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Surge in Machine and Human Identities Drive Security Policies at Organizations [Report]

Surge in Machine and Human Identities Drive Security Policies at Organizations [Report]

June 27, 2022 | Brooke Crothers

A sizeable 84% of respondents said their organization has experienced an identity-related breach in the last year, with 78% citing a direct business impact as a result, according to the Identity Defined Security Alliance (IDSA)’s 2022 Trends in Securing Digital Identities report based on a survey of over 500 identity and security professionals.

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‘Explosion’ of machine identities

Identity-related breaches continue to be a “massive threat” to organizations as they try to manage the increasing number of identities, IDSA said.

Overwhelmingly (98%) of identity and security professionals say that the number of identities in their organization is increasing due to the surge machine identities, cloud adoption, and third-party relationships (see infographic below).

“Managing identities is becoming more and more complicated for organizations…with the continuation of remote work, the increase in contractors and third-party relationships and the explosion of machine identities,” said Julie Smith, executive director of the IDSA in a statement.

Key takeaways

Identity growth continues, making identity a top security priority

  • 98% reported that the number of identities is increasing, primarily driven by cloud adoption, third-party relationships and machine identities
  • 94% said identity investments are part of strategic initiatives including cloud adoption (62%), Zero Trust implementation (51%) and digital transformation initiatives (42%)
  • 64% of respondents say managing and securing identity is one of the top three priorities of their security program

Identity-related attacks rising and impactful, but preventable

  • 84% of respondents said they experienced an identity-related breach in the past year
  • 78% cited direct business impacts as a result of the breach including recovery costs and reputational damage
  • 96% reported that they could have prevented or minimized the breach by implementing identity-focused security outcomes

Investments in security outcomes still a work in progress, focus on basics lacking

  • 97% reported that they are planning to invest in identity-focused security outcomes
  • 51% typically remove access for a former employee within a day, but only 26% always do
  • 43% believe that implementing multifactor authentication (MFA) would have made a difference in preventing breaches
Identity and investment in Zero Trust

Because the traditional network perimeter has been eroded, identity has emerged as a focus of security strategy for many enterprises, underscored by the fact that 64% of respondents said that managing and securing identity ranks in the top three priorities.

This, in turn, is spurring investment. A total of 94% of identity and security professionals said their identity program had been included as an area of investment in strategic initiatives in the past year related to cloud, Zero Trust, vendor management, digital transformation, and cyber insurance.

“Whether to better control who is accessing cloud resources or implement Zero Trust to enforce the principle of least privilege for a growing army of vendors, many organizations see identity as a piece of the puzzle too important to be ignored,” the report said.

Source: Identity Defined Security Alliance

Multifactor authentication jumps to the top of the list

Multifactor Authentication (MFA), in the context of a “mitigation strategy,” jumped to the top of list in preventing breaches. Forty-three percent believed that implementing MFA for all users would have made a difference. The next most common responses were more timely reviews of privileged access (41%) and continuous discovery of all user access rights (34%).

Lax deprovisioning

Accounts that no longer have valid owners present opportunities for attackers to abuse the trust and privileges given to previously legitimate users, IDSA said.

“For this reason, they leave organizations particularly vulnerable to disgruntled former employees who may want to steal data or take other malicious actions,” the report said.

“Other threat actors can take advantage as well, as these accounts may be out of compliance with security policies and lack an owner who may notice their account is being misused.”

Only 51% of organizations in the survey said they typically remove a user’s access to corporate systems the day (35%) or the day after (16%) the employee leaves.

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About the author

Brooke Crothers
Brooke Crothers
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