Why Access Control Should Be a Core Focus for Enterprise Cybersecurity

By Gal Helemski
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By Gal Helemski, co-founder and CTO, PlainID

The number of access rules that must be managed across directories, applications, repositories, and other platforms by today’s digitally oriented enterprises is growing at an unprecedented pace. One of the major security headaches this creates is that controlling and auditing authorisations and entitlement is becoming more complex and challenging.

Also playing a bigger role is the widespread adoption of remote and hybrid working arrangements, and taken collectively, many organisations are now at greater risk of data breaches – unless they can consolidate and standardise access controls more effectively.

These challenges serve to highlight the value and growth in the adoption of identity and access management (IAM) technologies, which are used for regulating who has access to what information and how it is used. In particular, security teams are looking at how IAM can manage access across expanding and complex enterprise security perimeters.

While IAM has emerged from requirements focused on issues such as identity lifecycle, governance, proofing and access, today’s digital user journeys have prompted an important shift in emphasis. For instance, given significantly expanding security risk vectors and the need for more effective privacy controls and governance, the current generation of IAM solutions deliver more advanced levels of access control, with authorisation reemerging as a crucial component of IAM.

More specifically, real-time “dynamic authorisation” is becoming central to the zero-trust security strategies that aim to protect today’s dynamic technology environments. This represents an expansion of existing IAM components, which are now employed to build more robust systems that reduce the danger of compromised credentials providing unauthorised access to digital assets.

While this objective is growing in importance, one of the challenges of delivering on it is the disparate nature of access and authorisation policies used within the typical modern organisation. In many cases, for example, thousands of policies may be in use without sufficient levels of standardisation, centralised management or visibility. The result of these shortcomings can range from operational inefficiency to significantly increased risk.

Prevention is better than cure

Responding to these increasingly pressing issues, enterprise security teams are focusing on how they can standardise and consolidate access to deliver a preventative approach to today’s diverse risks. In effect, identity has become the common denominator for enforcing authentication and access control (via dynamic authorisation).

Looking ahead, the broader adoption of dynamic authorisation is likely to be driven by a range of factors, such as those organisations moving from an in-house policy engine to a proven industry solution, particularly as applications are built or refreshed. In the case of those organisations focused on the implementation of zero-trust architectures, for example, manually processing the growing number of entitlements is – for many – no longer sustainable. Instead, security teams need the capabilities that only automated solutions can provide if they are to minimise the impact of human error and more effectively control their exposure to risk.

Indeed, dynamic authorisation is increasingly viewed as a prerequisite for delivering effective zero-trust architectures. As part of this approach, implementing a fine-grained authorisation policy can put organisations in a much stronger position to meet their data privacy compliance obligations across specific data sets.

This kind of dynamic decision-making is central to the ability of security teams to make real-time changes in how and when users are granted access to data and resources across enterprise networks. Without an effective approach to policy management that allows users to be verified through an authentication solution, data is much more difficult to protect. When the network is controlled within a resilient architecture, however, access points to critical data are protected by more resilient and agile security measures.

In today’s dynamic business environment, companies are facing a range of crucial challenges related to access control, security, and cybercrime. In order to remain secure and agile, it is essential for organisations to adopt a standardised, consolidated approach to access and authorisation. This can not only help to provide robust security that supports the goals and priorities of the business, but by taking this approach, companies can achieve a win-win situation where effective security and bottom-line success go hand in hand.

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