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 Limited resources, budget constraints, outdated software, and inadequate security systems, cause some of the biggest risks.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Outdated IT systems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 They also pose security risks due to outdated infrastructure.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.

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.

Flexible Identity: IAM solutions need to bend… a little at least!

In the world of Identity and Access Management (IAM), flexibility is the key to stability. While IAMs are not new, the threats that they are helping to protect against and the environment in which they are operating are constantly evolving. Adaptability is more critical than ever.

Negotiating this ever-transforming environment, enterprises need both flexibility and fit in terms of their identity and access management strategy. This means finding an ideal IAM solution that adapts and grows with your business, customers, workforce, tools, processes, and market trends. Your IAM needs to balance user-friendliness and security, or users tend to get frustrated and search for workarounds that can open up security vulnerabilities.

Rushing into a decision about your IAM without a fully-formed strategy can result in a solution that is so rigid it doesn’t solve your problems! An inflexible IAM that does not support your identity and access management needs, can negatively impact user experience and decrease productivity. Technology should enhance security goals, not compromise them. Opt for a flexible IAM solution.

What do we mean by flexibility? It is the ability to use the IAM in the way that you want, without being constrained by its own features.

Flexibility in authentication methods

A flexible IAM offers a wide range of strong and centralized authentication mechanisms that cover cloud and mobile assets, permitting you to set password policies with multiple multifactor authentication (MFA) options. Modern MFA solutions provide users with multiple options depending on the circumstances (for instance, a hard OTP token may be used when working offline). This ensures that while security is the priority, productivity is not compromised.

Flexibility in integration

Your identity provider (IdP) must integrate with your IAM. Identity providers, such as Azure AD, are third-party service providers that store and manage digital identities. Choose the IAM that integrates seamlessly with your IdP, and which integrates with and provides access to a large list of cloud, on-prem, SaaS, licensed, and custom apps. This gives you the flexibility to use any IdP and app, based on the merits, without being tied down by your IAM.

Flexibility in access management

A flexible IAM allows you to define proper access privileges and set custom device restriction rules, in order to balance security with usability. A central directory, for instance, can help to manage access rights by automatically matching employee job titles to locations and relevant privilege levels. Further, a flexible IAM system can be used to establish groups with privileges for specific roles thereby uniformly and securely assigning access rights. By making it easy to define access privileges, your IAM becomes more flexible and user-friendly.

Customization

With IAM solutions, one size does not fit all. Look for a solution that allows you to customize everything from number of users to MFA options to report customization and content restriction. The more you customize the IAM to suit your needs, the better the digital experience your company can provide to its workforce – and the greater the impact on the business and the bottom-line.

Akku is a cloud-based powerful identity and access management solution that is designed with SME/MMEs in mind and their ever-changing needs. Contact us today for a consultation.

Authentication, Authorization, Auditing: the Three Pillars of IAM

In an earlier article, we explored the 3 pillars of a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB), with Identity and Access Management (IAM) being one of these pillars. In this blog, we dive deeper into IAM, and the key concepts on which it is built.

2021 saw the average cost of a data breach rising from US$3.86 million to US$4.24 million on an annual basis, according to the IBM Cost of a Data Breach Report 2021.

Data breaches are increasing. And your Identity and Access Management solution, or IAM, is your first line of defense. IAM secures, measures, monitors, and improves the security of access through a standardized process.

How does an IAM improve security? It offers three pillars of support: Authentication, Authorization, and Auditing.

Authentication

How do you map the correct users to gain access to the correct content, at the correct times? 

Authentication takes place whenever a user attempts to access the organization’s network or assets. Verified credentials serve as a passport that allows users to access data, systems, applications, and resources.

With data breaches becoming more common, user authentication is vital to security. Organizations are prioritizing advanced security through sophisticated additional authentication methods. For instance, your IAM would secure your access management with two-factor or multi-factor authentication by pairing a username and password with a key card or OTP token, a fingerprint, or facial recognition. Every user has unique credentials, and IAM authenticates the user data to confirm that the user is a member of the organization.

Using a strong password policy can also improve authentication security. Verifying whether your IAM allows you to configure and customize your password policy is essential in providing a comprehensive authentication process. 

