Remote work and hybrid work are increasingly the standards in businesses. The pandemic started a mass exodus from the traditional office to remote work, and it appears that’s not likely to change any time soon. Even major employers who’d announced returns to the office for the fall of 2021 have had to rethink that.
With that shift has come growing challenges for IT teams.
In a traditional, on-premises work environment, teams can manage access through securing a perimeter. In remote and hybrid environments, there isn’t a perimeter.
Centralized control isn’t a possibility, at least not as it once existed.
IT needs to be able to appropriately and efficiently view, grant, modify and potentially revoke access across user profiles to reduce risk. That’s why a lot of IT teams are beginning to realize the importance of having a comprehensive identity and access management solution, and often one that also includes a federal identity manager.
With those factors in mind, the following are general things to be aware of with remote work and how it affects identity management in a modern work environment.
Understanding Identity Management and Access Control
Identity management is also known as identity and access management (IAM). The concept encompasses everything needed to verify users’ identities and their level of access for a system or application.
Under the scope of IAM fall authentication and access control.
The idea is that every user’s level of access to any system or app is regulated carefully, with the larger objective of securing data.
Access control might, as an example let software administrators add or edit profiles while preventing lower-level employees from accessing certain information or features.
One bit of research from 2019 found almost 40% of employees reported using the same two to four passwords to access more than 100 apps on average. IT administrators, as such, are juggling the management of user credentials across multiple systems.
As more organizations move toward cloud-based tools, particularly since the pandemic, IT admins have to secure access to a multitude of platforms with different identity access management and control solutions.
The challenge is amplified by the fact that it can be frustrating for users who experience friction with many different logins.
An integrated IAM solution can help support the control and track and monitor accounts with sensitive data. IAM solutions also help secure authentication solutions.
Many employees, along with re-using multiple passwords, don’t use best practices in the creation of their passwords. To help reduce the risks associated with that, admins should consider adding other layers of protection in the authentication process like single sign-on and multi-factor authentication.
Other Identity Management Best Practices for Remote Work
Along with what’s already named above, the following are some tips for IT admins as they begin to understand the challenges of remote and hybrid work in a more in-depth way.
- Gauge the scope of your needs and how many employees work remotely. It sounds simple, but one of the big problems people experience when shifting to a new model as far as how they do things, including remote work, is that they don’t assess what they have and what they need. Do a complete audit before making any decisions. Consider how many employees work remotely, the applications they’re using and the data they’re authorized to access. You’ll then want to take a more comprehensive look at the security of your infrastructure and any compliance-related issues relevant to you.
- Consider taking a Zero-Trust approach. Zero-trust will likely become the predominant model of identity management and security going forward in a remote-first world. Zero-Trust eliminates the concept of the perimeter as we traditionally know it. There’s nothing in terms of devices, users or applications that’s inherently trusted, even when coming from within the network.
- Regularly review accounts. You may already be encouraging employees to change their passwords and access details at certain intervals, and if not, do so. You should also be checking in on a regular basis to make certain privilege creep isn’t happening.
- Consider the use of single sign-on authentication. Security is a priority, but it can’t be at the risk of the user experience, and single sign-on can help reduce friction on the user’s part.
Finally, ensure that you are centralizing all identities and data. When you have a centralized identity management system, it’s going to be easier for you to gain a quick view of what’s happening with your remote workers.