Securing digital identities is crucial to business success today, but far too often, it’s an afterthought. As such, identity governance shouldn’t be celebrated as a singular component of security, but rather a capability that should be woven into the data governance fabric of every organization. With the ability to safeguard information, facilitate compliance, and streamline work processes, it’s hard to believe identity governance is not a typical business priority.
However, when you consider how time-consuming, costly, and resource-intensive new technology implementations can be, it becomes easier to understand. And recent research reflects those sentiments. According to Gartner, 13% of enterprises report they are unhappy with their current identity governance and administration (IGA) vendor, and 76% are looking to replace their existing IGA system. But because of the aforementioned concerns, significant barriers to adoption still exist.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Here are four proactive approaches enterprise organizations can take to achieve long-term, continual success with identity governance.
1. Automating processes
As enterprises become more digitized, they generate increasingly valuable sets of data. This empowers leaders to make more intelligent business decisions, deliver better customer experiences, and gain important insights that would otherwise be impossible. That said, systems are rarely integrated to facilitate the proper use of this data, so putting it to work effectively is a challenge. Companies are still using spreadsheets to pull and input data manually, which presents more problems for access and is ripe for human error. As a result, mistakes are made, productivity suffers, and auditing becomes increasingly difficult.
Not only are poorly integrated systems a hindrance to business operations, but they pose a real threat to security. With manual processes, it’s hard to manage access and even harder to pinpoint where potentially private data is being shared. Automating identity governance systems is the best way to mitigate this.
By providing visibility into different levels of access and privilege for all employees and departments within a company, enterprises can ensure the appropriate permissions are being allocated. Automating identity governance offers an added layer of accountability that simply can’t be managed by humans alone—and an added layer of protection if information gets into the wrong hands.
2. Implementing proper provisioning and deprovisioning
In many cases, employees have access privileges to company information that they don’t need. This has only proliferated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Consider all the hiring changes—millions being laid off, furloughed, adjusting to remote or hybrid work models, taking up side hustles or gig jobs, or getting new jobs as the economic dust settles. Ensuring access is revoked when employees go and that new hires only have access to what they need is an arduous task, and one that many businesses let fall to the wayside. Deprovisioning is the best way to address this problem, but revoking privileges can create IT downtime, disrupt workflow, and is another undertaking many aren’t signing up for voluntarily.
But when you consider that all it takes is one disgruntled former employee or savvy hackers ready to take advantage of your loose access privileges, it’s time to get serious. Fortunately, automation can help streamline the deprovisioning process by matching privileges and access of users to the level of security those systems require.
From there, the system can automatically restrict a user’s access to certain enterprise systems based on their role. Rather than leaving it to chance or trying to take on a cumbersome manual audit of all your systems, automating provisioning and deprovisioning measures can work accurately and around the clock to make sure companies stay ahead of access privileges.
3. Eliminating existing silos
Managing the number of applications modern businesses use—whether sanctioned by IT or not—is extremely difficult, let alone when identity governance systems are disconnected. And without a clear view of identity data across an organization, IT teams lose out on the insight needed to effectively manage access and privilege. To make matters more complicated, organizations are full of silos, from different departments and management levels, to working with outside vendors and partners. Add a new remote or hybrid workforce and the problem becomes even more persistent.
All of these individuals and groups require different provisioning processes, which can wreak havoc on productivity. On the one hand, taking the time to get it right can impede workers’ ability to get their jobs done. Alternatively, bypassing appropriate measures can lead to unnecessary access without the necessary scrutiny.
Solutions that can be easily applied to an organization’s existing technology stack can help reduce friction, lessen the burden on IT, and are a cost-effective alternative to a total overhaul of legacy systems. By minimizing potential downtime and easing the process, it’s more likely that the proper steps are taken to secure your network.
4. Creating a culture of compliance
identity governance should be embedded into everyday best practices and overall company culture. This should be made clear by executive leadership down to management, and end users alike. In order to achieve this, organizations must begin to approach governance as a critical business initiative that affects everyone, rather than just an IT problem. When viewed separately from business productivity and security, enterprises lose sight of the real value a strong IG strategy can bring—and the risk it can pose if not taken seriously.
That said, making a cultural change is arguably harder than any IT implementation. People are generally resistant to change, especially if it impacts their day-to-day job responsibilities. The only viable way to shift behaviors and attitudes towards governance is to make it so easy they won’t want to find a workaround. By automating processes, eliminating business silos, and finding solutions that complement existing IT systems, businesses can create a culture of compliance, where governance is just another part of everyday operations.
Despite best laid plans and practices, addressing identity governance is hard. It’s not an area of defense that gets a lot of attention, but it’s a critical component to securing your IT systems from the inside out. With an increasingly remote workforce, the pace at which employees grow within a company or change jobs, and new, sophisticated cyber threats, it’s the perfect storm for a data breach. But as organizations start to realize the value of identity governance and invest in solutions that work seamlessly with their existing systems, they can start to build a culture of compliance, improve their security posture, and eliminate some work silos in the process.
This article first appeared in HelpNetSecurity.