The urgent need for Identity & Access Management at Universities and Educational Institutions

Cyber threats can affect any educational setting, from elementary schools to universities, whether online or brick-and-mortar. Limited resources, budget constraints, outdated software, and inadequate security systems, cause some of the biggest risks. 

Education ranks as the fifth most targeted industry for security breaches in the United States, with more than 1600 publicly disclosed cyberattacks on schools between 2016 and 2022. Just last year, a security lapse in India’s Education Ministry app, Diksha, exposed millions of students’ and teachers’ personally identifying information due to an unprotected cloud server storing the data.

With the increasing adoption of technology in education, and even more so after the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for Identity & Access Management (IAM) systems is now vital for security and productivity at educational institutions.

But first, what are the unique challenges in IAM for educational institutions?

Diverse user base

Educational institutions cater to a diverse range of users including students, faculty, staff, administrators, and sometimes even external collaborators. Managing identities and access rights for such a diverse user base can be complex.

Outdated IT systems

Limited IT budgets result in legacy systems that are challenging to maintain, costly to fix, and may lack effective customer service. They also pose security risks due to outdated infrastructure. Users with multiple roles face challenges as each role is treated as a separate ID, leading to multiple credentials and fragmented access.

Remote learning

The rise of remote learning and the prevalence of BYOD or Bring Your Own Device policies have introduced additional difficulties in managing identities and securing access to resources. Educational institutions must ensure secure access to resources from any location and on any device while maintaining data privacy and security.

Data breach risks

Educational institutions handle large amounts of personal and sensitive information, including academic records, personal information, and research data making them prime targets for data breaches. Maintaining data security is essential for building trust and preventing breaches or leaks.

Changing user roles

Colleges and universities frequently onboard and offboard thousands of new users or new students each semester, each of whom require access to university resources before arriving on campus. Also, access for graduating students needs to be disabled promptly. Also, colleges handle transient users on a massive scale, including students taking semesters off and contingent faculty.

Manual provisioning and de-provisioning

Manual provisioning and de-provisioning of user access leads to high costs, security threats, and help desk overload. Manual authorization workflows for user access are prone to delays, mistakes, and compliance/security concerns. IT staff are responsible for frequently authorizing access requests, leading to inefficiencies. Also, there is a lack of auditing.

No integration with cloud-based platforms

Educational institutions face challenges integrating IAM systems with cloud-based platforms. The absence of dedicated IT help desk teams results in an increased workload for IT staff to resolve password and account unlock requests.

How can IAM address these challenges?

Centralized management and access

IAM solutions provide a centralized platform for managing user identities, authentication, and authorization. This helps to streamline user provisioning, de-provisioning, and access management across the institution, reducing administrative overhead. 

For users too, with a single sign-on provided by an IAM platform, all applications are brought onto a single platform. This eliminates the hassle of multiple passwords and logins and makes the login process fast and effortless.

Automated provisioning and de-provisioning

A comprehensive IAM solution like Akku automates the process of provisioning and de-provisioning user accounts based on predefined rules and policies. 

This ensures users have timely access to resources they need and access is revoked promptly upon role changes or departure from an institution, reducing the risk of unauthorized access. Also, IAM solutions implement role-based access. This granular control ensures users have access only to resources necessary for their job functions.

Learn-from-anywhere security

IAM solutions often go beyond user permissions to access applications. For example, Akku offers extensive access management features that let you permit access to your institution’s resources only from specific whitelisted network IP addresses, or only from whitelisted devices.

Suspicious login attempts can also be identified and flagged when a user attempts to log in from an unfamiliar location or at an unexpected time.

Multi-factor authentication (MFA)

Many IAM solutions offer MFA capabilities, adding an extra layer of security beyond passwords. By requiring users to authenticate using multiple factors such as passwords, biometrics, or one-time codes, MFA helps prevent unauthorized access even if credentials are compromised.

Akku makes implementation of MFA effortless and cost-effective with a range of authentication factors to choose from, including passwordless authentication.

Integration with LMS and other education-specific platforms

IAM solutions integrate with LMS platforms and other applications used in educational settings, which allows for single sign-on (SSO) capabilities, enabling users to access multiple resources with a single set of credentials, thereby enhancing user experience and productivity.

With Akku, the process of integration is effortless with plug-and-play connectors to over 500 popular applications.

