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Five Key Considerations When Adopting a Cloud

Cloud solutions offer businesses flexibility without having to worry about hardware constraints. This allows companies to focus fully on innovation and not have to worry about IT capacity or other operational complexities. It’s no surprise, then, that the use of clouds (IaaS, Paas and SaaS) has steadily increased. Several market research studies indicate that cloud adoption is and has been high on CIOs’ agendas.

In the last five years most companies have met different challenges in the process of digital transformation and this is one of the reason to have considered cloud solutions, both public and private. Nowadays, Cloud adoption is no longer optional, but a key requirement for new business models. Companies around the world are scrambling to adopt cloud services as quickly as possible, otherwise they risk losing their competitive advantage.

As mentioned above, adopting cloud services is a great idea, but it also comes with some challenges. Here are five important considerations you should make before you start moving to the cloud.

  • Get the basics right

In our experience, many organizations rush to adopt their cloud without first taking a close look at design and best practices. As the cloud expands across the enterprise and its complexity increases, what was once a glimmer of hope in the IT sky quickly becomes a big mess that is difficult to manage and operate.

It’s critical to follow best practices and basic system architecture principles when designing your current data center or hosting solutions. These considerations are important to keep in mind for your cloud infrastructure as well. Especially if you choose Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) as your primary method of cloud adoption. IaaS is the most popular choice for organizations that are still in the early stages of their cloud experience. This makes it even more important to design the cloud system architecture according to appropriate principles and frameworks from the start. If this is not done, the cloud becomes an almost unsolvable and expensive problem that has to be fixed later. The goal is to ensure a simple cloud application.

  • Operational governance and processes are necessary

For some reason, there are companies which rarely consider extending their operational governance and processes to their cloud infrastructure as well. And if they did consider it, they found it too complicated and time consuming. Since this could have delayed the entire rollout of the program, the considerations were ultimately ignored.

So, our advice is to always keep your operational governance and process considerations in mind as you move to the cloud. With public clouds, things can quickly get out of hand due to a lack of governance and control.

  • Security is your responsibility

Moving to a public cloud can often make your IT infrastructure more secure, as you can make use of a variety of pre-provisioned services. Still, how you use the public cloud matters, because the security of your cloud services is your responsibility. While the cloud service provider can and will take care of the security of your infrastructure, you are responsible for controlling access and use within your organization. Cloud services are as secure or insecure as you make them.

In short, don’t assume that your cloud service provider is responsible for end-to-end security. It isn’t. Comprehensive cloud security considerations should be at the heart of your design. After all, better safe than sorry.

  • Qualified staff and reliable expertise are the key to success

Our 20 years of experience leading or participating in numerous infrastructure transformations, consolidations and migrations has taught us that the most successful programs were characterized by getting the right stakeholders involved very early on.

The leading projects were those that brought in people with the right skills at the right time. The most important aspect of this is that current teams are upskilled so that there is no disruption in the company’s delivery of services or goods once the program is in place. The same is true for cloud adoption.

Public clouds provide numerous services and new ones are added every day. It can be intimidating to identify the services that meet your business needs. And then you have to plan, configure and operate them. Currently, there’s a lot of competition in the job market, with many companies looking for employees with the right cloud skills. Demand is high, supply is scarce. In addition, these employees represent an expensive resource. To ensure the availability of reliable expertise, bring in a cloud service partner who can help you make steady progress on your cloud implementation journey.

  • It can get very expensive very quickly

Unlike traditional infrastructures, where limited capacity makes it slightly easier to control resource usage, the public cloud does not have such limitations. In public clouds, your costs can skyrocket, and once you’ve used a resource, you have to pay for it, even if it was accidental.

You can avoid unexpected nasty surprises by having the right design foundations and frameworks (processes and technology) in place from the start and setting appropriate constraints for projects with budget constraints. To estimate and limit your costs, use the tools and cloud cost controls your public cloud service provider offers.

These five considerations, based on our experience and industry best practices, provide a solid foundation for a successful path to cloud implementation. As said above, more and more organizations from different industries embrace transformation and reshape their futures. Others use transformation to improve margins and hold onto existing market share. Success in cloud adoption depends on having a clear strategy that helps a team understand executive direction and regularly measure progress. And don’t forget – the partners you choose to support through the multitude of options will also be vital. Their knowledge and experience will help you avoid the pitfalls.

What Are the Key Differences Between Two-factor Authentication and Multi-factor Authentication?

During the past few years the passwords used to be considered the only credential factor needed to confirm the identity of a person accessing an account. But nowadays the situation is quite different. As cybercriminals get more sophisticated, so do people that want to highly protect their data. And single-factor authentication may not be enough to confirm a person’s identity.

Two-factor authentication (2FA) and multi-factor authentication (MFA) are indispensable components of the cybersecurity ecosystem. Although one might come to think that the two are synonyms, 2FA and MFA are not entirely the same. Let’s clear up the difference between two-factor authentication and multi-factor authentication, as well as questions such as is MFA better than 2FA.

What are the different types of authentication?

