In today’s digital world, protecting data and preventing unauthorized access is crucial for organizations. Implementing strong Identity Governance and Administration (IGA) practices is essential for businesses to manage user identities and access rights effectively to safeguard sensitive information and maintain a strong security system. By integrating policies, processes, and technologies, IGA helps organizations efficiently govern user identities, simplify access management, and ensure compliance—strengthening their defenses against evolving cyber risks.

What is identity governance?

Identity governance is the active process of managing and controlling user identities within an organization. It involves establishing policies, procedures, and technologies to ensure that the right individuals have the appropriate access to resources and information. This proactive approach helps maintain security, compliance, and overall data integrity within the organization.

Why is it important?

Identity governance is crucial in today’s data landscape due to several reasons:

  1. Security: With the increasing number of data breaches and cyber threats, organizations need to ensure that only authorized individuals have access to sensitive information. Identity governance helps establish strong controls and authentication mechanisms, minimizing the risk of unauthorized access and potential data leaks.
  2. Compliance: Organizations must comply with various regulations and standards related to data privacy and security, such as GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI DSS. Identity governance enables organizations to enforce policies and procedures that align with these regulations, ensuring compliance and avoiding hefty penalties.
  3. Complexity: As organizations grow, they often accumulate multiple systems, applications, and databases. Managing user identities and access rights across these disparate systems can become highly complex and time-consuming. Identity governance provides a centralized framework to streamline identity management processes and simplify the administration of user access.
  4. Insider Threats: Insider threats, including accidental or intentional misuse of privileges by employees, contractors, or partners, pose a significant risk to organizations. Identity governance helps detect and mitigate these threats by implementing strict controls, monitoring user activities, and promptly revoking access when necessary.
  5. Auditability and Accountability: Identity governance facilitates comprehensive auditing and reporting capabilities. Organizations can track user access, permissions, and activities, enabling effective monitoring, analysis, and investigation of security incidents or policy violations. This enhances accountability and helps in identifying potential risks or areas for improvement.
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How does identity governance administration (IGA) work?

Identity governance works by establishing a framework for policies, processes, and technologies to manage user identities and their access to resources within an organization. Here’s a general overview of how identity governance functions:

  • Identity Lifecycle Management: Identity governance covers the entire lifecycle of user identities, starting from onboarding to offboarding. It involves processes for creating, modifying, and removing user accounts based on defined roles and responsibilities.
  • User Provisioning: Identity governance includes automated user provisioning processes that ensure new employees or system users receive appropriate access to the required resources. This involves assigning roles, granting access privileges, and configuring user attributes based on predefined policies and workflows.
  • Access Requests and Approvals: When users require additional access privileges or specific resources, they submit access requests through self-service portals or workflow-driven mechanisms. Identity governance facilitates the review and approval process to ensure that access requests align with defined policies and adhere to the principle of least privilege.
  • Access Certification and Reviews: Regular access certification or review processes are conducted to validate the appropriateness of users’ access rights. Identity governance establishes mechanisms to periodically review user access, revoke unnecessary privileges, and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and internal policies.
  • Role-Based Access Control (RBAC): Identity governance often incorporates RBAC principles, where access privileges are assigned based on predefined roles. Roles are associated with specific responsibilities, and access is granted based on those roles, streamlining access management and reducing the risk of unauthorized access.
  • Segregation of Duties (SoD): Identity governance enforces SoD policies to prevent conflicts of interest and reduce the risk of fraud. SoD ensures that no individual has excessive access rights that could potentially compromise security or enable unauthorized activities.
  • Auditing and Compliance: Identity governance maintains comprehensive audit trails, logging user activities, access requests, approvals, and modifications. These logs facilitate compliance reporting and enable organizations to respond to security incidents or regulatory audits effectively.
  • Identity Analytics: Identity governance may leverage advanced analytics and machine learning techniques to identify access patterns, anomalies, and potential security risks. By analyzing user behavior, it can detect and mitigate suspicious activities or policy violations.
  • Centralized Identity Repository: Identity governance typically utilizes a centralized identity repository or directory, such as an identity and access management (IAM) system or an identity provider (IdP), to store and manage user identity information. This repository acts as a single source of truth for user identities and their associated attributes.
  • Integration with Systems and Applications: Identity governance integrates with various systems, applications, and resources across the organization to manage user access consistently. Integration enables automated user provisioning, access enforcement, and synchronization of identity data between different systems.

Integrate identity management best practices into workflows

Aligning workflows with identity governance involves integrating identity management practices into various business processes and workflows. Businesses can achieve this alignment by following these steps:

