Identity & Access Management: 9 Vital Best Practices for 2023
IAM best practices are a vital part of an organization’s cybersecurity, without them, you could be leaving your company open to attack.
But, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with 9 best practices to implement in 2023.
What Exactly Is IAM?
IAM (identity and access management) is a system designed to identify, authenticate and authorize. This enables the right people and job roles in an organization to have access to the right tools they need to do their job and protect the security of customers.
Here are the 9 best practices that you need to focus on in 2023:
- Align Your IAM Strategy With Your Wider Business Goals
- Identify and Protect High-Value Assets
- Enable the Right Level of Password Security
- Implement Role-Based Access Controls (RBAC)
- Conduct Regular Training
- Adopt a Zero Trust Policy
- Maintain a Centralized Log System
- Leverage Automation
- Carry Out Regular Audits
Best Practice #1: Align Your IAM Strategy With Your Wider Business Goals
As with all business processes and procedures, it’s imperative that they align with your long-term business objectives. As a company grows, its IAM best practices need to grow and evolve with it. The more a company scales, the more risks, threats, and difficulties it’s faced with. Hence, the more crucial and potentially complex its IAM strategy becomes.
Definitive goals for your IAM strategy that align with your business objectives create greater focus and minimize threats to your organization.
For example, within the banking sector, the security of customer data is absolutely imperative. A vital part of their IAM strategy may be to enhance their in-branch security through means such as updating identity verification procedures.
For other enterprise businesses, a wider business goal may be to create greater flexibility for their workforce by ingraining working-from-home policies. Thus, to align their IAM strategy with this, focus needs to be given to the impact of increasing the number of devices in their network to cater to this and the impact this has on their vulnerability to cyber-attacks.
Best Practice #2: Identify and Protect High-Value Assets
IAM is all about ensuring that sensitive data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands by identifying, authenticating, and authorizing individuals’ access to a system or information. So, best practice #2 is ensuring that only necessary individuals have access to high-value assets.
But what is a high-value asset?
A high-value asset is information or information systems that are extremely critical to a company. If said information or access to the information system was lost, it would have a catastrophic impact on the business.
Once these assets have been identified, it can be determined whether all individuals with access are actually required and restrict it where not, with appropriate access methods.
This leads us to…
Best Practice #3: Enable the Right Level of Password Security
There are different forms of password and passwordless authentication that are suitable for different levels of security requirements.
A best practice in IAM is to implement a password or authentication method that’s suitable based on the criticality or sensitivity of the asset being accessed.
Passwordless Authentication – Best Practice for the Highest Level of Security
Passwordless authentication can be achieved with a biometric signature and is arguably the most secure way of allowing a user access to a system, software, or even physical locations.
Biometric signatures include fingerprints, retina, iris, or voice.
The reason it’s so secure is that it eliminates a huge portion of the security risk posed by using weak and repeated passwords – because a staggering 80% of data breaches are linked to weak passwords.
Further, no two captures of biometric data are identical, making it extremely difficult to replicate by fraudsters.
Passwordless authentication is best utilized when the system, software, or application the user is being granted access to contains highly critical data. For example, in the banking and financial services industry.
Multi-Factor Authentication – Best Practice for Less Severe Levels of Security
MFA (multi-factor authentication) is an authentication method that requires multiple forms of verification to grant a user access by requiring the user to provide a password along with an OTP (one-time password), usually delivered via text, phone call, or email.
Adopting MFA as a best practice is more applicable when there is sensitive information such as an email account but less severe than a bank account for example. Providing much higher levels of security than traditional passwords, with a less complex implementation that completely passwordless authentication, as it is usually backed up by the use of a traditional password as one method of authentication.
A common practice for the highest level of security is to implement both MFA and passwordless authentication. Requiring the user to provide a biometric signature and a secondary authentication such as an OTP.
Best Practice #4: Implement Role-Based Access Controls (RBAC)
Having identified high, low, and medium risk assets and coupled this with the appropriate access method for each asset, it’s time to determine who required access to the assets by implementing RBAC.
The Principle of Least Privilege
One of the most common best practices for RBAC is to adopt the principle of least privilege.
By defining the minimum amount of privilege each role in a company requires to perform their job, it’s possible to restrict access and permissions where possible, without interfering with the daily workflows of employees.
Another best practice is to utilize just-in-time access where appropriate. This involved granting temporary access to elevated permissions for a limited time period.
Instead of allowing a user full-time access to the permissions, they can be granted access temporarily with time-based access or with one-time use credentials to prevent the need for manual removal of the elevated permissions.
Best Practice #5: Conduct Regular Training
Regular, consistent, and enforced training is critical to any IAM strategy. In fact, it’s critical to all aspects of cybersecurity.
When policies and procedures are put in place, it’s imperative to ensure everyone in the organization understands why they’re important, how policies will impact them, and anything that they need to do or be aware of.
Training should be structured, regular, and not overlooked. This includes onboarding training, annual training refreshers, and ad-hoc training when new software or procedures are introduced throughout the year.
Best Practice #6: Adopt a Zero Trust Policy
Zero trust is a strategic approach based on the principle of “never trust, always verify”.
The policy requires all users, software, devices, and infrastructure inside and outside of an organization to be authenticated, authorized, and continuously validated before being granted access or maintaining access to applications or data.
The collection and log of data points such as login attempts and user activity bring us to the next best practice…
Best Practice #7: Maintain a Centralized Log System
Visibility of activity is critical – especially in a complex enterprise with multiple clouds and core programs.
It is best practice to maintain a centralized log collection because it allows for a birds-eye view of every access endpoint and user on the entire network, as well as activity on any cloud or physical device.
Often, various teams and departments pull logs and save them locally meaning that the IAM logs for the whole company are stored in multiple places, making it incredibly difficult to ascertain a broader view of activity. This is considered bad practice and this data should all be stored in one centralized location.
Best Practice #8: Leverage Automation
Harnessing the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning automation is a best practice to improve workflows, reduce manual errors and support IT teams. Its value goes without saying.
Automation is already being used in IAM in a number of ways:
- Onboarding and offboarding: Actions like creating and removing accounts, and granting and removing access for personnel when required
- Password updates: Automatic, periodic notifications to users when they need to update their passwords
- IT asset inventory: Can be automated using AL and ML, which is especially useful in expanding enterprises with users are joining, leaving, being promoted, and moving between teams at a high rate
- Reporting: The ability to log audits and generate reports on a regular basis
We have a full article on the full impact that artificial intelligence is having on cybersecurity.
Best Practice #9: Carry Out Regular Audits
Auditing is at the core of IAM, particularly for large enterprise companies or those scaling at a fast rate.
With an ever-changing number of users, devices, software, and flows of information, it’s imperative to keep on top of who has access to what assets.
For example, employees may believe they need access to all new tools and software added to the system but, often this isn’t the case. Regular audits of usage logs will identify employees that need their access revoked as they’re not actually using the software. This aligns with ensuring your organization is maintaining role-based access controls.
Orphaned accounts can also pose issues if not regularly audited and removed. An employee exiting a company doesn’t mean that their identity vanishes, they still have accounts with access. These are prime targets for cybercriminals using social engineering tactics, which means they need to be closed, with access privileges removed in a timely manner after the employee’s departure.
Ready to implement these best practices into your IAM strategy?
Effectively executing a new or updated IAM solution requires a team with specific expertise to ensure there is no disruption or risk during the process.
The RediMinds team is equipped to partner with you to implement the leading IAM solutions, including Okta and Transmit Security, to enhance the safety and security of your team and customers.
Find out how we can help with your Identity and Access Management strategy here.