Identity Analytics

Identity analytics provides a way of evaluating enterprise security risk based on identity insights. Identity analytics is a must-have capability in large organizations as scaled enterprises have significant challenges in managing identities and are often blind to their risks. In addition to other capabilities, identity analytics enables smarter micro-certification campaigns, enhanced policy violation detection, and contextualized access requests and approvals.

Below, we will take you through everything you need to know concerning identity analytics and why they are so important.

What is identity analytics?

Identity analytics makes the most of machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), and edge computing technologies to ingest and process identity data from a number of different sources. The best solutions will then create actionable intelligence out of the identity-related data, and present its findings to the user.

With the dynamic risk scores and advanced analytics that identity analytics solutions provide, a business has the ability to determine what resources their users are able to access, to baseline and monitor user behavior, and to see how people are utilizing their access rights. In addition, you will be able to figure out whether or not a user should be given access based on contextual data, such as the device they are using, geolocation, and other factors.

Moreover, you can use identity analytics tools to automate operations such as remediating policy violations and certifying access. It can be incredibly labor-intensive and time-consuming to carry out these tasks manually, which ultimately leads to an increase in operational expenses. You can simplify compliance audits considerably by automating these operations.

identity analytics

Why do we need identity analytics?

Cyberattacks continue to increase around the world. In fact, there were approximately 2,244 attacks every day in 2021. This statistic shows why businesses need to put cybersecurity at the forefront of their plans when it comes to protecting their organizations.

However, companies find themselves in a very difficult position. On one hand, today’s companies must manage a large number of access privileges across a whole host of applications for every user. On the other hand, cyber breaches resulting from stolen credentials are rising in frequency. Clearly, a business’s user identities and the entitlements they have represent a large pool of risk.

To effectively investigate and assess the risk that user identities and their entitlements pose, organizations need identity analytics.

Uses for identity analytics tools

There are a number of different use cases for identity analytics tools, and we are going to take a look at the main ones below so that you can get a better understanding.

Reduce risk with adaptive authentication

We are sure that you have noticed that multi-factor authentication (MFA) is being widely implemented across applications today. This approach demands that a user verifies their digital identity by authenticating themselves using a minimum of two factors rather than just their user credentials. 

With the extra layers of verification, security is improved. However, when there is MFA implemented across the organization, this typically presents a burden for the users who are going about their everyday responsibilities. Therefore, this can have a negative impact on productivity and user experience. 

With an adaptive authentication solution, real-time user risk assessments are carried out. Users will be prompted to supply extra authentication elements only if their risk is perceived to be high. What this means is that you are going to be able to enhance security without usability being compromised, and identity analytics makes this possible by determining a user’s risk before access is requested. 

Monitoring dormant and terminated account use

Terminated and dormant accounts must be purged frequently, yet occasionally accounts are overlooked because of request backlogs or analyst oversight. Such accounts could (and often do) end up being misused for the purpose of gaining access to your systems.

Identity intelligence and analytics can be utilized so that unusual activities can be detected and the privileges of terminated and dormant accounts can be remediated. This will lower the risk of credential misuse happening, as well as enhancing the risk posture of your business by removing high-risk and unused credentials. 

Detect separation of duty (SOD) violations  

Another reason why identity analytics tools are important is that they can help in terms of detecting separation of duty (SOD) violations. SOD is an internal security policy that makes sure that no single person has full control over an entire process or resource. For example, developers should not have admin privileges for production databases because, should the developer change the source code and the program ends up becoming unstable, security updates and patches in the future will not be effective. 

SOD violations happen when there are user accounts that have access permissions that conflict with their prescribed levels. They pose a security risk because it means that there are people within the organization who can potentially end up tampering with data or applications without any detection or warning. 

By using an identity analytics solution, software can disable access to an account automatically whenever a SOD violation is detected. The appropriate team can then be notified. 

Identity analytics tools make sure that SOD violations are detected swiftly, and that the reason behind every violation is discovered. Managers will have increased visibility into the entitlements of every account and the users’ access permissions. With improved visibility from identity analytics, managers are able to make better decisions with regard to access requests. 

