Understanding the Importance of Managing an Identity Lifecycle
Whether hiring employees, engaging contractors or hiring third parties, you must manage their identity and access throughout their lifetime. This means a comprehensive identity lifecycle management (ILM) solution is necessary. This includes establishing policies for verifying new identities to granting access to specific roles. It is essential to follow the principle of least privilege throughout the process. Managing user identities and evolving access privileges is integral to best practices for identity and access management (IAM). Devoting time to a proper identity lifecycle helps to protect your company from data breaches and other cyber threats. Identity lifecycle management automates onboarding, provisioning, updating, and revoking user access as required throughout their tenure. These policy-based solutions eliminate human error for improved efficiency and security.
When a user joins an organization, they need to create an account that enables them to access the IT systems and resources they require. This process requires an identity verification process to verify that the person is who they claim to be. IT organizations should ensure new users are assigned unique identities and corresponding access privileges during registration. This can be done through various options, including ID cards, background checks, and security clearance. Automated provisioning lets companies grant, modify and revoke access rights to applications and resources based on where a user is within their identity lifecycle. These capabilities can reduce the workload on IT teams and improve productivity across the business. Identity lifecycle management solutions automate the processes associated with onboarding and offboarding, granting and updating privileges, and monitoring access activity. This reduces the burden on IT and security teams, allowing them to focus on more strategic tasks that promote growth and innovation. This also helps to mitigate risk and meet compliance requirements.
Identity lifecycle management manages user identities and their related access privileges to networks, applications, systems, and data. It spans the entire lifecycle of a user’s need to access these systems and resources–from onboarding to deprovisioning or removal. The first stage of the lifecycle is credential issuance, where an identity provider issues one or more credentials to the user (e.g., a card or PIN). These can prove the holder’s identity and provide access to services.
Credentials can be physical or digital, and their form factor, security features, and encryption capabilities have important implications for ensuring robustness to identity theft, fraud, and accessibility. For this reason, it is necessary to implement best practices for identity issuance. The issuance process can involve several actors, including Issuers and Holders. Issuers create Credential Manifests that define issuance requirements and construct Credentials to satisfy those requirements. Holders receive credentials from Issuers and submit proofs to the Issuer to meet those requirements. User-Agents facilitate these interactions.
Authentication is the first step in access control for sensitive information and applications. It involves verifying a user’s credentials by comparing them to those stored in a database of authorized users. Whether logging into your bank account or accessing confidential documents, a secure authentication method is critical in keeping your sensitive data safe and your employees productive. Generally, authentication can be performed using a user’s password, mother’s maiden name, or Social Security number. Still, it can be implemented with more advanced techniques like multi-factor and biometric verification. Managing an identity lifecycle is creating, changing, and terminating the identities of employees and contractors who join an organization. It includes automated processes that support user identity management from the initial enrollment of a new employee to termination.
Throughout the identity lifecycle, an organization must control access to resources. This includes everything from employees and contractors to machines and services. In addition, it’s essential to ensure that users don’t accumulate too many privileges at any given time, referred to as “privilege creep” or “permission bloat.” This can lead to security breaches because people with too much power may be able to access the information they shouldn’t have. Reviewing and monitoring user accounts regularly ensures they adhere to the least privilege principle. Organizations use various access control models, including non-discretionary (MAC) and role-based access control (RBAC). While MAC provides the most comprehensive rules, it can also be challenging to manage.
Deprovisioning deletes users and revokes their access to an organization’s data, applications, or devices. It is triggered when an employee leaves or changes roles within the company. De-provisioning allows IT to eliminate outdated or no longer used account rights and to prevent former employees from gaining new, unauthorized access. It can be costly and time-consuming, but it is essential to safeguard the security of your network. If you have many systems and applications, provisioning and de-provisioning should be folded into your identity lifecycle management processes. This approach typically involves tying your provisioning solution into a meta-directory that synchronizes all identity stores. An IAM solution with vital automation can reduce the work for HR and IT by identifying a user’s state change and triggering the removal of their access to all of the relevant systems, apps, and networks. This automates the process, reducing the risks associated with delays, negligence, and human error.