Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Pat Romanski, Patrick Hubbard, Elizabeth White, Sven Olav Lund, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Cloud Security, Microservices Expo, Microsoft Cloud, Containers Expo Blog, Government Cloud, SDN Journal

Cloud Security: Article

What the Business Doesn’t Know Will Hurt

Part 1 | IAM and compliance with federal and industry regulations

Imagine you work at a company preparing to issue its quarterly earnings report. The phone rings. It's bad news. A coworker has discovered that a former employee has been logging into the company's network for months. It's unclear whether the former employee has used this illicit access to make any buy-loss orders without proper authorization, but the damage has been done. The company is required to force the release through the business channels, halt its stock sales and make the dreaded phone call to the SEC alerting them to the possibility of insider trading. The company must announce its report before it's ready, and is forced to absorb any market blows that result.

Who's watching the shop?
Most of a company's line of business (LOB) or human resources (HR) leaders are not tasked with worrying about identity and access management (IAM); that is, the processes by which employees are granted access to company systems when they are hired and removed from those systems when they leave. Yet the business must absorb the consequences of failing to control access to company systems. The mentality of "don't want to deal with it, just address the immediate issues," while common, isn't enough.

Increasing numbers of regulations increase the chances that an instance like the one above will occur. The business might prefer to push IAM responsibility over to another department (like IT), yet when accidents happen, the business is left holding the bag. To truly prevent access breaches from occurring, LOB leaders and HR must take an active role in IAM.

LOB Leaders' IAM Responsibilities
The LOB leaders include the heads of an organization's finance, marketing, sales and operations departments. The role of the LOB leaders in the IAM process includes:

  • Deciding which team members should have access for what programs
  • Reviewing and certifying access periodically
  • Defining policy and access roles for team members
  • Approving and rejecting access

LOB Leaders' Business Pains
LOB leaders have one of the most important roles in IAM: determining who gets access to what. However, in traditional IAM systems, there's not a unified identity repository that tracks all that information. Instead, LOB leaders must undergo a burdensome periodic overhead and certification review, wherein they must review a sheaf of systems access reports from IT and attest that the information is correct. Oftentimes, extra help must be brought in to review the reports at a cost.

HR Leaders' IAM Responsibilities

The HR department is up close and personal with employee data, and is tasked with several high-profile responsibilities within the IAM process, including many onboarding and offboarding tasks. The role of HR leaders in the IAM process includes:

  • End-to-end onboarding and offboarding
  • Registering employee data
  • Tracking personnel performance
  • Ensuring employees have the tools and support necessary to do their jobs
  • Recruiting
  • Talent management
  • Management coaching and training
  • Employee retention programs and performance incentives
  • Ensuring current employee information and employee record maintenance

HR Leaders' Business Pains
HR leaders often find themselves grappling with an IAM conundrum. They are responsible for onboarding and offboarding-related IAM tasks, yet completion of those tasks requires HR leaders to chase down an assortment of contacts from different departments for help in getting new employees setup with account access, desks, telephones, building cards and IDs and other necessary items.

In a perfect world, HR would want to minimize the currently disjointed fulfillment task process that hobbles progress toward actually being able to train new people. Getting these processes under control and in one centrally-managed system will generate a huge amount of value for HR. With a centralized, automated IAM platform, companies can drive a huge amount of efficiency, train people more easily, make onboarding better, make retention better and retain better talent.

The IAM checklist
What are the first questions that LOB leaders and HR should ask themselves?

  1. Quantifying the exposure to risk: how much is at stake if a breach occurs?
  2. Which employees have access to what information?
  3. How much access does each type of employee have? Is that access ad hoc or role-based?
  4. Are there controls in place to prevent a breach from occurring?
  5. If not, are there alerts in place that notify the business that a breach has occurred?
  6. Which departments have an ownership stake in IAM within the organization? What are their roles? What information do they own?
  7. Are there any processes already in place that determine what level of access to give to an employee? If so, are these processes invisible or are they burdensome?
  8. Does the IAM platform have analytics in place to identify and track these access levels throughout employee churn?

Collecting the information to answer these questions provides LOB leaders and HR with an excellent starting point for identifying what improvements need to be made to the company's IAM strategy.

Simplify, simplify, simplify
Step one is to simplify the IAM structure as much as possible. If the company is able to get creative with its IAM processes, it can streamline and reduce the number of procedures needed to monitor access rights. A simplified IAM platform is not just "nice to have," it is absolutely critical. By encouraging LOB and HR leaders to seize an ownership stake in IAM by making it as simple as possible, the company is helping ensure the long-term success of its IAM strategy.

