Using access reviews to improve security management

Data breaches occur at an alarming rate, and the average data breach costs $9.44 million USD. Your business needs to be more prepared than ever to combat these increasing cyber risks. One proactive yet often overlooked strategy is regular user access permission reviews.

In this article, we will delve into the fundamental aspects of access reviews, from understanding their importance to defining a strategic approach.

What are access reviews?

Access reviews, also known as access audits or entitlement reviews, are a critical component of security management that involves the regular assessment and analysis of user access permissions within an organization. This process ensures employees, contractors and other users have the appropriate level of access to systems, applications, and data required to perform their job functions.

An access review aims to identify any discrepancies, inconsistencies or potential vulnerabilities in the allocation of user permissions. By conducting regular reviews, your organization can maintain a proactive stance in the ongoing battle against unauthorized access and other security threats.

Why are access reviews important?

User access reviews serve a dual purpose in ensuring the security and compliance of an organization’s information systems. On one hand, they help to uncover potential vulnerabilities that may be exploited by cyber attackers or malicious insiders. On the other hand, they facilitate the adherence to various regulatory requirements, industry standards and internal policies which mandate the regular review of user access rights.

By regularly reviewing your access permission policies, you can identify and remediate issues before they result in a costly and damaging breach.

Define the access review strategy

A strategy should outline the objectives, scope, frequency and methodology of your organization’s access reviews, as well as the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders involved in the process.

Begin by identifying the key systems, apps and data repositories that require access permissions, taking into consideration the sensitivity of the information stored within them and the potential risks associated with unauthorized access. Next, determine the appropriate frequency of access reviews for each asset, based on factors such as regulatory requirements and the overall risk profile of your IT environment.

Your access review strategy should outline the specific processes and tools which will be used to conduct the reviews, as well as the criteria for evaluating user access rights. This may include a combination of automated tools, manual reviews and ongoing communication with staff and management.

Revoke permissions of former employees

When employees leave your organization, it is imperative their access to any data or systems is promptly revoked. Unmonitored or forgotten accounts can be a backdoor for cybercriminals into your networks.

Establish a formal offboarding process that includes the timely deprovisioning of all user accounts and access permissions associated with departing employees. This process should be closely coordinated with HR and IT departments to ensure all necessary actions are taken in a timely and efficient manner.

Regular access reviews help to identify any lingering access rights of former employees which may have been overlooked during the offboarding process.

Ensure permissions match employee responsibilities

The principle of least privilege states users should only be granted the minimum level of access necessary to perform their job functions. This reduces the potential attack surface and limits the potential damage of a security breach.

Work closely with HR, IT, and business unit leaders to develop a thorough understanding of each employee’s job responsibilities and the specific access rights required to perform their duties. This may involve the creation of role-based access control (RBAC) models, which define standardized access rights for various job roles within your organization.

By implementing RBAC, you can simplify the process of granting and managing user permissions while ensuring cybersecurity is upheld.

Update access management policies

An effective access management policy is the cornerstone of a robust cybersecurity framework. This policy should provide clear guidance on the processes, roles, and responsibilities related to the granting, modification, and revocation of user access rights, as well as the frequency and scope of access reviews.

As part of your access review strategy, regularly review and update your access management policy to ensure it remains aligned with your organization’s business strategies and security frameworks. This may involve incorporating new technologies, refining processes, or updating roles and responsibilities to address emerging risks and threats.

Additionally, ensure your access management policy is widely communicated and readily available to all employees within your organization.

Ensure your access permissions are tailored around your security needs

Mastering security management through access reviews is a crucial step in safeguarding your organization’s digital fortress. By understanding the importance of access reviews and defining a strategic approach, you can help to ensure the integrity and security of your organization’s valuable data and assets.

The cybersecurity specialists at BCS365 can help you create and implement user access policies, and regularly review them to enhance your security posture.