breaches connected with IAM. Such breaches may lead to various problems, including reputation damage, loss of trust from all the stakeholders, legal liability, and competitive disadvantage. However, despite the potentially disastrous impact on business, API threats can be mitigated. The most efficient way of addressing the issues is by adopting an adequate API management platform and carefully analyzing the API traffic.

As we increasingly store applications and data files which contain personal and confidential information in the cloud, it is important that we take all measures to secure cloud assets in order to prevent system breaches and data loss. Identity and Access Management (IAM) is considered one of the most effective ways to provide cloud security. This article will analyze why the Identity and Access Management domain is the most significant control for data security in cloud environments.

cloud security

The operational areas of Identity and Access Management include authentication management, authorization management, federated identity management, and compliance management. This comprehensive approach ensures that only authorized users are effectively incorporated into the cloud environments.

Authentication

Authentication is crucial for cloud security, as it allows to verify and prove the identity of a user. A similar process exists in the real world in the form of presenting an ID card or other identification documents. IAM systems provide a high level of cloud security by a number of secure authentication mechanisms.

The common authentication mechanisms in a cloud system include “log-on credentials, multi-factor authentication, third party authentication, simple text passwords, 3D password objects, graphical passwords, biometric authentication, and digital device authentication”. In order to enhance the security check, some cloud service providers (CSPs) use physical security mechanisms, for instance, access cards or biometrics denying unauthorized access through authentication. In addition, Identity and Access Management may include some digital mechanisms, ensuring security in cloud environments.

Authorization

The concept of authorization ensures that the identified entities have the capability to perform only the tasks they are permitted to perform. Authorization allows to verify what access an entity is entitled to. In order to avoid data security compromise, cloud environments determine the levels of authorization for different entities. After successful authentication, authorization management determines whether the authenticated entity is allowed to perform any function within a given application.

Federated Identity Management

In Federated Identity Management, cloud services authenticate by using the organization’s identity provider. Federated identity management ensures the trust between a web-based application and the identity provider through Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and by exchanging certified public keys.

GRC and Compliance

In order to ensure credentials are managed securely by means of access control policies or access right delegations, cloud service providers create special policies to control access for guaranteeing that only valid users are able to access the protected resources and services.

Therefore, CSPs provide three essential characteristics, which are Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance (GRC) for efficient IAM and effective reporting in organizations.  

The last operational area of identity and access management is compliance management. This ensures that an organization’s resources are secure and accessed only according to the policies and regulations.

Identity and access management certifications

Conclusion

To sum up, IAM systems are essential in providing security in the cloud environment through elaborated mechanisms of authentication and authorization management. These mechanisms may include physical methods or digital methods such as Public Key Infrastructure. Privacy is regarded as a vital issue in the cloud environment protection and can be attained through Identity and Access Management, which ensures the highest level of data security.

Ninety-nine percent of employees polled in Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work survey expressed interest in working remotely for at least a portion of their careers, citing a flexible schedule as the top benefit. However, companies offering more remote work opportunities in response to the growing demand face security challenges unique to managing a mobile workforce and must respond accordingly to prevent unauthorized network access.

security challenges of working from home

Risks of Remote Work

Allowing employees to access company data from offsite locations raises concerns about data encryption, the security of wireless connections, use of removable media and potential loss or theft of devices and data. In a 2018 survey by Wi-Fi security company iPass, 57% of CIOs reported they suspect their mobile workers had been hacked or were the cause of security problems. Only 46% percent could be “confident” their remote employees used virtual private networks (VPNs) to increase security when connecting to company networks.

The same survey showed remote workers lack an understanding of the severity of common security risks. Sixty-two percent of security incidents related to Wi-Fi connections happen when employees use networks in cafes or coffee shops, and 27% of workers in the U.S. admit to opening emails and attachments from unfamiliar senders. Devices are often compromised as a result, putting both personal and company data at risk.

The Need for Better Remote Access Policies

Unfortunately, many business owners don’t understand the requirements for a robust remote access policy. Access needs and practices are changing among all workers, not just remote employees, and professional guidance is becoming essential to prevent serious problems like identity theft, data breaches and data loss.

IT and cybersecurity professionals can evaluate the security risks companies face and develop customized protocols to minimize these risks, but 44% of companies aren’t bringing the pros in to help. Therefore, many executives may miss key insights into potential vulnerabilities and fail to implement proper protection for remote workers.