Auditing and compliance reporting

An end-to-end IAM solution like Akku provides robust auditing and reporting capabilities, allowing institutions to monitor user activity, track access privileges, and generate compliance reports. Akku’s Smart Analytics dashboard provides clear visibility across the institution’s users as well as intelligent insights on unused application licenses, provisioned user access, and more.

 

IAM solutions can help educational institutions improve security, streamline administrative processes, and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements, enabling a safer learning environment for students and staff. Akku’s IAM solutions are tailored to meet these unique challenges, so reach out to us today so we can help you stay secure.

The AI Revolution: Transforming Cybersecurity

Author: Dinesh

Reading Time: 3 mins

In the past few months, it seems that any conversation you tune in to – be it related to business, entertainment or technology – connects back to artificial intelligence in some way. It’s the buzzword that’s got everyone talking, and with good reason. The recent advances in natural language processing have made it even easier for laypeople to engage with the tech, and it appears that AI is revolutionizing every field it touches, from web development to digital marketing and even cybersecurity technology.

Here’s a few ways that AI is impacting the world of cybersecurity management.

User behavior tracking

AI-powered IAMs can use user behavior analytics to identify ‘normal’ user behavior patterns, and detect deviations or anomalies. AI algorithms undertake continuous analysis of user activity to identify baseline patterns and trends. On this basis, they can flag unusual activity such as unusual login locations or times. As these anomalies may indicate account compromise or fraud, this advance warning lets companies respond promptly.

Threat detection

Using AI in identity and access management, you can automatically analyze significant volumes of threat intelligence data to identify anomalous behavior or patterns. You can even integrate with threat intelligence feeds for real-time security information and threat detection.

 

By analyzing data such as user behavior, network traffic and logs, AI-powered systems can learn and understand normal user behavior. They are thus able to detect deviations from this norm. The cybersecurity solution can flag suspicious access, fraudulent activity or account compromise, and AI-powered cybersecurity can be trained to block unauthorized access.

 

Through machine learning, AI in cybersecurity and AI in network security can identify potential vulnerabilities before they’re exploited. This form of proactive threat detection helps businesses better protect their systems. By analyzing code patterns, behavior and other indicators of compromise, malware detection improves in terms of speed and accuracy.

Intelligent identity and access management

An AI PAM (Privileged Access Management) experience is enhanced by the AI-powered security identity management solution. By monitoring and analyzing privileged user activity, the tool can recommend least privilege principles. This reduces the risk of privilege abuse and insider threats. With contextual information such as user roles, locations and networks, the tool can make more informed decisions pertaining to access control. Dynamic access management helps businesses enforce highly specific access policies. You can adapt access privileges based on circumstance. 

Innovative and adaptive authentication management

With AI-powered IAM systems, you can implement more secure and user-friendly authentication methods, such as behavioral, voice-based, or risk-based authentication. Based on user behavior and device information, AI algorithms can assess risk levels in real-time. This way, you can enable adaptive authentication. The level of security and AI authentication needed for the specific usecase and device access varies based on the perceived risk. IAM AI thus balances security and user convenience.

Automated IT support

Through AI-driven IAMs, you can automate user provisioning and de-provisioning processes based on defined policies. By streamlining the identity lifecycle in this way, you reduce the burden on IT administrative staff through AI business process automation. AI is also ‘always on’, and provides automated IT solutions and continuous user activity monitoring. AI monitors access controls and security events, based on which it provides risk assessment and adaptive security measures. This frees up your IT cybersecurity team from such regular monitoring activities, and helps improve organization efficiency.

 

Looking at streamlining cybersecurity identity management? AI and cybersecurity is a complex but interesting field. Talk to our team of experts to learn more about AI in cybersecurity and IAM systems.

Security isn’t a one-time investment: 3 key areas where most organizations fail

Your management team says that the time has come to invest in your organization’s cybersecurity. Your operations team agrees and says they are committed to security. Your IT team says that an IAM would help to secure your data and application, and identifies customizable IAM solutions, such as Akku, for investment.

So far, so good. But does that complete the job from your team’s end?

Even if your organization’s management and users believe that they are totally committed to improving cybersecurity, many of our recent IAM implementations have brought up some interesting issues of organization productivity.

Low priority on training

Many corporates believe that their employees – young, apparently tech-savvy, living in metropolitan areas – are sufficiently aware of all necessary cybersecurity measures. They believe that their teams are equipped to set up strong passwords, manage their own multi-factor authentication, avoid phishing attacks and browse through only secure web pages.

