Why Identity Management Is Critical to Securing Today’s Networks

Why Identity Management Is Critical to Securing Today’s Networks

There was a time when a “Great Wall of China” approach to IT security was sufficient. Just focus your resources at the network perimeter to keep invaders out. As long as nobody leaves the kingdom, you’re good to go. Unfortunately, IT resources have jumped the wall, so to speak, thanks to the cloud and mobile. Users now access data, applications, workspaces and other IT resources from any location on any device.

In modern, dynamic IT environments, user identities have become the perimeter. As a result, legacy modes of protection need to be supplemented with solutions that can protect network resources wherever users are. At the same time, these solutions must not compromise the flexibility users need to maximize productivity. Identity management is a critical part of the security equation.

Identity management is the process of controlling access to IT resources by identifying and authenticating users and then matching user identities with security policies before granting access. Identity management, which focuses on authentication, works with access management, which focuses on authorization. Identity governance, which involves the policies and processes that determine how user roles and access are administered, is the third component of identity management.

In many organizations, users have access to more resources than they need, which is why stolen user credentials present such a serious problem. It’s usually easiest for hackers to access sensitive data by tricking users into providing legitimate credentials. Rather than figuring out how to bypass an organization’s defenses, hackers simply walk through the front door of the network.

The overarching goal of identity management is to make sure legitimate users are authorized to access the data, applications and systems required to do their jobs and nothing more. This principle, called “least privilege,” is used to create role-based policies that are consistently applied across the organization. Minimizing the number of potential access points increases the effectiveness of cybersecurity and makes it easier to monitor and manage. Effective identity management also makes it possible to consolidate user access to a single platform, eliminating multiple sign-on requirements for multiple systems.

Significant planning is required to set up identities and access controls in an identity management system. First, determine what resources need to be protected and who needs access to them. In this evaluation phase, you need to take inventory of all hardware, software, users and job functions. Also, conduct a risk analysis to determine how to allocate and prioritize resources based on the level of risk involved with each system. Next, define user groups and what systems they need to access, and determine which users require remote access. Again, use the principle of least privilege.

You may find that multifactor authentication is warranted at several key access points to better control the exposure of critical resources. For example, multifactor authentication adds another security layer when accessing cloud applications, privileged accounts, digital workspaces, VPNs and certain legacy applications.

Perimeter-based security is no longer enough. The highly trained cybersecurity specialists at Verteks can help you assess your cybersecurity posture and determine the best plan for minimizing risk in a dynamic IT environment. Let us show you how identity management improves the quality and efficiency of your security strategy.