Separating Personal and Work Data

The problem of mobile access security isn’t new. An increasing number of employers have adopted bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies in recent years, and 69% of “IT decision-makers” think doing so a good idea. Sixty-seven percent of employees are using personal devices at work, which means employers should already have security measures in place to deal with the potential threats of mingling personal and work data.

Issuing company devices is a straightforward way to minimize risk, as it ensures corporate data remains separate. However, the majority of young employees feel their own devices are “more effective and productive,” so employers may have to take a different approach to maintain satisfaction among remote workers. Mobile device management (MDM) apps present an alternative, allowing companies to create gated access to data and perform remote locks or wipes if devices are lost or stolen.

Establishing a Secure Environment

Seventy percent of companies consider public Wi-Fi to be a top concern for security, yet 61% know their employees still use these connections for work. To reduce the vulnerabilities associated with public Wi-Fi networks, employers can:

• Ban the use of unsecured wireless connections
• Use geolocation to restrict the places from which company networks can be accessed
• Set up and require the use of a VPN for remote work

VPNs may be the least complicated to implement and enforce, as these networks don’t have the potential to compromise employee privacy and don’t restrict where remote employees can work. Reliable VPNs offer end-to-end data encryption and shield IP addresses to increase security on all types of connections.

Committing to Ongoing Education

Users remain largely unaware of the potential security risks of their actions or how these actions could compromise their employers’ networks. A whitepaper by Cisco Systems revealed only about half of workers who use personal devices to access company data have proper security installed on their devices, and many more engage in risky behaviors, including:

• 46% download personal files onto work devices
• 29% use personal devices for work without worrying about safety
• 21% allow other people to use their work computers

Despite this, the majority of remote employees still believe they’re working securely. This signals a disconnect between understanding the importance of security and the ability to implement critical security measures. To bridge the gap, employers must establish training and education programs informing all employees of security best practices and provide the tools and support to put them into operation.

Identity and access management certifications

With diligence and a focus on mobile security, businesses can support a remote workforce while maintaining secure network access for all employees. Learning to recognize and respond proactively to potential threats allows companies to benefit from the 35 to 40% increase in productivity made possible by remote work and continue to provide employees with the benefit of a more favorable balance between their personal and professional lives.

As business applications move out of the corporate networks into the cloud environments and devices become smarter, interconnect, and loaded with data, identity and access management (IAM) certifications gain popularity as network security becomes less of an issue that it was in the past and managing identities and their access in standalone cloud systems or IoT devices becomes a critical component of the cyber security profession. IAM Certifications by Identity Management Institute allow identity practitioners and identity risk management professionals to set themselves apart in the marketplace.

It is obvious to most hiring managers that education alone and certifications do not compensate for on the job training specially in a technical field such as cyber security and identity management careers, however, experts agree that educated and knowledgeable staff learn faster on the job and can be much more productive sooner.

A recent survey of professionals across the globe found that after completing a professional certification, as much as 76 percent reported a salary increase of up to 13% or promotion. And when compared with professionals who are not certified, the certified professionals reported easier and faster hiring as well as higher levels of confidence and satisfaction at work.

Identity and Access Management Certification Options

When it comes to professional IAM certifications, many members of Identity Management Institute (IMI) ask themselves which IAM certification they must pursue for career growth and learning. Another important question that they pose themselves is what are the differences and benefits of vendor-neutral versus vendor-specific certification?

To answer the first question, IMI created an IAM certification chart to illustrate various identity and access management professional career options. Take a look at the chart below and click the image to learn more about each certification.

identity and access management certifications and career path

Vendor-Neutral Versus Vendor-Specific Certification

The main difference between vendor-neutral and vendor-specific certifications is that a vendor specific training and certification offers insight into the product features. The skills learned can only be applied to that specific product for the most part. A vendor specific certification establishes credibility and expertise for the use of the product whereas the vendor neutral certification offers broader options and high level knowledge of the IAM best practices and frameworks that can be applied to all IAM related jobs and products.

For new entrants to the IAM field whether you are a new graduate or someone with related cybersecurity experience who wants to switch to an IAM specific job, getting a vendor neutral certification is always a great first step to get into the door and then reinforcing that credential with a product specific certification to display specialty. Once a job is secured, you can learn about the tools that your company is using or planning to procure so you can target the product that you plan to become an expert in. Otherwise, what is the point of spending time and money to learn a product that your company is not using. Also, if you earn a product certification and fail to work on that product for a while, you will forget all that you have learned.

