With the rapid digital transformation in recent years, there has been a rampant growth in the number of digital identities used across enterprises. Identities are not just limited to users anymore. They now extend to devices, applications, bots, third party vendors, and other entities besides the employees in the organization. Even among users, there are different types of identities such as those belonging to IT admins, remote workers, contractors, customers, and privileged accounts. Put simply, each organization has thousands of identities that it needs to manage on an everyday basis.

Each identity, in turn, is a potential entry point for attackers to gain access to the organization's assets. Identity-based attacks are becoming common as attackers indulge in identity thefts, credential stealing, and exploit vulnerabilities in the network, allowing them to wreak havoc once they gain access to privileged data. Thus, identities provide an attack path for malicious actors — which is why it's important to establish identity security.

What is identity security?

Identity security refers to the tools, technologies, and processes that aim to secure all types of identities used within an organization, to prevent identity-based threats and attacks. Identity security can also be a comprehensive solution, whose basic aim is to secure all identities used across an organization. With identities including those of employees, devices, applications, bots, customers, and third-party vendors, the possibility of identity-related attacks has increased. Each of these identities can be exploited by attackers and can become entry points for malicious attacks, as they possess a certain level of privileged access. When these identities are not secured properly, it becomes easy for attackers to gain an attack path to the organization's most critical and valuable resources. This in turn leads to security and data breaches, resulting in costly consequences for the organization.

This requires organizations to invest in identity security solutions that will help them prevent these identity-based attacks. Identity security thus becomes an indispensable aspect in the overall cybersecurity framework of an organization.

Some of the basic principles of identity security are:

  • 1.Authentication: Authentication is the process of verifying whether a user or entity is who they claim to be. Every identity that requests access to the network should be authenticated to check if they are legitimate. This will also help mitigate identity fraud and prevent malicious actors from entering the network.
  • 2.Authorization: Authorization refers to the process of providing appropriate access rights and privileges to each identity that requests access to the network resources. Every user, device, or entity is given access privileges on a need-to-know basis. This helps implement the policy of least privilege to avoid unnecessary data breaches and insider attacks.
  • 3.Access: Each identity is provided or denied access to network resources based on authentication and authorization. Only the identities which were authenticated and authorized should be given the appropriate level of access to prevent identity theft, fraud, and other malicious activities. For example, privileged access will have a level of access that is different from other accounts.
  • 4.Auditing: Auditing ensures that the network is continuously monitored and also helps achieve regulatory compliance. This provides visibility into the activities taking place within the network and also keeps track of which identity accessed which resource.

Identity security: An essential component to establish Zero Trust

Zero Trust has now become a fundamental security requirement for most organizations in order to keep up with the ever-evolving threat landscape. The basic premise of Zero Trust is "never trust, always verify", and assumes that attackers might be present both inside and outside the organization's network. Zero Trust thus eliminates the idea that trust is binary and requires all users and devices to be authenticated before being given access to the network. The network is continuously monitored and users or entities are given access to resources based on the policy of least privilege. Since Zero Trust is a strategy and not a specific solution, organizations can deploy Zero Trust by choosing components that cater to their specific requirements.

Traditional security perimeters are fading and being replaced by identity as the new perimeter. This can be attributed to rapid digitization and the adoption of remote and hybrid working models over the past few years. Identity-related attacks and breaches are becoming increasingly common, which means organizations should focus on strategies that will stop identity theft, and offer identity fraud protection. Since an identity security solution is targeted at securing digital identities, it will help organizations tackle the increasing cases of identity-related threats and attacks. The basic functions of any identity security solution include authenticating, authorizing, and providing the right level of access to an identity. This aligns with the fundamental principles of Zero Trust, where no user or entity is trusted without proper authentication and granted access on a least privilege basis. In other words, identity security is at the heart of any Zero Trust strategy. Zero Trust techniques such as continuous monitoring, MFA, SSO, and least privilege access, align with the capabilities of an identity security solution. Thus, an identity security solution is one of the most important components required to establish a Zero Trust architecture.