Correct login credentials are only one factor in protecting your data. There needs to be another layer of credentials to keep your information secure, that’s why there are three different types of authentication:

  • Knowledge: The person confirms their identity by answering questions only they know. This can include passwords or answers to security questions. It is the most common factor within single-factor authentication, but is also present within 2FA and MFA. Due to being one of the first forms of authentication, a password in today’s cybersecurity environment presents one of the weakest security links.
  • Possession: This type of authentication factor refers to something a user has in his possession, a device or an object that will provide additional information needed for verification. We mostly see this factor in action with one-time passwords sent as an SMS to your mobile device, security token, software token, card verification value on a credit card (CVV), etc.
  • Inherence: The inherence authentication factor relies on biometric authentication based on the user’s unique traits. Biometric authentication typically includes either fingerprint or face recognition, as well as location behavior. Since biometrics are hard to spoof, inherence is considered to be the most secure authentication factor of the three. Biometrics are among the favorites in terms of two-factor and multi-factor authentication.

For a fully secure account, it’s best practice to have two or more types of credentials to ensure only authorized access is maintained. This can fall into two categories: two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA).

What is the main difference between two-factor authentication and multi-factor authentication?

The main difference between two-factor authentication (2FA) and multi-factor authentication (MFA) lies in the number of required authentication factors. Two-factor authentication demands exactly two authentication factors to be presented during the authentication process. Multi-factor authentication requires the user to submit two or more authentication factors. Based on the definitions mentioned earlier, we can now say that 2FA is a subset of MFA.

Is MFA more secure than 2FA?

The most correct answer is – it depends. Some would say that the answer is obvious, but for the sake of providing you with the full information, let’s elaborate on this one. Every MFA, which includes 2FA as well, is only as secure as the authentication methods used in a particular scenario. Let’s put it this way; if you combine three authentication methods such as a PIN (knowledge), OTP (possession), and fingerprint (inherence), you are better off than with a single password. The mentioned MFA approach also beats 2FA which includes, let’s say, OTP and Face ID. However, in some cases, two-factor authentication beats multi-factor authentication.

Both 2FA and MFA add enhanced security measures beyond username and password credentials, and they each provide different levels of assurance that the person accessing the account is legitimate. So, is MFA more secure than 2FA? In general, any 2FA or MFA is more secure than single-factor authentication. However, the security added by any MFA strategy is as strong as the authentication methods chosen by risk professionals.

  • Security

Even though it can be easy for an attacker to perform a brute force attack for less complex passwords, having to deal with SMS message authentication makes it that much more complicated  for the attacker to gain access to your account. Still, as we’ve seen already, phone authentication and phone numbers as identifiers are not that secure.

This is why adding a third authentication factor, such as biometrics (which are much more difficult to hack), will add an additional level of protection to your sensitive information. Following this line of reasoning, we would deduce that MFA is superior to 2FA, but there’s one more aspect we must consider when talking about their differences.

  • The Advantages of Multi-Factor Authentication

Because of how connected applications and devices are to an organization’s network, implementing MFA is a best practice, whether that means two or more steps of verification or two or more distinct authentication factors.

Below are some of the top benefits that MFA provides to protect access to your systems:

  • Protects Against Negligence: It can be tricky to remember passwords, especially if they are complex. Many users create passwords that are short and easy to remember, giving cybercriminals a clear route to stealing credentials through brute force attacks or harvesting techniques. MFA provides another layer of security if employee passwords are compromised.
  • Prevents Unauthorized Access: Since it requires an additional step or factor to gain access to your network system or software application, MFA helps keep criminals out. More often than not, cybercriminals don’t have the knowledge or possessions needed to satisfy the additional requirements, even if they have the primary credentials.
  • Allows Geographic Flexibility: Many MFA solutions – such as knowledge-based factors or possessions like a phone, a hardware token, or an authentication app – do not require users to be on-site to complete their login. So, MFA is manageable from any location.
  • Ensures Industry Compliance: MFA is one of the most frequent regulatory compliance requirements for customers and employees. These include PCI Data Security Standards, GDPR and other industry regulations.

Multi-factor authentication is definitely the more secure authentication method, providing that it has two or more authentication factors, making it harder for attackers to bypass the additional layers of security. But while MFA is the more secure option, 2FA is easier to use for a larger number of users, as well as more cost-effective to implement for both users and organizations.

Above all, choosing an authentication method is completely up to you. Having that in mind, we strongly emphasize the importance of using any type of MFA on your email, your domain contact email to avoid domain theft, your domain name registrar, and all your online accounts.

What Are the Business Benefits of GRC Integration

Nowadays the concept of Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) is of a great importance for many companies. With growing regulations and added organizational threats (both internal and external), GRC continues to become more valuable, as it allows organizations to achieve objectives, address uncertainties and operate with integrity. Integrated GRC demands that several roles work in harmony. Audit, risk management and compliance teams must come together to share information, data, assessments, metrics, risks and losses.

GRC as a discipline is aimed at collaboration and synchronization of information and activities. If implemented effectively, it enables stakeholders to predict risks with higher accuracy, and capitalize on the opportunities that truly matter. By adopting a federated GRC program, process owners at the business unit level can independently assess and manage their own risks and compliance requirements; at the same time, key risk and compliance metrics can be rolled up to the top of the organization for reporting and analysis.

  • Why should we integrate Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC)?

Risk and compliance information in the right format, at the right time and in the right hands is crucial for the organisational success. It supports quick and informed decision-making, which can save an organisation from financial and reputational loss, data breaches, compliance violations and more. Stakeholders need to always be mindful of issues such as ineffective controls, unmitigated risks and policy conflicts. The path to achieving this objective lies in integrating GRC. Now that we know that integrated GRC solution is important, let us understand why it is essential.

