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.

Biometric identifiers are currently used as part of the authentication process at 62 percent of organizations, and 70 percent of U.S. consumers would like to see biometric authentication expand into their places of work. Often used alone or as part of multi-factor authentication protocols, biometric data is seen as a more secure alternative to traditional passwords.

However, concerns about potential vulnerabilities are beginning to arise as the use of biometrics becomes more prevalent. What risks are businesses and organizations taking by adopting biometric authentication, and how does it impact customers and employees? 

Unlike passwords and verification codes, biometrics are fundamental parts of users’ identities. The following common identifiers represent unique physical or personality traits:

• Fingerprint scan
• Iris scan
• Facial scan
• Voice recognition
• Handprint geometry
• Vein mapping
• Behavioral characteristics

Whether inherited or learned, these markers are core aspects of personally identifiable information (PII) and can’t be changed. Hacked passwords are easy to reset, but what can consumers and employees do if a hacker steals what’s essentially part of their biology?

The use of biometrics in authentication means every action taken is connected to the user to whom specific identifiers belong. Once a malicious third party manages to compromise a scan or fool an algorithm, it puts the real users’ reputation at risk. Technology for capturing images and information used in biometrics is becoming more powerful, which allows for more nuanced and detailed profiles of consumers and employees. However, just one vulnerability in the way the data is captured, stored or transmitted can expose private PII and allow hackers to not only access business networks but also take over every account associated with an individual’s biometric information.

Inaccuracy and Fraud
The tendency of users to assign similar or identical passwords to multiple accounts is often cited as a major problem for system security, but this becomes less of a concern when passwords are encrypted and hashed. Hashing assigns a completely unique identifier to every password, which is difficult or impossible for hackers to decode. This allows users to set passwords they can remember for easy access to systems.

By contrast, scanners used to capture and read biometric data aren’t accurate 100 percent of the time. Even slight variations in how a user touches a fingerprint scanner or looks at a camera during a facial scan will create different images. The resulting discrepancies can cause authentication to fail and lock legitimate users out of the system.

The irony of this situation lies in a hacker’s ability to reproduce a convincing fake of the original scan and use it for successful access. Information is vulnerable when it’s recorded, stored and transmitted, giving hackers multiple opportunities to lift identifying data.

Storage and Encryption
Once identifiers are collected, the data has to be stored somewhere. Because no form of storage can be considered completely safe, this creates the same problem as any other access management strategy in which businesses and organizations are responsible for securing users’ identities. Encrypting data during transfer only addresses part of the problem, since hackers can still access biometric information as it’s collected and when it’s being matched to previously captured data.

Businesses can improve security by adopting runtime encryption, which keeps sensitive data encrypted during use, or choosing not to store biometrics at all. Authentication apps utilizing biometric data stored locally on users’ devices minimizes the danger of compromise but still carries risks if a device is lost or stolen. Compromised applications on devices or networks create additional vulnerabilities, which much be considered when determining the best method to implement.

Predictions show almost 90 percent of business will use biometrics by 2020, and yet it still has the kind of mystical appeal often associated with science fiction. Business owners must beware of seeing biometric authentication as a cure-all or magic bullet for solving problems with access management.

Research conducted at Michigan State University showed just how dangerous this kind of thinking can be. Using machine learning, researchers created a set of incredibly accurate “MasterPrints,” synthetic fingerprints with the ability to match to numerous real fingerprints and undermine the security of biometric scanners. In another startling example, Vietnamese hackers were able to use a just a handful of materials and tools to create masks capable of fooling Apple’s FaceID. Without other security measures in place, biometrics are vulnerable to compromise and can leave business networks vulnerable to these types of attacks. 

Businesses faced with the challenges of implementing biometric authentication need expert help to prevent the personal identifiers of their customers and employees from becoming compromised. With so much at risk, both an accurate understanding of potential vulnerabilities and a solid identity theft prevention plan are essential to preserve the privacy and integrity of personal data.

