Why Implementing Identity Security Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated

July 10, 2024 Andrey Pozhogin

Feature image of a modern automatic transmission gear shift for blog that compares simple identity security implementation is like driving a car with an automatic transmission, compared to complex implementation, which is like driving a manual transmission car.

Every organization is different, with its own unique needs, challenges and goals. That means that IT solutions, and especially IT security, must be complex tools that are highly configurable and adaptable to various scenarios. IT security solutions must be flexible and robust enough to handle many situations. They must support complex organizational structures, geographical dispersion, local law implications, vast and diverse technology stacks, multiple platforms, services and applications, a spectrum of threat models or different levels of resources.

Identity security is no exception, as it deals with one of the most critical aspects of any organization: the identities and access rights of its users and devices. However, identity security is not only a complex and flexible tool but also a vital and urgent one. The traditional perimeter-based security model is no longer sufficient in the era of cloud computing, remote work and mobile devices. Users and devices can access sensitive data and resources from anywhere, anytime and on any platform. This means that the identity and access management (IAM) policies and practices must be more granular, dynamic and context-aware, considering factors such as location, device type, network, behavior and risk level.

Moreover, identity security has to cope with the growing sophistication and frequency of cyberattacks, especially those that target user credentials and access rights. According to Verizon’s 2024 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), 76% of all breaches (Nov. 2022 through Oct. 2023) included the human element, with people involved through privilege misuse, use of stolen credentials, social engineering – or error. Three of these methods are directly linked to users’ identities. Attackers increasingly use phishing, credential stuffing, password spraying and brute force to gain unauthorized access to organizations’ assets and data. Today, they don’t hack in; they log in.

Therefore, identity security must detect and prevent such attacks using security-first access management, intelligent privilege controls and flexible identity governance and administration (IGA). However, the intricacies of configurations, interoperability and the need for a seamless identity security fabric raise the bar and demand a high level of expertise and experience from the defenders. Implementing identity security to secure your organization is a challenging task, and it has many pitfalls and nuances that can make or break your security posture.

pull quote: "Navigating the complex landscape of identity security is akin to driving a high-performance vehicle on a racetrack: it requires precision, adaptability and the right tools for the job."

Implementing identity security can seem as daunting as learning to drive a stick shift in a world where automatic transmissions are the norm. However, just as mastering a manual transmission can offer a driver more control and a better feel for the car, embracing the complexities of identity security can provide organizations with a more robust and nuanced defense against cyberthreats.

Avoiding the Pitfall of Oversimplified Identity Security Solutions

One might be tempted to look for a quick and easy way out of this daunting challenge. Instead of investing in a comprehensive and sophisticated identity security solution that can handle the complexity and diversity of today’s IT environments, one might opt for a patchwork of more straightforward and cheaper solutions that cover only basic use cases and don’t require much customization or integration. This might seem like a smart and cost-effective approach, but it comes with a high price: security gaps and vulnerabilities.

By relying on multiple disjointed solutions that don’t communicate or coordinate with each other, one creates a siloed and inconsistent security posture that leaves many blind spots and weak points for attackers to exploit. Moreover, one exposes the organization to unnecessary and avoidable threats by settling for simplistic solutions that don’t offer the granularity and flexibility needed to adapt to the changing context and risk level. For example, an endpoint least privilege solution that doesn’t support adaptive multi-factor authentication (MFA) might allow an attacker to wait for the right moment to bypass the login process with stolen or weak credentials.

A solution that doesn’t manage privileged access or lacks flexible IGA will undoubtedly have overprivileged users and an uncontrolled attack surface, failing to combat insider threats or lateral movement. A solution that doesn’t enable security-first access management or intelligent privilege controls might fail to detect and prevent anomalous or malicious behavior, such as accessing sensitive data from an unusual location or device.

Returning to my earlier analogy – navigating the complex landscape of identity security is akin to driving a high-performance vehicle on a racetrack: it requires precision, adaptability and the right tools for the job. Just as a race car driver wouldn’t rely on an automatic transmission for the nuanced control needed on the track, security teams need sophisticated identity security solutions that offer granular control and can adapt to the ever-changing threat environment.

An automatic transmission is great for a grocery run but won’t get you far on a racetrack.

Applying Frameworks to Overcome Identity Security Complexity

A much better and more strategic way to overcome the steep learning curve and resource requirement issue with comprehensive enterprise-grade solutions is to rely on built-in frameworks and templates that provide guidance and best practices for implementing a robust and comprehensive identity security solution. One example is default policies that can be easily activated and instantly improve security posture. These policies can cover common scenarios and use cases, such as password management, least privilege enforcement, access control and session monitoring. Implementing these policies can help avoid the hassle and complexity of creating them from scratch while benefiting from their protection and compliance. Better yet, built-in frameworks help hit the ground running and allow for the continuous evolution of security measures.

Such intuitive frameworks support a seamless transition to role-based least privilege policy development, accommodating the organization’s unique pace and needs. These built-in frameworks and templates are essential tools, simplifying the identity security journey while ensuring high-quality and effective outcomes. Although the intricacies of identity security are complex, the tools to implement it do not have to be.

Embracing the shift toward a more secure digital environment, CyberArk’s QuickStart framework offers a streamlined approach to identity security that now extends to macOS users. Read our comprehensive whitepaper to learn about QuickStart, a rapid risk reduction and least privilege framework available in CyberArk Endpoint Privilege Manager. The framework can help reduce the attack surface on endpoints and servers and lay the foundation for role-based least privilege policies in just a couple of clicks.

Andrey Pozhogin is a senior product marketing manager at CyberArk.

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