Every industry in Australia is under threat from cyber criminals, with businesses big and small, public and private falling prey to malicious activity.
The pandemic has brought cyber security to a critical inflection point. The number of material data breaches have increased by 20.1% during 2022 and 29% of CEO’s and CISO’s admit their organisation is unprepared for a rapidly changing threat landscape. In this threat landscape, identity and access management (IdAM) has become a staple of many industries as they strive to secure their critical operational data. It is seen as the first step to zero trust enabling users to have access to the tools and information they need.
IdAM is commonly understood as a set of policies and technologies that ensure the right users have the right access to the right resources at the right time. It’s made up of three main parts – identity governance and administration, access management, and privilege access management.
Understanding IdAM – the parts that make the whole
- Identity governance helps to support enterprise IT security and regulatory compliance, and emerged to help organisations adhere to new regulatory requirements. At its heart, identity governance is designed to bring together people, applications, data and devices to ensure that users can understand who has access to what information, the different potential risks, and can take action quickly when policy violations are flagged.
- Access management is the process of managing and authorising different users access to a system, application or information. It includes various capabilities such as the ability to identify, track and control access. Where identity management outlines the controls for different users, roles, groups and policies, access management ensures that these principles are adhered to.
- Privilege access management (PAM) is a way to allow greater access or functionality for specialised users. It comes into play when access needs to be treated with a higher degree of care. For instance, when a leak of information could lead to the compromise of the organisation’s systems or confidential data. In an ideal world, PAM works to enforce cybersecurity strategies of an organisation while still enabling users to access the information and functionality they need to complete their work.
While different systems can be more or less complex, IdAM technologies also utilise automation and machine learning capabilities to help to cut down on manual tasks such as password management and provisioning, or manage employment and customer lifecycles to allow or restrict access as required.
Regardless of the system, IdAM brings notable benefits to organisations. It can reduce operational costs as employees are freed up from manual tasks, improve efficiencies of operations, reduce risk of compromised identities and strengthen security, and improve compliance and audit processes.
IdAM in action – how security solutions are used on the ground
Different use cases reveal the very real need for IdAM technologies, and the ways they are being implemented across various industries.
The energy and utilities sector is a prime target for cyber attacks and therefore requires robust security solutions. As a provider of critical services, if the network or internal systems are breached and power or water supplies are cut, this has a significant and adverse impact on the daily lives of many.
In recent times, this sector has been undergoing significant changes as infrastructure upgrades to take advantage of emerging technologies, with organisations moving toward convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT). These advancements enable technologies, devices and systems to connect to the grid, enabling greater access to data, but with a variety of solutions in play security issues can arise.
IdAM brings together IT and OT by managing access to networks including buildings, equipment, technology and industrial control systems. On top of this, companies can centralise IdAM platforms across teams and departments to reduce inefficiencies and security risks caused by disparity between systems and people.
Logistics companies are also increasingly adopting cloud applications, which can lead to a growing problem around accounts, passwords and managing users. In this instance, providers often benefit from outsourcing IT service needs, and implementing a more agile and responsive IAM solution that takes into account on-premise and cloud solutions. These solutions can be tailored to deliver on various criteria such as single sign-on, multi-factor authentication, data residencies, access governance, app integration and simplified management.
Tertiary education is another sector where IdAM is a prime investment. As emerging technologies and cloud become commonplace, many universities are tasked with upgrading their identity management systems in order to protect the identities of students and staff. As more responsibilities fall on the shoulders of the IT team, IdAM solutions must be more than an operational tool. Solutions that provide the ability to implement secure access controls, automated deprovisioning and privileged access management for a large number of users and devices are not only nice to have but increasingly necessary. In the instance of a university, purpose-built solutions are a top choice.
Finance is another obvious sector where IdAM is crucial. Securing data is an important focus for financial services organisations, due to the combination of strict data regulations and evolving threats. This sector also highlights the potential difficulty in maintaining a balance between securing and managing identities while also providing convenient and instant access to consumers.
In this case, a robust IdAM solution will utilise the likes of single sign-on, multi-factor authentication and biometric identification features to both improve the security posture and enhance end user experience. The added benefits include better compliance to various regulations, greater efficiency with less human supervision required, and improved agility with the organisation still able to integrate new applications and cloud solutions without compromising security.
Taking IdAM into the future
As we embark into new chapters of the digital era, organisations of every sector will face mounting security challenges as well as the desire and need to implement new solutions and technologies. In this business landscape, IdAM will present an important investment and security measure.
Moving into the future, Gartner finds that cybersecurity mesh will support a greater number of identity access management requests, delivery of IdAM services will increase through managed security service providers, identity proofing tools will be commonplace in the workforce identity lifecycle, global identity standards will emerge, and demographic biases will be minimised over time.
Even as the technology solutions evolve, we expect they will continue to bring to organisations the benefits already realised, including the ability to better manage staff, save costs, secure data and automate access, while also adapting to meet specific requirements of both users and the business.