Some businesses, especially very large enterprises, do understand that cybersecurity training is necessary. However, others (regardless of size) often don’t feel it’s important for workers to take time out from their regular routines to focus on security. This is a prioritization issue, not one of budgets or resources. It can result in a number of security issues, including in terms of secure access to applications and data. No matter how technologically aware your team is, no one knows everything. It’s important to keep your learners up-to-date with regular cybersecurity training.

Fear of adoption

For a simple example, consider single sign-on (SSO). Single sign-on is an efficient way to log on to multiple applications. Using 2FA or MFA (two-factor or multi-factor authentication), single sign-on is secure as well as easy. However, if your team has never used such tech before, it can be bewildering. In our experience, 75-80% of corporate users don’t know how to use SSO without training. Post implementation of Akku, our team has occasionally offered training on how to use SSO and multi-factor authentication in the past. 

When we speak to our customers, we find that in many cases, fear of adoption is a bigger hurdle than cost of implementation or features provided by the IAM. They believe that their workers simply don’t know how to use MFA, and that it’s too much effort to provide regular updates and training to fix this gap.

In our experience, fear of adoption prevents more investments in cybersecurity applications than budget or other concerns.

Prioritizing productivity over security

While Akku or other IAM solutions secure access to applications and data, there is a certain amount of involvement needed from your IT team. A classic example is the password change self-service functionality. This functionality allows your users to manage, update and change their own passwords. 

At Akku, our policy is against self-service for password management. This is an intentional choice as it risks allowing users to set weak security questions or repeat common passwords used in other personal accounts. This, further, risks hacking through social engineering or credential stuffing attacks. In addition, when users know that they can reset their passwords at any time, they feel that their responsibility to secure their account and credentials is not as urgent. When they have to disturb their IT administrator every time they forget their password, this feels like a much more serious problem!

However, centralization of password management is inefficient for IT admin teams. In our experience, around 0.2% of users forget their passwords, every day. For an enterprise of 5,000 users, that results in upto 10 password reset requests, every day. As a result, some organizations tend to prioritize team efficiency or productivity over cybersecurity, by allowing users to manage their own passwords.

This raises the question: are you prioritizing your cybersecurity or team productivity? At the end of the day, you are responsible for your own cybersecurity. Taking the decision to invest in Akku or any other security infrastructure is an important step, but you need to keep the focus on cybersecurity on an ongoing basis. 

Security is a long term commitment, not addressed by a single investment. Talk to our team today for a holistic consultation on the next steps towards a more secure organization.

Web content filtering: The benefits to hybrid organizations

The main objectives behind web content filtering are accuracy, scalability, and maintainability and unless you have the right service provider working with your organization, these three objectives are going to be hard to meet.

It’s because the three are like cogs in the wheel, and every one of them counts. Accurate blocking makes scalability and maintenance difficult, while easily scalable and maintainable content filtering systems may not be as accurate. 

That’s why content filtering as a service is constantly evolving to address all of these issues and ensure enterprises have a multi-layered defense strategy in place against viruses, malware, phishing attacks, and so on.

First, let’s look at why your hybrid organization needs it

  • Managing compliance requirements:
    By blocking offensive or distracting sites such as social networking platforms and video streaming services on a corporate network you are improving employee productivity as well as ensuring you are managing compliance requirements.
  • Managing bandwidth:
    Web content filtering and YouTube category-based filtering enable organizations to track and regulate access to websites based on their content categories, it can prevent the use of high bandwidth sites like streaming sites that can reduce network performance.
  • Managing cyber threats:
    Web content protects the network by blocking sites that are high-risk, spam, and malicious websites, as well as preventing data leakage. Websites can be blocked by category. For example, websites that come under categories such as Social Media or Entertainment can be blocked.

So, why not just use a firewall, you may wonder.

Well, you can, but the firewall will naturally block particular websites based on defined rules, and that means you cannot allow sub-categories within the website to be whitelisted. For instance, say, a channel on youtube. If your firewall is set to block youtube, the site as a whole will be inaccessible.

The second reason a firewall may not be a perfect choice is that it depends on the internet connection, not on the user or device. And in this era of hybrid working, firewalls can be bypassed if users connect to their home internet.

What you want is to keep the company devices safe and protect them from the risk of compromise even if they access the net from an outside firewall.

Use content filtering the right way

Content filtering is a tool and like any tool, knowing how to use it correctly will help you accomplish your goal. The right service provider can help you navigate the realm of web content filtering.