Authorization

While authentication verifies the users’ identity, the authorization aspect of IAM is what grants the user access to data based on their identity and defined access rules. While the two are related, they are not interchangeable.

In a sense, authorization is the second step to authentication – think of a night club, where the bouncer allows you entry after checking your ticket stamp (authentication), following which another staffer inside decides if your stamp allows you access to every area of the club or restricts you to select areas (authorization).

In organizations, users are granted authorizations according to their roles. Proper authorization is important to prevent data breaches.

For secure authorization, follow the zero trust principle and provide minimum possible access to each active user and immediately deprovision ex-employees. These two steps ensure that the risk of data breaches caused by improper authorization or disgruntled employees is reduced.

Auditing

Auditing security configurations helps weed out redundancies within the IAM system, such as IAM users, roles, and policies that are not required, and make sure that all users are authorized and authenticated. It also helps secure the system by regularly monitoring who has access to critical enterprise assets.

Audits ensure that compliance requirements are met, incidents are responded to and taken care of within a defined period of time, procedures are streamlined, responsibilities are segregated, transparency and documentation are maintained. 

Audits can also help to understand employee or user contributions on a particular app or data sheet. This can also be used in version control. Knowing who last logged on to the document gives usable information in cases where data has been breached. 

Chinks in authentication, authorization, or auditing can result in a compromised system. Opt for a trusted IAM solution such as Akku, a major emerging player in the APAC region. Akku offers a plethora of customizable options to improve data security, standards compliance, efficiency, and productivity.

 

IAM as the Solution to Healthcare Sector Challenges

Healthcare organizations are unique in the volume and sensitivity of information that they hold. Reports say that healthcare is among the 5 most cyber-attacked industries over the past 5 years. 

The 2020 Breach Barometer published by Protenus reports that in 2019, more than 41 million patient records were breached, and around 40% of the respondents surveyed in Europe and the U.S. were concerned hackers would breach their digital data.

The importance of bolstering cloud security in such an environment is therefore vital, and deploying an Identity and Access Management (IAM) system can play an important role in this process.

Here is a look at some of the key challenges facing the healthcare sector, and how an IAM could help to overcome them.

#Challenge 1: Enabling easy but secure access

Very often, breaches of patient data occur due to a lack of caution on the part of patients themselves, with the use of easily compromised passwords. This applies equally to healthcare providers too, with the need to access multiple applications, and therefore, the need to memorize multiple passwords.

The IAM Solution: 

Enforcing a strong password policy can help ensure that patients and providers alike set strong passwords that are more difficult to breach. Additionally, by enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA), an additional layer of security is added above the password. And to make things easier for providers, bringing all applications onto a single platform to provide them with a single point of access means that just one set of credentials is all that they need to remember.

# Challenge 2: Compliance with regulations

Healthcare is a highly monitored industry and there are certain established regulations to follow. For instance, in the USA you have the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), as well as newer industry-specific regulations like Electronic Prescribing for Controlled Substances (EPCS), for which compliance is non-negotiable.

These newer regulations call for adherence to certain prescribed standards of data security along with detailed audit capabilities.

The IAM Solution:

With an appropriate IAM solution, compliance requirements can be largely met through strong data encryption, implementing standards-compliant password policies across users, providing only the minimum necessary access to users, and comprehensive logging of every user action across applications and data points.

# Challenge 3: Driving digital transformation

COVID-19 has accelerated the speed of digital transformation, with the healthcare sector right at the center of the revolution. Telemedicine, Patient Access Management, and a host of other new requirements, each need control over a number of identities and access entitlements. 

The healthcare industry is under growing pressure to adapt to changing business models and technology innovation, as there is an ever-increasing need to protect access to sensitive data.

The IAM Solution:

With features like single sign-on, IAM offers an integrated approach to patient care, enforcing security and compliance capabilities to increase efficiency. In order to support the new digital-first world of healthcare, therefore, IAM has become a necessity rather than an add-on.

Clearly, IAM is the need of the hour in the healthcare industry. And Akku, the powerful and flexible enterprise cloud control solution created by CloudNow helps to facilitate identity and access management across your healthcare enterprise’s cloud environment. Talk to us today to discuss how Akku may be able to help with your compliance requirements.