Tips From the Trenches: Using Identity and Access Management to Increase Organizational Efficiencies and Reduce Risk

Tips From the Trenches: Using Identity and Access Management to Increase Efficiencies and Reduce Risk

As a security company, it’s imperative that we uphold high standards in every aspect of our security program. One of the most important and foundational of these areas is our Identity and Access Management (IAM) program. As part of Code42’s approach to this program, we have identified guiding principles that have a strong focus on automation. Below is an outline of our journey.

IAM guiding principles

Every IAM program should have guiding principles with HR, IT and security. Here are a few of ours:

1. HR would become the source of truth (SoT) for all identity lifecycle events, ranging from provisioning to de-provisioning.

The initial focus was to automate the provisioning and de-provisioning process, then address the more complex transfer scenario at a later phase. HR would trigger account provisioning when an employee or contractor was brought onboard, and shut off access as workers left the company. Further, the HR system would become authoritative for the majority of identity related attributes for our employees and contractors. This allowed us to automatically flow updates made to an individual’s HR record (e.g. changes in a job title or manager) to downstream connected systems that previously required a Help Desk ticket and manual updates.

2. Our objectives would not be met without data accuracy and integrity.

In-scope identity stores such as Active Directory (AD) and the physical access badge system had to be cleansed of legacy (stale) and duplicate user accounts before they were allowed to be onboarded into the new identity management process. Any user account that could not be matched or reconciled to a record in the SoT system was remediated. Although a rather laborious exercise, this was unquestionably worth it in order to maintain data accuracy.

3. Integrate with existing identity infrastructure wherever possible.

We used AD as our centralized Enterprise Directory, which continues to function as the bridge between on-prem and cloud identity broker, Okta. Integrating with AD was of crucial importance as this would allow us to centrally manage access to both on-premise and cloud based applications. When a worker leaves the company, all we need to do is ensure the user account is disabled in AD, which in turn disables the person’s access in Okta.

Once we had agreement on our guiding principles, it was time to start the design and implementation phase. We built our solution using Microsoft’s Identity Manager (MIM) because our IAM team had used Microsoft’s provisioning and synchronization engine in the past and found it to be easy to configure with many built-in connectors and extendable via .NET.  

IAM implementation phases

Identity in every organization is managed through a lifecycle. Below are two of the identity phases we have worked through and the solutions we built for our organization:

1. Automating provisioning and deprovisioning is key, but can also cause challenges.

One challenge we had was a lag between a new employee starting and employee records being populated in systems that act as the source of truth. This doesn’t allow lead time to provision a user account and grant access for the incoming worker. We solved this obstacle by creating an intermediate “SoT identity” database that mirrors the data we receive from our HR system. From there, we were able to write a simple script that ties to our service desk and creates the necessary database entry.

The next challenge was to automate the termination scenario. Similar to most companies, our HR systems maintain the user record long past an employee’s departure date for compliance and other reasons. Despite this, we needed a way to decommission the user immediately at time of departure. For this, we developed a simple Web Portal that allows our Helpdesk and HR partners to trigger termination. Once a user is flagged for termination in the Portal, the user’s access is automatically disabled by the identity management system. De-provisioning misses are a thing of the past!

2. Re-design and improve the access review process.

This phase aims to replace our current manual, spreadsheet-based, quarterly access certification process with a streamlined process using the built-in review engine in the identity management tool.

Implementing IAM at Code42 has been an awesome experience; and with the impending launch of the request portal, this year will be even more exciting! No matter how far along you are in your IAM implementation journey, I hope the concepts shared here help you along the way.