Identity Governance and Compliance

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Identity, authorization, and authentication are some of the hottest topics in cybersecurity right now, with 80% of attacks involving some form of compromised identity. The proliferation of cloud-based and managed infrastructure and primarily data-driven organizations has made identity and security a top priority for organizations and regulatory bodies. 

Here, we’ll talk about identity governance–what it is, why it’s essential, and how it fits into major regulations and security frameworks. 


What is Identity Governance?

Identity governance uses policies and procedures to govern an organization’s authentication, authorization, and identity management. The primary goal of identity governance is to ensure that individuals have the appropriate access levels to various resources and data while aligning with security and compliance requirements.

Key components of identity governance typically include:

  • Identity Lifecycle Management: This involves managing the entire lifecycle of a user’s digital identity, from onboarding (provisioning) to changes in roles or responsibilities and finally to offboarding (de-provisioning) when a user leaves the organization.
  • Access Control: Identity governance includes defining and enforcing access policies that specify who can access what resources or data. It also involves managing privileges and permissions, ensuring users have the least privilege necessary to perform their tasks. This includes implementing access control schemas like Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) or Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC).
  • Policy Enforcement: Identity governance solutions often include mechanisms for enforcing security policies, such as strong authentication (e.g., multi-factor authentication), password policies, and other security measures.
  • Auditing and Compliance: Organizations use identity governance to track and audit user access and activities to ensure compliance with industry regulations and internal policies. This helps in monitoring for any unauthorized or suspicious activities.
  • Self-Service Access Requests: Many identity governance systems provide self-service capabilities, allowing users to request access to resources and have those requests automatically reviewed and approved based on predefined workflows.
  • Reporting and Analytics: Identity governance solutions offer reporting and analytics tools to gain insights into user access patterns, identify potential security risks, and make informed decisions regarding access rights.

Identity governance plays a crucial role in maintaining the security and integrity of an organization’s IT environment, reducing the risk of data breaches, insider threats, and unauthorized access. 


What Role Does Identity Governance Play in Overall Security Governance?

Identity governance is a critical component of cybersecurity governance because it directly addresses the management of user access and privileges, which is a fundamental aspect of cybersecurity. It ensures that the right people have access to the right resources and helps prevent unauthorized access or data breaches resulting from compromised or excessive user privileges.

Within an overall governance plan, identity governance fits into the broader cybersecurity governance framework as one of the many building blocks. An organization’s governance plan typically includes various elements, such as IT governance, risk management, compliance, and data governance. Identity governance is a subset of IT governance that contributes to the organization’s overall cybersecurity posture.

An effective cybersecurity governance plan integrates identity governance alongside other cybersecurity practices to create a holistic approach to security. This includes implementing network security measures, encryption, threat detection and response, security policies, and training and awareness programs.


How Can My Organization Implement Identity Governance?

identity governance

Implementing effective identity governance in your organization involves a structured approach that combines people, processes, and technology. Here are steps you can follow to implement identity governance effectively:

  • Define Objectives and Goals: Clearly outline your organization’s objectives and goals for identity governance. What do you want to achieve? This might include improving security, enhancing compliance, streamlining access management, or reducing the risk of data breaches.
  • Establish a Cross-Functional Team: Create a team that includes representatives from IT, security, compliance, HR, and other relevant departments. This cross-functional team will collaborate to define policies, processes, and procedures. Also, this team can evaluate your organization’s identity management processes and technologies. Identify weaknesses, gaps, and areas for improvement. 
  • Define Roles and Responsibilities: Clearly define roles and responsibilities within your identity governance program. Assign ownership for different aspects of the program, such as access requests, approvals, and audits.
  • Develop Policies and Procedures: Create comprehensive policies and procedures for identity and access management. This should include user provisioning, de-provisioning, access review processes, password management, and security policies.
  • Implement Technology Solutions: Invest in identity and access management (IAM) solutions or identity governance and administration (IGA) tools. These tools can automate many aspects of identity management, including provisioning, de-provisioning, and access requests.
  • Automate Access Reviews: Implement automated access review processes to review and recertify user access rights periodically. This helps ensure that permissions remain appropriate over time.
  • Training and Awareness: Train employees and stakeholders on identity governance policies and best practices. Raise awareness about the importance of secure identity management.
  • Continuous Monitoring and Auditing: Continuously monitor user activities and access controls. Regularly audit user accounts, permissions, and access logs to detect and respond to suspicious activities. Consider a zero-trust approach to security to protect against identity theft.
  • Compliance and Reporting: Ensure your identity governance program aligns with regulatory requirements and industry standards. Generate regular reports for compliance audits and management reviews.


Identity Management and Security Frameworks

Several regulatory frameworks and standards mandate or strongly recommend identity governance as a critical information security and data protection component. These regulations ensure organizations have adequate controls to manage and secure user identities, access rights, and sensitive data.

Here are some of the frameworks that require or emphasize identity governance:

  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): GDPR, which applies to organizations that handle the personal data of EU residents, emphasizes the need for proper access controls and data protection. It mandates that organizations implement appropriate technical and organizational measures to ensure the security of personal data. This includes identity governance practices to control who has access to personal data and to monitor and audit that access.
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): HIPAA requires covered entities and their business associates to implement security controls. Identity governance ensures that only authorized individuals can access protected health information (PHI).
  • Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS): PCI DSS mandates strong access controls to protect cardholder data. Identity governance ensures that only authorized personnel can access systems and data related to payment card information.
  • Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC): CMMC is required for U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) contractors and suppliers. It includes identity and access management as part of its cybersecurity practices, emphasizing the need for identity governance to protect sensitive DoD information.


Align Your Security and Identity Management Needs with Lazarus Alliance

Wrestling with your identity management and security efforts? Want to align with compliance frameworks and regulations? Work with Lazarus Alliance.

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