Reducing IT Security Risks With Identity Management

Why an Identity Management System is Essential to Your Organization

Identity-related security breaches are major concerns for organizations. Due to rapid technological growth, identity is no longer "just" a user account. ‘Identity’ can consist of many devices, roles and entitlements. With the influx of these additional entities associated with an identity, enterprises can become vulnerable when these complex structured identities are not properly administered. Leveraging an identity management solution can mitigate IT security risks by eliminating orphan accounts, fixing poor password standards and providing auditing services.

Orphaned accounts, accounts that still have access to systems without a valid owner, can introduce potential security holes to an enterprise. Without prompt and thorough de-provisioning of terminated employees, stagnant accounts can grant unauthorized access to sensitive systems and provide information to unauthorized users.

An Identity Management (IDM) system can: 

  • Discover, continuously monitor and cleanse orphaned accounts from an organization
  • Reconcile accounts from various sources, such as databases, applications and directories, to find lingering orphaned accounts
  • Automate the deprovisioning process of orphaned accounts with well-defined workflows and policies, allowing for more consistent, coordinated and immediate removal, compared to a manual process, which is prone to mistakes

Poor password standards can put an organization at risk, as users with weak passwords are more susceptible to identity theft. In the worst case, an entire organization can be compromised if passwords of privileged accounts are exposed to intruders. As new applications are introduced to an organization, users often have numerous credentials, due to different password complexity rules between applications, and may result in users creating passwords that are not complex and easy to remember.

An IDM system can remedy these potential security risks. Password inconsistencies can be reduced by utilizing centralized password policies within an IDM system. In ForgeRock OpenIDM, for example, password policies can be scoped over groups of users. This allows for a tighter level of control on end-user authentication security, especially for high-risk groups who might need more frequent resets or more complex standards for password content and length.

Auditing user and group activity is essential for any organization, especially for meeting regulatory requirements. IDM systems can:

  • Centralize historical records, which can be crucial to debugging problems
  • Provide answers to questions such as “when was this account provisioned?” and “who approved the request?” in activity logs and database tables
  • Identify unusual or suspicious activity in real time

Oracle Identity Manager has functionality to define audit policies that detect and inform administrators of Segregation of Duty violations, constructing robust approval workflows to handle them.

IDM systems offer a multitude of benefits to an organization, not least of which is reducing critical security risks. Vendors such as Oracle and ForgeRock offer feature-rich and extensible IDM solutions that can complement existing environments with powerful governance tools. Consumers should decide which solution best meets their unique needs, bearing in mind that an IDM system is essential to the security and efficiency of an organization. 

Ray Chan is a Senior Systems Engineer at Hub City Media, with a focus in
developing Identity Management solutions. In his spare time, he enjoys building web applications.

ForgeRock. “White Paper: OpenIDM.” July 2015,
Guido, Rob. University Business. “Before the Breach: Leveraging Identity Management Technology to Proactively Address Security Issues.” February 2009,
Lee, Spencer. Sans Institute. “An Introduction to Identity Management.” March 11, 2003,
Lieberman, Philip. Identity Week. “Identity Management And Orphaned User Accounts.” January 30, 2013,
Oracle. “Oracle Identity Manager - Business Overview.” March 2013,
Prince, Brian. eWeek. “Old User Accounts Pose Current Security Risks for Enterprises.” May 5, 2008,
PWC, Inc. “How to use identity management to reduce the cost and complexity of Sarbanes-Oxley compliance*”. April 14, 2005