Automating User Access Reviews: A CISO’s Guide
Automating User Access Reviews: A CISO’s Guide
In today’s rapidly evolving cyber threat landscape, automating user access reviews (UARs) has become a critical component of an organization’s security and compliance strategy.
However, the traditional manual review process is time-consuming, error-prone, and costly, particularly for organizations with large and complex IT infrastructures. To address this challenge, many organizations are automating user access reviews to streamline their processes, enabling security and compliance teams to focus on higher-value activities.
In this article, I’ll walk you through the benefits of automating UARs and provide insights into how to implement and optimize an automated UAR process. Follow the steps in this guide to improve your organization’s security posture while reducing the burden on your team. Let’s begin.
The Challenges of Manual UARs
Before we dive into the benefits of automating UARs, let’s take a closer look at the challenges of conducting these reviews manually. When done manually, UARs are a labor-intensive process that involves reviewing each user’s access rights to ensure that they align with their job responsibilities and the organization’s security policies.
A typical manual user access review process looks something like this:
- The IT team generates a list of all user accounts and their associated access privileges across various systems, applications, and data repositories.
- The security or compliance team then sends out the list to managers or business owners who are responsible for approving or revoking access privileges for their respective teams.
- Managers or business owners manually review the access privileges for their team members and indicate any changes needed to the access level or permissions.
- The security or compliance team then collates the responses from all managers and updates the access privileges based on the feedback.
- The IT team then implements the changes to the access privileges across the various systems, applications, and data repositories.
As you can imagine, manually reviewing each user’s access rights commonly turns into an incredibly time-consuming process, especially for organizations with a large number of users or complex access structures. And, because the process is so complex, it’s not uncommon for errors to occur, leading to security vulnerabilities and compliance issues such as:
⚠ Access creep or orphaned accounts: Manual user access reviews are often infrequent and miss instances where an employee no longer needs access to a system or application, or when access privileges are not removed after an employee leaves the organization. This results in access creep or orphaned accounts, which can be exploited by malicious actors.
⚠ Delayed detection of policy violations: Manual user access reviews may not detect policy violations immediately, allowing them to persist for extended periods, which can lead to security and compliance breaches.
⚠ Human error: Manual user access reviews are prone to human errors such as overlooking or misinterpreting access permissions or missing policy violations. These errors lead to security and compliance risks.
⚠ Inefficient use of resources: Manual user access reviews are time-consuming and a significant burden on IT and security teams. This results in a suboptimal use of resources that could be better used for higher-value activities such as threat detection and incident response.
Automating user access reviews helps organizations overcome these challenges and improve their security and compliance posture. By automating the process, you reduce the risk of errors, improve the speed and accuracy of detection, and free up resources for other critical tasks.
Automating UARs: Benefits and Best Practices
Automating UARs provides significant benefits for your organization, including:
⏳ Time Savings: Automating UARs saves your organization significant amounts of time by reducing the need for manual reviews. This frees up your security and compliance teams to focus on more strategic initiatives.
🎯 Improved Accuracy: Automated UARs significantly improve accuracy by reducing the likelihood of errors that occur during manual reviews. Automated UARs also provide more comprehensive data, allowing for a more thorough analysis of user access.
🔐 Enhanced Security: Automating UARs improves security by ensuring that user access is properly managed and aligned with the organization’s security policies. Automated UARs also help identify potential security risks, allowing for proactive measures to be taken.
To effectively automate UARs, there are a few best practices to follow:
Step 1 – Establish Clear Policies
Before implementing an automated UAR process, it’s important to establish clear policies and procedures that outline how user access will be reviewed and managed.
Step 2 – Use Automation Tools
There are many tools available for automating UARs, and it’s important to select a tool that aligns with your organization’s specific needs and requirements. SecurEnds customers prefer it over IGA software with broad, complex features due to the cost, efficiency, and usability benefits that come with choosing a targeted solution rather than one that covers a wide range of cybersecurity initiatives.
Step 3 – Monitor the Process
Even with automated UARs in place, it’s important to regularly monitor the process to ensure that it’s working effectively and that any issues are addressed promptly.
Overall, automating user access reviews helps you streamline security and compliance processes, reduce the risk of security breaches, and optimize your resource utilization.
The Dangers of Manual User Access Reviews
In 2013 and 2014, Yahoo suffered two separate data breaches that compromised the personal information of all 3 billion Yahoo accounts. The breaches were due to a vulnerability in Yahoo’s system that allowed hackers to access sensitive information, a result of a failure to properly manage user access rights.
In 2016, Uber suffered a data breach that compromised the personal information of 57 million users and 600,000 drivers. The breach was due to a vulnerability in Uber’s system that allowed hackers to access a database containing sensitive information. The hackers were able to gain access to the database because Uber had been conducting manual user access reviews, which meant that access for employees who no longer needed it was not revoked in a timely manner.
In 2019, Capital One suffered a data breach that compromised the personal information of 100 million people. The breach was due to a misconfigured firewall that allowed a hacker to access sensitive information. The hacker was able to access the information because a former employee of Amazon Web Services (AWS), who had access to Capital One’s data, improperly granted the threat actor access to the information.
These incidents highlight the importance of properly managing user access rights and the risks associated with conducting manual user access reviews. Automating user access reviews can help organizations avoid similar security breaches by ensuring that access to sensitive information is properly managed and access rights are revoked to those who no longer need them.
Ready to Automate Your User Access Reviews?
To recap, user access reviews are a critical aspect of an organization’s security and compliance strategy. However, traditional manual review processes are time-consuming, error-prone, and costly, especially for organizations with large and complex IT infrastructures.
Automating user access reviews enables organizations to overcome these challenges and improve their security and compliance posture by reducing the risk of errors, improving accuracy, and increasing efficiency. By following the steps in this guide, you can implement and optimize an automated user access review process that streamlines security and compliance operations, reduces risk, and frees up resources for other critical tasks.
In today’s fast-paced cybersecurity landscape, automating user access reviews is no longer an option but a necessity for organizations looking to stay ahead of potential security threats and maintain compliance. Learn more about what an automated UAR process at your organization would look like by scheduling a personalized, one-on-one meeting with a SecurEnds expert today.
Article by Bob Pruett ✍