In conclusion, both the vendor-neutral and vendor-specific certifications are valuable depending on your employment status, needs, and interest. If you are new to the IAM job market and don’t know which products you will be working with, it is better to pursue a vendor-neutral certification. On the other hand, if you are targeting a particular product vendor for employment or if your company uses a particular product, then it is better to pursue a product training first. Regardless of when you pursue a product certification, having a vendor neutral IAM certification is extremely beneficial because the credential and knowledge earned during the certification process can be applied to all industries and products.

IAM professionals are encouraged to assess their options carefully when it comes to vendor-specific certification as there are many competing IAM products with changing market demand which determines job opportunities.

Facebook’s announcement of its upcoming cryptocurrency launch is making some lawmakers and security experts uneasy. Dubbed “Libra” and slated to debut in 2020, the currency has the potential to threaten privacy on a global scale unless regulatory action is taken to minimize the risks to consumers’ data and identities.

Facebook Libra cryptocurrency privacy risks

What is Libra?

Facebook defines Libra as a “stable currency built on a secure and stable open-source blockchain, backed by a reserve of real assets.” This makes it a form of “stablecoin,” a cryptocurrency designed to remain relatively safe from wild fluctuations in value, which is achieved by backing the coins with actual currencies. Unlike bitcoin, Libra won’t start out as a decentralized currency. Rather, the currency will be available to users of Facebook products like Messenger and WhatsApp to enable low-cost domestic and international funds transfers. Each transaction will be recorded in the Libra blockchain, and the entire system is governed by the Libra Association, a not-for-profit organization of which Facebook is just one member.

Does Libra Threaten Consumer Privacy?

The impact a cryptocurrency apparently under the control of a social network already known for questionable privacy practices could have on users’ identities is causing enough concern that even the U.S. House Financial Services Committee is calling for Facebook to put off the launch until risk assessments can be performed and security concerns addressed.

As a new form of digital payment, Libra requires a platform through which users can access and transfer the stablecoins. Facebook is solving this problem by creating a subsidiary called Calibra, which will make a digital wallet available as a standalone app, as well as within Messenger and WhatsApp. In the future, this Libra wallet could allow brands to push into Facebook, selling products directly to users of the social network and collecting payment in Libra cryptocurrency. Proponents are touting this breaking down of barriers as a boon for international markets, particularly in developing areas with unstable currencies, but critics cite data mining as a serious privacy concern.

Transaction information can reveal a lot about consumers, and some say this doesn’t bode well with companies like PayPal, Visa and Mastercard on the list of founding members of the Libra Association. If Libra becomes popular enough to expand from funds transfers to a viable e-commerce currency, the metadata stored about each transaction could contribute to “super profiles,” which financial companies and retailers could potentially use to reach consumers with highly personalized marketing.

Facebook has stated it won’t use personal information from Libra transactions without consent and doesn’t plan to make user data a factor in improving targeted advertising but hasn’t provided details on how information will be secured once the Libra blockchain makes the switch from permissioned to permissionless five years after its launch. Once the blockchain becomes more accessible, there appears to be little to prevent developers and businesses from mining Libra transaction data for their own purposes. Integrating Libra payments into products may provide benefits, but each additional Libra-enabled platform would collect more data.

Of paramount concern is how Facebook plans to protect the private keys required for maintaining security in the blockchain environment. Hackers gaining access to these keys could completely take over users’ identities, which may allow them to take over numerous accounts and move from platform to platform without detection.

Identity and access management certifications

Is Facebook Creating a Decentralized Identity?

Reading the Libra whitepaper reveals an interesting secondary purpose for the cryptocurrency as it grows. According to Facebook, the Libra Association also seeks “to develop and promote an open identity standard.” Such a “decentralized and portable digital identity” isn’t a new concept. However, with 2 billion people around the world already using Facebook, Libra may prove to be a viable way to realize a goal many are working toward but haven’t yet achieved on a wide scale.

If Facebook were to succeed in deploying Libra in this way, users may face a host of new identity and privacy challenges. Libra’s links to Facebook and its products make it potentially vulnerable if accounts are hacked. Even if additional security measures were implemented, there’s still the question of whether or not it’s wise for users to trust Facebook with even more sensitive personal information than the social network already handles.

Certified in Data Protection

Because cryptocurrency is still a relatively new technology and the blockchain on which it relies is also in the early stages of development and implementation, cybersecurity professionals have a legitimate reason to be concerned about the launch of Libra. It’s unclear how hands-on Facebook intends to be once the Libra blockchain becomes permissionless and public, and without details regarding who will control users’ information or how this data will be secured, caution is required to prevent today’s uncertainties from becoming tomorrow’s identity theft crisis.