Take Akku’s content filter for instance. It can be configured to whitelist and blacklist sites. Even within the whitelisted sites, like for instance, YouTube, the Akku filter allows specifically whitelisted channels or categories, blocking all the other irrelevant ones. Akku’s filter uses a proxy server to read each video’s metadata to only allow viewing YouTube content that is allowed, for instance, some reference data or upskilling resources. The filter also allows you to restrict employees by user category defined on Akku’s identity access management solution.

In the hybrid work environment, content filtering by user works better than a firewall internet connection-based content filtering. It’s also helpful for companies too small to invest in on-prem firewalls.

Akku’s dedicated sales specialists are always ready to help with any information you need on content filtering. Contact us to find out more.

The simpler way to manage Remote Employee Onboarding

When onboarding new employees, it’s important to keep the process as simple as possible. When all new user activity occurs in a single system, onboarding, especially remote onboarding, becomes seamless and effortless.

If your onboarding system is integrated with Akku, or if you use Akku itself as the onboarding system, this system becomes the first point of engagement for the user with the organization. Every step of the onboarding process is guided by this tool. Since it collects all the user data requested at the very beginning of the interaction with the new employee, Akku becomes the single source of truth for the entire career journey of the employee.

The onboarding process

Once the employee has been recruited, they are instructed to create an Akku account using their personal email address. A website link is then sent to the employee’s personal email id. Upon clicking on this link, the employee is led to a portal where they can begin onboarding by requesting their new corporate credentials.

Once they receive their new credentials, users log on to the same system using their corporate email address and password. On the same landing page, they see the list of guidelines to be followed, documents to be submitted with deadlines, date and location of reporting, how and what to do upon joining the organization, and more. All details are shared in a single window, often including a downloadable offer letter.

A single source of truth

Since the onboarding process for all employees is undertaken through a common digitized system, Akku becomes a ‘single source of truth’ for all information related to each employee. 

This makes onboarding seamless from the documentation perspective, as the new employee has to upload documents to a single location, and all departments involved can access them directly, as and when needed.

Similarly, since provisioning happens through Akku, access to all relevant software and other digital assets is also granted effortlessly through a single application. Not only is provisioning seamless, but authorized managers across departments can also view details pertaining to the new employee via Akku’s dashboards, as it is the single source of information about the new team member.

Remote onboarding 

This kind of single-window onboarding is extremely valuable to employees working remote or hybrid, as most of their interaction with the organization will be virtual. An efficient onboarding process makes a great first impression. It shows that as an employer, you consider employee support to be a tech priority.

Much of the Know Your Employee (KYE) documentation can (or sometimes, should) be completed before the employee actually joins the organization. Since the portal is open at any time and can be accessed from anywhere, remote document collection (in the form of soft copies) is seamless. This is especially important and useful for employees working remotely, as they may not be located in the same area as your office and could need to travel to visit the office to submit hard copies.

Similarly, since employees are also offered virtual orientation, knowledge transfer and access provisioning, remote onboarding becomes easier.

Benefits to remote employees

  1. Seamless documentation: As discussed earlier, since Akku is a single source of truth, all documentation takes place virtually through the portal itself.
  2. Seamless provisioning: As an Akku-based onboarding system of this kind is a single source of truth in the organization, employees do not have to go outside the system to upload data and documentation about themselves, nor to access relevant information, knowledge, or relevant assets.
  3. Seamless knowledge transfer and training: Akku is integrated with a communication system to push messages and communiques to users. Using this tool, orientation, knowledge transfer and initial training can take place through the system itself.
  4. Seamless reporting: The same tool provides user activity monitoring as well, for the duration of onboarding and orientation, since it tracks the progress of the new employee through the predefined process. Akku can directly intimate HR, reporting manager and head of department regarding the progress of the employee through the KYE process via the system dashboards.
  5. Seamless identity management: Since Akku is a full-fledged IAM, the new employee can directly be provisioned with access to all required software and other assets through Akku itself. At the same time, account credentials for single sign-on (SSO) can also be directly generated.

Automated, single-window onboarding for remote employees makes the process significantly more efficient, especially for large enterprises with a huge number of employees joining per day. Single-window reporting is also a feature that smaller businesses find extremely useful, as it makes user management much more efficient for small HR teams. 

Wondering how to make your onboarding process more efficient? Take it digital with Akku. Contact our team today to discuss how to get started.

