9 User Access Management Best Practices

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Calender
June 24, 2024
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Let’s imagine a scenario: You have a growing business with a comprehensive SaaS portfolio and thousands of employees, and unfortunately, your tech ecosystem falls victim to a cyber attack.

Upon investigation, you found that your employees had unrestricted access to all apps and files and were following poor password policies, which led to this breach.

This will make your organization vulnerable to exploitation. You need to consider user access management best practices to prevent such situations. This will create an environment where employees can only access the resources necessary for their duties.

So, how can it benefit you? You can minimize the risk of data breaches, insider threats, and unauthorized access to sensitive information. Moreover, you can ensure only those who need access have it.

This article will discuss 9 user access management best practices to protect your business’s sensitive data. Whether you consider centralizing user permissions management or implementing the principle of least privilege, these practices will undoubtedly benefit your business.

What is User Access Management?

User access management is the process of managing users who have access to your organization's resources, such as data, applications, and systems. This involves implementing policies that define user permissions and roles within your organization.

With UAM, you can ensure that only authorized users can access specific resources. Moreover, you can provide them access based on their job functions and responsibilities.

Some key user access management components are authentication, authorization, provisioning, and monitoring. User authentication verifies the identity of individuals attempting to access your systems, while authorization determines what resources they can use.

On the other hand, provisioning ensures that new employees are promptly granted appropriate access and deprovisioning/revoking access when they leave. Additionally, continuous monitoring helps you track user activities to detect and respond to suspicious behavior.

When you manage user access properly, you can minimize the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches. UAM can also ensure regulatory compliance with GDPR, HIPAA, and SOC.

9 User Access Management Best Practices

Paying close attention to these practices can help you enhance security and reduce the risk of unauthorized access. So, are you eager to know which practices will benefit you the most? Make sure you read this article to the end.

1. Centralize All Users and Their Access/Permissions

Centralizing user access and permissions is an excellent user access management practice. As a business owner, you must understand the importance of consolidating user accounts and their associated permissions into a single, centralized system.

But why is this so important? Firstly, this approach will help you easily manage and monitor access rights across your business. Secondly, you don’t need to maintain multiple access control systems, ensuring consistency in permission assignments.

A centralized system will provide you with more transparency. You will know who has access to what resources, which will help you easily audit and implement access policies.

It also streamlines the onboarding and offboarding processes. This way, new employees are quickly granted the appropriate access, and departing employees have their access promptly revoked. This reduces the risk of unauthorized access and potential IAM security breaches.

2. Implement the Principle of Least Privilege (PoLP)

The Principle of Least Privilege (PoLP) is a key aspect of cybersecurity and user access management. It implies that users should be granted only the minimum access and permissions necessary to perform their job functions.

If you need to implement PoLP for your business, you must pay close attention to the user’s roles and responsibilities. Instead of granting broad access across systems and applications, provide access only to the specific resources required to fulfill their job duties.

So, why should you consider the PoLP approach? Simple—it can limit the impact of compromised accounts or malicious actions, reducing the attack surface on your business.

Furthermore, PoLP supports the principle of defense-in-depth. Even if an account is compromised, you can still mitigate the damage. The compromised user would have limited access to sensitive data and critical systems.

To implement PoLP effectively, don’t forget to review and update access permissions regularly. You can also use automation tools to eliminate the manual access granting process.

3. Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Consider two-factor authentication if you want an extra layer of protection on top of a username and password. With this user access management best practices, you don’t need to worry about hackers.

When you have implemented MFA, users must verify their identity using two or more factors before accessing a system or application. In addition to the user's credentials, they must use their hardware devices and biometrics to gain access.

Multi-factor authentication can reduce the risk of unauthorized access, even if passwords are compromised. It’s troublesome for attackers, as they must compromise multiple factors to access an account. This is particularly important as cyber threats are gradually increasing.

You can implement MFA across various systems and applications, including email, cloud services, and enterprise applications. Cloud-based MFA solutions often provide flexibility and scalability, helping you manage authentication easily.

However, remember that adding MFA will make the login process more complicated. Thus, your employees may require more time and effort to access something. But security benefits outweigh this inconvenience.

4. Implement Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

This is another important access management practice to remember. Role-based access control restricts network access based on a user's role within your organization.

Instead of assigning permissions directly to users, permissions are assigned to roles. Users are then assigned to apps based on their job functions. This approach simplifies access management and provides an additional layer of security.

Image showing Role based access control

To implement RBAC effectively, define roles based on job responsibilities and functions within your organization. For instance, roles may include "HR Manager", "Financial Analyst", or "IT Administrator".

Each role is associated with specific permissions that determine what actions the users can perform. It will also determine which data users can access.

Moreover, RBAC simplifies access management processes such as onboarding and offboarding. When new employees join, you can assign them to the appropriate role with predefined permissions.

Similarly, when an employee changes roles or leaves your organization, you can adjust or revoke their access.

5. Enforce Strong Password Policies

Enforcing strong password policies is one of the best ways to protect data and systems from unauthorized access. Hackers often penetrate weak passwords to access accounts and sensitive information. Strong IAM policies can significantly enhance your overall security posture.

Make sure you have clear guidelines for password creation. Use long passwords of at least 12 characters, and mandate the use of a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. These make the passwords harder to crack.

