Identity Lifecycle Management: An Overview

17 Aug 2021, MOQdigital

Cyber Security, End User Experience

Identity lifecycle management refers to the process of managing user identities and evolving access privileges of employees, customers, and contractors throughout their tenure—from day one through to separation. A fundamental element of a complete identity security offering, an identity lifecycle management solution automates and simplifies the processes associated with onboarding and offboarding users, assigning and managing access rights, and monitoring and tracking access activity.

Why is Identity Lifecycle Management important?

Many IT and security teams rely on inefficient, manual processes to provision new users and manage their privileges. It can take days (or even weeks in some businesses) to onboard new hires and give them secure access to the applications and IT systems they need to effectively perform their jobs.

To make matters worse, many organisations have no formal or automated processes for reprovisioning privileges or deactivating user accounts as workers take on new roles or exit the company. As a result, accounts often remain in place long after employees leave the business or change positions. Disgruntled workers, rogue contractors, and adversaries can exploit dormant accounts or stale user privileges to launch attacks or steal confidential data.

Identity lifecycle management solutions overcome these challenges by automating manually intensive and error-prone user provisioning and identity governance processes. They help improve employee productivity by allowing new hires to hit the ground running with day-one access to their applications and IT services. They help businesses reduce security risks by eliminating privilege creep and out-of-date user accounts. And they help IT and security organizations free up staff to focus on more important tasks to support the business.

Key Identity Lifecycle Management Features and Functions

Whenever an organisation hires a new employee, engages a new contractor, or hires a third party, they need access to essential information, apps and processes that enable them to perform assigned tasks. However, identities are not limited to just human users. Non-Human identities also exist associated with services, systems, SSH keys, API keys, IoT devices, and much more.

As networks and infrastructure grow more complex and cloud access by remote workers more commonplace, it is critical that organisations consider the complete identity lifecycle management (ILM) for all these accounts along with the privileges associated with them.

Identity lifecycle management best practices encompass several stages in the life of an identity.

Provisioning – Setting up new employees, contractors and third parties, as well as machine identities should be governed these days by the principle of least privilege. That means once an identity is verified (single sign-on and multifactor authentication are typical methods of verification for human users) the user or machine is only given access at the level required to do their job or specific tasks.

Updating/changes – For human user privileges to change, and their levels of access to sensitive data should be adjusted accordingly. Role-based access controls dictated by stated policies help to maintain proper user access throughout the identity lifecycle. Revoking access when it’s no longer needed should also be an integral part of the lifecycle process.

Controlling privilege scope creep – Over time, it’s not uncommon for access privileges to accumulate. In some cases that means giving human users far more access than necessary to complete a given job or task. Overprivileged accounts such as local admin accounts are prime targets for attackers who look to compromise them and escalate privileges to traverse the network undetected.

Deprovisioning – Deprovisioning accounts on a timely basis is necessary to minimize risks from unauthorized access or malicious intent if the employee has been terminated for cause. The same applies to machine identities associated with service accounts, for example.

Managing Access to Cloud Applications and Services

The latest identity lifecycle management solutions can be used with SaaS solutions like Microsoft 365. Organisations can use identity lifecycle management products to automate the entire process of onboarding a new user, creating a SaaS account (such as a Microsoft 365 account), and provisioning the user’s privileges.

Identity and MOQdigital

IAM is a necessary component of not just your organisation’s cybersecurity capabilities, but as a foundation for digital innovation.

To assist you in planning your Identity Strategy, MOQ offers three engagements depending on your identity maturity:

  • Snapshot: If you are new to Identity this quick free engagement will give insight into your current identity state and potential gaps.
  • Securing Identities Workshop: If you know you are ready, this 3-day workshop will jump straight into planning.
  • Identity Strategy: If you need assistance at a strategic level, we can assist with building out this plan and implementation.

If you would like to learn more about how MOQdigital can help you on your identity journey, please contact us here.