Modern identity challenges and how to equip your workforce for success:
Protect your most valuable resources with up-to-date technologies

 In |

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In today’s business environment, Identity and Access Management (IAM) is more important than ever. As companies move more of their data and applications into the cloud, the idea of a clearly defined network ‘perimeter’ becomes even more nebulous.

In a recent interview with Milad Aslaner from SentinelOne, SHI’s Global Field CISO Brad Bowers said, “Identity is in many ways the first line of defense, and a critical component of a larger zero trust strategy.”

Here are some of the major identity challenges facing modern businesses, as well as the technologies to help meet these challenges and bolster identity driven security.

Identity sprawl and decentralized workforce

Modern businesses increasingly rely on cloud applications, services, and hosting. As a result, the modern user has a plethora of accounts hosted in a variety of locations including on-premises, independent cloud applications, partner systems, and more. A rising number of employees also require access to company resources from outside of the organization, whether this be at home, on the road, or at the local coffee shop.

Managing accounts and remote access independently for all applications and connection points is cost prohibitive. Additionally, with so many accounts across disparate systems, it is difficult to ensure everyone has proper access. “Without a clear [identity] and access management system in place, configuration drift and credential sprawl quickly become unmanageable,” explained Okta.

Modern identity solutions are needed to address these challenges.

A centralized solution

To properly address identity sprawl, all user accounts should be tied back to a centralized Identity Provider (IdP). This solution provides a single location to store and manage user identities, including their credentials.

An IdP is often paired with a federated Single Sign-On (SSO) solution. This allows users to access all their applications and services via a single dashboard, whether they are hosted in the cloud or within the organization. Users input their login credentials a single time, and the SSO solution allows them to access all their authorized applications. SSO dashboards are typically protected by modern Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) solutions, which we will cover in the following section.

To complete the user management puzzle, Identity Governance and Lifecycle (IGL) solutions are typically deployed to automatically provision and de-provision user access based on each user’s job title and associated entitlements. These solutions also provide access audit and certification functionality.

Evolving threats

Given today’s remote workforce and the prevalence of cloud-hosted applications, user identities have become the ‘new perimeter.’ As a result, passwords are even more valuable to would-be attackers, “driving CISOs to put identity security at the top of their priority list,” according to SentinelOne.

It is more necessary than ever before to properly authenticate users before granting access to your organization’s information and applications, especially now that much of this access is hosted in the cloud rather than within the organization’s data center.

An enhanced security solution

As we discussed, federated SSO solutions allow users to authenticate their access once, after which they can then access all their applications without authenticating again. This enhances security by allowing users to focus on remembering a single complex password, rather than requiring them to manage a multitude of passwords.

MFA adds an additional layer of security to user access. By requiring a user to verify their identity via multiple methods, such as mobile push, text message, or fingerprint scan, an organization greatly enhances the security of their accounts. The most cutting-edge MFA solutions offer ‘passwordless’ login, by which a user verifies their identity using multiple methods that do not include a password. In these instances, passwords are not stored at all, which means there are no credentials for attackers to steal.

Finally, Privileged Access Management (PAM) solutions offer a secure method by which privileged account credentials can be stored and rotated. These solutions can automatically generate and swap passwords for privileged accounts, such as domain administrator accounts and service accounts. Administrators and other users that need access to these sensitive accounts can use the PAM solutions to access privileged sessions without ever having to know the password associated with the privileged accounts. These sessions can also be recorded and logged for security and audit purposes.

The famous Colonial Pipeline breach in 2021 could have been prevented entirely if the compromised account had been managed by a PAM solution or if the account had been protected via MFA.

Building a successful strategy

IAM touches all aspects of IT, and with such a broad range of products in the market, it can be difficult to know which solutions best address your organization’s unique challenges and requirements. Some solutions offer functionality that covers several of the areas described above, while other solutions excel in a single area.

Ready to bolster your identity security? SHI has expert knowledge in all areas of IAM and can help you navigate what can be a daunting choice of products and solutions. Our team will provide an assessment of your current IAM portfolio and recommendations on the best strategies to manage risk and secure your most valuable resources.