Most Common IAM Mistakes to Avoid to Ramp Up Your Cybersecurity


Identity and access management is a critical part of any company’s cybersecurity strategy. Avoid these common mistakes or risk of a data breach, says James Quick, director of solutions & advisory for Simeio.

61%Opens a new window of data breaches are attributed to stolen credentials. According to Verizon’s 2022 Investigations Report, 82%Opens a new window of confirmed breaches involve what’s known as the “Human Element,” which encompasses social attacks, errors, and general misuse targeting a person to create human error. Threat actors often target individuals to create a confusing scenario in which the individual willingly grants access without knowing the consequences. 

But this isn’t the only way threat actors find security gaps, which is why businesses must avoid the most common identity and access management (IAM) mistakes.

The most common IAM mistakes:

  1. Poor or partial IAM implementations that make your business vulnerable and make your security team complicit.
  2. No clear IAM governance results in a lack of comprehensive strategy and easy-to-understand policies.
  3. No executive leadership team “buy-in” or clear guidance for employees.
  4. A lack of skilled cybersecurity experts employed: IAM engineers, architects, and managers.
  5. Multiple unreconciled sources of identity authority, meaning there are multiple systems of record with duplicate identity credentials.
  6. Political infighting over data and application ownership or responsibility.
  7. A lack of organizational change management processes to resolve issues and stay ahead of hackers’ latest tactics.
  8. Institutional “analysis paralysis” results in a distaste for reducing complexity and a fear of automation, causing a reliance on risky, time-consuming manual processes.
  9. Uncleaned data lifted and shifted into new IAM systems.
  10. Unrealistic IAM roll-out approaches that aren’t effective for sponsors and users.

Understanding IAM and Why it Matters

The first step in fixing any IAM problem is to understand it. IAM is the information technology security framework of policies that ensures the right users—employees, customers, and partners alike—have the appropriate access to the resources they need to do their jobs well. It requires managing the lifecycle and roadmap of your users’ identities, governing their access, and properly monitoring the use of their identities and credentials through identity analytics. Effective IAM ensures proper controls are in place to control the ability of users to interact with critical systems for which they require “privileged” access, the basis of privileged access management (PAM).

For example, many companies need more proper governance when implementing these programs, which often stems from a lack of strategic vision communicated throughout the organization. As a result, employees gain and keep access to systems for too long without review, and it is not easy to see where this might occur when systems are fragmented.

Information silos arise when multiple different cybersecurity systems are used. Yet this is commonplace for many businesses. It must be fixed soon via the implementation of a unified system, or exploitable gaps will continue to make your business vulnerable to a data breach. With regulators showing they are willing to make convictionsOpens a new window for ineffective cybersecurity strategy and a lack of transparency, it’s more important than ever for cybersecurity experts to make changes today to protect employee and customer data or risk legal action.

The Right Way to Approach IAM

The leading mistake many companies make when rolling out an IAM strategy is failing to secure support, visibility, and sponsorship from the company’s executive leadership team, including the CEO, CFO, and COO. Identity security should never rely on the CISO or CIO to manage and communicate. All business leaders must share the same strategic vision around IAM and drive it within the organization to succeed.

But the only way to know if your security system is vulnerable is to hire cybersecurity experts and test it constantly. How could you possibly know your data is protected if you aren’t testing and making improvements constantly? Threat actors are refining their approach every day to find new exploits in your security system. Are you adjusting faster than them?

It is vital to ensure the security team has clear responsibilities and systems of ownership, with methods of communicating updates to employees regularly. Employees are on the frontlines of this fight against hackers, malware, and ransomware, whether they acknowledge it or not, so a regular newsletter or method of communicating key security changes is necessary for any business. If updates are complicated, upskill employees appropriately while ensuring access management processes are as simple and intuitive as possible.

To have the foundation to do this, hire recruits with this expertise or think outside the box to bring on someone who has a firm basis and can learn quickly. Having cybersecurity experts skilled in IAM and institutional change management processes can greatly aid your implementation and management strategies. Still, there’s a talent shortage in this space, so it may be necessary to bring in a third-party specialist.

Furthermore, institutional analysis paralysis and fear of automation can result in a failed IAM implementation. Manual processes and a mentality of “this is the way we’ve always done it” are hazardous to any cybersecurity program because making updates is inherent in closing vulnerability gaps and facilitating a better user experience.

Focus on Convergence

When you have identities distributed and duplicated in multiple identity management systems, the redundancies can create confusion and cause some users to have more access to sensitive information for far longer than they should. Ensure your organization’s data is cleaned before being lifted and shifted into new IAM systems. Confirm that your roll-out approach works for your resources, sponsors, and users by soliciting feedback from them directly.

Review the tools currently in place for redundancies, which can help you save big while reducing risk. Recently for one client, redundant IAM tools were discovered (some of which were still shelf-ware) that could be decommissioned, which enabled 20% yearly savingsOpens a new window on license costs. How much would a 20% decrease in licensing costs for your cybersecurity tools save you?

See More: Cybersecurity Risks Businesses Face in the Wake of COVID-19

How to determine if your IAM strategy is working

Getting your IAM strategy right will take continuous time and effort, even for experienced cybersecurity teams working on established systems. This is especially true when organizations utilize various solutions and products from different vendors without an identity orchestration (IO) platform, which converges multiple systems into a single programmatic view and allows for a more proactive approach to threat detection and resolution.

If you’re unsure about the effectiveness of current security systems, test them regularly. A comprehensive IAM assessment can diagnose what you are doing well, where you need to improve, and what you need to do in the future to achieve real identity security. A successful IAM program is dependent on a transparent culture. You cannot identify the gaps within a system unless leadership has agreed upon goals, shared across teams, and open feedback is welcomed.

It is abundantly clear that IAM is a strategic investment business worldwide making, becoming more valuable every year. A recent reportOpens a new window by Fortune Business Insights projects that the IAM global market will grow from $13.41 billion in 2021 to $34.52 billion in 2028. Don’t wait until it’s too late to fix the problems in your IAM strategy. Once a data breach occurs, making it all go away is challenging. Get ahead of the curve by fixing the easy mistakes you’re making today.

Which strategies have you implemented to elevate cybersecurity in your organization? Share with us on FacebookOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , and LinkedInOpens a new window . We’d love to know!