Identity and access are inseparable

April 2011 Cyber Security

As data security becomes a catastrophe, identity and access management becomes essential.

While the recent CA IT Management Symposium 2011 was focused on the IT market, it should come as no surprise that security featured prominently at the event as MD of CA Southern Africa, Gary Lawrence introduced the industry shift to cloud computing.

Lawrence noted that business today wants more from its IT systems, cheaper and more reliably. This is where the cloud concept plays a part, as it can bring business the agility and the differentiation it requires to succeed, with less hassles. The CIO of today needs to understand how technology can boost business and help the company differentiate itself in a competitive marketplace.

Focusing on the security side of things, CA Southern Africa’s security head, Ugan Naidoo spoke on the security needs in corporations today. Naidoo said that 86% of all corporate data leaks left evidence of the breach in the company’s log files. The information was there, but most people could not or did not bother checking it.

Ugan Naidoo
Ugan Naidoo

The result is a dire need for companies to concentrate on data loss prevention (DLP) as well as effective identity and access management (IAM), throughout the enterprise. Naidoo says business needs to be able to integrate identity allocation and authorisation in terms of what an individual is able to access and what information can be copied to a portable storage device, like a USB stick, or e-mailed out of the company.

“Operationalising security is the key,” he said. The core of IAM is therefore to control identities, control access and control information. Software alone is not the answer as users need to be educated, policies designed and real-time monitoring must be standard.”

By effectively identifying users, their entitlements and roles on an ongoing basis – to avoid crossed wires when employees change jobs – companies will be able to effectively control their information. Of course, this also includes the unstructured information on most servers and information portals.

Cloudy security

When looking at security in the cloud specifically, Naidoo warns that the hosting aspect is only one part of cloud computing. The concept must also include mobiles, Internet and remote access, and all of these must be as secure as the hosted servers are.

The catch with cloud services is that it becomes easy for businesses to bypass the official IT rules and boundaries, and serve themselves. This obviously creates a security nightmare as security is normally the last thing on users’ minds behind convenience. Ideally, every identity that is defined for use within the enterprise must also have a cloud component that determined what role that user can play in accessing and using data via cloud or mobile services.

ABSA Bank presented a case study on its IAM experience, noting that HR is the central point in identifying individuals – a point which some in IT contest. The IAM process therefore starts with HR and a clean database of individual identities, positions and assignments. And, importantly, it is an ongoing process that changes with the company and the individuals it employs.

The final message for the security world from the symposium is that while IT is charging ahead with new solutions and technologies, security personnel cannot afford to be left behind. If security cannot integrate the traditional security worlds with the new ways IT is devising to gain access to data and locations, this is one job description that will shrink into insignificance.


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