Each new data breach casts doubt on whether personal data can ever truly be kept private. Despite increased efforts to improve security and prevent hacking, major sites continue to become the targets of global hackers. What do these breaches teach businesses and users about modern cybersecurity, and what can be done to minimize future risks?

What can we learn from data breach incidents? Lessons learned from data breach cases.

Millions of Users Compromised on Instagram

In March 2019, Facebook announced in a blog post that tens of thousands of Instagram users’ passwords had been “accidentally” stored in a format readable by third parties, although the social site claimed none of the passwords were “internally abused or improperly accessed.” By April, the number of affected users had increased to the millions, suggesting the breach was much more extensive than was first believed.

All affected users should have been notified by Facebook, but despite the apparent lack of malicious activity, the full impact of any vulnerability may not always be known. With no indication of who might have had access to the passwords or how the data might be exploited, it’s possible information associated with the accounts could have been compromised.

Instagram was in the spotlight again about a month later when information on 49 million users, including celebrities and popular influencers, was discovered in a database belonging to Chtrbox, an influencer marketing site. Information was reported to include profile pictures, likes, shares, follower counts, locations, phone numbers and email addresses.

Chtrbox claimed only 350,000 records were in the database, all compiled from publicly available information and not Instagram itself. If any of the data did actually come from Instagram, it’s possible a flaw in the website, which may have existed since October of prior year, could be to blame. The database was “inadvertently left unsecured for approximately 72 hours” before being fixed. 

Canva Design Tool Attacked and Breached

Other sites are equally vulnerable even when they don’t contain the same level of personal data found on social media platforms. A breach of the Australian design tool Canva highlights this unsettling reality. Canva allows users to create custom images for social media posts and profiles, email marketing, blogs and print advertising and was recently breached by an opportunistic hacker going by the name “GnosticPlayers.”

The hacker claimed to have stolen data on 932 million users from 44 sites across the web, including Canva which closed its database server after detecting the breach in mid-May 2019, but it was too late to prevent 139 million records from being compromised. Seventy-eight million of the affected users sign into Canva through Google accounts, which could put additional information outside of the design platform at risk.

Canva assures its users no login credentials were compromised because all passwords for the site and third-party login options are encrypted and impossible to decode. However, it continued to advise users to change passwords for Canva accounts as a precaution. 

How Should Users Respond?

The smartest thing for individuals to do after a data breach is to change passwords for the affected sites and any sites where the same email address and password combination are used. Those signing in through a third party, such as Google, may also want to consider updating those passwords, as well. Even though affected users receive notification from companies that experience a data breach, a password reset is always a good precautionary measure following data compromise.

Creating stronger passwords, eliminating duplicates and managing password information more carefully reduces the risk of multiple accounts being compromised. Adopting the highest security settings and adding firewalls, anti-spyware and anti-malware programs to all devices can provide another layer of protection during daily work and web browsing. 

How Should Businesses Respond?

Companies handling any kind of personal information need to implement more sophisticated security measures and take advantage of solutions incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning to monitor network use and detect anomalies suggestive of possible malicious activity. Early detection is key in preventing extensive breaches, and technology is continuously being updated to handle new threats.

IT professionals trained in disciplines relevant to breach prevention can help business owners develop and deploy improved cybersecurity plans and educate both employees and customers in better password management practices. Some companies are dealing with increased threat risks by phasing out passwords completely and introducing more secure login options.

It’s unlikely breaches will ever stop completely, but businesses and users are responsible for taking proactive steps to reduce risks as much as possible. For IT professionals, massive breaches like those affecting Instagram and Canva highlight the growing need businesses have for better access control and cybersecurity protocols. Individuals with knowledge and experience in identity risk management and identity theft prevention can provide the guidance required to identify potential vulnerabilities and thwart hackers before millions of records are compromised.

Identity and access management certifications

For banks, credit unions and other financial institutions, verifying the identity of customers is of vital importance. Compliance regulations are becoming more complex, requiring more diligence and detail during onboarding and throughout the customer lifecycle. Among these regulations is the “know your customer” (KYC) process, which may directly affect how institutions handle identity management.