Businesses seeking to leverage the power of the blockchain without being overwhelmed by the administrative complexities of back end management can turn to providers like Amazon, Microsoft, Oracle and IBM for blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) offerings. With BaaS, companies can “build, host and use their own blockchain apps, smart contracts and functions on the blockchain” while the provider handles the details of infrastructure and management.

Blockchain as a service BaaS

Although blockchain technology is a rapidly expanding industry set to generate $10.6 billion in revenue by 2023, business owners must still be aware of the potential vulnerabilities of a system previously touted as “immutable and unhackable.”

Potential Compromise of User Keys

Access to the blockchain is regulated through the use of public and private keys. Each user possesses a unique pair of these keys, which are secure as long as neither one is compromised during creation, storage or use. However, keys must be managed with the same care as any other access information. If hackers gain access to the platform where keys are stored, the data can be used to take over a user’s blockchain identity.

Due to this vulnerability, it’s still possible for hackers to use simple means like phishing attacks to steal blockchain access information. The difficulty involved in changing information once it’s been stored in the blockchain makes compromised accounts even more of a problem, which is why businesses must have reliable protection in place for all forms of access data.

Outsourced Security Management

As with all “as-a-service” offerings, the responsibility for security in BaaS falls to the provider. A business with well-managed onsite security can fall victim to malicious attacks if vulnerabilities exist in its chosen BaaS platform. Since blockchain is still a fairly new technology, it may have weaknesses no one has yet considered or discovered and which may not be manageable using existing security measures.

Businesses considering BaaS must evaluate the potential known vulnerabilities of providers and how these vulnerabilities could affect onsite security. Using a permissioned blockchain model with strong identity and access management protocols minimizes the risk of insider threats, but if something goes wrong on the provider’s end, it could compromise the information stored in customer’s blockchains.

No Solid Regulations Established

Unlike traditional cybersecurity, which is becoming increasingly more regulated to protect the privacy rights of users, blockchain technology by nature almost defies regulation. The original idea was to have a decentralized ledger in which information belonged to users, not companies or agencies, and although permissioned and private blockchains don’t share this characteristic, significant regulatory challenges still exist.

However, even without concrete standards, businesses taking advantage of BaaS are still responsible for compliance. This can be difficult, particularly for large companies dealing with international privacy regulations. Not having a single authority for blockchain regulation makes it difficult to learn from other’s mistakes, since protocols and processes aren’t transferrable from one independent blockchain environment to another. This could delay the implementation of an across-the-board solution, leaving systems vulnerable to attack.

Mistakes in Implementation and Use

Many of the issues of blockchain security arise during setup and implementation. By nature, the blockchain should be largely secure and unchangeable, but errors in the early stages of BaaS adoption can compromise a company’s entire blockchain from the start.

If a private key isn’t random enough when it’s created, for example, a hacker has a better chance of compromising a user’s credentials and gaining access to the blockchain. Just one compromised key could cause big headaches, since it’s very difficult to modify information stored in the blockchain, including critical data related to user identities.

Similar problems may occur if something goes wrong during the creation of internal protocols for verifying and recording blockchain transactions or when vulnerabilities exist in the codes of smart contracts. This may lead to problems with access control or allow hackers to compromise the interactions between parties in a contract and use the functions for their own private purposes.

A lack of rules and standards for blockchain use and governance leaves the creation of control and security protocols largely up to BaaS providers and the businesses using their services. Without adequate control measures for access and use, it becomes difficult to maintain consistent blockchain security and ensure all information stored therein is truly private.

Identity and access management certifications

The allure of blockchain-as-a-service may cause business owners to overlook or minimize the severity of these potential vulnerabilities in their zeal to adopt cutting-edge solutions ahead of the competition. Reduced overhead and ease of implementation can spur companies to invest in BaaS without fully considering the challenges, which can lead to devastating security consequences. Prior planning, knowledgeable guidance and a concrete understanding of the benefits and limitations of the blockchain is required for successful execution of this powerful developing technology.

As technology continues to evolve and use cases increase in complexity, businesses and organizations need more guidance from individuals skilled in data protection and breach prevention. Cybersecurity remains a top concern for anyone handling sensitive information, but recent incidents and study results indicate an alarming lack of understanding regarding the importance of access control and unified security management.

