Identity and access management (IAM): 10 important ways to avoid vulnerability
Automate to reduce human error, increase scale, and accelerate delivery.

 In |

Reading Time: 5 minutes

On September 7, 2023, MGM Resorts discovered that when ransomware crashes the card table, the IT infrastructure can crash too. It started with a simple DM. Using LinkedIn, the Alphv ransomware group identified employees, and reached out with messages convincing them to expose their personal access information. It took only 10 minutes. Once the door to MGM’s environment had opened, Alphv went straight for the company’s identity management infrastructure. It took nearly 10 days for MGM to recover. By then Alphv had already sent the world a resounding message: The house doesn’t always win.

With high-profile extortions like this on the rise, identity and access management (IAM) has become a critical concern for organizations of all sizes. Although the evolving threat landscape and regulatory requirements may seem intimidating, they offer businesses an important opportunity: the chance to ensure the security of data and systems while providing a seamless user experience.

Common IAM challenges

Promising enhanced security and better user experiences — with the same solutions no less — presents challenges that can both slow and obscure your processes. For example, user password fatigue is just one such issue that can arise from traditional password-based authentication, leading to both user frustration and heightened security risks.

This can be compounded by the inefficient, error-prone nature of manual provisioning and de-provisioning processes, causing delays and vulnerabilities in management.

Believe it or not, it can get worse too. It can be even harder to move processes forward with limited vision. Organizations often grapple with their compliance visibility, struggling to maintain a clear view of who has access to what resources, thereby risking compliance violations. Siloed user directories can even further fog the IAM windshield, as they require managing access across multiple applications with separate user directories—introducing inconsistencies in user permissions and policy enforcement.

Meanwhile, remote work can produce another set of obstacles. The need for consistent application integration, regardless of location, remains vital for maintaining security and usability, as it ensures that IAM systems stay synchronized with the evolving application landscape. Vital—but not easy. In sum, without effective deployment of IAM solutions, you’re facing some daunting challenges.

Scared yet? Don’t be. With key partnerships and initiatives, you’ll be the one holding the right cards.

Best practices you can bet on

Ready to call any bad actor’s bluff? You’re just a few moves away.

1. Utilize passwordless authentication

Interest in passwordless authentication is very much on the rise as organizations seek to enhance user experience (UX) and mitigate security risks. In fact, an increasing number of enterprises are meeting their multifactor authentication needs for remote and cloud access using the native capabilities of access management tools, thus lowering the total cost of ownership significantly. By eliminating traditional passwords, organizations can simplify their user authentication portfolios, lower costs, and provide a more consistent UX for employees and customers.

2. Implement zero trust

Zero trust is a security framework that treats every user and device as a potential threat, regardless of their location within or outside the corporate network. Implementing zero trust helps organizations defend against emerging threats and reduce the attack surface, which has expanded due to the shift to the cloud.

3. Migrate to the cloud

As businesses embrace cloud computing, IAM needs to evolve accordingly. Access to cloud-based services, including Microsoft 365 and other Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, can improve access to information but also create vulnerabilities. The shift to the cloud has increased the attack surface and exposed organizations to Account Takeover (ATO), among other risks. However, by integrating your on-premise and cloud directories, your security teams can manage accounts from one centralized location, regardless of where the account is created. This practice also allows users to access both cloud and on-premise assets with a common identity. Therefore, consider a hybrid model an extremely helpful defense.

4. Modernize legacy IAM

Legacy directory solutions, which have been around for decades, often come with vulnerabilities like Pass The Hash and NTLM Relay. That said, by modernizing your IAM systems you can mitigate these risks and ensure a strong foundation for your security. Identity Lifecycle and Governance solutions are one such measure. Often referred to as IGA, or Identity Governance and Administration, modern IGA solutions allow organizations to automate the Joiners, Movers, and Leavers process (JML), securing operations like onboarding and deprovisioning. Even better, these solutions can be implemented across both on-premise and cloud applications, based on a user’s job role or location.

5. Prevent online fraud

Online fraud is on the rise, and IAM plays a crucial role in identifying and preventing fraudulent activities. Implementing advanced authentication methods can do wonders to combat it.

6. Innovate digital experiences

IAM isn’t just about security; it’s also about providing a seamless and user-friendly experience. Streamlining authentication and authorization processes can greatly enhance usage for both employees and customers.

7. Meet regulatory compliance

Meeting regulatory requirements is non-negotiable for many organizations. Fortunately, your IAM can facilitate compliance by ensuring proper access controls and audit capabilities. On this front, modern IGA solutions can help automate and streamline user access audits as well as certification reviews, making processes that much safer.

8. Utilize identity threat detection and prioritize risk management

Incorporating identity threat detection and response functions into your IAM tools can mitigate identity attacks effectively. Crucially, by 2026, 90% of organizations will be using some type of embedded identity threat detection and response function from access management tools as their primary way to mitigate identity attacks—up from less than 20% today. Identify and evaluate risks across your ecosystem, and measure risk reduction to justify IAM investments to the C-suite.

9. Streamline governance

Update access review, emergency access management, and governance processes to reduce audit deficiencies and compliance violations.

10. Leverage native capabilities

Make the most of your existing IAM tools’ capabilities, even if the scope is limited initially. This can make a big difference in accelerating time to value.

To say that enhanced IAM can be fundamental to an organization’s security and digital transformation efforts is an understatement. By adopting these best practices with the right solutions, you can navigate the evolving IAM landscape, enhance security, and provide an easy user experience in an increasingly complex digital world.

How many of these practices have you implemented? Start your fortification with SHI’s IAM assessment—Our experts will help you form a critical strategy that’s tailored for you. Take the first step today!