Top 3 ways to improve identity and access management security

Identity and access management (IAM) is an important aspect of cybersecurity. Indeed, 80% of all cyberattacks use identity-based methods to gain access to target systems. Organisations that don’t adequately verify the identity of their users or ensure they’re only accessing what they need could be at risk of a costly data loss – or worse! 

The process of ensuring users are who they say they are is IAM. In this article, Extech Cloud experts with cover the ins and outs of IAM and show you three ways to improve your own security strategy.

What is IAM?

Identity and access management is a set of systems within your business that manage the roles and access privileges of individuals within your organisation. They essentially make sure that only the right people can access data, resources, and systems within your network.

This is important as it helps you control system’s access within your business and protects you from identity-based attacks. IAM enables you to restrict sensitive data and functions to only those who need them, meaning that if criminals successfully infiltrate a user’s account, you can easily limit the footprint of the attack.

The two aspects of IAM are:

  • Identity management: Identity management uses an identity management database, which is an ongoing record of everyone within your organisation that requires access. Users present their credentials to a login system and may also use an additional factor to verify their identity (known as multi-factor authentication).
  • Access management: Access management ensures that users can only access whatever they’re permitted to, to ensure that they can’t access files and systems that are unavailable to them or should not be accessed by them.

Implement least privilege

The principle of least privilege is a vital framework for access control and identity management. Essentially, it’s the idea that users should only have access to the information and systems they need to do their work.

This is important for a few different reasons:

  • Security: Using the principle of least privilege reduces the chances of your organisation’s security being compromised through one of your employee’s accounts. Fewer accounts being able to access your most valuable assets is always a good thing. If the identity management fails and an attacker accesses your system, the least privilege principle limits the damage they can inflict.
  • Insider information: If you limit user access, you reduce the risk of sensitive information being leaked by an insider within your organisation. Malicious insiders may use information they’re not supposed to access for personal gain or industrial espionage. Insider disclosure may not even be malicious, as employees may come across information they don’t know is sensitive or secret – and share it. The principle of least privilege significantly reduces the chance of this happening.

Given these risks, using the principle of least privilege can be vital to protect your organisation — and is something you should be utilising at all times.

Enforce MFA and use SSO where possible

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) and single-sign-on (SSO) are two vital tools that are practically everywhere in the modern world. MFA ensures users are who they say they are, while SSO reduces the likelihood of credential-stuffing attacks.

MFA ensures that whenever someone logs in, they’re using more than just a password to authenticate their identity. This means using a phone text, an app code, or however else MFA is set up within your business. Meanwhile, SSO lets you log into multiple programs or platforms with one login, meaning you have to login fewer times.

Using an SSO service such as Microsoft Entra ensures all your services and apps use one login. If users had separate logins for different apps, a password breach in one service could put their other credentials at risk – as hackers will likely use the same password and login to access other services. SSO offers one point of access, and passwords can be reset with ease. While good password hygiene is still important, SSO ensures that one point of failure doesn’t turn into more.

Make use of conditional access

Conditional access is a feature within Microsoft’s IAM platform, Entra. It uses a multitude of ‘signals’ to verify access attempts to your apps and data during sessions. That is, it continually looks for signs that an attacker is attempting to access your network.

Entra uses these signals to make decisions about what access to grant users. It does this based on the real-time risk of attack and the sensitivity of the data or applications being accessed.

This helps network administrators strike a balance between security and convenience. Having to verify your identity before every task is frustrating, so low or medium-risk actions may warrant fewer restrictions, while sensitive information needs a higher degree of security.

Read this guide to learn more about conditional access with Entra ID.

Looking for support?

Your organisation’s security is vital, and IAM security will help ensure your organisation doesn’t have gaps, making breaches less likely, and reducing the stress for you and your team.

If you’re looking to get started with identity and access management security but need a helping hand, reach out to Extech Cloud today. Our experts are here to help you get started and will provide a helping hand to ensure you have the support you need at all times.

Get in touch with us now and see how we can help.