Some organizations are taking steps to implement better protocols, but others still struggle with vulnerabilities and lack the tools or education to meet the security challenges presented by modern network configurations and diverse modes of access. The following cases highlight some of the major concerns IT and cybersecurity professionals need to address.

Department of Defense Creates New Cybersecurity Standards

In July 2019, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) publishes a draft of its new five-level cybersecurity standards system for contractors and subcontractors. Known as the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), the standard is being developed to create a unified approach to security when dealing with sensitive government data and prevent potentially catastrophic security incidents. The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab and Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute are major players in CMMC development. 

Current inconsistencies in contractor security processes cost the government billions of dollars every year, which includes the loss of intellectual property. The CMMC seeks to address and combat this loss by enforcing standards through third-party compliance audits, ongoing risk mitigation and the collection and analysis of metrics. Because DoD data is highly sensitive and a breach could present a threat to national security, rigid enforcement is required to ensure the safety and privacy of information at all times.

Full implementation and inclusion in contractor agreements is expected to begin at the start of 2020 with the goal of being able to monitor and protect the entire supply chain. 

Over 600,00 Patients Affected by Oregon DHS Breach

The effects of a breach at the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) in January 2019 are still being felt as notifications go out to the 645,000 people whose records were compromised. This is significantly more than the original estimate of 350,000 and is a sobering reminder of the widespread problems just a few compromised accounts can cause.

Hackers used a phishing scam to steal the credentials of nine DHS employees, which granted access to emails, messages and attachments. Although it’s unclear whether the hackers actually looked at or did anything with the data, it took 19 days for the DHS to detect the breach, perform a password reset and put an end to the unauthorized access. During this time, hackers may have had the chance to view private patient data, including health information and social security numbers. Over 2 million emails were affected by the breach.

The DHS provides training to help employees detect phishing emails and employs multi-factor authentication for login procedures, but some are still questioning the efficacy of these methods in the aftermath of such a massive event. Additional measures may be necessary to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future and protect patients from fraud and identity theft.

Identity and Access Management Challenges

According to a study conducted at the 2019 RSA Conference by access management firm One Identity, businesses continue to struggle with Identity and Access Management. 34 percent of attendees consider privileged identity management (PAM) to be one of the most “difficult operational tasks” for businesses, followed by user password management and lifecycle management. Seventy-one percent cited data loss as a top security issue, and 44 percent recognized both insider and outsider threats as significant concerns.

Despite these findings, only 14 percent of respondents felt better access control would have a positive effect on cybersecurity. This suggests businesses understand the potential threats of poor identity and access management (IAM) but fail to see why strong IAM policies are necessary to protect sensitive data.

Statistics from employee respondents shed light on the significant threats resulting from improper or inadequate IAM protocols. Among those polled:

• 70 percent would look at sensitive files if granted unlimited access
• 60 percent would take company data with them when leaving their positions if they knew they wouldn’t get caught
• 40 percent have shared passwords with someone else

Based on such responses, problems potentially resulting from insider threats alone should be enough of a concern to prompt companies to adopt stronger strategies for provisioning, deprovisioning and access management. Implementation of tougher controls under the guidance of knowledgeable cybersecurity experts can mitigate risk and reduce the likelihood of data loss or compromise. 

For IT professionals, these changes and challenges present opportunities to aid businesses and organizations with developing improved strategies for cybersecurity, breach prevention and employee access control.

Identity and access management certifications

Cybersecurity certification and ongoing education prepares those in the IT industry to build defenses against the latest threats and implement the best protective technologies available.

Data breaches can cost healthcare organizations $380 per affected record, but current systems are vulnerable to numerous types of attacks. Patient data is extremely valuable to hackers looking for detailed identity information, which makes securing electronic health records (EHRs) and associated personal details a top priority in the healthcare industry.

Emerging blockchain technology may offer a solution to healthcare’s biggest security challenges. Features such as decentralized storage, cryptography and smart contracts provide a framework for organizations to improve data protection while maintaining accuracy and preventing unauthorized access to or alteration of patient information.

Maintaining Consistent Permissions

A blockchain may be set up as permissionless or permissioned. Permissionless, or public, blockchains are theoretically accessible to any user, but becoming part of a permissioned blockchain requires consent from the owner. Given the highly sensitive nature of patient data, permissioned blockchains are more appropriate for healthcare settings.

This can present problems if permissions aren’t handled properly. Healthcare professionals must have easy access to patient data at a moment’s notice, especially in emergencies. Inconsistent permissions may block access at critical moments, which could put patients in life-threatening situations.