You also need to update passwords from time to time. We recommend changing passwords periodically, like every 60 to 90 days. This reduces the risk of long-term exposure from compromised passwords.

Moreover, you also need to educate your users. When they know the risks associated with weak passwords, they can properly create strong passwords and recognize phishing attacks.

Last but not least, use a reliable password manager tool. These tools can generate and store complex passwords properly. Additionally, you don’t need to remember multiple strong passwords.

6. Monitor and Log User Activity

Monitoring and logging user activity is a crucial aspect of User Access Management Best Practices. But why is this so important? Failure to consider user actions will make your business susceptible to security vulnerabilities.

Implementing comprehensive logging mechanisms is the best way to monitor user activity. This includes login attempts, file access, system configuration changes, and other actions. Ensure the logs include relevant information such as the user ID, IP address, and the specific actions performed.

Furthermore, reviewing the logs regularly can help you identify patterns and detect anomalies. For instance, if a user suddenly accesses many files outside their job duties, it can be flagged for further investigation.

Monitoring user activity also helps you respond to incidents quickly. In case of a security breach, detailed logs can provide invaluable information.

For example, you will know how the breach happened, what data was accessed, and which accounts were compromised.

7. Regular Access Reviews and Audits

You need to review and audit user access regularly. This is one of the most important access management practices you must consider. This approach ensures access permissions remain appropriate and aligned with current job roles and responsibilities.

To implement regular user access reviews, establish a schedule for conducting these reviews, such as quarterly or bi-annually.

Assess the access levels of all users during each review. This step is crucial for maintaining a secure environment, as job roles and responsibilities can change over time.

During the review process, you need to involve managers and department heads. They can let you know whether their team members still require specific access permissions. This way, the access rights will remain relevant to your organizational needs and changes.

Besides scheduled reviews, conduct audits whenever your organization undergoes significant changes, such as restructuring, mergers, and acquisitions. Addressing these changes can help prevent security gaps that could be exploited.

You can also use automated tools as they can streamline the review and audit process. These tools will help you identify and address issues effortlessly. Automation also ensures consistency and accuracy in the review process.

8. Automate User Provisioning and Deprovisioning

Automating user provisioning and deprovisioning ensures access rights are granted and revoked promptly. As a result, you don’t need to worry about the risks of unauthorized access.

Don’t forget to implement systems that integrate your HR and IT management tools. When a new employee joins, appropriate access rights can be assigned based on their role. This reduces the time and effort required to set up accounts and permissions manually.

On the other hand, automating deprovisioning is equally important. When employees leave the organization, their access rights should be revoked immediately to prevent potential data security risks. Automated deprovisioning ensures that no accounts or permissions are left active.

9. Use a SaaS management platform (Bonus)

Now that you know user access management best practices, you might wonder what your next steps should be.

Manual processes cannot be relied on, especially if you own a medium or large business. To streamline access management, consider an automation solution like CloudEagle.

CloudEagle is a SaaS management and procurement platform that can help your business manage user access properly. To give you a solid idea, let’s first talk about the identity and access management features.

CloudEagle allows you to create a user-friendly application catalog so users can effortlessly browse and request access to essential software.

Image of CloudEagle's app catalog

We will create a seamless process where designated app administrators can efficiently review and approve access requests. This way, you can enhance productivity and manage software access without a problem.

One of CloudEagle's standout features is its ability to provide comprehensive application logs during security audits.

Image showing CloudEagle's access logs feature

Exporting logs directly from the CloudEagle portal avoids technical difficulties and ensures a smooth audit process. This functionality guarantees immediate access to crucial data.

Now comes another eye-catching feature of CloudEagle. If you remember correctly, we have highlighted the importance of automating user provisioning and deprovisioning. CloudEagle can also help you with this.

Automated User Provisioning

Our automated user provisioning features eliminate the hassle of handling spreadsheets or manual processes.

Image of CloudEagle's user provisioning module

With auto-provisioning workflows, you can automatically grant new users access based on their designation and responsibilities.

Automated User Deprovisioning

We also help you deprovision users automatically once they leave your organization. As you can revoke user access promptly with CloudEagle, no need to worry about malicious activities.

Let’s take Alice Park from Remediant as an example. Our automated onboarding and offboarding processes helped Remediant a lot.

So, how did we help Remediant? Well, for starters, their IT teams were facing problems with manual user provisioning and deprovisioning. Their access policies were based on spreadsheets, which became outdated.

Alice Park had to visit each application to grant and revoke application access. This was time consuming for her and the IT team/

However, when they integrated CloudEagle, we provided complete visibility into their user module. Our automated workflows enabled them to provision and deprovision users without manual effort, saving time and improving productivity.

Discover Joshua Peskay's approach to optimizing Shadow IT in organizations. Learn from his insights and strategies as he introduces an ROI score for SaaS tools aimed at maximizing efficiency in managing software resources and optimizing Shadow IT.

Conclusion

Implementing user access management best practices and strong authentication policies is one of the best ways to protect your data and sensitive information. As hackers become desperate, you must do everything possible to safeguard your company.

After all, the primary objective of access management is to prevent hackers from accessing user accounts and data. However, you cannot hold off hackers only with manual processes.

To ensure error-free and higher effectiveness, a privileged access management tool like CloudEagle is here to help. Make sure you schedule a demo with us today.

Written by
Vibhu Jain
Product Manager, CloudEagle
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