Identifying Training Opportunities and Boosting Productivity with a User Activity Monitoring (UAM) tool

User Activity Monitoring tools (UAMs) have a bad rep, with many employees believing that they are used by employers for the sole purpose of spying on them. While this may actually be true in some cases, there are so many ways that a UAM can be of real value to an organization – for both the management and the employees. 

Helping you to identify training opportunities for your employees is among the most important benefits that using a UAM can provide. Gallup found that “hope for career growth opportunities is the number one reason people change jobs today”. By offering training to your top talent, you can upskill them and prepare them for new roles and responsibilities.

Do your employees have the skills they need?

Gartner found that “58% of the workforce will need new skill sets to do their jobs successfully”. However, do you know which employees are up-to-date in their skills, and which ones need upskilling or reskilling?

Similarly, you recruit candidates with the skills and expertise that you require for the organization, but you may request your employee to take on slightly different tasks from time to time.

As a manager, you would ask the employee if they have the skills to take on the task. However, new employees or those being considered for promotion may not be comfortable with replying honestly in the negative.

In such a situation, what does the employee do?

What usually happens in such a situation is that the employee accepts the new responsibility and agrees to deliver within the defined turnaround time. They then log on to Google to find out how to perform the task!

The worst part is that as management, all you know is that your team member is not meeting their commitments. You may think they’re lazy or inefficient. There’s a tendency to put more pressure on them, resulting in unnecessary stress and employee burnout.

Even if you have product management tools where the team logs time spent on different sub-tasks, they’re not likely to log research time. After all, they are trying to hide from management the fact that they lack the required knowledge or skills!

How can you solve this problem?

Use a User Activity Monitoring (UAM) tool to understand how the employees are performing. For instance, Akku’s UAM proxy reads users’ app activity, including which websites they are visiting and how long they’re spending time on sites like Google, Stack Overflow or Stack Exchange.

Akku then shares reports on the relevant data. By studying these reports, you can see which employees are spending an unusual amount of time on Google and other work-oriented research. You then understand that they need more training on specific subjects, and can plan reskilling accordingly.

Using a UAM right 

UAMs are often used by managers to snoop on their employees and penalize them for slacking or for time away from their device. As a result, employees try to work around the system to maintain their privacy.

A UAM is not about policing employees’ time – it’s about productivity. User activity monitoring, when it’s done right, is of great benefit to both employee and employer. Prioritize productivity by identifying skilling opportunities and delivering appropriate training content to your employees who need it, when they need it.

Work with Akku to implement UAM and improve organization productivity. Schedule a consultation with us for more information.

How does a true PAM work?

A Privileged Access Management (PAM) solution helps to secure and control privileged access to critical software and assets. Credentials and specific levels of access to various applications are provided through the PAM.

Usually, organizations implement PAM only for authorization and de-authorization of access to the apps. For instance, let’s say a new employee needs access to Gmail, Jira, and your CRM. Typically, organizations only provide access when the employee joins, and revoke it when he or she leaves. This can be done by a simple Identity and Access Management (IAM) solution – however, a PAM can do much more. (Quick side note: Akku serves both PAM and IAM needs.)

Here are some of the key functions that a PAM solution generally serves.

1. Assigning specific rights and access privileges

On each SaaS platform, what rights does each employee have? For example, take the CRM. Can they add and delete workflows? Is an individual user to be a super-administrator? Do they need to be allowed only to create contacts, but disallowed from editing or deleting?

Access may also be changed for the employee as they grow within the organization. When the employee is promoted, they may get additional responsibilities. For instance, a sales executive may not be allowed to edit contacts, but once promoted as a sales manager, this permission may become necessary. 

You need not go to the CRM to make these changes – you can do so directly from your PAM platform. An IAM and PAM tool (like Akku) will allow you to manage changes to access permissions such as these from a single dashboard, with a single click.

2. Deprovisioning access

The day an employee leaves an organization, the IT team usually uses their generic IAM to revoke access to all SaaS apps (Gmail and Freshdesk, for example). 

However, by doing this, only the IAM gateway to the app is deactivated: the license on the application itself remains. That means that the subscription charges continue on, as well, unless you go to the SaaS platform and delete the license there.

A true PAM directly deletes the license on Gmail or Freshdesk as well. It also follows the same exit procedure as that of the app itself. For instance, Gmail allows you to back-up email data to an email account of your choice before deleting the account. A professional IAM and PAM tool like Akku does the same, following the same laid-down process of the application.