  1. Assess and Define Identity Governance Requirements: Start by understanding your organization’s specific identity governance requirements. Identify the regulatory compliance standards, industry best practices, and internal policies that need to be followed. This assessment will help define the foundation for aligning workflows with identity governance.
  2. Map Identity Governance Processes: Identify the key workflows and processes within your organization that involve user identities and access management. This could include onboarding/offboarding employees, granting access privileges, handling access requests, and periodic access reviews. Map out these processes and understand the roles, responsibilities, and steps involved.
  3. Incorporate Identity Governance into Workflow Design: Redesign or modify existing workflows to incorporate identity governance principles. Ensure that identity-related activities, such as user provisioning, access request approvals, and access reviews, are integrated into the workflow. Establish checkpoints and controls to ensure compliance and mitigate risks throughout the workflow.
  4. Implement Automation and Integration: Leverage identity management solutions and automation tools to streamline and integrate identity governance into workflows. Automate user provisioning and deprovisioning processes, enable self-service access requests, and implement workflows for access approvals. Integration with HR systems, directories, and other applications can also improve efficiency and accuracy.
  5. Enforce Segregation of Duties (SoD): Incorporate segregation of duties principles into workflows to prevent conflicts of interest and enforce proper access controls. Define rules and policies that identify and restrict combinations of access privileges that could lead to potential risks or fraud.
  6. Establish Reporting and Auditing Mechanisms: Integrate reporting and auditing capabilities into workflows to enable monitoring, tracking, and reporting of identity-related activities. This allows for visibility into access requests, approvals, access reviews, and compliance status. Regularly review and analyze these reports to identify anomalies, policy violations, or areas for improvement.
  7. Provide User Education and Training: Educate employees about the importance of identity governance and their roles in adhering to identity management practices. Train users on proper access request procedures, password management, and security best practices to foster a culture of identity governance awareness and compliance.
  8. Continuously Monitor and Improve: Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the workflows aligned with identity governance. Monitor metrics, such as user onboarding time, access request turnaround time, and compliance status, to identify bottlenecks or areas requiring improvement. Adjust workflows as needed to enhance efficiency, security, and compliance.
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IAM vs Identity Governance

IAM (Identity and Access Management) and Identity Governance are two related but distinct concepts in the field of cybersecurity.

IAM refers to the active practice of managing and controlling user identities and their access to resources within an organization. It involves establishing policies, processes, and technologies to authenticate users, assign appropriate permissions, and monitor their activities. IAM focuses on the operational aspects of user identity management, including user provisioning, authentication, and authorization.

On the other hand, Identity Governance goes beyond IAM by emphasizing the strategic aspects of identity management. It encompasses the policies, procedures, and frameworks that govern the entire lifecycle of user identities, including their creation, modification, and removal. Identity Governance focuses on establishing a comprehensive framework for managing identities and access rights, ensuring compliance, and mitigating risks.

While IAM primarily deals with the technical implementation of identity management practices, Identity Governance takes a broader perspective by aligning identity management with business objectives and regulatory requirements. Identity Governance encompasses IAM as a subset of its overall framework.

Align with regulatory compliance

Several regulations and standards support the implementation of identity governance practices. Some notable ones include:

  1. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): GDPR is a comprehensive regulation governing the privacy and protection of personal data for individuals within the European Union (EU). It emphasizes the need for organizations to implement appropriate security measures, including robust identity governance, to protect personal data and ensure that access to it is properly managed.
  2. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): HIPAA establishes regulations for the protection of individuals’ health information in the United States. Identity governance plays a crucial role in ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of patient data, as well as controlling access to electronic health records.
  3. Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS): PCI DSS is a set of security standards that organizations must comply with if they handle payment card information. Identity governance helps enforce access controls, segregation of duties, and other measures to protect cardholder data and prevent unauthorized access to payment systems.
  4. Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX): SOX is a U.S. legislation that focuses on financial reporting and corporate governance. Identity governance supports SOX compliance by establishing proper controls over access to financial systems, ensuring segregation of duties, and maintaining accurate records of user activities and access changes.
  5. Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA): FISMA sets security standards for federal agencies and aims to protect government information and systems. Identity governance assists in meeting FISMA requirements by managing user access, enforcing strong authentication measures, and maintaining an auditable trail of access-related activities.
  6. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Guidelines: NIST provides guidelines and frameworks, such as the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and NIST Special Publication 800-53, that recommend implementing identity governance as part of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. These guidelines emphasize the importance of managing identities and access to protect information systems.
  7. European Union Electronic Identification, Authentication, and Trust Services (eIDAS): eIDAS regulation establishes a framework for electronic identification and trust services across the EU. Identity governance helps organizations comply with eIDAS by ensuring secure and reliable identity verification, authentication, and access management for electronic transactions.
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BigID’s Approach to Identity Governance

BigID is a comprehensive data intelligence solution for privacy, security, and governance that helps organizations with identity governance and administration (IGA) by providing advanced capabilities for managing and protecting sensitive data, including user identities. BigID supports IGA with:

  • Data Discovery: Discover and classify sensitive data across your organization’s entire data ecosystem. Scan data repositories, applications, and file shares to quickly identify personally identifiable information (PII), sensitive documents, and other critical data elements related to user identities.
  • Identity Mapping: BigID correlates and maps identities to the sensitive data it discovers. It connects user identities to the data they have access to, providing visibility into who has access to what information. This helps organizations understand the data landscape in relation to user identities.
  • Access Governance: BigID’s Access Intelligence App gives you the power to establish and enforce access governance policies. Easily define access rules based on context and remediate over privileged access or users with automated approval workflows. Gain clarity on appropriate access rights and privileges of your team based on their roles and responsibilities.
  • Compliance and Risk Management: BigID assists organizations in meeting compliance requirements by providing auditing, reporting, and monitoring capabilities. It helps identify and remediate compliance gaps, track user access changes, and generate compliance reports. This enables organizations to demonstrate adherence to regulatory frameworks and mitigate identity-related risks.
  • Data Privacy and Consent Management: BigID’s Consent Governance App supports data privacy initiatives by enabling organizations to manage consent preferences and data subject requests. It helps track user consent, document privacy policies, and streamline data subject access requests (DSARs) related to user identities.

To gain more value and better protect your organization’s data access— get a 1:1 demo with BigID today.