These days, the lines between user and system have begun to blur. In industries all around the world, personal identities are the login credentials employees and other users depend on to access vital tools, data, and resources. But with this shift comes certain dangers. Simply put, every user in your system represents a possible threat vector – security vulnerabilities that others may be able to exploit. And the more users in your system, the more at risk your organization may be.

Securing this ever-growing web of contacts and access points means first securing the identities of those who interact with it, without undermining their productivity or placing hurdles between them and the tasks they’re expected to perform. As such, effective identity security has become an essential factor in data security and access management. Here, we explore identity security: what it is, what advantages it offers, and how it can help protect your customers, your data, and your business. 

What Is Identity Security?

Identity security is a term that describes the various tools, strategies, and initiatives designed to protect and verify all different kinds of identities within an organization. This includes all human users at every level – from contractors and part-time employees all the way up through C-suite and executive users – as well as any machines or APIs with any level of access to company hardware, resources, data, or networks. 

At its heart, identity security is about recognizing that any or all of these identities may become privileged within the system, creating an attack path for malicious threats to follow. Effective identity security tools empower organizations with a unified, holistic solution, monitoring user access, detecting and identifying anomalies, and resolving security issues before they can lead to an identity-driven data breach.

Why Is Identity Security Important?

Cybersecurity is nothing new, and most businesses already have processes in place to alert IT security teams to attacks as they happen. Unfortunately, many identity attacks simply bypass these measures, using compromised identity credentials to verify authorization within the system. How many? Exact numbers can be difficult to determine, but a survey by Gartner and Radiant Logic reported that 84% of organizations have experienced an identity-related breach. The same survey also suggests that the majority of businesses view identity management as too costly and time-intensive to manage on an ongoing basis.

And while user identities have always been tied to enterprise system access, the shift to cloud computing and work-from-home models has made identity and security exponentially more complex. Cloud scale means the number of permissions and settings that need to be managed are humanly inconsumable. But with so much at risk, the need to authenticate and authorize each request has never been greater. 

And identity-driven breaches are on the rise. Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Cloud Security 2021 predicts that by 2025, over 99% of cloud breaches will be the direct result of preventable misconfigurations or mistakes by end users. 

In other words, identity security is more than just a worthwhile consideration; it’s a key aspect of modern data security. When threat actors find their way past other, more traditional digital security controls, identity security may be the last defense standing between them and malicious system access. It thus falls to the organizations to develop capable cyber security plans establishing identity security as a central element and integrating it within a reliable zero-trust architecture.

Identity Security vs. Zero Trust

Zero trust plays a vital role in effective identity security. A zero-trust security framework is an approach based on a simple concept: Never trust; always verify. Anytime a user attempts to access data, perform an action, or move throughout your system, that user’s identity is continuously challenged and validated.

Zero trust not only creates essentially unlimited security checkpoints standing between threats and unrestricted system access, but it also limits privileged access for authorized users – giving them only what they need, when they need it, and removing privileged access when that need is satisfied.

Identity security embodies this approach, applying advanced technologies and strategies to support a zero-trust framework.

How Is Identity Security Used?

Although on the surface identity security may seem like a strategy for blocking access, the reality is that identity security is an effective and reliable access enabler. Employees, customers, and other users who have the authorization to operate within your system enjoy secure, verified access free from the danger of having their identity credentials misused. Using a single sign-on and adaptive multi-factor authentication, your customers and workforces can count on a seamless experience free from the threat of compromise, regardless of where, when, or from what device the user chooses to access the application or resource. 

Additionally, Privileged Access Management (PAM) makes it possible to secure privileged credentials in any computing environment, including in the cloud or within on-premises servers. This allows organizations to continuously identify and manage privileged accounts, monitor sessions, and address unauthorized or risk-heavy activities wherever they occur. AI-enhanced PAM security features discover and remediate unused or misconfigured privileges. Remote vendors are likewise tracked and limited in terms of what they can access within the system, automatically restricted from encountering sensitive data and IT assets, without the need for cumbersome passwords or VPNs. 

Development teams also benefit from identity security. Identity security allows DevOps to continue to innovate, accessing privileged information and securely authenticating and controlling how tools use sensitive resources. Third-party DevOps software is similarly secured, with their credentials properly managed and authenticated to allow them to provide full functionality to DevOps teams without compromising security. 

Benefits of Identity Security

The purpose of identity security – to prevent identity-driven breaches – allows businesses to better secure their networks and data against attacks using stolen or misused identity credentials. The result? A wide range of advantages divided into three main categories:

Stopping Attacks

Ensuring that only authorized users have access to sensitive data and systems prevents identity-driven attacks before they occur. Through zero-trust and careful control over access rights, organizations can keep unauthorized actors away from valuable IT resources. Every identity is given least-privilege access and nothing more.

Safeguarding Remote Environments

Cloud-based computing environments and remote-work models gain the benefits of secure computing and data access. Companies that incorporate these environments can do so without risking the security of their digital resources.

Streamlining the Customer Experience

Users at all levels can move through systems and applications easily, without constantly having to provide passwords to validate customer or workforce identities. This creates a more satisfying user experience, both internally and externally.

Improving Security

Taken all together, these benefits help ensure a more effective security posture. Businesses can more effectively utilize their digital resources and provide system access to users who qualify while preventing identity-driven breaches.

Building Identity Security with Zilla

Today’s digital enterprise environments may feel like a double-edged sword: You need to provide users with access to necessary resources, but you also need to limit system privileges wherever possible. Identity security is the answer. As an essential factor in modern data security and access management, identity security gives your users the freedom to perform authorized tasks even as you minimize your risk of experiencing an identity-driven breach. But not all identity security solutions offer the same levels of protection or usability.

Zilla Identity Security delivers complete identity security and compliance, combining comprehensive identity governance, cloud security, and access management on a single platform. Backed by advanced automation that eliminates manual, error-prone processes, Zilla provides least-privilege security and total visibility for an intuitive and secure experience at all levels. Click here to learn more about identity security with Zilla. And if you’re ready to see what the right identity security solution can mean for your business, start your free trial today!