Discover orphaned accounts

An orphaned account is an account that has lingered in the system once the users linked to the account have left them, for example, an account belonging to an ex-employee. An account like this is risky and ripe for compromise. 

With the assistance of an identity analytics solution that sources identities across identity providers and HR systems, you will be able to identify actions that cannot otherwise be traced back to certain real users within the organization. These accounts can then be revoked, ensuring security is increased while licensing expenses are lowered. 

Improve security and monitoring of accounts with privileges 

There are two main kinds of privileged accounts that can be found in businesses: 

  • The first is used by system processes or applications to interact with the operating system, i.e. “service accounts”
  • The second is the various user accounts that have administrative privileges, i.e. “admin accounts”

Cybercriminals target accounts like this because they can give them easy access to your company’s sensitive information.

With identity analytics solutions, you can uncover unused privileged entitlements with ease, and you can spot changes in privileged accounts, for example, credential sharing attempts and privilege escalation. 

User and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) is a solution used for the purpose of detecting unusual user actions. Machine learning is applied by UEBA to generate a normal baseline of activities, which are specific to each account, and then deviations from the established baseline can be detected. When this happens, the best identity analytics platforms will enable notifications to be sent to concerned parties.

For example, think about when a user account in Active Directory (AD) is provided with just one administrative privilege when it is provisioned. Should this account suddenly accumulate a number of different privileges and start deleting child objects, modifying owners, resetting passwords, and so on, then the UEBA is going to determine that these activities are abnormal. The account will then be flagged as suspicious and alerts will be sent out to concerned personnel. 

Identity analytics solutions give IT and security analysts the ability to configure automated responses, such as disabling access temporarily, whenever unusual activity is detected. 

Risk-based access certifications

In today’s businesses and organizations, a lot of users typically have excessive access privileges. However, it can take a lot of time to review each of these privileges manually. This can lead to fast, rubber-stamped approvals, with possible security concerns being overlooked. 

Identity analytics systems can provide contextual risk scores for users based on a number of sources, including peer group analysis, application usage data, and user behavior. Some solutions even provide entitlement-level risk scores. 

You can configure analytics tools so that managers receive notifications about high-risk user profiles only. This will drastically lower the time managers must spend on certification campaigns. 

As the majority of identity analytics tools offer a context-rich consolidated view of a user’s entitlement data which is collated from numerous applications and systems, managers are able to perform more successful certifications. 

Find and remove any excessive permissions 

In an ideal world, users should only be able to access resources that are relevant to their job roles, be it services, applications, directories, or servers. However, a lot of users end up having excessive permissions due to a number of different reasons.

This could be because they were granted a special permission to carry out a certain task, yet this permission was never removed. It could be because a person has switched roles or because they were promoted. 

With identity analytics, there will be a review of all access privileges based on application usage patterns and user behavior. If there is a profile that has excessive access permissions, this will likely be flagged, and it will be subject to quick removal of any access privileges that are not deemed necessary. 

Make critical decisions about your business with identity analytics

Identity analytics helps decision-makers like CISOs and CIOs to comprehend and predict the effects of identity and access management on their organization. This is done by gathering critical information regarding user behavior and key factors relevant to them, for example, trust, reputation, risk exposure, and costs.

For example, decision-makers at your company can determine whether or not you need to invest in additional capabilities, and how or whether your enterprise workforce would be impacted by any such security implementation.

Secure all areas of your business

The risk of a data breach is very real, and it is something all businesses, no matter how big or small, need to be concerned with.

You can identify and prevent these attacks with identity analytics 

Phishing, social engineering, account takeovers, and insider theft are just some of the risks for which identity analytics can be used to minimize threats.

Some of the different types of solutions that you can implement within a business that depends on identity analytics include:

  • Detecting anomalies in user behavior
  • Detecting compromised attacks
  • Anti-password brute force attacks
  • Anti-phishing mechanics

It is critical to make sure your business is secured from cyber attacks in order to keep the reputation of your company, save time and cost, and gain the trust of your clients. 