Blockchain technology employs two solutions for seamless, secure permission management:

• Smart contracts grant access using predetermined parameters agreed upon by all parties involved in the contract. This rule-based form of access control can be customized to automate a variety of workflows.
• Cryptographic keys put access control in the hand of patients. Each patient has a “master” key to “unlock” health data and can give a copy of this key to health care professionals or institutions as needed. Actions may be restricted to reading or writing information, and patients can revoke keys in the event the device on which a key becomes compromised.

By allowing for the automation of processes currently requiring one or more middlemen, smart contracts and cryptographic keys minimize the risk of human error and reduce the time between the collection of health information and fulfillment of actions like insurance billing and payment. 

Protecting Patient Information and Identities

Giving patients the choice of whom they share their keys with effectively puts them in control of what can be done with their health information, including who can access it and when. Because data can’t be decrypted without a key, no one should be able to read patient information without express permission. Hackers obtaining encrypted health data would need to also steal the keys to make use of the information they obtain. Combining keys with smart contracts prevents unauthorized parties from adding information to a patients’ records, including outsiders seeking to tamper with data for malicious or self-serving purposes. 

Utilizing the blockchain also creates an environment in which all participants, including patients, review information before it officially becomes part of a record. This provides the opportunity for healthcare providers and patients to evaluate information, thus preserving the accuracy of data throughout the blockchain. Since 40 percent of patient health records currently contain errors, switching to this kind of collaborative system has the potential to improve patient care and reduce the risk of life-threatening mistakes. 

Companies like MedChain and MedRec are currently working on permissioned blockchain platforms to bring these benefits to healthcare organizations and the patients they serve. By moving patient health information to a decentralized storage solution in which records are broken into fragments and distributed across the blockchain, these companies seek to provide a better way for healthcare organizations to protect patient information.

Challenges of Blockchain Implementation

While the blockchain has many potentially beneficial applications in the healthcare industry, the technology still needs time to mature before it becomes practical to pursue widespread adoption. Adherence to HIPAA regulations is a key concern when storing private patient information in a decentralized environment, and use of blockchain technology alone isn’t enough to ensure complete privacy. Stringent security regulations, including encryption and onsite administrative protocols, would be required of each healthcare organization retrieving, storing or sharing patient data within a permissioned blockchain.

Implementing permissioned blockchain models in existing systems requires help from IT professionals who are trained and certified in the technology and familiar with the security challenges such a framework poses in a healthcare setting. An appropriate system of checks and balances must be established at the outset to prevent data errors from becoming permanent parts of the blockchain, and provision must be made for accessing records in the event of emergencies in which patients are rendered incapable of granting access using their security keys. 

Identity and access management certifications

Healthcare organizations looking to blockchain technology to improve patient privacy and ensure greater accuracy need to weigh the benefits against the potential pitfalls and work with qualified identity and access management professionals to deploy solutions customized to the unique security and compliance needs of the industry while focusing on access management, data protection and the prevention of identity theft.

Voice-enabled internet of things (IoT) technology has taken the consumer market by storm, with in-home use of smart speakers jumping 78 percent between 2017 and 2018. Today, 21 percent of the U.S. population uses some kind of voice-enabled IoT device on a regular basis.

At the enterprise level, voice adoption is most prevalent in the industrial sector, but the technology is making its way into more businesses as new options for consumer outreach, workflow automation and collaborative communication become available. This widespread implementation raises significant security concerns, which businesses need to recognize and address if the full benefit of the technology is to be realized. 

The Rise of Voice-Enabled Devices in Enterprise Environments

According to a study by Pindrop, a voice technology security company, 57 percent of managers believe introducing voice-enabled technology would “increase operational efficiencies,” which hints at the potential power of voice in enterprise environments. Gartner predicts voice will comprise 25 percent of employee interactions with business applications by 2023, a very probable scenario in light of the number of new enterprise IoT devices appearing on the market.

Although voice can be used to monitor network health, maximize resource efficiency, track collaborative projects and connect with customers, use cases go far beyond these basic tasks. The introduction of devices like Google Glass Enterprise Edition has changed the way companies approach manufacturing processes by introducing powerful voice-controlled artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tools into industrial environments. Communication devices from Orion Labs are breaking down language barriers to enable more efficient and productive collaboration between in-house and remote team members.

In healthcare, voice has the potential to create personalized programs and protocols for patients without requiring a significant increase in workloads for physicians. Dictation, documentation and electronic records may come together in the near future to allow healthcare providers to make more accurate diagnoses and care decisions. 

