Overcoming the Security Challenges of Workforce Offboarding

by | Jul 12, 2023

We all know that onboarding a new employee or contractor involves creating a digital identity for them within our organizational ecosystems. This process provides them access to various applications, databases, networks, and systems necessary for their role. However, what happens when these individuals leave the organization?

Offboarding, or revoking the access rights and credentials of an outgoing employee, is a critical part of any organization’s identity and access management.

This blog post highlights the common pitfalls we often overlook in the offboarding process. Frequently, during offboarding, certain application or infrastructure accounts associated with the outgoing employee may be overlooked. These forgotten or “orphaned” accounts represent a significant security threat, as malicious actors can exploit them.

Let’s take a moment to recall the unfortunate cyber-attack on Colonial Pipeline in 2021. The attack, which resulted in a significant financial loss and a widespread gasoline shortage, was traced back to an unused VPN account of a former employee. Had proper offboarding procedures been in place, this event might have been avoided entirely.

So, where does automation come into play? Given the expanding digital landscape and the increasing number of applications employees interact with, automating offboarding seems like a sensible solution. It’s fast, it’s efficient, and it significantly reduces the risk of human error.

However, despite the promise of automation, there are still significant challenges that need to be addressed. Many companies have made efforts to automate their offboarding process, but these attempts often fall short due to the complexity of access governance. Not every application or system has an API to integrate with, some lack the functionalities required for offboarding, and the uniqueness of each system’s access rules can complicate the automation process.

In conclusion, while offboarding automation is an attractive solution, it still has its share of limitations and inadequacies. In the subsequent chapters, we’ll delve deeper into these issues, explore potential solutions, and discuss strategies for more effective and secure offboarding procedures.

Conventional Approach to Workforce Offboarding

Businesses have been striving to tackle the issue of user offboarding by automating the deep provisioning process. Under this system, when an employee or contractor departs, the HR department triggers a signal to various systems to initiate offboarding, removing their single sign-on access and invoking any existing provisioning systems to deep provision the respective accounts. This approach primarily leverages System for Cross-Domain Identity Management (SCIM), a cloud-based standard used for automating the exchange of user identity information between identity domains.

However, one significant challenge lurks beneath this seemingly obvious choice: incomplete coverage. While SCIM manages the provisioning and de-provisioning automation efficiently, its scope is restricted. It fails to cover all accounts comprehensively, particularly those outside of its purview. This shortcoming paves the way for the existence of unknown accounts outside the provisioning system. Often, such accounts are temporarily provided to users for specific projects and do not necessarily align with their core role or identity.

In essence, despite SCIM’s capabilities, security teams often remain in the dark regarding the full range of accounts, data, and permissions that individuals may have across diverse systems. Consequently, it becomes abundantly clear that the only effective solution lies in achieving full coverage. Therefore, organizations must aim for comprehensive coverage of all user accounts and permissions to ensure robust offboarding management processes.

Zilla Security: A Unified Offboarding Solution

The Zilla platform provides an intelligent, unified offboarding solution designed with the modern workplace in mind. It’s a system that recognizes the diverse, dispersed, and complex IT infrastructures of today’s businesses and has been built from the ground up to handle these complexities.

ZIla’s solution is engineered to grant organizations a crystal-clear, 100% visibility across all their applications and platforms. What does this mean for businesses? It offers them a sweeping, comprehensive view of user identity and security information drawn from a multitude of sources.

What makes Zilla unique is its focus on completeness and security. It is designed to identify all the applications, systems, and accounts associated with an employee, regardless of whether these are part of standard IAM tools, custom applications, or legacy systems. By doing so, Zilla ensures that no orphaned accounts are left behind during the offboarding process.

Unlike conventional platforms, Zilla doesn’t just stop at APIs or file imports. Its key differentiator lies in the proprietary “universal sync” technology. This feature allows the extraction of crucial security and user information from systems, even those lacking traditional interfaces. Such an inclusive approach transforms the Zilla repository into a reliable and comprehensive source of truth about access privileges across an organization.

But it’s not just about information gathering and visualization; the real power of Zilla shines in its ability to provide closed-loop remediation. This feature ensures that all requested changes are not just implemented, but their effectiveness and execution speed are also tracked and measured. As a result, organizations can minimize risk during times of change and guarantee timely security adaptations, solidifying their defense against potential threats.

Furthermore, Zilla features a user-friendly interface that simplifies management and oversight. Its dashboard offers a centralized view of all offboarding activities, providing real-time updates and comprehensive reports. This way, you can always be sure that offboarding tasks are completed properly and in a timely manner.

Finally, Zilla embraces flexibility. It can integrate with many applications and systems, whether through APIs, custom connectors, or its intelligent, automated mechanisms. Regardless of the diversity and complexity of your IT infrastructure, Zilla is equipped to handle it.

We Invite You to an In-Depth Zilla Platform Demonstration!

Our Senior Advisor and Product Strategist, Dan Peterson, recently gave a talk on the topic of secure workforce offboarding. The talk included a comprehensive demonstration of the Zilla platform showcasing the advantages it offers you in managing the offboarding process:

  • Platform Walkthrough: The Zilla platform is designed to be user-friendly, and this demonstration vividly showcased how its intuitive interface allows for a seamless navigation experience. Whether you’re an admin or a regular user, Zilla’s design ensures you can access and perform all required tasks without hassle. The walkthrough showcased how easy it is to become accustomed to the platform, minimizing the learning curve and thus saving users time and effort.
  • Active Account Management: This part of the demo highlighted how Zilla simplifies the process of identifying and handling active accounts associated with outgoing employees.
  • The Role of Policies: By automating policy enforcement, Zilla empowers users to establish, enforce, and monitor compliance with security policies without extensive manual effort.
  • Automatic Resolution of Findings: Zilla’s capacity to auto-resolve findings is a game-changer for users, as it minimizes errors and reduces the time between detection and resolution of security issues.
  • Custom Views and Audit Trails: With Zilla, users can customize their views to gain application-specific insights, which enhances their control and understanding of the offboarding process.

We invite you to watch the recording of Dan’s talk and see firsthand how Zilla is revolutionizing offboarding automation.

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