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Making Identity Hygiene a Non-Negotiable for Organizational Security

In today’s hybrid work settings, organizations face a pervasive challenge in effectively handling employee credentials and access across both on-premise and cloud-based environments. This blog will highlight the significance of adopting a strong identity hygiene strategy to protect against data breaches and ensure adherence to internal and external security policies and regulations.

“IAM data availability and quality issues significantly limit IAM capability effectiveness in many organizations.”

Gartner Predicts 2024: IAM and Data Security Combine to Solve Long-Standing Challenges

What is Identity Hygiene?

The organization’s identity hygiene must be addressed to remediate technical debt, which restricts business agility and security enhancements. According to Gartner: 

“In the context of reducing IAM technical debt, good IAM hygiene is the result of finding and remediating issues with accounts and entitlements that can cause security risks. These issues are usually caused by the prevalence of bad practices when managing user accounts, entitlements, roles and groups. Improving access governance, privileged access and authentication processes can help to achieve better IAM hygiene.”

—Gartner 2024 Reduce IAM Technical Debt

Identity Data Quality is Key to Security and Compliance Initiatives 

 “Poor IAM hygiene severely limits the effectiveness of IAM controls in an organization. Migrating legacy IAM tools to the cloud may help with infrastructure management, but does not improve the efficiency of IAM controls or address poor IAM hygiene.”

—Gartner 2024 Reduce IAM Technical Debt

Although often overlooked, the accuracy and quality of the identity data within a company’s information systems is the common denominator for successful IAM programs. As the saying goes, “junk in, junk out.” Ensuring compliance with industry standards, regulations, and internal security policies will pose a significant challenge with auditors. This is particularly true if the identity data included in access reviews and other processes is not pristine.

3 Reasons to Implement an Effective Identity Hygiene Strategy  

The key reasons for developing, implementing, and maintaining an ironclad identity hygiene strategy are the following. 

Gain Full Visibility 

Organizations need to acquire accurate information about individuals who have access to certain data and resources and the entitlements, rights, and permissions associated with that access. Having comprehensive visibility into the access chain enables the proactive management of cyber risk and helps with immediate action to any potential threats that may occur.  

Standardize and Automate Access Governance  

Implementing and enforcing a strong identity hygiene strategy helps companies to monitor and control identity access across their entire ecosystem, regardless of its location. This tactic, in addition to reducing the likelihood of compliance and governance issues, greatly improves an organization’s security posture and practices.  

Ensure Compliance with Standards and Regulations 

Identity data accuracy and access becomes especially important for those organizations faced with rigorous compliance regulations and requirements. Bolstered by a powerful identity hygiene game plan, these entities not only demonstrate to auditors that they effectively manage compliance with all relevant security policies and regulations but are also successful in reducing security breaches and the subsequent potential for fines. 

“Gartner clients report that they often assign entitlements to users based on what other users typically have and lack effective access reviews. Poor IAM hygiene, due to bad IAM tools and processes, violates “least privilege principles” and results in excess privileges.”

—Gartner 2024 Reduce IAM Technical Debt

How to Approach Identity Hygiene 

It is crucial to maintain the cleanliness, accuracy, and on-going quality of identity data to protect unwanted access to a company’s sensitive resources by adhering to the following steps: 

How to Gain Full Visibility 

  • Know where the identity data lies and how it is spread throughout the information systems and networks within the company  
  • Make sure the focus is on knowing and understanding “who” has access and “what” the user has access to 
  • Create comprehensible and useful reports based on the maintenance of the identity hygiene strategy  

How to Standardize and Automate Access Governance 

  • Establish policies around an identity hygiene strategy and make them a part of the overall data and access compliance directives of the company  
  • Devise a practical and functional plan for remediating any identity data found to be missing or incorrect as part of the identity hygiene strategy
  • Implement analytics-based strategies that identify accounts, entitlements, and related risk across siloed solutions and identity sources

How to Ensure Compliance with Data Regulations 

  • Consistently observe and address risks to mitigate the cyber threats associated with accounts and access points 
  • Emphasize access governance and identity hygiene as the foundation of an organization’s security posture 
  • Make the best decisions about locations where identity data is kept and used 

Identity Hygiene is Crucial for IAM and Compliance Success  

To prevent cyber risk, breaches, and other forms of malicious activity, it is fundamental for an organization to create, maintain and uphold an identity hygiene strategy that will demonstrate the accuracy and quality of the identity data held within its information systems, networks, and infrastructure. In doing so, regulatory requirements and other internal and external security policies relating to identity data and access will have a greater chance of success in avoiding cyber threats and minimizing all associated risk.

Have questions on what great identity hygiene could improve in your organization? Get in touch and we can get into the details with you.

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