  • Secures Assets

Assets in an organization can be anything, such as physical infrastructure, stored data, intellectual properties, data centers, human capital, e-assets, etc. Companies require their assets to be protected from all kinds of threats, such as natural calamity and cyber threats. There is a close competition between the data protectors and the data thieves. The point to be noted here is that as we develop more mechanisms to reduce cyber threats, cyber-crimes have evolved technologically as well. Government regulations and compliance standards help determine and implement controls to secure these assets. However, a centralized system and process that can monitor the smooth functioning of business in real time and raise a flag in case of any issue are essential to reduce the various risk exposures of the organization

  • Regulatory Changes and Control Implementation

Regulations are not simple and common anymore. Each country has different regulations in place and enforcement level of these regulations varies up to a large extent. For example, companies operating with North American health data needs to comply with HIPAA, whereas, companies dealing with European personal data needs to comply with GDPR. Since multinational corporations generally operate in different regions, implementing controls requires identifying commonality between different regulations and standards in order to ease the process of compliance. Hence, it becomes efficient to handle controls and control failures when the integration of GRC is done.

  • Cost Saving and Revenue Generation

Couple of years back, risk management and compliance were considered to be a part of the cost centre. Earlier, companies used to spend on GRC without understanding the financial benefits. Complying with standards was like a mere advantage and not a need. But the scenario has changed drastically today. GRC acts as a cost saver for the customers by ensuring automation of common processes and implementation of common controls to mitigate risks. From a service provider’s perspective, it acts as a revenue generator because GRC has become a necessity for all the customers and expert services are in huge demand.

  • Streamlined Management

Tracking down important information across multiple documents, computers, and/or storage methods is time-consuming and makes data and task management a bigger challenge than it has to be. Automating manual activities and developing repeatable processes and workflows, on the other hand, simplifies day-to-day GRC management tasks, reducing time and resource requirements and minimizing human error.

  • Greater Agility

Many organizations struggle with a lack of visibility into their business processes, vendor relationships, risk exposure, and other critical considerations for integrated risk management. Uniting analytics and reporting for these and other areas under one platform enables organizations to quickly analyze risks and opportunities and develop data-driven action plans. As a result, launching a new product or service, contracting with a new vendor, or responding to market changes becomes faster and more efficient.

Even though organizations may have different teams or managers handling ERM, vendor management, compliance, or business continuity, their management processes and data don’t have to be siloed. However, the benefits of GRC integration are only possible with a two-pronged approach of – strong policies and procedures for governance, risk, and compliance management, and  a flexible technology architecture that supports and enhances your GRC initiatives.

If your organization is looking for ways to tie those two pieces together, PATECCO is able to support you. We help businesses quickly implement a holistic, integrated GRC program using built-in best practices.

Seven Elements of a Strong Cloud Security Strategy

Cloud security is gaining importance at many organizations, as cloud computing becomes mainstream. Most organizations use cloud infrastructure or services, whether software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) or infrastructure as a service (IaaS), and each of these deployment models has its own, complex security considerations.

Cloud systems are shared resources and are often exposed to, or exist on, the public Internet, and so are a prime target for attackers. In recent years, many high profile security breaches occurred due to misconfigured cloud systems, which allowed attackers easy access to sensitive data or mission critical systems. This is the reason why securing cloud systems requires a comprehensive program and strategy to embed security throughout the enterprise’s cloud lifecycle.

A cloud security strategy is the foundation of successful cloud adoption. Besides significantly increasing your pace of progress as you embark on the journey, documenting your strategy early will achieve consensus and organizational agreement between business and technical teams on key drivers, concerns and governance principles.

  • 7 Key Elements of a resilient Cloud Security Strategy

Today’s security landscape is complex. Protecting your organization requires accepting the fact that your systems will be breached at some point; therefore, your strategy should contain both pre-breach and post-breach elements. Here are seven key elements of a strong cloud security strategy:

1. Identity and Access Management

All companies should have an Identity and Access Management (IAM) system to control access to information. Your cloud provider will either integrate directly with your IAM or offer their own in-built system. An IAM combines multi-factor authentication and user access policies, helping you control who has access to your applications and data, what they can access, and what they can do to your data.

2. Visibility

Visibility into current cloud architecture should be a priority for your security team. Lack of visibility around cloud infrastructure is one of the top concerns for many organizations. The cloud makes it easy to spin up new workloads at any time, perhaps to address a short-term project or spike in demand, and those assets can be easily forgotten once the project is over. Cloud environments are dynamic, not static. Without visibility to changes in your environment, your organization can be left exposed to potential security vulnerabilities. After all, you can’t protect what you can’t see.

3. Encryption

Your data should be securely encrypted when it’s on the provider’s servers and while it’s in use by the cloud service. Few cloud providers assure protection for data being used within the application or for disposing of your data. So it’s important to have a strategy to secure your data not only when it’s in transit but also when it’s on their servers and accessed by the cloud-based applications.

Encryption is another layer of cloud security to protect your data assets, by encoding them when at rest and in transit. This ensures the data is near impossible to decipher without a decryption key that only you have access to.

4. Micro-Segmentation

Micro-segmentation is increasingly common in implementing cloud security. It is the practice of dividing your cloud deployment into distinct security segments, right down to the individual workload level. By isolating individual workloads, you can apply flexible security policies to minimize any damage an attacker could cause, should they gain access.

