Of all the ways to improve your cybersecurity program, does user access management matter? How does it contribute to your other cybersecurity goals? Those questions and more receive answers today.
What If You Had No Access Management at All?
When it’s functioning well, access management is sometimes invisible. That means you may forget the benefits of robust user access management. To help you see the value of this program, consider the following story. Suppose you gave every employee a “skeleton key” upon hire. This key would open every door, every vehicle, and every cabinet.
On the surface, it sounds like a convenient solution. You don’t have to worry about making multiple, unique keys. However, what happens when an employee forgets the key at a restaurant? What if a competitor steals it? Your company’s data, facilities, and reputation may be easily damaged. Even worse, since you gave everyone the same key, you can’t trace the origin of the problem.
If you have weak access management, it’s just like giving everyone a “skeleton key” to your business. It’s a high-risk way to run your business. In contrast, robust user access management is like giving a customized key to each employee that’s logged whenever it’s used. That way, you can control access and minimize the impact of cybersecurity hacking events.
The Key Components for Strong User Access Management
For user access management to work effectively, you need a few ingredients mixed in the right proportion. If you miss any one of these ingredients, your program will be in danger of collapse.
- User access management processes: You need to assign roles and responsibilities for user access to specific people in your company. For example, you may ask the IT department to set and monitor statistics on user access monthly with a focus on detecting risk.
- Access training: Starting with your managers and supervisors, you need to equip critical people in the company with access management training. The IT department alone cannot protect the entire company.
- Access management software: Most companies have dozens of different applications and multiple operating systems in place. That’s why you need to use access management software to keep everything organized. If you skip using an access management software solution, you’ll place a heavy burden upon your employees to monitor and manage access issues.
- Strategic alignment: For access management to add value, it needs to align with your risk appetite and overall cybersecurity strategy.
You might be wondering, “Hmm, these principles sound good, but I can’t quite picture them in effect in my organization.” It’s time to tackle that point next.
A Day in the Life of User Access Management
Put yourself in the shoes of Jane Moneysmith. She’s the hardworking finance manager who keeps your company’s finances organized and keeps your cash flow moving smoothly. For her department to work effectively, it needs access to sensitive company applications such as employee expenses, invoices, and corporate announcements.
Due to a growing organization, Jane has recently hired two accounting analysts. While she prides herself on mentoring new hires, she knows that cybersecurity is a knowledge gap. After all, Jane went to school to earn a CPA, not fight off hackers. How does strong user access management help Jane and her department thrive in the midst of expansion? For her to succeed with user access management, she’ll need to use each of the elements covered above.
As part of the annual planning for the finance department, Jane is asked to plan risk management for her department. That responsibility includes financial controls such as approval limits for spending. It also includes learning how to apply the company’s cybersecurity requirements to her staff. To improve security, she sets a goal to review all user access in her department quarterly and use the company’s new software solution.
Access Management Software
A few months ago, Jane’s company implemented Identity Enforcer. To apply it to finance, Jane attends a self-guided training session and takes some notes. With the solution’s self-service access request model, requesting additional access is up to her employees. Jane introduces Identity Enforcer to her team as a new way to request system access. Her team is pleased because the old way of requesting access by sending one-off emails to Jane took a long time.
Access Management Training
During the company’s annual cybersecurity training, Jane and her team all work through the company’s training program. It’s a broad program. There are modules dedicated to employee password management training. Further, there are specialized modules on emerging technologies such as containers. After finishing this training, the finance team understands how using a few simple best practices will protect them from most access governance failures.
User Access Management Processes
It’s the second Tuesday of the quarter. Jane’s Outlook calendar sends her a reminder. Time to check the user access report for her department. She downloads a report from her company’s user access management portal. The results are simple: 10 access requests from her employees in the past quarter, and all of them were approved correctly, including one delete access request. That last one is especially important: one of her analysts moved to sales from finance. That means she’s no longer permitted access to the company’s financial data.
Every six months, Jane’s calendar prompts her to do another process. She checks with the audit group and IT security. Are there any security issues she needs to know about? Are there improved processes she should share with her team? This proactive step is unusual compared to other managers. However, it goes a long way in securing finance’s reputation as one of the best-managed departments in the company.
Take Action to Improve Your User Access Management
From experience, highly dedicated managers like Jane are quite rare. Outside of IT, few managers think much about user access issues. That’s why you need a tool such as Compliance Auditor to ensure consistency in your access management processes.