Security Risks of IoT in Business and Manufacturing

It’s not hard to see how introducing voice technology into these situations could put sensitive information and processes at risk. Voice-enabled IoT collects massive amounts of data, which is very attractive to hackers and makes enterprises using voice devices prime targets for attacks.

A single compromised device could allow a hacker to infiltrate an entire network and gain access to proprietary information, interfere with critical processes or interrupt manufacturing procedures. In industrial settings, vulnerable IoT could present a threat to workers who rely on devices to provide accurate operational and procedural information. While some hackers may simply decide to cripple a company by slowing or halting production, others may take a more malicious approach with the potential to cause serious harm.

If voice becomes more prominent in healthcare, the danger may be just as significant. IoT devices used to record and recall patient histories, including medication information, could become targets of malicious attacks, leading to disastrous mistakes with care protocols and putting patients’ lives at risk.

Hackers may use a variety of tactics to infiltrate voice-enabled IoT devices, including:

• Sending very high- or low-frequency commands undetectable by the human ear
• Altering audio to include additional commands or cause commands to be understood and executed differently
• Making use of “voice spoofing” for unauthorized activation and access

In addition to threats from the outside, enterprises must also be aware of the potential for a new style of insider attack involving the exploitation of devices already recognizing and responding to trusted voice input.

How Companies Can Protect Voice-enabled IoT

Introducing more voice technology into business environments requires a new approach to access management and data security. As voice commands are integrated into standard processes and workflows, voice biometrics will become part of users’ identities and need to be verified and monitored to ensure authenticity. Voice IoT devices themselves must be protected with the strongest security protocols possible and updated regularly to prevent known vulnerabilities from becoming points of entry for hackers.

Devices come with built-in security features, which much be set up at the time of implementation. Default settings and passwords pose a serious risk and should never be left in place once a device has been connected to an enterprise network. Businesses using multiple IoT devices can benefit from mapping their systems to identify all connected endpoints and the interactions between them and setting up a system to regularly monitor use throughout the network. If both industrial and office IoT are in use, it’s best to keep networks separate to prevent widespread infiltration.

Businesses across sectors can reap substantial benefits using voice to improve operations, collect more detailed information and provide better customer service, but any implementation plan must include a knowledgeable approach to security. Updating standard protective measures can help minimize the risks associated with introducing new voice technologies into enterprise environments by protecting against data compromise, unauthorized network access and identity theft.

The global technology growth has led to high demand for skilled employees. However, estimates for 2019 reveal a profound skill deficit within the employee pool. Three million IT positions need to be filled, but there are not enough qualified individuals to fill them. Within the cybersecurity sector, 500,000 security specialists are needed within the United States alone. Individuals with professional certifications, technical, knowledge, and a deep understanding of identity risk management standards and guidelines are highly sought.

Identity and access management jobs and career path with certification courses from Identity Management Institute

IAM Positions at All Levels and Skills

Positions that need to be filled include entry-level positions as well as high-level positions and numerous mid-career level positions. Enterprise level organizations are in need of talented individuals but so are start-ups and mid-size businesses. There are positions for third-party, independent contractors as well. Regardless of education level, experience level or required salary, there are openings for individuals with an IT background and an interest in identity and access management.

Below is a list of a few popular identity and access management jobs and titles that are often listed on job boards:

  • IAM System Architect
  • IAM System Engineer
  • IAM Access Control Specialist
  • IAM Administrator

Recent graduates and experienced professionals with identity and access management certification are qualified to fill these open positions.

The Need for Identity and Access Management Certification

Government agencies are becoming stricter when it comes to data privacy. The European Union’s GDPR standard is expected to become the default standard, even in regions where industries are not obligated to comply. As a result, organizations seek certified security specialists who remain current on legislation, technology and consumer demands.

In addition, entities like the United States Department of Defense require contractors and employees to fulfill DOD IAM levels. A solid background in IAM practices and strategies prepare individuals to pass DOD standards. Since data security jobs are in high demand, supplementing existing IT knowledge with security certifications increases employability.

Other regions and industries seeking identity and access management certified employees include insurance organizations, consumer-facing organizations within the retail and service industries, legal organizations, biomedicine and pharmaceutical companies, real estate firms and others.

Employees with roles beyond the IT department also benefit from identity and access management certifications. Whether acting as a data analyst, human resources administrator or business analyst, holding a certification in fraud prevention, data protection or identity theft is helpful to employers and essential for a well-rounded resume.