5. Automation

Certainly, automation is a key part of building a successful cloud strategy, as is the need to manage IAM policies. We recommend automating everything you can, everywhere you can. This includes leveraging serverless architecture to respond to alerts, making them manageable to avoid alert fatigue and enabling your security operations team to focus on the events that need their attention.

6. Cloud Security Monitoring

Security Monitoring is not only a matter of choosing the right security service provider but it requests that company develop and drive adoption of a standard interface that permits to query the actual security status of specific elements of a provider’s services. In an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering, these may include security status of a virtual machine. In a Platform as a Service (PaaS) or Software as a Service (SaaS), the patch status of a piece of software may be important. In both of these cases (PaaS and SaaS), applications are provided through the cloud and their update status would need to be monitored. The data will be maintained by the provider in real time, allowing the subscriber to ascertain security levels at any given point in time. The onus is ultimately on the subscriber to ensure its compliance reporting meets all geographical and industry-based regulations.​

7. Secure data transfers

Keep in mind that data is not only at risk when it’s sitting on cloud storage servers, it’s also vulnerable when in transit (i.e. while being uploaded, downloaded or moved on your server). Although most cloud service providers encrypt data transfers as a rule, this is not always a given.

To ensure data is protected while on the move, make certain that transfers go through secure HTTP access and are encrypted using SSL. Your business IT support provider should be able to help you obtain an SSL certificate and configure your cloud service to use it. You may also want to install HTTPS Everywhere on all devices that connect to your cloud.

The role of the cloud and container utilization will significantly grow in 2022 and beyond, as the speed of migrating to hyperscale environments continues to accelerate. Without a sound cloud security strategy, organizations will increase their risk profile as they increase their cloud consumption, opening themselves up to potentially devastating attacks and breaches.

A strong cloud security strategy paired with advanced technology solutions and trusted security partners will help ensure organizations can take advantage of the many unique capabilities and benefits of modern computing environments without incurring additional and unacceptable risk.

PATECCO and One Identity Reinforce Together the PAM processes in WM Gruppe

Over the past few years Privileged Access Management, has become one of the most relevant areas of Cyber Security associated with Identity and Access Management, that deals with identifying, securing and managing privileged credentials across the Organization’s IT environment.

In its practice, PATECCO acts as a vendor neutral provider of value-added services and implements PAM solutions deploying products of market-leading PAM vendors such as One Identity. PATECCO develops, implements and manages PAM as an information security and governance tool to support finance companies in complying with legal and regulatory compliance regulations.

While WM Gruppe isn’t a bank, it provides banks and other financial services companies with data on financial markets and instruments. And with its systems hooking up to those of customers via application programming interfaces (API), it must ensure its cybersecurity is as robust as that of its clients.

  • Challenges of WM Gruppe

With regulatory requirements increasing, WM Gruppe wanted to reinforce privileged account management (PAM) to counter cybercriminals while improving operational efficiency. Privileged accounts are known to be vulnerable to attack, resulting in catastrophic consequences when hacked. PAM processes in WM Gruppe were home-grown, meaning they’d evolved over time as the company expanded.

Unfortunately, PAM processes at WM Gruppe were manual and time-consuming to operate, posing security risk across its 800 applications and multiple privileged accounts. It was easy for procedures like password changes to be delayed if a member of the IT infrastructure team responsible for making the changes was out-of-office or otherwise engaged. Plus, reporting on who had access to what servers and applications, and when, was a constant concern due to data inaccessibility.

  • The solution

WM Gruppe looked for a PAM solution as part of a wider cybersecurity review across the entire organization. It chose One Identity Safeguard for Privileged Passwords for a couple of key reasons. It fully automated PAM processes, removing password management, and it made PAM fully auditable. The company worked closely with PATECCO and its partner – One Identity, which supported WM Gruppe with the initial deployment of Safeguard. The result was closure of any potential holes in PAM processes while saving hours of work through automation and improving auditing capabilities.

Why WM Gruppe chose PATECCO and One Identity?

  • PATECCO was able to implement both a PAM and an IAM solution which enables the customer to get the full Identity Management package from one supplier.
  • PATECCO developed the integration of the IAM IT Shop to the USU ITSM (IT Service management) and was adapted to the customer’s requirements.
  • WM Gruppe saw a 100 percent improvement in PAM using Safeguard. The solution raised PAM to a new level without increasing its workloads.
  • One Identity Safeguard strengthened privileged account controls and saved hours of work and increased protection.
  • Using the workflow engine in Safeguard drastically reduced the window of opportunity if a password gets hacked.

Info source: One Identity

How to Solve Compliance Challenges with IAM

As experts in identity and access management, we noticed that many of our clients face different issues with access control. In particular, we find that most business owners and managers do not have the proper identity access management measures. Based on our long-term experience in Identity and Access Management, we guide and support clients on meeting the access control measures governing their industries.

In this article, we will discuss the key challenges that most of our clients face. We will also guide you on ways to prevent them and ensure compliance using different IAM tools.

  • Common Access Control Issues Facing Industries


As technology progresses, companies are now handling their tasks using digital systems. While this helps, controlling who can access certain information gets more complicated. Besides, a great number of employees are currently working remotely, which makes it challenging to oversee all their activities.

One issue most companies are facing is Sarbanes Oxley compliance. This law mainly applies to the financial industry. It focuses on protecting investors from fraudulent activities by such institutions. When checking if companies are abiding by this law, PATECCO experts find that most do not have enough measures to control access to data. This is because they focus on meeting financial regulations and neglect access control.