There are a number of ways that a simplified approach to IAM helps the entire organization. An uncomplicated strategy makes it easier for the IT department to quantify the level of risk, helping bring LOB leaders and HR in as full partners in the IAM process. Rules are defined that automatically set the level of access provisioned to each employee. Because access rights are set by rules instead of by an ad hoc checklist, the company is liberated from having to audit access all the time, saving time, money and annoyance.

Below are some steps LOB leaders and HR can take to simplify IAM processes:

  1. Have a checklist in place to step through the division's existing IAM processes. (The questions earlier in the article are a good place to start.)
  2. Centralize as much of the IAM infrastructure as possible. If all company divisions - business, IT, HR and compliance - are using the same platform, it's less likely for access violations to slip through the cracks
  3. Put in appropriate controls that provision the same levels of access to groups of similar employees. Lose the ad-hoc approach.
  4. Automate continuous, proactive oversight and accountability over all different areas.

Once the LOB and HR divisions have identified the benefits they can gain from a simplified approach to IAM, the next steps are to put the strategy into place.

In the next part of the series, we will discuss how IT can take steps to empower LOB leaders and HR in the IAM process.

Conclusion
LOB leaders and HR should demand better processes from their organizations' IT departments. A fully revamped and simplified IAM process will change the way the company does business for the better. A centralized, automated approach eliminates re-keying, reduces onboarding costs to the tune of millions, improves employee retention and improves dozens of other training and management processes that ultimately contribute to a better organization. In addition, business leaders are leading the charge toward a transition to cloud services. That means that any IAM vulnerabilities must be fixed before the move to cloud, or risk improperly-offboarded employees retaining access to critical data weeks or months after they were let go.

The benefits of a unified IAM platform - increasing efficiency and compliance with regulations - are clear. Once LOB leaders and HR have taken a snapshot of the company's existing IAM plan, they can begin taking steps to turn it into a well-oiled machine that will benefit everyone.

