Building an access management program is like baking a cake. It takes several ingredients to produce a great result. Before you start a program, you need every ingredient ready.
The Recipe For A Successful Access Management Program
Building a reliable access management program that works involves the following components.
1. Ground The Program In A Policy
For an access management program to have credible authority, it needs to be grounded in a policy document. You can choose to embed this policy in a standalone document or include it in a broader IT security document. For example, take a look at Boston University’s Identity and Access Management Policy. Note that the policy includes expectations for both IT specialists as well as individuals.
2. Set Your Sights On Achievable Objectives
Set goals and measurements for success to determine whether or not your access management program is succeeding. For more detailed guidance on this matter, read our article: Find Out if Your Access Management Program Is Successful with KPIs. For the best results, update your objectives and metrics annually to reflect changes in terms of IT security threats.
3. Equip Employees With Appropriate Training
Give your employees easy-to-understand training to understand access management. For example, do you expect managers to review access requests for their employees regularly? If so, make such reviews easy to do with a software solution. As with policy, it is not necessary to have standalone training dedicated to access management matters. It is perfectly reasonable to embed access matters into broader IT security training sessions.
4. Processes and Staff To Bring Access Management Program To Life
The previous ingredients are brought to life by access management processes and staffing. The processes you choose will depend on your objectives. As a general rule, choose processes that reinforce access management principles every month. For example, build a reporting process to identify outliers such as developers who may not have received specialized IT security training related to access management.
Does Your Access Management Program Have A Missing Link?
If you stop developing your recipe with the above four recipes, you will have a significant problem. Specifically, it isn’t easy to make an access management program work successfully with a manual approach. For example, if you have a manager who forgets to complete a quarterly access review, that needs to be detected and addressed. Unless you happen to have a large team of analysts and technicians, it is unlikely that you will catch every access gap.
Fortunately, there is one proven way to improve the consistency of your access management program without hiring more staff. You need to add a robust access management software solution.
Four Ways Your Access Management Program Achieves Better Results Through Software
1. Save Time on Access Management Reports
Gathering data for reporting on your access management metrics doesn’t have to be a painful exercise. Use the pre-built reports in an access management software tool to cut your reporting time in half. In our experience, gathering data tends to be the most tedious part of access management reporting, and software can make that easier.
2. Improve Access Management Consistency
Your access management program is only as strong as the weakest link. If there are one or two users or departments that lack robust controls, those individuals represent an elevated risk.
3. Reduce Access Risk Faster
When an employee leaves your organization, you must remove their access quickly. A failure to act quickly exposes your organization to a higher probability of data loss. Don’t believe us? Consider the UCLA School of Medicine situation. According to the FBI, “[ a former employee] admitted that he obtained and read private patient health and medical information on four specific occasions after he was formally terminated from the UCLA Healthcare System. [He] acknowledged that at the time he viewed these patients’ medical information, he had no legitimate reason, medical or otherwise, for obtaining the personal information.”
The worst part of the above story? The individual viewed these records after being terminated from his position. Learn from the UCLA experience by tightening your access management processes. Specifically, use an access management software solution that makes it fast and easy to remove system access.
4. Avoid Record-Keeping Frustration
Whether you are going through an audit or merely measuring your performance, access management records are essential. Unfortunately, it is challenging to keep these records well organized unless you have a system that contains all of that data in one place. If that wasn’t enough, record-keeping problems could cause you to fail audits! If your department is unable to provide records in a timely and organized manner to IT auditors, you are much more likely to suffer one or more audit findings related to poor record-keeping.
After You Solve Access Management Risk, Do This Next
If you’ve read this far, you can see the value of developing a holistic access management program and supporting that program with software. Once you optimize your access program, celebrate! You have made a significant leap forward in terms of protecting your organization’s data.
Don’t celebrate too long, however. As you have focused resources and attention on access management concerns, other areas may have suffered. The best way to find out the problems and shortcomings in your IT security is to engage an independent third-party consultant to complete a review.
However, you may not have the budget for such a review. In that case, use the following self-assessment questions to identify your most significant opportunity for improvement.
1. Does your organization have any outstanding audit findings from an internal or external audit? If so, analyze the findings to see if there are IT security root causes you can address.
2. When was the last time your organization delivered an IT security training session to employees? Some companies provide this training annually, while others only offer it to new hires. If your organization has not provided IT security training to employees to reinforce best practices, organize such a session right away.
Based on these questions, you will find IT security gaps to address. You will probably need to develop a business case to get the right tools in place to solve those problems. For guidance on creating a business case for IT security, check out our article: Build Your Business Case for Multi-Factor Authentication in 5 Steps.