More common compliance issues faced by institutions in different sectors are:

• Meeting PCI requirements

• SOC compliance

• FFIEC compliance

The healthcare industry is another one facing different compliance challenges. One common issue in this field is meeting HIPAA requirements. As most facilities focus on improving their technology, they fail to develop measures to limit access to sensitive information.

Most data control issues in the healthcare industry revolve around creating various security measures to protect medical documents. Such include multi-factor authentication and single sign-on protocols. ISO 27001 and ISO 27002 are other security standards that most brands do not know how to meet. Without the proper measures, managing information security is tricky. This issue then makes it hard to pass audits and safeguard data from people without authorized access.

  • Ensuring Access Control Through Provisioning and Reviews

After learning about the issues faced when meeting different regulations, you may be concerned how to avoid them. Implementing access control policies helps reduce the risk of data breaches. It also makes it hard for unlicensed people to access sensitive information.

One way you can solve such issues with Identity and Access Management is through provisioning. This process involves assigning specific employees to systems with sensitive information. It also includes issuing them with IDs that allow them to access protected files.

When provisioning with IAM, you should have complete control over access rights. If an employee leaves your company, you should delete their account or deactivate it to withdraw their rights. This way, you will prevent breaches and feel confident that your data is safe. After putting in place measures to limit access, it is also advisable to review them regularly. We also recommend to check if all your employees have the proper access based on their job roles. Besides, confirm that they are not abusing this power or using the information for personal activities.

You should also take into account that in most cases reviewing access may be tricky without the right tools. For example, recording the results of each assessment is time-consuming, but IAM tools are able to simplify this process by automating compliance assessment. These programs then produce a report to help you identify ways to improve access control.

  • Ensuring Compliance with Privileged Access

Controlling access goes beyond having security measures and reviewing them. It also involves tracking the employees that have permission to view or use specific files. Still, most companies find it hard to manage employees with such privileges.

For example, after shifting from one system to another, you can forget to change your admins. This means that they will still be able to access files in the other program. If a data breach happens, it will not be easy to pinpoint its source. By using IAM tools, you can quickly identify the employees using specific systems. It is also possible to simplify tracking privileged access. These programs also allow you to set security measures to limit access.

Getting IAM solutions to limit access of your current and past employees is the best way to abide by different regulations. These come with various tools to help you secure privileged accounts. With such features, it is simpler to revoke access and avoid security threats.

Types of IAM Solutions Available Today

The most suitable IAM solution for your company may vary depending on your needs. For instance:

  • Privileged Access Management is one of the most common IAM solutions. This one focuses on protecting privileged accounts. If around 20 of your employees have access to different systems with IAM protocols, you can use PAM to protect the most sensitive ones. This solution is mainly helpful in meeting NERC compliance needs.
  • User provisioning IAM tools are another subset you can use to ensure all accounts have the correct permission. With these solutions, it is possible to control the access rights of all your employees. The compliance needs you can meet with the tool are GLBA, NERC, GDPR, and HIPAA. An important aspect to look into when adopting access control tools is the role of each employee. Besides, determine the entitlement they have to sensitive data. You should also consider the cost and compare it against the benefits of getting the software.
  • Data governance IAM solutions protect sensitive information using measures like SSO. Its main drivers are FERPA, PCI-DSS, HIPAA, and FERPA.

More IAM solutions you can find in the market today, and their driver compliances are:

• Access controls- HIPAA, SOX, NERC, and GDPR

• Identity governance- SOX and GLBA

• Multi-factor authentication tools- GDPR, PCI-DSS, and GLBA

Since each of these IAM solutions has unique features, you should understand the needs of your firm. Taking this measure makes it easier to pick a tool that addresses them and helps you stay compliant.

Why Segregation of Duties is Important for Information Security

When we talk about IT security, the first things that come to mind are programs such as firewalls or malware detection software. However, security is as much about the organization systems and process your company has in place as anything else. Of those organizational structures, one of the most important matter is how companies assign responsibility for certain IT-related tasks. This is called Segregation of Duties.

What is Segregation of Duties

Segregation of Duties is an internal control that prevents a single person from completing two or more tasks in a business process. Separation of Duties, as it relates to security, has two primary objectives. The first is the prevention of conflict of interest, the appearance of conflict of interest, wrongful acts, fraud, abuse and errors. The second is the detection of control failures that include security breaches, information theft and circumvention of security controls. Organizations require Segregation of Duties controls to separate duties among more than one individual to complete tasks in a business process to mitigate the risk of fraud, waste and error (for example in financial enterprises).

SoD processes break down tasks, which can be completed by one individual, into multiple tasks. The goal is to ensure that control is never in the hands of one individual, either by splitting the transaction into 2 or more pieces, or requiring sign-off approval from another party before completion.

Breaking tasks down prevents risks, however, it doesn’t come without other costs. For one, it can negatively impact business efficiency. Payroll management, for example, often faces error and fraud risks. A common SoD for payroll is to ask one employee to be responsible for setting up the payroll run and asking another employee to be responsible for signing checks. This way, there is no short circuit where someone could pay themselves or a colleague more or less than they are entitled to.

The Importance of Segregation of Duties

The concept behind Segregation of Duties is that the duty of running a business should be divided among several people, so that no one person has the power to cause damage to the business or to perform fraudulent or criminal activity. Separation of duties is an important part of risk management, and also relates to adhering to SOX compliance.

