Securing Remote Operations with Digital Identity Management

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The global pandemic has required organizations across every industry to either accelerate existing digital transformation initiatives or completely overhaul their operating models. This has meant setting up fully functioning internal and external remote operations, from workforces to supply chains, in a very short timeframe.

Unsurprisingly, hackers have wasted no time to exploit the situation. In fact, over the past four months, the cyberattack surface has expanded significantly.

For instance, new research examining the behavior of cyber-criminals over the course of the outbreak demonstrates a sharp rise in cyber-attacks in March, before “settling into a new normal” in June where attacks were higher than before the pandemic.

These changes are by no means short term: the face of work has transformed forever. Most companies will begin to offer a remote working option, for example, even as social distancing rules loosen. A main challenge for organizations now is figuring out how to run remote operations securely and efficiently, as new and malicious threats are rapidly introduced into the cybersecurity landscape.

Getting digital identity management right is a key part of the puzzle. Looking ahead, establishing identity-centric practices will be crucial for helping businesses navigate the process of becoming digital first, while at the same time ensuring privacy by design.

The identity challenges

Recently, business survival for many has depended on quickly adapting to an environment where everything is digital. This has had a large impact on employees, customers, partners and suppliers, and has, in turn, led to a host of identity-specific challenges.

The mass shift to remote working, for instance, has blurred the lines between the behavior of internal users (employees) and external users (partners, contractors, or customers). To allow employees to work from home, access rights to sensitive resources need to be available through the public internet via VPNs or cloud-based solutions.

Under “normal” circumstances, many businesses relied on traditional workforce Identity and Access Management (IAM). In a lot of cases, however, managing a remote workforce with these legacy systems can be difficult as they are complicated to use – a problem which is compounded by the fact that employees do not have easy access to IT teams.

This does not just apply to interactions with employees, but also those with partners and suppliers. To keep supply chains functioning, supply chain access needs to be available remotely, which involves implementing digital technologies such as electronic signature software. As supply chains are further digitized, they will become an increasingly attractive target to hackers – a trend which was already rising pre-pandemic.

From a consumer perspective, despite the reopening of physical stores and some face-to-face services, customers will still rely on digital experiences more than ever before. There has been an uptick in online accounts registered, and where users have old accounts, these will continue to be revisited, which often requires a reset of old identity credentials and leaves them vulnerable to malicious actors.

CIAM offers a solution to the now blurred lines between internal and external users

Through implementing Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) functionality, businesses can not only overcome these identity challenges such as the blurring lines between internal and external users, but also cut costs and create a competitive advantage. 

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is a good example for highlighting how the CIAM approach differs from the legacy approach: office workers often have little choice but to use awkward MFA devices, with IT helpdesk support on hand to deal with queries.

External users, however, require simple MFA solutions that are difficult to lose. Delivered by CIAM functionality, these include phone-based apps and password-less log-ins.

Single Sign-On (SSO) is another valuable CIAM capability. Created for the use of the external user (remote employees and customers), SSO allows those interacting with it to move through new connected services with a single set of identity credentials. This way, the risk of compromise is reduced, and support desk costs can be cut.

What’s more, as we look to reduce face-to-face interactions, digital alternatives must replace traditional ways to validate an identity or delegate authority to third parties, which CIAM can also provide.

With self-service identity management embedded into every function, CIAM is key for increasing usability and reducing manual workloads – having positive implications on security, costs and competitive differentiation.

How IDaaS can help

However, it is also important that businesses focus on the deployment process of identity functionality, especially as teams are under pressure to integrate B2B and B2C identity features into services at a rapid pace.

One way to simplify the process, reduce workloads and increase security is to implement Identity-as-a-Service (IDaaS) solutions – cloud-based authentication and identity software or APIs already proven and mature, and delivered as Software-as-a-Service.

These solutions allow teams to embed standards-based identity management features into apps securely and seamlessly, without reinventing the wheel each time. The on-demand expertise provided by APIs reduces the risk of data breaches caused by employee-led error, and ensures businesses are adhering to the principle of privacy by design.

As organizations everywhere transition to become digital-first, paying close attention to identity practices will be vital. To ensure future success, it is critical that efficient and user-friendly digital identity management, combined with robust security and detection practices, is a permanent aspect of all business planning.

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