Australian businesses are highly focused on protecting their network perimeters with firewalls, antivirus software, and intrusion prevention systems. But even when 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, tracking your apps and data is challenging, increasing the chances of security breaches. 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. After establishing identity, each user receives a “role” which includes access to all resources.

Typically, this involves entering a username and password into the system. Still, 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 excellent 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.

System administrators can update privileges, monitor usage, and adjust roles from a centralised console after checking the privileges.

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, your business is vulnerable to data leaks and insider attacks. Even setting weak passwords or recycling old ones allows hackers to infiltrate your system quickly.

On top of all this, according to the Privacy Act of 1988, Australian organisations must protect the confidentiality and integrity of personal information in order to avoid lawsuits, a loss of client confidence, 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.

Fast off-boarding

When employees leave the organisation, they may still have access to private resources. This may not affect your business when people go amicably, but can be troublesome if not managed properly.

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.

As soon as the employee’s contract is over, the de-provisioning features of IAM rolls in. It automatically revokes their access to all company accounts and assets, totally closing the door to anyone using their logins.

Improved user experience

Another benefit of using an Identity and Access Management tool is its single sign-on (SSO) feature that eliminates multiple passwords across different accounts. With SSO, users only need to set one strong password followed by another authentication method (e.g., fingerprint scans). This enables employees to work faster and reduces incidents of account lock-outs.

Simplified auditing

Consolidating user identities and passwords with an IAM tool makes it easy to track details and files usage. Features like OneLogin, for example, allow you to monitor user logins, password resets, and accessed apps.

Having complete visibility over your systems also makes it easy to detect when user credentials have been compromised. Abnormal activities such as frequent password reset or accessing files after business hours are instantly flagged. In the event of a breach, you’ll know immediately the affected assets.

Challenges of IAM

Despite its advantages, implementing Identity and Access Management tools is a challenging process that requires company-wide involvement. Before setting up, you must clearly define roles and policies by asking them what files and apps they use daily. Consult compliance experts to find out who can access to see sensitive information, like patient records, legal documents, credit card details, etc.

Managing IAM tools can also present some challenges. If you’re running a business that’s short on time and leaning on money, manually adjusting access privileges for dozens of users isn’t feasible. To get around this, ensure your IAM tools can automate identity management for various situations. For instance, when you set a new role, your IAM should be able to select the correct access privileges across all apps, services, and hardware.

Lastly, the security of your IAM system is also something to keep in mind. Centralised IAM tools may simplify access management, but it is also a hot target 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 Australia’s leading managed service providers, 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.

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