In these heady, expansionary days of the IT universe, perimeters are increasingly fuzzy, or altogether dissolved, workloads are briskly migrating to clouds, data has no borders, workers connect from anywhere and everywhere, and vendors routinely access corporate resources. Some consequences of this have been the proliferation in numbers of identities and accounts, an upsurge in shadow IT, and a yawning, frequently exploited, attack surface.
Almost every cyberattack today revolves around identities, and the credentials and privileges of those identities. Privileged identities and privileged access raise the stakes, when it comes to identities. Exploiting privileges/privileged access allows threat actors to infiltrate an environment to gain a foothold. On the inside, they can leverage privilege to move around to obtain new identities, access, and assets.
In BeyondTrust’s Cybersecurity Predictions for 2020 & Beyond, two of our thought leaders predicted a new wrinkle in future identity-based attacks—"identity-theft royal flush”—or owning every account an individual owns. This will involve attackers targeting all the accounts associated with an identity (human or non-human) and impersonating users, potentially even employing AI or deepfake technology. Such attacks pose a risk at both the corporate and personal user levels.
The identity-related trends noted above all underscore the necessity of mature identity management processes in the enterprise. This entails centralizing security around identities, and unifying management of both privileged and non-privileged identities. The Identity Defined Security Alliance (IDSA) was created with this goal mind. IDSA and its member organizations, including as BeyondTrust, strive to educate on identity-centric security strategies, foster industry collaboration, and provide best practices and guidance for IAM practitioners.
What exactly does "identity-defined security" mean? Identity-defined security simply refers to the integration of identity and access management (IAM)—including access management, privileged access management, identity governance and administration (IGA), and directory services—policies, processes, and technologies throughout the entire stack of cybersecurity technologies. Identity-defined security promotes an environment where IAM tools communicate with the rest of the IT security environment to ensure holistic visibility and control over every identity—both human and machine.
But with identity management and security parallel and separate entities at many enterprises, how close are most organizations to achieving the vision of identity-defined, or identity-centric, security? Why are so many organizations suffering identity-related breaches, and why is mitigation often long delayed? The IDSA report published this month: The State of Identity: How Security Teams are Addressing Risk, attempts to answer these questions. The IDSA report was compiled from a survey of 500+ U.S. IT security decision-makers at companies with 1,000+ employees. Let’s briefly review some excerpts from the report.
State of Identity Report Highlights
According to the IDSA report, 52% of respondents say that identities have increased over five-fold in the past 10 years. On the technology side, the top drivers of this growth are reported to be mobile devices (76%), enterprise-connected devices (60%), cloud applications (59%), automation (36%), and containers (25%). Other factors driving this proliferation in identities include increased employee headcount (57%) and an increase in employees using technology (66%). The data helps paint a picture of how much the risk surface has expanded based on the sheer growth in identities, coupled with the complexity of new technologies and environments.
So, what are the identity-related security incidents that most concern security teams? According to the report, the following are the top-perceived threats:
- phishing (83%)
- social engineering (70%)
- compromised privileged identities (64%)
- weak or guessable passwords (59%)
- insider threat (52%)
Mature IAM processes, particularly privilege management, can stop, or at least mitigate, each of the above threats, such as by enforcing least privilege and automating best practices for managing privileged credentials (discovery, onboarding, rotation, encryption) for human and machine identities.
One optimistic report finding is that 94% of security professionals say IAM is more important to their team today than it was five years ago. This seems to indicate that identity is nudging its way closer to the center of security. On the other hand, only 24% say their security team has “excellent” awareness of IAM--so clearly some siloes still remain to be knocked down.
You can check out the entire IDSA report here: The State of Identity: How Security Teams are Addressing Risk
And, if you’re interested in diving deeper into identity attack vectors and the learning the security controls for mitigating them, register for this upcoming webinar: Deconstructing Identity as a Cyberattack Vector. Two of the world’s top thought leaders on identity governance and privileged access management, Morey J. Haber, CTO/CISO at BeyondTrust and Darran Rolls, CTO/CISO Chief at SailPoint will break down how to implement and maintain a viable long-term identity management lifecycle.