Identity analytics cannot only be used for the purpose of preventing attacks but also for the sake of enhancing security processes and security flows within your business. As an example, by assessing the access patterns that have been found from identity analytics, you can determine where you need extra security measures. 

Ultimately, identity analytics can be utilized for the purpose of lowering the risk and enhancing security compliance. 

Put risk-based authentication in place

You can use identity analytics to dynamically manage all of your access decisions, and also to intelligently manage and identify user risk profiles based on how they use applications. This will lower the manual effort that is needed, as well as enhance how accurate your security operations are.

Identity analytics can be utilized for the purpose of evaluating the risk score of every user by using transactional data, and this score can then be used for implementing adaptive authentication.

We mentioned adaptive authentication earlier, as this has evolved from MFA, whereby authentication steps are configured and deployed in a manner which decides what steps to prompt throughout the authentication process, depending on the risk profile of the user and their behavior.

Characteristics identified from the analytics data, for example, time of the day, device type, location or region, and such can be used for the purpose of implementing adaptive authentication or enhancing the security and the user experience.

Effective identity threat analysis

Next, we take a look at how identity analysis plays a critical role in terms of threat analysis at your business. Threat analysis involves determining which elements of the system should be protected, and also the sort of security threats that these components ought to be protected from.

Businesses are able to define a threat model by making the most of identity analytics, for example, by determining behavioral user patterns, the geographical distribution of users, the number of super users in the system, and also the number of active (and inactive) users in the system. Furthermore, machine learning and artificial intelligence can be used to define these threat models by making the most of analytics data.

Protecting against the threat of fraud and social engineering

LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook are a vital ‘hunting ground’ for identity thieves and social engineering. Incredibly detailed profiles of a person, including their place of work, department, name, and city-leve address can be created from social media accounts. Many threat actors piece together identities using social media, with the goal of getting access to corporate systems to carry out their fraudulent or illegal activities. 

This highlights the importance of being extra cautious when online nowadays. People need to think about the details they share online, and you should check your privacy levels to ensure high levels of security.

How you could be putting your ID at risk

Enterprise credential theft is rife at the moment. Unfortunately, we live in a day and age whereby we need to do all in our power to protect our information. You could be putting your identity at risk without realizing it.

Nowadays, threat actors use social media to get the information they need to assume someone’s workforce identity. They find out an individual’s birthday, address, and full name, for example, and then piece together, guess, or brute force the rest. Thus, you should avoid using passwords that can be guessed with ease, such as your birthday or your pet’s name. Instead, use a combination of lowercase letters, uppercase letters, numbers, and special characters, and make sure you do not share passwords for your social media accounts, email or smartphone. 

How identity analytics leads to identity threat detection

Identity analytics can be used for the purpose of determining a behavioral baseline for the normal user’s activities, as well as any anomalies. Combining historical data with the use of predictive analytics leads to the best threat detection fidelity. 

Artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms are constantly developed and optimized to detect identity threats. For example, machine learning algorithms are able to model the normal behavior of events, and then anomalies can be detected as deviations from the modeled typical behavior in real time. 

Enhance identity and access management at your business

Identity hygiene is a key benefit of identity analytics. By keeping your identity and access management program clear from pooled identity risks, your organization can focus on more growth opportunities.

Over the long term, this is going to help in terms of saving time and costs within your business, increasing productivity, and lowering risk. With a clear view of your IAM program, you can use this information to determine the security procedures that will best match your organizational and business needs. 

For example, you can use identity analytics for the purpose of enhancing or improving the following procedures so that you can enjoy all of the benefits mentioned above:

  • Define processes for handling untrusted data
  • Monitor specific accounts
  • Optimize access request and approval processes
  • Simplify role management procedures
  • Define the threat model for your business 

Final thoughts on identity analytics

We hope that this guide has helped you to get a better understanding of what to expect from identity security analytics, and why these solutions are so important today. Here at Oort, we can help you if your IAM is a mess. The Oort identity threat detection and response platform gives you 360-degree visibility into your identities so that you can improve identity security right away.

If you would like to find out more about the Oort platform, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our team for more information. Or, start a free trial of Oort and clean up your enterprise identity mess in 30 days or less.