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: