Australian businesses are highly focused on protecting their network perimeters with firewalls, antivirus software, and intrusion prevention systems. But even when those are highly advanced; they can miss threats from within such as oversharing information, weak passwords, and poor device management.
And with the proliferation of mobile devices and cloud solutions; it’s hard to track your apps and data, further increasing the chances of security breaches. That’s why so many companies are bolstering their cybersecurity plans with centralised Identity and Access Management (IAM) systems.
What is IAM?
At its core, IAM is about establishing access privileges for every user in your system. Each user is assigned a “role” granting them access to all the resources they’re entitled to once they’ve verified their identity.
This is typically done by entering a username and password into the system, but multi-factor authentication — where the users also need to provide a fingerprint scan or temporary SMS code — makes user logins even more secure. Once a user has logged in; the IAM tool cross-references the authentication credentials with its database and grants access if the credentials match.
What’s great about IAM is that it allows you to restrict access to apps based on time of day, location, and device. For instance, you can create a policy; that permits only senior-level accountants to access financial information in Dynamics 365; thereby preventing them from making entries after business hours from their smartphones.
Once access privileges have been defined; system administrators can modify roles, monitor usage, and update privileges from a centralised console.
Why do you need it?
Though there are plenty of reasons why cyberattacks occur, weak user-access privileges are often the root cause. When everyone gets access to executive-level files and apps; it leaves your business vulnerable to data leaks and insider attacks. Even setting weak passwords or recycling old ones allows hackers to infiltrate your system with ease.
On top of all this, Australian organisations under the Privacy Act of 1988; are required to secure the confidentiality and integrity of personal information if they don’t want to suffer lawsuits, loss of customer trust, and fines of up to $1.8M.
So adding an IAM tool to your network defence plan gives you greater control over who has access to what systems; which translates into reduced internal breaches. It also offers multi-factor authentication methods to ensure people are logging in securely. And, as we mentioned, it allows you to restrict access to apps based on time of day or the device used; which means your company can tightly control remote work policies, cloud-based apps, and ever-changing compliance requirements.
When employees leave the company, they may still have access to resources they’re no longer authorised to see. This may not affect your business when people leave amicably; but if one is forced to leave against their wishes, it could spell trouble for your business.
With full access to their old accounts, vengeful ex-employees can cause all sorts of problems; ranging from theft of intellectual property to infecting your systems with worms, viruses, and ransomware.
IAM prevents this with de-provisioning features that kick in as soon as an employee’s contract is terminated; automatically revoking their access to all company accounts and assets and closing the door to anyone else trying to use their logins.
Improved user experience
Another benefit of using an IAM tool is its single sign-on (SSO) feature that eliminates the need to remember multiple passwords across different accounts. With SSO; users only need to set one strong password followed by another authentication method (e.g., fingerprint scans) to automatically log in to every application they’re authorised to access. This enables employees to work faster and reduces incidents where they are locked out of certain accounts.
Consolidating user identities and passwords with an IAM tool makes it easy to track where, when, and how apps and files are being used. Features like OneLogin, for example, allow you to monitor user logins, password resets, and which apps were accessed.
Having complete visibility over your systems also makes it easy to detect when user credentials have been compromised. Abnormal activities like frequent password resets or accessing files after business hours are flagged instantly; and in the event of a breach, you’ll know immediately which assets were affected since you know which apps your users have access to.
Challenges of IAM
Despite its advantages, implementing IAM tools is a challenging process that requires company-wide involvement. Before you set them up, you must clearly define roles and policies by sitting down with each department and asking them what files and apps they use on a daily basis. You should also consult with compliance experts to find out who is allowed to see sensitive information; like patient records, legal documents, credit card details, and so on.
Managing IAM tools can also present some challenges. If you’re running a business that’s short on time and lean on money; manually adjusting access privileges for dozens of users isn’t feasible. To get around this, make sure your IAM tools can automate identity management for a variety of situations. For instance, when you set a new role for an employee, your IAM should instantly be able to set the correct access privileges across all apps, services, and hardware.
Last but not least, the security of your IAM system is also something to keep in mind. Centralised IAM tools may simplify access management; but they’re also highly prized targets for cybercriminals. If compromised, hackers can create identities with executive-level privileges to gain total control of your systems. That’s why you need to partner with an IAM provider that understands the importance of proactive cybersecurity measures.
As one of the leading managed service providers in Australia; Empower IT can help you overcome all the challenges associated with implementing and maintaining an Identity and Access Management tool. We’ll discuss your objectives and recommend state-of-the-art solutions to safeguard your company assets. Call us today to get started.