By directly deleting the license on the application platform itself, you can be sure that you won’t waste money on subscription charges due to human error. This kind of automation is essential for enterprise-level customers. As they have a huge number of licenses, it is impossible to manually track the licenses in use and those no longer required. As a result, enterprises may realize that such a costly error has occurred only after subscription fees have built up! 

The PAM also prompts you when you’re not using a license, upon which you can delete the license through the PAM.

Akku is a customizable IAM and PAM solution with user-friendly features that can be configured based on your specific requirements. Our team is well equipped to help you implement PAM at your organization and get the most out of it. Let’s talk.

Think beyond Active Directory for hybrid working

In 2020, the pandemic had a major impact on security and cyberattacks. The year saw the highest number of data breaches and cyberattacks in decades. In India alone, more than 1.1 million cyberattacks were reported in 2020, almost three times the number reported in 2019.

The new norm of work-from-home, paired with the Great Resignation, made cybersecurity even more challenging for enterprises. There was a steep increase in staff turnover and that came with access and privilege requests – all to be administered remotely.

On-prem IAM solution

The traditional, on-premises model for cybersecurity was to implement a solution like Active Directory (AD). This identity and access management solution helped to regulate device and user authorization through password policies and account privilege policies.

Many organizations (approximately 90% of the Global Fortune 1000 companies, says Frost & Sullivan) for identity and access management. Active Directory works on the enterprise network to manage the organization’s devices based on company policies for software and content access, password creation and maintenance, and other security requirements.

It pushes these enterprise policies securely to all network devices. It offers several advantages, primarily control and fast access to information. However, implementation of AD infrastructure in an organization requires proper planning and investment, and that can prove expensive depending on how many systems are being managed. AD depends on the office network and is located in the server room on the office premises.

Working remotely with AD

When using an on-prem IAM solution like Active Directory (AD), users sign on to the single AD portal to access their data and applications. The only way to sign on to AD is via the organization network.

During the pandemic, enterprises suddenly moved to remote working – rendering the on-prem solution useless. Suddenly, users needed to log on to their network from a remote location, through a VPN. The investment in multiple VPN licenses would result in a huge expense, while free or open-source VPNs could lead to security vulnerabilities themselves! This also created an additional step in the log-in/access process.

In addition, since the AD infrastructure depends on the office network and is entirely located in the company’s server rooms, it requires on-premises monitoring and maintenance by at least two trained technicians.

Azure AD

Microsoft understood that these problems could be faced by pandemic-stricken users of AD, and recommends that in such cases, Azure AD (the cloud version of Active Directory) may be used. However, Azure AD is associated with high initial CAPEX and ongoing maintenance costs and requires training for the technicians to be able to manage it.

These expenses are hard to justify, for businesses that had already invested in AD – typically, AD costs a significant amount of time and money. Some small and medium businesses simply could not afford the fresh costs, and instead looked for workarounds that potentially resulted in new vulnerabilities.

So are your only options expense, operational difficulties, or potentially vulnerable workarounds?

Opt for customized IDaaS

With a custom IDaaS (Identity as a service) solution, you gain the flexibility and usability of Azure AD, at a cost that suits your needs. Service providers like Akku offer complete automation of the identity and access management function, on any device accessing enterprise assets, from anywhere.

On-prem is old-school; the future is the cloud. Consider a cloud-native IAM solution like Akku, that’s completely customizable to your requirements. It’s more cost-effective and hassle-free. Contact our team to learn more.

 

The Goldilocks Zone of Content Restriction: Not too wide, not too narrow, but just right

Do you need to restrict content for your employees? Or can you allow them complete and free access to the worldwide web? There’s simply too much information out there, which can result in distraction and lowered productivity. At the same time, too many restrictions can make your team feel suffocated!

It’s important to strike a balance between allowing your team to access the information they need or may need, and keeping your company’s reputation clean by blocking illicit, illegal or unnecessary material. 

Here’s a quick ready reckoner to help you plan your company’s content restriction strategy.

What content do you really need?

Let’s say your organization works in the e-learning space. Your team will need to use the internet to better understand some of the content inputs that they’ve received from their client. They’ll need to watch YouTube videos on how to create specific interactive elements. They may need to read technical papers on gamification and game-based learning, in order to stay updated and create content that will make an impact. They’ll also need to refer to material created by competitors, including promotional material put up by them on social media, to position the client’s product in the available learning gaps. These are essential content categories that the employee must be able to access.

