User access review: Quick guide for Infosec compliance

It’s no news that organisations across the globe, irrespective of size and industry, are vulnerable to cyberattacks. And (un)surprisingly, user access-related security breaches form the majority of such breaches and attacks – 61% of breaches are due to leveraged credentials, according to Verizon 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report. This highlights the importance of a robust user access review policy – just because you have access to do something as a user, doesn’t mean you should!

What is a user access review and why is it important?

Access to an organisation’s applications and infrastructure can be misused intentionally or inadvertently. This can result in financial losses (from breaches, corrective measures and fines levied from the relevant authorities), breach of customer trust, and significant reputation losses. User access monitoring and review is a critical part of fortifying infosec controls, even more so for hyper-growth companies where teams are expanding quickly.

However, following some practices to ensure unauthorised users do not have access to an application can reduce the risk significantly. User access reviews should be done regularly to prevent potential security risks.

During a user access review, the Security Owner checks if the right people, including employees, partners, vendors, customers, or service providers, have the right degree of access to the company’s various applications and infrastructure. A user access review assesses and corrects three things periodically:

  • Do the right people have access to the organisation’s specific applications or infrastructure?
  • Does the level of access match the role of the individual?
  • Have the individuals not needing access to such applications and infrastructure, been removed as users?

Risks of inappropriate user access

1. Privilege misuse

Sometimes, employees or third parties are given full rights to access the data, and they can maliciously or unintentionally take advantage of that access. Too much access to data can lead to a privacy breach, a breach of trust between a company and its stakeholders – including but not limited to its customers, vendors, and users.

2. Loss of competitive edge

If an employee or a third party is terminated and the access rights are not removed, they can still access the data and misuse it. The Thumb Rule, deny access as soon as you activate the termination.

3. Reputation loss

Gone are those days when you read the news at six o’clock in the morning newspaper. In the present scenario, information travels faster than light. If the sensitive data is not maintained by the right employees with the right ownership, it will be highly susceptible to data breaches – which in turn erodes trust of customers, users, and other stakeholders alike.

4. Licensing costs

If an employee no more needs access to a paid application, remove it. Spending those extra dollars on something they don’t use makes no sense. It’s clear and simple: Make sure the right people access the applications they need, when they need and nothing more.

How to implement a user access review

1. Define an access management policy

Regardless of its size, every company should have an access management policy, and it should include:

  • A list of data sources and applications that needed to be protected.
  • A list of all users and their types of access across these data sources and applications.
  • Procedures for granting, modifying, and revoking access.
  • An accountable account admin who can manage access across individual users for the given application/infrastructure.
  • A security lead – who manages access across applications and infrastructure.
  • Frequency of user access review.

2. Enforce role-based access control

This allows creating user roles for positions instead of configuring each user’s account individually for a given application. This speeds up a user access review because you can review roles instead of separate profiles.

3. Conduct periodic user access reviews

Start with a quarterly user access review, and gradually build up the pace to do this twice a month. A periodic user access review helps in checking users, controls, and accesses all at once regularly. This way, you will be able to save thousands of dollars if a security breach happens instead of waiting for a year.

Conducting a user access review is important as it reduces the risk of a data breach, but the review can be time-consuming and slow down work processes. You can make this quick and easy, and more importantly, hassle-free, with Scrut Automation.

Scrut Automation is an innovative and radically simple governance, risk, and compliance automation platform for growing startups and mid-market enterprises. With Scrut, compliance teams can reduce ~70% of their manual effort in continuously maintaining compliance towards SOC 2, ISO 27001, GDPR, PCI DSS, HIPAA, and CCPA. Schedule your demo today to see how it works.

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