Know Your Customer information by Identity Management Institute

What is Know Your Customer (KYC)?

When a customer wants to do business with a financial institution, it’s up to the institution to make sure the person is who he or she claims to be and the transactions being performed are legitimate. At its most basic, KYC means getting a better understanding of each customer’s identity prior to entering into any kind of relationship or agreement. The process prevents individuals on prohibited lists and those with whom doing business poses too great a risk from negatively impacting operations.

The KYC regulations began in 2001 as part of the Patriot Act and include two main requirements:

• Customer Identification Program (CIP), in which identifying information is gathered and analyzed 
• Customer Due Diligence (CDD), a predictive approach to fraud prevention requiring knowledge of customer behaviors to assign risk ratings and detect anomalies suggestive of fraud

Maintaining KYC compliance through these processes poses a challenge in light of the changing nature of identity and the growing volume of customer data in a connected age.

How Do KYC Rules Impact Identity Management?

In combination with other anti-money laundering (AML) regulations, KYC is meant to help minimize problems with fraud, money laundering and the siphoning of funds to terrorist groups. By identifying customers as legitimate or risky before giving them the green light, CIP and CDD should, in theory, reduce the number of fraudulent or illegal transactions and lessen the likelihood of identity theft.

However, implementing CIP and CDD can complicate the process of identity verification, making even simple transactions cumbersome and creating bottlenecks for both customers and institutions. Getting a more detailed understanding of identities requires customers to collect and present a greater number of documents, which financial institutions then must verify as genuine.

Due to the longer process, onboarding time has already jumped significantly since more institutions began complying with KYC. In 2016, it took 22 percent longer to onboard corporate clients, and the process slowed down another 18 percent the next year. This can have a serious impact on a bank’s ability to build its customer base and makes it nearly impossible for businesses to complete important financial tasks during the onboarding period. 

How Can Businesses Become KYC Compliant?

As with other regulations implemented to protect privacy, minimize fraud risk and combat identity theft, failure to comply with KYC can carry hefty fines. Between 2008 and 2018, financial institutions in the U.S. alone had to shell out $23.52 billion as a result of noncompliance, representing a large percentage of the $26 billion global total.

What can businesses do to avoid penalties?

Cybersecurity experts, particularly those versed in identity theft prevention, can help clarify the confusion surrounding identity management protocols, and KYC analysts are available to lessen the burden associated with identity verification and policy implementation. With the help of these professionals, businesses are better equipped to maintain compliance through:

• Smarter, more thorough customer onboarding procedures
• Ongoing monitoring using automated tools and artificial intelligence
• Identification of unusual behaviors indicative of fraud

These processes make it easier to identify high-risk customers and flag possible cases of identity theft before significant damage is done or compliance is threatened.

The Best Approach for Compliant Identity Management

With 16.7 million victims of identity fraud in 2017 and $16.8 billion stolen as a result, financial institutions can’t afford to ignore KYC. Compliance can be considered part of what’s now known as customer identity and access management (CIAM), the next step in the evolution of modern identity management protocols. CIAM adds another layer to traditional IAM to help businesses address the complications of an increasing number of identities, platforms, devices and touchpoints.

Minimizing the risk of fraud and identity theft in financial transactions requires continuous identity checks and verification during the course of the customer lifecycle, for which businesses can invest in seamless digital verification solutions. These solutions are compatible across platforms and can be scaled to handle global transactions. This aids in streamlining an otherwise cumbersome process and may help offset the average annual KYC compliance cost of $48 million.

For IT professionals, staying on top of KYC regulations is necessary to help financial institutions and businesses deal with the challenges of identity management in the modern era. Businesses need help staying compliant, and compliance requires a strategic approach to verifying and protecting customers’ identities. Certification in identity theft and fraud prevention can help IT professionals bring knowledge and expertise to businesses seeking guidance with KYC compliance.