The Goldilocks Zone of Content Restriction: Not too wide, not too narrow, but just right

What content might you need?

Many employees find that they are more effective if they work while listening to music. For their safety, it’s important to allow them access to the news and local weather updates. You could consider a midway solution by allowing access to audio-only music options, and restricting access to reputed news sites alone – and the amount of time that employees can spend on the site.

Perhaps the most controversial content category is viral social media. Would it help your team to be able to include the latest viral moment in the e-learning content, to keep it relevant and topical? If so, how do you allow access to viral content without losing employee productivity? Can you put a time cap on certain applications or websites? 

The Goldilocks Zone of Content Restriction: Not too wide, not too narrow, but just right

What content do you definitely NOT need?

Access to personal email is a security risk as much as a productivity issue. 

Entertainment content can waste a great deal of time and company bandwidth. 

Illegal or illicit material found on official systems and networks can also impact your company’s reputation.

The Goldilocks Zone of Content Restriction: Not too wide, not too narrow, but just right

Can this be controlled by blacklisting certain URLs?

No, unfortunately not! 

A lot of the video content your employees may need is on YouTube. So is a lot of the content that they don’t! Similarly, personal email may be accessed through the same URL as professional email. 

Not to mention that blacklisting thousands – or even millions – of URLs is simply impractical. A more refined solution is required.

The Goldilocks Zone of Content Restriction: Not too wide, not too narrow, but just right

Whitelisting specific content categories

The kinds of content that you want to allow your team to access depends on the kind of work your company does. Each category of employee will also need different kinds of content access. 

Open source content categorizations for websites and video streaming portals are available online. It is possible to restrict access to content – whether on YouTube or on the internet at large – based on this categorization.

This makes for a much more relevant form of content access control, with necessary content types remaining accessible while irrelevant content is blocked. This helps to save company bandwidth and unproductive employee time.

The Goldilocks Zone of Content Restriction: Not too wide, not too narrow, but just right

Wondering how to create content restrictions for your business? Allow our experts to help you. You can set up personalized content filters with Akku, a 100% customizable IAM.

 

Data Logging and Audit: The IAM advantage

One of the key functions of an effective Identity and Access Management (IAM) solution is data logging, to capture and store information about which users access what applications, and when. These logs can help to drive effective decision-making through auditing in three key areas – financial, security, and compliance. Here’s how.

Financial audits

Optimization of software licensing is an area where your IAM can play a role in financial auditing. 

Through the logs maintained by your IAM, it is possible to extract actionable insights on the actual usage of software licenses that your organization owns, and therefore the number of users actively using each application, and whether there is very low usage of certain applications.

This makes optimization possible by reducing the number of licenses for specific applications if they are in excess, and by dropping or retiring applications that are not being used.

It is important to note that most IAMs will only capture the base data that would feed such audits and analysis, and generally would not provide these insights within the platform. However, if you are working with a highly flexible IAM, such customizations should be possible to implement.

Security audits

Logging user actions can help companies improve security as it is a way for administrators to detect breaches early, and also analyze and provide verifiable evidence of the source of breaches.

An effective IAM solution would maintain detailed logs monitoring all access and activity on the organization’s apps, ensuring that there is no unaccounted access. This provides complete visibility into which users have accessed which applications, and when.

Security auditing verifies whether all documented protocols are being followed and assists in preventing and tracking down malicious activity. To maximize the security benefits of audit logging, logs should be reviewed regularly and often enough to detect security incidents.

Compliance audits

Compliance audits help to ensure the efficiency of compliance programs, to ensure that your organization achieves and maintains certifications and recognized standards, in turn leading to improved customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Your IAM can help to provide verifiable evidence of compliance with security, data protection, and privacy standards and laws. This is achieved through features such as multi-factor authentication and enforcement of strong password policies. Similarly, prompt deprovisioning of user accounts through a single sign-on (SSO) functionality, and dissemination of mandatory employee communications through the common platform of the IAM go a long way towards complying with statutory standards.

Compliance logs are also useful when it comes to following General Data Protection Regulation such as respecting employees’ right to be forgotten.

Are you making the most of the logs captured by your IAM to manage financial, security, and compliance audits at your organization? Unlock the value of your data, and take it even further with customized reporting and dashboards with a highly flexible IAM solution like Akku.