Imagine having the power to scrutinize user permissions with the finesse of a master locksmith, uncovering hidden backdoors and granting access only to the deserving. Sounds great, right? However, in order to do that, we need to first start our process with a User Access Review (UAR).
As cloud adoption continues to surge ahead, User Access Reviews are increasingly becoming essential as part of any access management audit process. This necessity is punctuated by the fact that 33% of breaches have human error at their root, but it’s not always the user’s fault. Some employees are over-privileged without even realizing it, and it’s easy for inactive accounts to fly under the radar without regular auditing and UARs.
It’s no longer just about who is on your network; a UAR tackles the chaos by ensuring everyone has the right key to do their job – no more, no less. Beyond being a best practice, User Access Reviews are often mandated under regulatory frameworks.
Let’s decode the DNA of this essential template, discovering what a UAR is, why you need it, and how to do it.
What is a User Access Review?
A User Access Review (UAR) is a security and compliance process that ensures that only authorized individuals can access specific systems and data within an organization. Conducted periodically (e.g., monthly or quarterly) or during role changes, a User Access Review is an essential part of your cloud security toolkit, helping you create an inventory of user accounts and their privileges and verify their appropriateness based on job roles.
Managers or system owners often participate in the review to confirm the necessity of these privileges. The process identifies and rectifies inactive, duplicate, or overly privileged accounts, reducing the risk of unauthorized access and leaked secrets. UARs are crucial for meeting regulatory requirements like NIST and GDPR and maintaining a secure environment.
Why Do You Need to Do a User Access Review?
Imagine an intern with more access rights than your CEO – it’s not a crazy or far-fetched idea. Organizations often grant access rights but neglect the importance of revocation. This leads to something called privilege creep, where permissions accumulate as employees transition roles, support other teams, or simply navigate their tasks.
Unfortunately, the accumulation of access rights is a ticking time bomb, as excessive privileges expose your organization to the cycle of compromised identities, account takeover, misuse of privileges, and other threats. Regularly auditing who has access to certain resources allows organizations to better defend against internal and external threats – after all, it only takes one disgruntled employee to trigger a significant data leak.
A User Access Review offers a way to maintain accountability, visibility, and data integrity across your organization, eliminating cloud identity risk. While having the exact permissions they need helps streamline employees’ workflows, visibility into active, inactive, and redundant accounts is particularly valuable in forensic investigations following data breaches or during employee transitions.
Download the Free User Access Review Checklist
Which Standards Require User Access Review
Access reviews aren’t just a choice; they are a mandate dictated by various IT frameworks:
- ISO 27001: Achieving ISO 27001 certification requires organizations to demonstrate a commitment to systematically managing and protecting sensitive information and data.
- GDPR: Europe’s data protection regulation emphasizes limiting access to personal data to individuals with a legitimate interest. This necessitates audits of who can access personal data, reinforcing compliance.
- NIST: The NIST Cybersecurity Framework is a voluntary guideline for cybersecurity best practices, and its special publications, like 800-53 and 800-171, stress auditing accounts for compliance.
- PCI DSS: The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard ensures that all organizations that accept, process, store, or transmit cardholder information meet strict access control and cybersecurity compliance requirements.
The Essential User Access Review Template
From creating an access policy and involving stakeholders to embracing the principle of least privilege, here are the essential steps you can take to complete a User Access Review.
Regularly Update Your Access Management Policy
You can continually review and update your access management policy to reflect organizational changes, new technologies, or compliance requirements. Establish a schedule for these reviews, such as quarterly or biannually, to ensure the policy remains current and effective. You can also get everyone involved and consult with departments like IT, HR, and legal during a policy update to ensure it is comprehensive and aligns with all organizational needs.
Review the User Access Audit Procedure
Keep your processes agile by continually assessing how you conduct User Access Reviews. Firstly, you can revisit your audit procedures to ensure they align with current best practices and regulatory requirements. Secondly, make sure you know what data you’ll collect, how you’ll analyze it, and what metrics will indicate success or issues. Finally, you can utilize audit software or tools that provide detailed logs and real-time monitoring capabilities to streamline the audit procedure.
Implement Role-based Access Control
Use Role-based Access Control (RBAC) to assign permissions based on roles within the organization. This makes managing and reviewing access rights easier, as employees changing roles can simply be switched from one predefined role to another, aligning access with job responsibilities. Periodically re-evaluate the roles and associated permissions to ensure they remain aligned with changing job responsibilities and organizational structures.
Involve Regular Employees and Management
While it’s your job as DevOps, CISO, SecOps, or IAM engineer to prioritize access control, it’s also everybody’s concern – yep, right down to the interns and temp staff. Be sure to include both regular employees and management in the review process to get a 360-degree view of access needs and usage. Management can confirm which access levels are appropriate for specific job roles, while employees can identify potentially unnecessary or missing access privileges. Structured interviews or surveys can help gather insights about access needs and potential security risks.
Document Each Step of the Process
Thorough documentation is your ally in understanding challenges and optimizing the review process. Maintaining comprehensive documentation of the User Access Review is critical for audit trails and future reviews. As a bare minimum, you should record who was involved in each step, what changes were made, and why, as well as any anomalies or issues that arose and how they were addressed. Securely store the documentation in a centralized repository that is only accessible to authorized personnel (of course!) to maintain confidentiality and integrity.
Educate Your Personnel
You don’t know what you don’t know, right? All employees should be aware of the importance of proper access management for security and compliance. Provide training on requesting access, reporting issues, and understanding the impact of access controls on data security. Implement regular refresher courses and updates to keep the workforce on top of any changes in policy or emerging security threats, and pair the training with other cybersecurity know-how sessions like phishing simulations.
Choose the Right Access Management Platform
You can choose an access management platform to automate privilege management and help meet compliance goals. The right platform will facilitate reviews, manage role-based access controls, and offer features like automated alerts for suspicious activity or non-compliance. Most companies are already jumping on board – this year, 65% of large enterprises will use IAM software to enhance security measures and make compliance easier. For example, some platforms (like Rezonate) help you see IAM problems and solutions by discovering, profiling, and protecting human and machine identities, automatically and proactively enforcing real-world least privileged access.
Get a Complete Picture of Your Access Control Compliance
User Access Reviews have emerged as a critical weapon against unauthorized access and potential breaches, and the secret to success relies on the regularity and longevity of your IAM strategy. Thankfully, protecting identities and meeting regulatory targets doesn’t mean adding more tasks to your to-do list – simply automate it.
Rezonate simplifies compliance tasks by enabling Admins to easily confirm that each user has the correct access rights for their job, providing much-needed visibility over access journeys and the IAM map for confident real-time detection, response, and security.
Rezonate easily categorize and highlights dormant identities across the identity fabric – from workforce identities no longer active, to machine identities such as roles and access keys.
In addition to that, Rezonate enables simple a flow to review access of specific subsets or groups of identities based on specific attributes, such as:
- Identities that are members of the marketing team and can access the cloud providers such as Azure or AWS
- Identities that have Administrative privileges and can access SaaS applications such as Salesforce
- Identities that did not login for more than 30 days and can access specific service on the cloud provider such as RDS in AWS
Rezonate’s Identity Centric for Access Review
All is done automatically as part of Rezonate’s Identity discovery and effective privileges modules which enables Access Reviews in a click of a button. See Rezonate in action today.