Identity and Access Management Jobs Salary

The range of positions available within the identity and access management job market lends itself to a range of salaries. Location dictates salaries, as does the size of the organization and required skill set, experience and education. Starting at the highest level and moving to the lowest, here is a sample of salaries for identity and access management jobs.

IAM System architects can expect to earn an annual salary of $100,000 to $200,000.

IAM System Engineers and Developers are needed across a range of business levels, not simply enterprise organizations. This results in a range of salaries, with the highest reaching $140,000 per year and the lowest within the $60,000 per year range.

IAM Access Control Specialists, administrators, data analysts and business analysts can expect to see salaries within the $35,000 to $75,000 range.

Higher salaries are provided to those with high levels of education, experience and creative thinking. This information is provided within identity and access management job descriptions.

Employers Seek Creativity, Education and Certification

Increased awareness of the need for data privacy, new regional privacy standards and enterprise level security tools require organizations to move beyond a generic approach to data access. Single sign-on technology, biometrics, multi-factor authentification, role-based access control and privileged access management provide enterprise organizations with the flexibility they need to meet the privacy demands of government regulators as well as answer the concerns of clients and employees.

Since organizations are not looking for generic solutions, they are offering detailed job descriptions with specific skill sets. Knowledge of the organization’s industry is also highly prized.

A sample of job descriptions reveal that certain skill sets are in demand, but the depth and extent of those skills are dependent upon the individual’s role within the organization, the organization’s size and the regulatory requirements of the organization’s industry. Here are some job descriptions that run the gamut from highly skilled to generally skilled.

Identity and Access Management System Architect

This role requires the most education and experience. Qualified individuals have experience with project management, leadership, software development, cybersecurity and industry-specific knowledge. Sometimes called a Digital Transformation Architect, this multi-faceted individual ensures that executive roles, IT departments and consumer-facing tech are in alignment with security standards.

Individual and Access Management Engineer

IAM engineers are experienced software engineers and developers. Due to the lack of IAM engineers, many employers are seeking flexible and adaptable software developers with an interest in cybersecurity.

Recent job descriptions in high demand locations are specifically looking for software engineers who aren’t afraid to make mistakes, have a creative approach to problems and “an ability to understand business’ functions and technology use.”

Individuals who have the skills needed to fulfill high level sysadmin and devops positions, and who aren’t intimidated by power structures, have what it takes to fulfill the Individual and Access Management job responsibilities of an IAM engineer.

IAM Administrator

These individuals play a highly technical role and are often the first responders to security breaches and other incidents. Employers expect these individuals to have a degree in computer science, experience with ID provisioning, experience in IT operations and the ability to track and manage multiple intake systems and experience performing root cause analysis.

Identity and Access Management Analyst

This identity and access management job description fulfills the needs of entry-level job seekers with degrees in computer science or cybersecurity. In this position, candidates should have a functional understanding of database administration, directories and protocols among others.

Identity and access management job responsibilities, regardless of position level and experience, require adherence to a code of ethics and knowledge of critical risk domains, or CRD, to include:

  • Regulations and Compliance
  • Program Management and Administration
  • Risk Assessment and Mitigation
  • Product Development and System Management
identity and access management career path

Identity and Access Management Career Path for Experienced Professionals

Experienced individuals employed as system engineers and architects can improve their chances of being hired, promotion and higher earnings by pursuing the following certifications:

Individuals employed in consulting, analyst positions such as data analysts, or administrative roles, such as human resources, compliance, or department supervisors can increase their opportunities to provide better security services by pursuing the following certifications:

Identity and Access Management Career Path for College Graduates

College graduates have spent numerous academic hours honing their coding and software development skills, experimenting with new platforms and learning the ins-and-outs of cloud and hybrid systems. These skills are in high demand across industries due to the evolving nature of software systems and cloud development tools. To increase employability and meet the needs of cyber security-aware firms, adding the following certifications to a resume helps candidates stand out from generic job seekers.

Numerous identity and access management jobs need to be filled. These jobs range from software engineering, product development, consulting, project management, and access administration among others. Employment indicators show that IT job salaries may have reached a plateau. Augmenting your current technical skills with an IAM certification can boost salary options and increase job opportunities as identity and access management has become the core solution for the cyber security industry.

Technical identity and access management experts need to better understand the IAM risks and best practices in order to design and implement products that address the evolving challenges. On the other hand, non-technical IAM specialists need to better understand the IAM tools and their features in order to use the IAM systems and manage projects effectively.