By Vishnu TJ, Associate Director – Identity & Access Management at Happiest Minds Technologies, shortlisted for the Best Identity Access Management (IAM) / Single Sign-On (SSO) category at The Cloud Security Awards 2023

As the digital aspirations of businesses are expanding rapidly, organizations are trying various digital approaches to maximize the utilization of their resources and stay ahead of their competitors. However, the risk associated with any digital transformation is well known, particularly in cybersecurity, and it will continue as the technology grows. Businesses must confront and address the evolving landscape of cyber threats.

The Evolving Role of CIOs and CISOs: Navigating Identity and Access Management Challenges

The role of CIO (Chief Information Officer) & CISO (Chief Information Security Officer), once limited to solely managing an organization’s information systems, has now changed. It has become crucial for them to get involved in business planning and strategic decision-making. Hence, collaboration with MSSPs (Managed Security Service Providers) and the larger partner has become essential to CIOs/CISOs’ objectives.

It is expected that the global managed security services market is projected to generate $77.01 billion by 2030, producing a compound growth rate (CAGR) of 12.8%.Allied Market Research

The increasing adoption of cloud, pandemic-driven remote work, and BYOD systems have increased the number of identities that must be managed many folds. IT leaders are under tremendous pressure to implement a robust ‘Identity Security Program’, which can manage user identities, roles, and permissions securely and efficiently.

The complexity of Identity and Access Management (IAM) is increased by multifold with various other features like:

Best Identity Access Management or Single Sign On Solution category at The Cloud Security Awards

  • Advancements in Operational Technology (OT) with respect to improved connectivity for production data analysis, are not implemented with the security-by-design principle.
  • Overload of certificate-based interactions between non-human identities increases the relevance of automation in the Machine Identity Management space.
  • Gaining importance for Zero Trust architecture has increased the relevance of identity-based security for all security-related decision-making.
  • Applications and other services leveraging API connectivity introduce complexity from an authentication authorization perspective to leverage easily consumable IAM services during development.

It all starts with choosing the right IAM MSSP who can cut through the IAM complexity and provide a tailored solution that matches the business requirements and objectives.

If evaluated and chosen correctly, an MSSP partnership is expected to:

  • Help IT departments better secure their digital identity & enterprise assets
  • Allow IT to focus on critical business initiatives and not IAM & compliance
  • Assist IT in successful migration to the cloud, with strong IAM foundation & risks mitigated
  • Improve internal IT team morale and retention because IT departments that are not integrated into the business strategy are doomed to extinction or outsourcing
  • Reduce or replace people dependency in IAM program and make it more outcome/deliverables based.
  • Align all IAM operational and development activities with the business goals of the organization through a well-defined strategy.

Following are few best practices and value adds that a well aligned MSP can add to CIOs/CISOs charter and help them showcase return on investment and security enhancements expeditiously.

The MSP Approach and how CIOs/CISOs are benefitted

Consult before deployment

With the obvious quantitative ROI analysis, an Identity Security Program can demonstrate in terms of automation, end user experience, simplified audit etc., CIOs are forced and sometimes tempted to jump into a IAM implementation or modernization program through a ‘rip and replace’ of legacy IAM tools or a big bang deployment with commitment to deploy and onboard hundreds of applications with a stipulated time frame. However, they fail to understand the underlying pitfalls of such an approach that fails often due to:

  • Lack of future state definition
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Poor data quality
  • Choice of right products/OEMs

The MSP approaches implementation with a consultative, vendor agnostic mindset and spends quality time at the beginning laying foundation for the deployment phase. Few key vectors of the initial discovery/assessment phase are:

  1. Document the business requirements of organization with priorities, in alignment with the vision, mission and key initiatives from management perspective – customized use cases – other strategic programs in motion and pipeline
  2. Detailed discussions, whiteboard sessions, workshops with the key identified stakeholders to analyze application feasibility, current pain points, application roadmap etc.
  3. Risk matrix generation with impact and mitigation mapped against each identified risk & gap
  4. Evaluate data quality from key systems like HRMS (source of truth), enterprise directories and other systems of record.
  5. Detailed policy review with the internal GRC Team or vendors assisting internal and external audits.
  6. RBAC (role-based access control) maturity analysis
  7. Detailed product analysis against BRD (business requirement document) and recommendation that helps organizations choose the most suited product for IAM program.
  8. Strategic and phased implementation plan, roadmap, financial plan, communication, and organization-wide change management.

Center of Excellence (CoE) feedback loop into IAM program

IAM implementation and integration team members provided by MSSPs are highly skilled and come into your program with the wealth of similar industry vertical and use case experiences. Converged IAM, passwordless, machine identity management and other trends in IAM are continuously monitored and evaluated by the center of excellence (COE), and learnings are fed into the IAM program as feedback loops. This significantly enhances the alignment of program deliverables with the business objectives and being up to date with the ever-changing threat & technology landscape.

In addition to that, MSSP’s also have strong relationship and influence with leading IAM product vendors, that they contribute directly to product enhancements, roadmap discussions, and customer feedback into bug fixes.

Sustaining operations and automate routine tasks

With a robust project management and delivery methodology, IAM operations are formalized to secure and centralize access for applications, devices, and end-users in one place, offering predictable pricing and SLA-based deliverables/outcomes. The introduction of process streamlining and automation tools significantly reduces operational overhead by automating mundane tasks, even for legacy estate, resulting in a 30-40% reduction.

Furthermore, MSSPs have developed proven in-house solutions like factory-based application onboarding templates, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) etc. This helps organizations to include legacy and complex applications to be integrated to IAM process and bring them under governance framework’s purview.

Avoid Skill Gap challenges in IAM

Finding skilled resources to implement and manage your IAM program has been a challenge for CIOs/CISOs, and this often cripples the progress of the IAM adoption. MSSP manages and maintains pool of resources in various products and verticals and continuously invests in learning and development to manage attribution risk and skill gap in IAM.

Pay-as-you-use Model

Multiple packaged services and licensing options allow flexibility and predictability to ensure the program stays in allocated budgets with reduced capital and operational expenditure. Repeatability and existing knowledge base leveraged by MSP help enhance overall ROI. With this organizations will have reduced and optimized OpEx, and predictable CapEx.

Conclusion

As CIO’s demand more from Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) in the realm of Identity and Access Management (IAM), MSSP’s must step up to the challenge and serve as a trusted partner by delivering robust, future proof IAM solutions enabling organizations to navigate the evolving cybersecurity landscape with confidence.

Overall, the MSSP approach is not a tactical solution but rather a strategic enabler for CIO’s success. It allows them to align their Identity Security solution with business objectives, drive innovation, and maximize the value of technology investments. Leveraging the expertise and specialized services of MSSPs, CIOs can address critical areas associated with user identities and access management. By and large, MSSP route is the ideal and optimized way for CIOs to take advantage of the emerging technologies trends in IOT, BIG Data, AI, DevSecOps, Microservices etc., and address the increased executive board emphasis on Identity Security due to potential brand exposure even a minor breach can bring.

To know more about varied service offerings of Happiest Minds, please visit – https://www.happiestminds.com/.