A modern enterprise requires collaboration between employees and an extended workforce, including partners and contractors, along with a hybrid work from anywhere world. To accomplish this, there’s been a wave of digital transformation initiatives for business operations to continue being efficient. In fact, larger companies, with 2,000 or more employees, deploy an average of 187 applications for their entire workforce. This massive cloud adoption has exposed companies to an increased number of security and data breaches. The size and scope of breaches and cybersecurity concerns led to the issuing of the first cybersecurity executive order by the United States, paving a path for increased regulation and corporate protection in the cybersecurity space.
To implement an effective security strategy and tackle challenges posed by this dynamic world of work from anywhere and the broad adoption of cloud applications, platforms, and infrastructure, it is important to consider an identity-first approach to zero trust. A zero-trust architecture ensures access policies for corporate resources are designed with identity at their core, with the right guardrails set up so only the right users have the right levels of access to every resource. However, identity is often solved in a siloed fashion across enterprises today. Enterprise companies have a complex architecture of identities spread across multiple active directory domains, an identity and access management (IAM) system that solves front door access like single-sign on (SSO) and multifactor authentication (MFA), and identity governance or privileged access systems implemented automation and compliance purposes. When identity data and systems are siloed, it’s difficult to manage these separate systems and get a clear picture of who has access to what systems. This creates uphill battles for IT and compliance teams to implement an effective security and governance strategy.
Rethinking identity solutions
When Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) evaluate identity solutions to establish a robust security strategy, they must first take a step back to look broadly at the big picture. It’s vital to consider identity in a holistic fashion to address a wide range of use cases, offer faster time to value, reduce maintenance costs and deliver a seamless, easy-to-adopt end-user experience across all levels of the enterprise. Here are specific steps that will help achieve a successful identity-centric strategy:
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1. Move from siloed data to a more converged approach. A converged approach calls for an Identity and Access Management (IAM) system that brings together core access management capabilities such as SSO and MFA, and identity governance capabilities such as lifecycle management, access requests and certification audits in a single platform. A unified IAM platform incorporates identity, access, and governance data and delivers differentiated scenarios to help businesses lead with a proactive, identity-centric strategy rather than reactive tactics that simply address compliance needs one at a time. By shifting to a proactive, strategic approach, it becomes a built-in part of the process to consider identity governance holistically to achieve the right unified, identity-centric security posture.
2. Eliminate the password and move to modern 2-factor authentication. As companies adopt a zero-trust architecture, it is critical to move away from the traditional password-based approach. Advances in identity technologies and standards have enabled AIM solutions to offer password-less authentication to a wide range of cloud applications and resources. Additionally, as employees operate in a model where they access corporate resources from a personal device, it is critically important for CIOs and CISOs to consider modern phishing-resistant MFA methods, such as WebAuthN, as opposed to traditional communication, such as email and SMS.
3. Consider identity solutions with a SaaS first deployment model. Companies seek identity and access management solutions that are cloud-first, making them easy and affordable to deploy and maintain. Via scalable software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, businesses can take advantage of expertly managed and identity-centric IT resources free from the hassle and budgetary restrictions of equipment and maintenance investments. A SaaS-first approach to identity solutions enables companies to license and access identity-centric software systems that can be readily deployed, integrated, and operated within a new or existing environment. This delivers faster time to value and offers a greater return on investment for companies.
4. Deliver a seamless user experience for employees. A leading, shared pain point with existing IAM solutions is a poor user experience across integrated and siloed technologies. It is imperative to consider IAM solutions that offer a frictionless self-service experience, that meets employees and teams where they are by deep integration with ubiquitous tools such as Slack or Microsoft Teams. Integrating with these modern tools incentivizes employees, partners, and contractors to effectively and actively participate in the governance process which avoids previous security pitfalls such as rubberstamping and bulk approvals, which commonly result in users having too much access, or approval setbacks.
The future of identity and access management solutions
The growing convergence of identity and access management solutions begs the question, “how can we use data across these systems to drive better solutions?” New capabilities can drive the collection of analytics and intelligence across these systems, creating a clearer and bigger picture of a company’s security posture and offering the context necessary to make better decisions.
Tech innovation drives new solutions. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are essential drivers to help businesses look beyond traditional requirements and use data to envision the future environment. Businesses, especially at the enterprise level, must always be thinking about the long term, or they risk falling behind a constantly transforming digital ecosystem. Robust data helps create roadmaps while allowing businesses to remain agile to new internal goals, access needs, and marketplace disruptions.
The power of forward-thinking
When organizations understand that a robust security posture is only possible with a strategic mindset, it creates the necessary framework to consider identity and access management holistically and consistently. A modern approach that steadily keeps the long-term in mind means identity remains central to all business activities, rather than a knee-jerk reaction to solve immediate risks or governance needs. A modern, SaaS-first approach will drive continued innovation that makes maintaining a robust security posture an accessible, affordable option for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
About the Author
Vijay Pitchumani is currently the Director of Product Management at Okta and is focused on building a modern identity governance solution for customers. Vijay has over eight years of experience, working with multiple companies such as Okta, VMWare, and SparkCognition. His expertise includes work identity and access management, enterprise mobility, and security. Connect with him on LinkedIn.