More Stories By Jay O'Donnell

Jay O’Donnell is the CEO and founder of N8 Identity and spearheads the continuing development of N8 Identity’s industry-leading solutions. One of the early pioneers of the identity and access management (IAM) industry, he initially founded an IAM consulting business in 2000. After overseeing dozens of large-scale IAM projects, he led the development of Employee Lifecycle Manager® in 2007 to meet the need for a software solution that delivered pre-defined identity and access processes throughout the lifecycle of a user within an organization. Jay is an internationally recognized expert in information security, compliance, identity management, federated identity and directory services.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@CloudExpo Stories
When it comes to cloud computing, the ability to turn massive amounts of compute cores on and off on demand sounds attractive to IT staff, who need to manage peaks and valleys in user activity. With cloud bursting, the majority of the data can stay on premises while tapping into compute from public cloud providers, reducing risk and minimizing need to move large files. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Scott Jeschonek, Director of Product Management at Avere Systems, discussed the IT and busine...
As businesses evolve, they need technology that is simple to help them succeed today and flexible enough to help them build for tomorrow. Chrome is fit for the workplace of the future — providing a secure, consistent user experience across a range of devices that can be used anywhere. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, will take a look at various options as to how ChromeOS can be leveraged to interact with people on the devices, and formats th...
First generation hyperconverged solutions have taken the data center by storm, rapidly proliferating in pockets everywhere to provide further consolidation of floor space and workloads. These first generation solutions are not without challenges, however. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Wes Talbert, a Principal Architect and results-driven enterprise sales leader at NetApp, will discuss how the HCI solution of tomorrow will integrate with the public cloud to deliver a quality hybrid cloud e...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Yuasa System will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Yuasa System is introducing a multi-purpose endurance testing system for flexible displays, OLED devices, flexible substrates, flat cables, and films in smartphones, wearables, automobiles, and healthcare.
Is advanced scheduling in Kubernetes achievable? Yes, however, how do you properly accommodate every real-life scenario that a Kubernetes user might encounter? How do you leverage advanced scheduling techniques to shape and describe each scenario in easy-to-use rules and configurations? In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Oleg Chunikhin, CTO at Kublr, will answer these questions and demonstrate techniques for implementing advanced scheduling. For example, using spot instances ...
Companies are harnessing data in ways we once associated with science fiction. Analysts have access to a plethora of visualization and reporting tools, but considering the vast amount of data businesses collect and limitations of CPUs, end users are forced to design their structures and systems with limitations. Until now. As the cloud toolkit to analyze data has evolved, GPUs have stepped in to massively parallel SQL, visualization and machine learning.
The session is centered around the tracing of systems on cloud using technologies like ebpf. The goal is to talk about what this technology is all about and what purpose it serves. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Shashank Jain, Development Architect at SAP, will touch upon concepts of observability in the cloud and also some of the challenges we have. Generally most cloud-based monitoring tools capture details at a very granular level. To troubleshoot problems this might not be good enough.
DevOps is under attack because developers don’t want to mess with infrastructure. They will happily own their code into production, but want to use platforms instead of raw automation. That’s changing the landscape that we understand as DevOps with both architecture concepts (CloudNative) and process redefinition (SRE). Rob Hirschfeld’s recent work in Kubernetes operations has led to the conclusion that containers and related platforms have changed the way we should be thinking about DevOps and...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Taica will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Taica manufacturers Alpha-GEL brand silicone components and materials, which maintain outstanding performance over a wide temperature range -40C to +200C. For more information, visit http://www.taica.co.jp/english/.
When it comes to cloud computing, the ability to turn massive amounts of compute cores on and off on demand sounds attractive to IT staff, who need to manage peaks and valleys in user activity. With cloud bursting, the majority of the data can stay on premises while tapping into compute from public cloud providers, reducing risk and minimizing need to move large files. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Scott Jeschonek, Director of Product Management at Avere Systems, discussed the IT and busine...
We all know that end users experience the Internet primarily with mobile devices. From an app development perspective, we know that successfully responding to the needs of mobile customers depends on rapid DevOps – failing fast, in short, until the right solution evolves in your customers' relationship to your business. Whether you’re decomposing an SOA monolith, or developing a new application cloud natively, it’s not a question of using microservices – not doing so will be a path to eventual b...
Enterprises have taken advantage of IoT to achieve important revenue and cost advantages. What is less apparent is how incumbent enterprises operating at scale have, following success with IoT, built analytic, operations management and software development capabilities – ranging from autonomous vehicles to manageable robotics installations. They have embraced these capabilities as if they were Silicon Valley startups. As a result, many firms employ new business models that place enormous impor...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SourceForge has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SourceForge is the largest, most trusted destination for Open Source Software development, collaboration, discovery and download on the web serving over 32 million viewers, 150 million downloads and over 460,000 active development projects each and every month.
The next XaaS is CICDaaS. Why? Because CICD saves developers a huge amount of time. CD is an especially great option for projects that require multiple and frequent contributions to be integrated. But… securing CICD best practices is an emerging, essential, yet little understood practice for DevOps teams and their Cloud Service Providers. The only way to get CICD to work in a highly secure environment takes collaboration, patience and persistence. Building CICD in the cloud requires rigorous ar...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dasher Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Dasher Technologies, Inc. ® is a premier IT solution provider that delivers expert technical resources along with trusted account executives to architect and deliver complete IT solutions and services to help our clients execute their goals, plans and objectives. Since 1999, we'v...
As popularity of the smart home is growing and continues to go mainstream, technological factors play a greater role. The IoT protocol houses the interoperability battery consumption, security, and configuration of a smart home device, and it can be difficult for companies to choose the right kind for their product. For both DIY and professionally installed smart homes, developers need to consider each of these elements for their product to be successful in the market and current smart homes.
In the fast-paced advances and popularity in cloud technology, one of the most critical factors revolves around concerns for security of your critical data. How to assure both your company and your customers they can confidently trust and utilize your cloud environment is most often top on the list. There is a method to evaluating and providing security that exceeds conventional modes of protecting data both within the cloud as well externally on mobile and other devices. With the public failure...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MIRAI Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MIRAI Inc. are IT consultants from the public sector whose mission is to solve social issues by technology and innovation and to create a meaningful future for people.
Transforming cloud-based data into a reportable format can be a very expensive, time-intensive and complex operation. As a SaaS platform with more than 30 million global users, Cornerstone OnDemand’s challenge was to create a scalable solution that would improve the time it took customers to access their user data. Our Real-Time Data Warehouse (RTDW) process vastly reduced data time-to-availability from 24 hours to just 10 minutes. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Mark Goldin, Chief Technolo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks, that helps your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. As a premier telecommunications provider, Massive Networks is headquartered out of Louisville, Colorado. With years of experience under their belt, their team of...