Capabilities of an identity security provider

While the primary aim of an identity security provider is securing identities, enablement is also crucial. Some of the fundamental capabilities that every identity security provider should have are:

  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA): MFA requires users and identities to provide an additional set of credentials for authentication. This usually consists of a combination of something the user knows, something the user has, and something the user is. Since authentication is an important component of identity security, MFA will reduce credential theft and fraudulent access to the network, while providing an additional layer of security.
  • Single sign-on (SSO): SSO is a crucial component of identity security as it provides both security and facilitation. With SSO, the need for manual password entries is reduced and this also helps minimize the attack surface. SSO, when combined with MFA, provides an additional layer of security, streamlines user experience and increases password strength.
  • Privileged access management (PAM): PAM is essential to secure access to high risk and privileged accounts, since they are associated with the sensitive and critical parts of a network. PAM is crucial to prevent data breaches and insider attacks, since it helps enforce the policy of least privilege (PoLP). In terms of identity security, PAM should not be limited to just human identities, but should also extend to machine identities.
  • Continuous monitoring and auditing: An identity security solution should be able to continuously monitor the network to gain visibility. This allows insight into the activities taking place within the network and makes it easier to identify vulnerabilities. Additionally, auditing will also ensure that the organization meets the regulatory compliance mandates. This will also enable organizations to automate their incident response to threats.
  • Automation and analytics: An identity security solution should employ automation and analytics to eliminate manual processes and improve efficiency. Automating identity lifecycle management tasks such as identity provisioning, modification, and deprovisioning would save time, improve efficiency, and also eliminate errors caused due to human fallibility. Employing identity analytics tools provides insight into the access rights provided to each identity and also tracks unusual behavior. This will help detect and remove excessive access privileges and boost the overall security.

Enforcing a robust identity security framework with ManageEngine AD360

  • Automate identity lifecycle management: AD360 allows organizations to automate routine management tasks such as account provisioning, modification, deprovisioning, and Active Directory cleanup. Automating identity lifecycle management saves time, improves efficiency, and eliminates errors caused by humans. IT admins can then focus on other critical tasks that demand their attention. Automating identity management also ensures that users and other entities are provided the right level of access based on the policy of least privilege. This is one of the most basic steps to enforce identity security. It also helps organizations save valuable manpower, while improving productivity.
  • Implement adaptive authentication and MFA: Authentication is a crucial aspect of identity security and used to establish tighter security control. With AD360, IT admins can implement adaptive risk-based authentication by leveraging identity analytics tools. This will also help admins track unusual behavior and restrict access privileges, based on the policy of least privilege. AD360 also provides MFA capabilities for an additional layer of authentication. This goes a long way in preventing identity theft, fraud, and other malicious activities. AD360 offers a wide range of advanced authentication options such as fingerprint verification, push notification, email verification, SMS verification, Google Authenticator, RADIUS, and other commonly used authentication methods.
  • Secure passwords with SSO and self-service password management: Deploying SSO helps minimize the attack surface and also helps prevent brute force attacks. AD360 provides SSO capabilities which streamlines user experience, and eliminates the need for users to remember multiple passwords while using different applications. Users can access all their enterprise applications from a single dashboard, without having to login every time. SSO can be combined with MFA to provide an additional security layer. Besides SSO, AD360 also provides self-service password management capabilities which allows users to reset their own passwords and unlock their accounts without help desk assistance. This eases the burden on IT admins and enhances productivity. Additionally, AD360 allows admins to enforce strong password policy settings, which will help defend against brute force attacks.
  • Detect security threats with UBA: AD360 facilitates identity protection using user behavior analytics (UBA) which leverages data analytics, machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. UBA uses these technologies to establish a baseline of normal behavior that is specific to each user. Any deviation from this baseline denotes possible malicious activity in the network. This anomalous behavior is flagged to alert IT admins about potential threat so that they can mitigate it. This can be specifically used to detect insider threats, privilege abuse and compromised accounts within the network. UBA also helps detect threats with precision, prevents false alarms, and accelerates the incident threat response.

How AD360 takes care of your IAM needs

  • Identity protection with UBA

    Detect, investigate, and mitigate threats such as malicious logins, lateral movement, malware attack, and privilege abuse with machine learning-based UBA; automate your threat response.

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  • Identity automation

    Eliminate redundancy and human errors, and improve business processes by automating user provisioning, stale account cleanup, and other identity-related tasks. 

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  • Identity lifecycle management

    Streamline identity management throughout the entire lifecycle of users—right from provisioning, to role changes and deprovisioning.

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  • Multi-factor authentication

    Elevate trust in identities and mitigate impersonation attacks using biometric, authenticator apps, and other advanced authentication methods. 

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  • Identity analytics

    Use over 1000 preconfigured reports to monitor access to crucial data and satisfy compliance mandates.

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Rethink your IAM with AD360

AD360 helps you simplify IAM in your IT environment by giving users quick access to the resources they need while establishing tight access controls to ensure security across on-premises Active Directory, Exchange Servers, and cloud applications from a centralized console.

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