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Managing identities and access rights have become crucial to ensuring GDPR compliance in today’s data-driven world

Globally understood as the one of the toughest privacy and security laws in the world, GDPR compliance imposes data compliance obligations on organisations regardless of region. Yet, with increasing migration to the cloud, organisations are becoming more reliant on digital infrastructure that can be harder to monitor for compliance.

After shifting to the cloud an individual’s digital footprint can span numerous devices, applications, tools, and platforms, with each instance generating a unique digital identity. In a work environment, an employee could have dozens of identities linked to the individual profile. The same is true for Internet of Things (IoT) devices and bots.

Keeping track of this identity sprawl is an enormous undertaking, but organisations could risk non-compliance without adequate management. Identity governance and administration (IGA) helps organisations to manage identities and ensure they have suitable access to the right systems and content, and at the same time satisfying several compliance requirements without overwhelming data and security teams.

Identity tools for GDPR compliance

IGA supports GDPR compliance by addressing regulatory compliance from a bottom-up approach, tackling the two key sides of identity management.

The first is Identity Access Management (IAM), which enables organisations to mitigate risks arising from any identity connected to the digital infrastructure. By managing identity and access, organisations can govern how users and identities interact with information, tools and applications across internal systems.

An ‘identity’ can be anything – a person, an object or a code – that interacts with information

An ‘identity’ can be anything – a person, an object or a code – that interacts with information. Each identity should be assigned a level of privilege and will require authentication to ensure the person or machine behind the identity, is who the organisation believes it to be. A robust identity management solution needs to be scalable to cope with the proliferation of identities within the organisation. Also, ease of admin is essential for adding and removing identities as people join and leave the company or as technology is deployed or decommissioned.

Each identity will depend on set resources to do its job or complete tasks

Furthermore, each identity will depend on set resources to do its job or complete tasks. This means organisations must ensure that only authorised identities can access files, applications or services they require. This is the second branch of IAM: access management. For example, in an educational setting, students, teachers and administrators utilise different resources during the day. In such environments, identities can be grouped according to role, the assets they need to retrieve, and the level of access they need for each resource. So, while teachers and students will need to obtain teaching materials, administrators and teachers will need to view reports, exam results, and attendance. Even though identities overlap in this example, access rights continue to be unique to each group.

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While this is a simple use case, the same principles apply to any organisation. Access management helps create and define groups, allowing human and machine users to access what they need and nothing more. By building governance policies from the ground up, organisations can better ensure that no identity – especially not a unique one – is slipping through the net and, importantly, falling foul of GDPR compliance. All it takes to be non-compliant is for one error to sneak through, and an entire organisation will suffer the consequences. To this end, organisations must also foster a greater understanding of security policy and expectations within teams on every level and regardless of the role the employee holds.

Increasing security consciousness

While employees may care about corporate data, they might need to be made aware of the steps they need to take to secure and protect it. Failure to comply with GDPR compliance can result in a fine of up to £20 million; a laissez-faire attitude to employee adherence could be costly. Therefore, educating and training the workforce is vital to every organisation’s cyber security strategy.

Bespoke educational programmes that instil individual responsibility, showing how even one mistake can have significant ramifications, tend to be most effective. Not every employee is likely – nor expected – to understand the nitty-gritty details of the IAM process and other cyber secure approaches, so it is best to keep guidance simple and easy to follow.

An effective insider threat solution will help reduce internal risk

Additionally, an effective insider threat solution, which focuses on monitoring suspicious behaviour will help reduce internal risk so that security teams can better invest their time into external, less predictable threats. By identifying harmful activity and users based on multiple factors – such as log-ins from multiple devices – specific training programmes can be developed to address these cases.

It’s important to remember that employees are the backbone of a business, so while training is critical, organisations must be conscious not to blame employees for human errors. Introducing modern and accessible training programmes on potential risks will ensure that even if employees make mistakes, their errors won’t put entire operations at unnecessary risk.

Fortifying cyber security for the future

Ultimately, implementing an effective identity governance strategy is essential for any organisation looking to stay compliant with GDPR and other data protection regulations. By adopting a bottom-up approach to compliance, organisations can ensure that every identity is accounted for and every access right is appropriately managed. This will reduce the risk of costly fines, improve overall security posture and protect sensitive data from internal and external threats.

Adhering to regulations like GDPR compliance has never been more critical, especially as the amount of data held by organisations continues to grow exponentially. For organisations with hundreds or thousands of identities, human and machine, which can access this data, ensuring compliance is mission critical.

This piece was written and provided by Jonathan Neal, VP International Solutions Engineering, Saviynt


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