Understanding the Role of Auditing in Strengthening Identity and Access Management

Identity governance requires regular access auditing. Orphaned identities, such as accounts set up for third-party contractors, expired users, and static long-lived credentials, can leave your environment vulnerable to attack.

Identifying Risks

One of the most essential functions of auditing is helping to identify risks. By conducting risk assessments, auditors can narrow their scope to areas requiring the most time and effort, increasing efficiency. It helps ensure the final audit report is as valuable and thorough as possible.

A risk assessment begins with understanding the company’s policies, industry, and working conditions, along with an inspection of the environment. You can learn more about the company’s operations by interviewing key personnel and department managers. It can help you pinpoint specific concerns, including areas where personnel are concerned about the level of risk and how they perceive it to impact operations.

Inherent risk exists even when a business has control mechanisms in place. For example, a financial transaction involving much judgment and estimation is inherently more susceptible to error than one that does not. Additionally, a large amount of cash is intrinsically more vulnerable to theft than a smaller quantity of money.

Detection risk arises when a business’s internal processes fail to prevent a material misstatement or detect it when it occurs. It may occur due to several causes, such as poor customer communication, inadequate competency levels, or poor engagement management. This type of risk can be mitigated by utilizing automation software that eliminates the need for human intervention and reduces error rates, bias, and the chance of fraud.

Detecting Issues

When a potential problem or fraud occurs, auditors must be able to detect it and act quickly. Auditing identity and access management that uses AI-powered semantic intelligence help identify patterns and anomalies. It allows auditors to perform real-time analysis of large data sets and identify potential issues faster.

It makes spotting problems, such as vendor risks and possible fraudulent transactions, easier. In turn, this can save companies money and reputational damage.

IAM (identity and access management) ensures that the appropriate individuals have access to digital resources at the proper times and for reasonable purposes. These resources can include web applications, APIs, platforms, devices, and databases. IAM also manages the validation of users’ identities. These systems help organizations comply with regulations, laws, contracts, and industry standards for data access governance.

One of the challenges with traditional auditing is that inspections must be performed in real-time, based on contemporary events and developments, and within strict reporting deadlines. It can limit the ability of an auditor to incorporate their judgment and use of professional ethics in delivering quality audits, which may lead them to “comfortably” tick boxes to meet inspector expectations.

The other challenge is that inspections only provide a snapshot in time. As a result, an organization’s internal audit processes and controls may be outdated or compromised between inspections.

Remediating Issues

An intense remediation process is vital to a sound ID management strategy. It helps ensure that you address the root cause of an audit finding so it doesn’t occur again.

Remediation steps often recommend specific actions to strengthen a weak control or bring a non-compliant operation back into compliance. For example, they suggest you increase employee security training or implement multifactor authentication for certain transactions and groups of employees. However, they typically don’t tell you how to do those things, and it’s your responsibility to follow through on the recommendations.

An audit’s findings typically describe the risks associated with failing to take the recommended corrective action, including possible data breaches, financial costs, and legal violations that might put your business at risk. It is why it’s so important to focus on the root causes behind audit findings instead of rushing into quick fixes that might not fix the problem in the long run.

The best way to find the root causes of an issue is by using the “Five Whys” technique. Ask yourself why the problem exists, then keep asking why until you get to the real reason, which may be as simple as an outdated process, people who don’t understand the technology or underlying data. IAM solutions can help solve these issues by automating access privilege management tasks that are typically manual, like de-provisioning user accounts when employees leave or updating those rights as their roles change.

Preventing Recurring Issues

A breach or attack can be catastrophic for a business. It not only destroys valuable data but also erodes the trust and credibility of an organization. It makes it crucial to reduce the likelihood and impact of attacks. Auditing can help identify and correct weaknesses in an organization’s security controls, systems, and processes.

While every audit is slightly different, most follow a similar four-step process: research and planning, fieldwork, summarizing and reporting, and follow-up. During the research and planning stage, auditors meet with clients to understand their internal control design and what risks exist. They then begin reviewing documents, including internal and external audit reports, to identify potential areas for improvement.

During fieldwork, auditors dive deep into a client’s documentation to ensure accuracy and test existing controls. It includes examining the segregation of duties, change management processes, and system monitoring. It also includes evaluating whether an organization has adequate measures to safeguard data through encryption.

It is a crucial step because it can be challenging to prevent the recurrence of issues without understanding their root cause. For example, a common issue is when employees leave a company without having their access privileges properly de-provisioned. It is a problem because it can allow hackers to exploit the gap in security efficiently. IAM solutions can address this by automatically removing access rights from users who no longer need them or as their roles change within an organization.