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The Role of IAM in Preventing Insider Threats

Organizations are often looking for ways to mitigate external cybersecurity risks. However, the one thing they fail to discover is the threat of an inside infiltration. Identity and Access Management (IAM) is a system that allows you to keep tabs on all the employees working under the aegis of an organization.

There are always contingencies when there are many users working on the same project. Managing individual access can be tricky if you don’t have a proper system in place. That is where IAM comes into the picture. It provides IT administrators with a bird’s eye view of all the people working on a particular project. With security protocols of one-time passwords, security keys, and multifactor authentication, IAM can have a huge impact on the security of your organization. So if you want to know how to comply with IAM policies to keep all insider threats at bay, you need to take a look at the following aspects.

Regulating Access Control

Providing access to employees is not as easy as it sounds. There are multiple steps that allow administrators to regulate access control in their offices. Each employee is given access according to their specific role. Each department has its set of resources that are only available at its discretion. The access of the IT department will be completely different from the access of the HR department.

IAM supports role-based access control and automated transition of permission level if a role of a certain employee within the organization changes. This division of information and rules will also help set professional and personal boundaries in the workspace, thus reducing internal threats to a minimum.

Implementing User Monitoring

Gone are the days when managers would simply take a stroll through the office to check on their employees. In the age of digital working spaces and remote work, it is becoming difficult to monitor the activity of each user. IAM allows administrators to monitor each user according to their user activity.

This can be done by monitoring the number of times a user has logged into their account and whether there have been any failed attempts to get access to the company’s resources. The user tracking helps you stay vigilant and prevent any attack that can potentially arise and put your valuable IT resources at stake.

Denying Privileged Access

Make sure that privileged access remains privileged. Most organizations make the mistake of providing privileged access to people working in the second or third tier of administration. This delegation of responsibilities may seem easy at that particular time, but it has drastic effects on the organization’s security.

Administrators must provide any information on a need-to-know basis. If someone does not need to know the information reserved for privileged access, it must be kept that way. An effective IAS strategy must incorporate the least privilege principle, which follows the concept of minimal user rights or least clearance level.

Applying Multi-factor authentication

Multifactor authentication is a foolproof method of executing the security policies of organizations. By providing multiple forms of verification, the chances of internal threats becoming a reality are reduced to zero.

Single-factor authentication is not as secure as MFA, and it is easy to hack password-only authentication. Conversely, the use of security keys and TOTP (Time-based one-time password) gives users only thirty seconds to verify their identity. If a user is not on your list of employees, they will not be able to gain access to your company’s sensitive information.

Setting IAM Protocols For Remote Access

IAM is a go-to security solution for organizations relying on a hybrid or remote workforce. IAM sets protocols that strictly follow IAM policies and ensure data security and integrity during transfer and storage.

These protocols are specifically designed to transfer authentication information and consist of a series of messages arranged in a preset sequence to secure data during its transfer between servers or through the networks.

Creating Data Protection Policies

A role trust policy, which is associated with an IAM role, is the sole resource-based policy type that the IAM service supports. The IAM role functions both as a resource and an identity that supports identity-based policies. Hence, you must associate an IAM role with both a trust policy and an identity-based policy.

After putting IAM policies into practice, make sure to baseline your regular operational tasks. This enables you to cut through the noise to find potential abnormal behavior, making it stand out like a sore thumb and improving your chances of stopping and identifying insider threats.

Setting IAM permissions boundaries

When you leverage a managed policy, it sets a limit on the number of permissions the identity-based policies provide to an IAM entity. Simply put, Identity-based policy grants permission to the entity while permission boundaries limit those permissions. By setting a permission boundary for an entity, the entity is allowed to perform only those activities that are in line with permissions boundaries and identity-based policies.

However, Resource-based policies that fundamentally specify the role or user are not limited by the permissions boundary. Any of these policies’ express denials prevails over the allow.

Following Service control policies (SCPs)

Along the same line, organizations can make use of Service-based policies to deter internal attacks. Service-based policies are organization policies that are used to manage permissions. SCP gives your administration full control of the maximum permissions that are available for all accounts in your organization. Moreover, service-based policies help your organization comply with your access control policies, assuring the utmost security of your valuable resources.

However, SCP can not successfully grant permissions in its own domain. They can set limits for the permissions, which your IT administrator can delegate to IAM users, but you still require resource-based or Identity-based policies to grant permissions.

Using Access control lists (ACLs)

Another set of policies known as access control lists (ACLs) lets you manage which principals in another account have access to a resource. However, a principal’s access to resources within the same account cannot be controlled using ACLs. ACL allows you to specify who has access to your buckets and objects as well as to what degree. While IAM rights can only be granted at the bucket level or higher, ACLs can be specified for individual objects. Though these access control lists are similar to resource-based policies, they are the only ones that do not leverage the JSON policy document format.

Key Takeaway

Insider threats have become an enterprise-wide concern that demands executive-level attention. The malicious intentions of trusted employees within your company can pose devastating damage to your business’s security and reputation. However, if you implement an effective IAS framework that goes in line with your governance and related policy rules in your central access system, your ability to detect and deter internal security threats will be greatly increased.

That said, there is currently no solution or mechanism that can assure 100 percent prevention and detection of internal risks, but IAM is currently one of the most efficient and effective ways to secure access and counter internal attacks. To take the most out of your IAM solution, you should have an insight into IAM policies and their permission boundaries, as well as a set of policies such as service control policies, so you can effectively follow them and secure your business resources.

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