How organizations can navigate identity security risks in 2024

Managing IAM challenges in hybrid IT environments requires a holistic approach, integrating solutions and automating processes to ensure effective access controls and operational efficiency.

In this Help Net Security interview, Deepak Taneja, CEO of Zilla Security, discusses identity security risks and threats. Looking ahead, innovative solutions leveraging AI and automation offer promising avenues to simplify identity management and enhance security in modern work environments.

IAM challenges

What are the most pressing identity security risks and threats for organizations in 2024?

Enterprises encounter significant identity security risks arising from various sources, including inappropriate workforce permissions, unused or orphan accounts, and unnecessary service accounts and third-party permissions. The widespread adoption of cloud technologies has also increased the likelihood of data breaches, particularly those associated with misconfigured permissions, account takeovers and privilege escalation. Every new account or permission associated with a person, machine or API is a risk!

Additionally, the evolving nature of the workforce presents its own set of challenges, complicating the task of effectively managing access rights and potentially giving rise to insider threats and unauthorized access incidents. These risks underscore the critical need for implementing a robust identity governance and security practice.

How do IAM challenges evolve in a hybrid IT environment, and what best practices can organizations adopt to address them?

Since identity touches every aspect of a business, having a holistic view of identity and access across a hybrid IT environment is essential. This requires a focus on solving two fundamental issues. First, integrating various solutions for establishing trust in security principals through unified directory, authentication and SSO services, is a key challenge. Second, a unified approach to least-privilege-security and locking down privilege controls both on-premises and in the cloud is a fundamental requirement.

IT, identity, cloud security and SecOps teams need to collaborate around a set of security and lifecycle management processes to support business objectives around security, timely access delivery and operational efficiency. These processes are best optimized by automating manual tasks, while ensuring that the ownership and accountability for manual tasks is well understood. In addition, quantifying and tracking business outcomes in terms of metrics highlights IAM’s effectiveness and identifies areas that need improvement or more automation.

What are the major challenges of using IAM for cloud and SaaS applications, and how can organizations overcome these challenges?

Utilizing IAM for cloud and Software as a Service (SaaS) applications introduces a spectrum of challenges, rooted in silos of identity. Each system or application has its own identity model and its own concept of various identity settings and permissions: accounts, credentials, groups, roles, entitlements and other access policies. Misconfigured permissions and settings heighten the likelihood of data breaches.

To address these complexities, organizations need business users and security teams to collaborate on an identity management and governance framework and overarching processes for policy-based authentication, SSO, lifecycle management, security and compliance. Automation can streamline these processes and help ensure effective access controls..

Why is identity and access management so challenging, and what steps can organizations take to simplify IAM processes?

Identity is key to all aspects of business operations, and managing identity and access is difficult because deciding “who should have access to what” is a complex operation that requires deep contextual knowledge of the roles and responsibilities of sometimes vast numbers of people in an organization, from system owners to supervisors to IT, security and compliance staff. Bringing all of these stakeholders and decision makers into a set of IAM processes while avoiding human error, excessive permissions, and inappropriate access settings is challenging.

Automation, AI, and SaaS-based identity governance and security solutions, however, are able to establish IAM process guardrails – simplifying and streamlining identity lifecycle management, monitoring and remediation, and reducing security risks while enhancing overall operational efficiency.

Could you provide an overview of the essential components of identity security for enterprises, especially in modern work environments?

Identity security for enterprises is focused on the continuous management of permissions and identity risks. It includes comprehensive access monitoring across the digital estate, access lifecycle management, access reviews for compliance, policy-based security posture management, and identity threat detection and response.

How do identity management challenges evolve in a fluid and increasingly virtual workplace, and what innovative solutions do you foresee for the future of identity management?

The workplace of today is indeed fluid and virtual, and in this environment, we see identity management challenges evolving rapidly with remote work arrangements and the proliferation of connected devices. Innovative solutions are emerging to leverage adaptive and risk-based authentication, and AI-driven automation for identity processes.

AI co-pilots will transform identity management and security over the next couple of years. Innovations, in turn, are focused increasingly on making identity management and governance less manual, and on delivering proactive security to prevent breaches. Similarly, blockchain-based identity verification offers a promising avenue to establish trust and integrity in digital transactions.

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