Identity and access management certifications

Managing user identities and permissions is an essential component of cybersecurity, particularly at the enterprise level. Increasing numbers of devices and a greater diversity of device types calls for a smarter, more detailed approach to network security, and businesses are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) for help.

Breaches, Cybercrime and AI

The threat of a breach is significant for today’s companies. Two-thirds of organizations experienced a breach in 2016, and the global cost of cybercrime in general is expected to reach $6 trillion by 2021. Exposure of personal information is of particular concern. While breach numbers fell 23 percent between 2017 and 2018, 126 percent more records were compromised

Although better identity and access management (IAM) practices can lower the risk of cloud breaches by 63 percent and server and application breaches by 46 percent, thereby protecting user and consumer data, the vast majority of organizations lack a “mature approach” to IAM. Enterprises are attempting to remedy the situation by introducing artificial intelligence (AI) into their security protocols. About 15 percent of enterprises currently use AI, which has the potential to both minimize breach risk and improve business operations.

Smarter Workflows through Intelligent Access

Role-based access is a common approach to IAM, but it can fall short in workflows in which employees need short-term or one-time access to network assets. Even with a single sign-on model, users may be required to sign into multiple different applications to complete a single task or project, which can significantly slow down day-to-day business activities.

Granting special access has its own challenges. There’s always the chance access won’t be properly revoked when permissions are no longer needed, and accounts with more privileges are attractive to hackers looking for easy ways to infiltrate networks.

Using AI can minimize the risk of both workflow bottlenecks and increased account vulnerability. With AI-powered security, businesses can implement continuous authentication protocols in which user activities are monitored on an ongoing basis during sessions using a robust set of identifiers, including visual and audio cues.

Fine-Grained Access at All Permission Levels

Continuous authentication is a must when privileged accounts are required. AI provides the means by which businesses can monitor all user activities and behaviors within their networks on a moment-by-moment basis. With the security system always checking for anomalies and unusual patterns, it’s possible to fine-tune access privileges and revoke access when a user doesn’t behave as expected. Such security measures can be implemented to cover every device connecting to a business network, regardless of platform or location.

As of 2018, 32 percent of organizations were relying completely on AI for cyber threat detection, which indicates the technology is paying off. To get the greatest benefit, however, security systems must be provided with as many identifying factors as possible. A more robust identity profile for each user creates smarter access control across the network.

Learning and Intervening Without Humans

AI is often combined with machine learning (ML) to create powerful tools for breach detection and prevention. As users interact with a network, ML algorithms “learn” their normal behaviors and can adapt in response to this information. This technology is making it increasingly possible to automate security and reduce the number of alerts requiring human attention.

Growing businesses and enterprises need automation to handle an otherwise overwhelming amount of user data. Adding even a few users to a network introduces new behavior patterns with variations and nuances unique to each user. Monitoring these behaviors and identifying discrepancies becomes almost impossible in large networks, but AI and ML can keep up where human efforts fall short.

Better Responses to Incidents

So far, AI is showing the most promise when it comes to incident response. Between 2015 and 2016, the number of days it took organizations to detect a breach dropped from 146 to 99, a significant change considering the amount of damage hackers can do in a short time.

Using predictive analytics, security systems with AI components are better equipped to estimate the potential extent of a breach and the level of risk at the time of detection. This sets interventions in motion sooner, whether from a human cybersecurity team or the AI tool itself. With the help of ML algorithms, AI can determine when user behaviors require a lockdown of certain parts of the system and minimize data loss by preventing hackers from getting any deeper into the network.

For IT professionals, AI represents the next frontier in security and access management. The demand for trained security professionals is likely to keep growing as AI and ML become more powerful and give rise to new options for breach prevention. Certification as an identity and access management specialist or technologist provides both the knowledge and experience to help businesses keep up with the changing IAM landscape.

Identity and access management certifications

Consumers are a high-risk group when it comes to identity theft. According to the 2018 Identity Fraud Study by Javelin Strategy and Research, 6.64 percent of all consumers, or 1 in 15 people, were victims of identity fraud in 2017. Account takeovers jumped 61 percent between 2015 and 2017, and those with social media profiles were 30 percent more likely experience account compromise.

This spike in malicious activity presents a serious concern for business owners trying to protect their customers’ data and identities. With a new case of identity theft occurring every 2 seconds, it’s essential to employ professionals possessing the knowledge and experience to minimize consumer risk and ensure safer network environments.

How Can CIPA Certification Help?

The Certified Identity Protection Advisor (CIPA) designation is for “professionals who can educate, guide, and support consumers with their identity theft prevention, detection, investigation and resolution solutions.” As a registered trademark of the Identity Management Institute (IMI), this certification signifies a person has the skills to address the growing problem of identity theft among consumers and provide education to “lower fraud losses”associated with consumer information and identity compromise.

The benefits of becoming a CIPA aren’t limited to individuals working in IT. Anyone whose job or industry deals with situations in which identity theft is a serious potential problem can take advantage of CIPA training. This includes those providing healthcare, insurance, legal advice and financial or accounting services, as well as law enforcement officials. By offering “strong identity theft protection training,” CIPA certification prepares professionals in all these areas to address the unique challenges involved in dealing with consumer accounts and data protection.

Symantec reports an alarming 87 percent of customers have left personal information exposed when accessing accounts containing sensitive data, such as email, banking and financial services, indicating many are ignorant of rudimentary security measures. Since a single compromised account can lead to a devastating breach, businesses need help educating consumers in the basics of identity theft prevention. 

What Are the Benefits of Being a CIPA?

In the business world, there’s a growing need for professionals to help address the challenges associated with identity theft. Business owners don’t have the time or resources to teach customers how to avoid every possible action known to leave personal accounts vulnerable to attack.

A CIPA designation gives professionals the ability to aid in minimizing threat risks to consumers and the companies with which they do business. This offers a “competitive edge” in the cybersecurity market and makes CIPAs more desirable as potential hires, specially when combined with other identity and access management certifications. High-risk organizations in particular require the guidance a CIPA can offer when seeking to reduce the overall likelihood of a breach.

Because CIPA training and certification provides a detailed understanding of identity theft risks and protection solutions, professionals with this designation are able to:

• Share and follow best practices for avoiding identity theft
• Develop and implement identity theft risk management plans
• Set up and maintain tools to detect potential fraud
• Direct customers in their rights and business in their obligations regarding data protection and breach prevention
• Help consumers investigate and resolve identity theft cases in a timely manner

Potential employers see certification as confirmation of a professional’s skills in these areas and recognize the benefit of hiring a CIPA over someone without specialized training.

How to Get a CIPA Certification

The Identity Protection Advisor certification is only offered through the IMI and requires membership to apply. Professionals wishing to go through the training and take the exam must sign up using the CIPA application on the IMI website.

Once an application is pre-approved, candidates must pay a certification fee, plus any applicable membership fees. The certification fee includes a study guide and the cost of the exam itself. A short CIPA video training is also available for an additional fee. Candidates have one year from the time payment is received to study for and pass the exam with a score of at least 70 percent. CIPA candidates can also order the Credit Report Review and Error Correction Guide video training.

There are 10 “Critical Risk Domains” (CRDs) covered in the training and certification process, including fraud detection, theft and fraud prevention, risk management, relationship management, awareness and investigation and resolution. Knowledge from each domain is required to both pass the exam and provide essential identity theft prevention services to businesses and their customers. 

Professionals who qualify for certification with a passing grade are required to remain IMI members and pursue continuing education opportunities to maintain the designation. These include:

• Reading relevant books
• Writing articles, books or training materials
• Attending or teaching training courses
• Attending seminars and conferences

For more information on becoming a Certified Identity Protection Advisor, visit the IMI’s CIPA certification page. See details of the risk domains covered on the exam, take a practice test and explore other certifications for professionals seeking to expand their skills sets.