Segregation of Duties is recommended across the enterprise, but it’s arguably most critical in accounting, cybersecurity, and information technology departments. Individuals in these roles can cause significant damage to a company, whether inadvertently or intentionally. Therefore, finance and security leaders should pay attention to separation of duties. It is important to build a role with IT security capabilities so that no one can abuse it.

Segregation of Duties in IT security

The issue of separation of duties is of a great importance. A lack of clear and concise responsibilities for the CSO and chief information security officer has fuelled confusion. It is imperative that there be separation between the development, operation and testing of security and all controls. Similarly, if one individual is responsible for both developing and testing a security system, they are more likely to be blind to its weaknesses.

To avoid these situations, responsibilities must be assigned to individuals in such a way as to establish checks and balances within the system. Different people must be responsible for different parts of critical IT processes, and there must be regular internal audits performed by individuals who are not part of the IT organization, and report directly to the CEO or board of directors. SoD in the IT department can prevent control failures that can result in disastrous consequences, such as data theft or sabotage of corporate systems.

An important part of SoD implementation is the principle of least privilege, as well. Everyone should have the minimum permissions they need to perform their duties. Even within a certain IT system, individuals should only have access to the data and features they specifically require. Permissions should be regularly reviewed, and revoked in case an employee changed role, no longer participates in a certain activity, or has left the company.

SOD in risk management

Segregation of Duties is a fundamental internal accounting control prohibiting single entities from possessing unchecked power to conceal financial errors or misappropriate assets in their specific role. SOD controls require a thorough analysis of all accounting roles with the segregation of all duties deemed incompatible. For example, someone responsible for inventory custody can’t also oversee transactional recordkeeping regarding inventory.

SOD policies can also help manage risk in information technology by preventing control failures around access permission. By segregating workflow duties, your team ensures the same individual or group isn’t responsible for multiple steps in the access permission process.

When it comes to risk management in Governance Risk and Compliance, effective SOD practices can help reduce innocent employee errors and catch the not-so-innocent fraudulent filings. Both can elevate compliance risk by violating regulations like the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002, penalizing companies for filing incorrect financial information capable of misleading investors

Including a Segregation of Duties control component in your risk management strategy helps reduce risks that can be costly to your organization – whether it’s financial, damage to your brand, or the stiff penalties imposed for regulatory infractions. By segregating duties to minimize errors and potential fraud, your organization can remain at or below its desired risk threshold.  Working with experienced cybersecurity experts is crucial for companies of all sizes, across all industries. That is why businesses have to take charge of their own protection and implement strategies designed to limit the damage a single attack is capable of.

How to Manage Security in a DevOps Environment

In recent years, DevOps has been gaining a great popularity among IT decision-makers who have realized the benefits that it offers. DevOps is based on automation and cross-functional collaboration. However, not many IT executives are aware of the security risks in a DevOps environment. This article reviews the basic concepts of a DevOps pipeline and suggests several ways for securing it.

What Is DevOps?

The standard DevOps model focuses primarily on development and operations. It represents a collaborative or shared approach to the tasks performed by a company’s application development and IT operations teams.

While DevOps is not a technology, DevOps environments generally apply common methodologies. These include the following:

– continuous integration and continuous delivery or continuous deployment (CI/CD) tools, with an emphasis on task automation;

– systems and tools that support DevOps adoption, including real-time monitoring, incident management, configuration management and collaboration platforms; and

– cloud computing, microservices and containers implemented concurrently with DevOps methodologies.

A DevOps approach is one of many techniques IT staff use to execute IT projects that meet business needs. DevOps can coexist with Agile software development, IT service management frameworks, such as ITIL, project management directives, such as Lean and Six Sigma, and other strategies. In a DevOps security culture, all team members play an active role in securing software. It allows teams to test early and often throughout the software creation process. This enables them to analyze their software as they build it, reducing the likelihood they release buggy software.

How to Secure the DevOps Environment:

The following tips from this article can help you address DevOps environment’s security risks and ensure that any vulnerabilities are handled properly.

  • Establish Credential Controls

Security managers need to make sure that the controls and access to different environments is centralized. To achieve this, managers have to create a transparent, and collaborative environment to ensure that developers understand the scope of their access privileges.

  • Consistent Management of Security Risks

Establish a clear, easy-to-understand set of procedures and policies for cybersecurity such as configuration management, access controls, vulnerability testing, code review, and firewalls. Ensure that all company personnel are familiar with these security protocols. In addition, you should keep track of compliance by maintaining operational visibility.

  • Automation

Security operations teams need to keep up with the fast pace of the DevOps process. Automation of your security tools and processes can help you scale and speed up your security operations. You should also automate your code analysis, configuration management, vulnerability discovery and fixes, and privileged access. Automation simplifies the process of vulnerability discovery and identification of potential threats. Moreover, automation enables developers and security teams to focus on other tasks by eliminating human error and saving time.

  • Privileged Access Management

You should limit privilege access rights to reduce potential attacks. For instance, you can restrict developers and testers access to specific areas. You can also remove administrator privileges on end-user devices, and set up a workflow check-out process. Additionally, you should safely store privileged credentials and monitor privileged sessions to verify that all activity is legitimate.

Problems Addressed

DevOps solves several problems, such as:

  • Reduced errors: Automation reduces common errors when performing basic or repetitive tasks. Besides, automation is valued for preventing ad hoc changes to systems, which are often used instead of complete documented fixes. In the worst case the problem and solution are both undocumented and the underlying issue is never actually fixed, and is not much more than the fleeting memory of the person who fixed the issue in a panic during the last release.
  • Speed and efficiency: Here at PATECCO we talk a lot about “reacting faster and better” and “doing more with less”. DevOps, like Agile, is geared towards doing less, better, and faster. Releases occur more regularly, with less code change between them. Less work means better focus, and more clarity of purpose with each release. Again, automation helps people get their jobs done with less hands-on work.
  • Bottlenecks: There are several bottlenecks in software development: developers waiting for specifications, select individuals who are overtasked, provisioning IT systems, testing, and even processes (particularly synchronous ones, as in waterfall development) can all cause delays. The way DevOps tasks are scheduled, the reduction in work being performed at any one time, and the way expert knowledge is embedded into automation, all act to reduce these issues. Once DevOps is established it tends to alleviate major bottlenecks common to most development teams, especially the over-burdening of key personnel.
  • Security: Security becomes not just the domain of security experts with specialized knowledge, but integrated into the development and delivery process. Security controls can be used to flag new features or gate releases — within the same set of controls you use to ensure custom code, application stacks, or server configurations, meet specifications.

The fundamental value of DevOps is speed to market. However, companies that do not incorporate security into every stage of their development and operations environment risk losing the value of DevOps. To ensure a secure environment, you need to adopt a DevOps model, enable privileged access management, and secure your software supply chain.

What is the Difference Between Role-based Access Control and Attribute-based Access Control

Nowadays, especially in this modern digital workspace, working together successfully as a team is a great challenge and depends on a good collaboration. As part of that collaboration, it’s critical for team members to have access to the files and programs they need to do their jobs. But that access should be easily revocable when employees change job positions or leave the company. This is could be achieved through access control which defines who is allowed to access what.  In this post, we will look at the comparison of two of the most popular access control models: role-based access control (RBAC) versus attribute-based access control (ABAC). We’ll also briefly discuss how RBAC contribute to secure monitoring best practices.

Role-based access control (RBAC) and attribute-based access control (ABAC) are the two most commonly used access control tools used for authorization and permissions systems. Most developers have heard them and may have a sense for what they mean, but many aren’t clear on how to think about RBAC and ABAC as tools for modelling permissions in their apps. Understanding the differences between the two is key for choosing between RBAC vs. ABAC for your system.

RBAC versus ABAC

  • What is RBAC and how does it work?

Role-based access control (RBAC), also known as role-based security, is a mechanism that restricts system access. It includes setting permissions and privileges to enable access to authorized users. Most large organizations use role-based access control to provide their employees with varying levels of access based on their roles and responsibilities. This protects sensitive data, limit the risk of data leaks and and ensures employees can only access information and perform actions they need to accomplish their tasks.

In addition to restricting access, the company assigns a role-based access control role to every employee; the role determines which permissions the system grants to the user. Likewise, the right to access a file is based on the role of the user. Moreover, it is also possible for a single user to have multiple roles. The main advantage of RBAC is that this policy does not need to change when a certain person with the role leaves the organization. It is also easier to activate a role on a new employee.

The Benefits of RBAC include:

– Security. RBAC uses the principle of least privilege to lower the risk of a data breach. It also limits damage should a breach occur.

– Ease of Use. RBAC connects employees to the data and systems they need and reduces administrative overhead for IT.

– Compliance Readiness. Administrators can more easily prove that data and sensitive information have been handled according to privacy, security, and confidentiality standards.

  • What is ABAC and how does it work?

ABAC stands for Attribute Based Access Control. In this method, the access to a resource is determined by a collection of several attributes. It considers user attributes (subject attributes), resource attributes (object attributes) and environmental attributes. In practice, attributes can include everything from the position of employees to their departments, IP addresses, devices, and more. By using ABAC, the organizations can simplify access management and reduce risks due to unauthorized access. Furthermore, it helps to centralize auditing.

  • Key benefits of ABAC include:

– Granularity: it uses attributes rather than roles to specify relationships between users and resources, administrators can create precisely targeted rules without needing to create additional roles. 

– Flexibility: ABAC policies are easy to adapt as resources and users change.

– Adaptability: ABAC makes adding and revoking permissions easier by allowing admins to modify attributes. This simplifies onboarding and offboarding as well as the temporary provisioning of contractors and external partners.

– Security: ABAC allows admins to create context-sensitive rules as security needs arise so they can more easily protect user privacy and adhere to compliance requirements.

  • RBAC versus ABAC: differences between the two access control models

One key distinction between RBAC and ABAC is their static versus dynamic nature, as implied in their respective models — RBAC permits access based on roles, which are generally fairly static within an organization, where ABAC relies on attributes, which can be dynamic — changing, for example, when a user attempts to access a resource from a different device or IP address.

This brings us to the benefits and downsides of each model: ABAC can be automated to update permissions, and — once everything is set up — requires less overall administration. It’s also secure when set up correctly. In terms of downsides, ABAC can be quite complex and environment-specific, and complicated attribute sets can be hard to scale.

RBAC, on the other hand, is highly efficient and can streamline the compliance process. While any form of access control comes with a degree of complexity, RBAC is transparent enough that you can see how individuals interact with resources based on their roles.

One major downside of RBAC is if your environment has a multitude of different roles, each with its own complex set of permissions, which can make management difficult. In contrast to ABAC, RBAC can’t be automated, so the more complex your environment, the more manual the access management control becomes.

  • RBAC or ABAC: The best access model depends on company size and security needs

RBAC and ABAC are both effective ways to control access to data in your system. Which one works best for you will be based on a few factors:

– How big is your company? RBAC tends to not scale well because as more people and resources are added, more roles are created to define more detailed permissions. If you work at a big enterprise, ABAC is probably the right approach.

– How complex does your authorization strategy need to be? In general, you should try to do the least complex form of access control possible. If RBAC will cut it, this would be the right choice. If you need more detailed permissions or to look at variables that fall outside of roles (like device type, location, or time), you’ll need to use ABAC.

The good news is that you can use both RBAC and ABAC in tandem. A common model is to begin with RBAC and keep it as an overarching access model, then slowly add ABAC on top to fine-tune security for various users, resources, and operations.

How to Successfully Conduct Recertification of Access Rights

From our practice, we know that every company has employees that have been there from the beginning and worked in different departments. They know everything about the company’s processes, and it makes them valuable employees. But at the same time, they can also access sensitive data, and that makes them dangerous and a periodic user access review can mitigate this danger.

The user access review, otherwise known as access recertification, is an essential part of access management and is an important practice for each organisation. As a critical component of your Identity and Access Management strategy, this control mechanism ensures that your Information System users have legitimate and consistent access rights to your systems and applications.

In this article, we discuss the definition and importance of user access recertification and review the best practices to make the process fast and effective.

What is Access Recertification?

As said above, recertification, is a key component of your IAM strategy, closely linked to identity lifecycle management and to account and rights provisioning. The goal is to ensure that information system users have the access rights they should have, and to certify them, or – if necessary – carry out remediation operations in the event of non-compliance with the company’s authorisation policy.

This IAM element helps provide good governance and authorisations control, in order to ensure the expected compliance guarantees. It allows companies not only to achieve compliance with their security policy and to limit operational risks, but also to meet a wide range of regulatory challenges, including those relating to regular audits by the parent company or by official auditors.

If not reviewed periodically, privileged access can fall into the hands of bad actors, whether on purpose or on accident. The risks involved with the wrong person having access can be great and potentially disastrous for an organization and its reputation.

Why is it important to review access rights?

The ultimate aim of a user access review is to reduce the risk of a security breach by limiting access to critical data and resources. To prevent situations such as security breach or data theft, is one of the reasons to conduct a recertification. It also eliminates threats such as the following:

  • Excessive privileges. In a perfectly secure world, access privileges can be granted only to users that need them only to do their jobs. In reality, permanent access is often granted when an employee needs access just once or may (or may not) need it in the future. A timely review helps to revoke unneeded user access rights.
  • Access misuse and employee mistakes. According Data Breach Investigations Reports, 15% of data breaches happen because of access and data misuse. A user access review helps to limit access and, therefore, reduce the possibility of a costly mistake.
  • Insider threats. The key danger of insiders comes from the fact that they have access to sensitive data and know about security measures implemented in the organization. Insider threats can be partially mitigated by revising and restricting access according to the principle of least privilege. However, the best practice is to couple reviews with the creation of an insider threat policy and deployment of user monitoring, access, and identity management software.

Figure 1: Functions of recertification

Which best practices should be followed for effective recertification?

To mitigate the potential risks and keep your access management routine efficient and secure, it’s in your organization’s best interest to conduct periodic user access reviews. And if you don’t have regular access recertification done already, here are some user access review best practices to help you set up an efficient process.

  • Develop a user access review policy

Developing a user access review policy is crucial for any organization’s security. A thorough policy can help save an organization time and money while mitigating cybersecurity risks and protecting sensitive information. It’s best to consider policy development as the information-gathering stage of the process, with a lot of asking questions and finding answers. For example: Who has access to what? What is the most important information that needs protecting? Who and what is most vulnerable to risk? What software exists to mitigate those risks?

The development of a user access review policy should always be geared toward achieving a Zero Trust policy, meaning, a policy that allows users access to only the bare minimum needed for job duties.

  • Implement role-based access control (RBAC)

This access control model allows for creating user roles for positions instead of configuring each user’s account individually. Each role is assigned a list of access rights. RBAC speeds up a user access review because, with this model in place, you can review roles instead of separate profiles.

In PATECCO, role-based access is easy to set up and manage: you can add users with similar privileges to groups and manage their privileges in a few clicks.

  • Implement the principle of least privilege

The principle of least privilege dictates that users should have access to data only if they absolutely need it. The fewer privileges a user has, the less time you need to spend reviewing them.This principle is easily implemented with PATECCO: new users have a minimum number of access rights or privileges by default. An administrator can assign a user to a privileged user role by adding them to a specific group or can provide constant or temporary access to resources.

  • Provide temporary access instead of permanent

During an access review, revoking such access rights takes a lot of time. Whenever possible, one of the best practices is to use features like one-time passwords instead of assigning a user a new role or granting permanent access rights. Another option for providing temporary access is to implement privileged access management (PAM). This approach is based on granting access only when users need it to complete their jobs and revoking it when the task is finished.

Conducting a user access review is an important part of the access management process. It reduces the risk of a data breach and reduces a wide range of security issues. With the support of PATECCO, you can take your access management to a higher level, as this solution provides: