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Four Steps for Securing Your Data in the Cloud | @CloudExpo [#Cloud]

Identity access management (IAM) solutions become crucial for maintaining productivity and security

Four Steps for Securing Your Data in the Cloud with Identity and Access Management

Cloud has become part of the enterprise landscape with nearly 90 percent of businesses having adopted cloud-based apps and services. However, organizations need to make sure that these cloud solutions don't compromise the hard-won security policies that govern the rest of the information enterprise and are supported through IT.

As organizations shift to embrace popular cloud-based applications like Office 365, Salesforce, and other services that support the business, identity access management (IAM) solutions become crucial for maintaining productivity and security. Additionally, a single sign-on (SSO) solution that is deployed in conjunction with a solid IAM strategy streamlines access to thousands of cloud applications and enforces necessary security policies. It allows users to easily access the applications and services they need with a single click.

Here are four steps companies can take to ensure your enterprise's data is secure in the cloud:

1. Evaluate Current IAM Policies and Define Needs
Work with IT and security professionals to assess your organization's current IAM policies and future requirements. This evaluation is a key step in defining a strategy for implementing an IAM or IDaaS (Identity as a Service) platform that meets company requirements.

Fundamentals to identify and evaluate include:

  • Application resources currently controlled by IT and the users who need to safely access those resources
  • Applications and services that have been implemented outside the organization's requirements for control, documentation, security, and reliability
  • Company policies for managing employee entitlements
  • Processes for provisioning and de-provisioning employee access to business applications
  • Costs related to managing user identity and access mechanisms

Based on this appraisal, outline company requirements and compare them to current IAM capabilities. Compare the cost of customizing or upgrading existing on-premises IAM components against the cost of deploying new and emerging IDaaS solutions supporting directory federation and out-of-box cloud integrations. The advantages of cloud-based IAM solutions include simplified administration and maintenance, infrastructure cost savings, and ease of deployment to all personnel including mobile users and geographically dispersed staff.

2. Require Vendor Certification
Before onboarding cloud applications and services, review all of your service providers to make sure you understand their policies for safeguarding sensitive information, and complying to data center best practices. Your company's legal team, purchasing team, and internal business owners should work with your IT and security professionals to assess each cloud vendor. Pay close attention to their policies for basic security based on communications with vendor staff and observations of their business practices.

Many leading organizations ask cloud vendors to complete a certification questionnaire before their applications and services are approved for procurement or deployment. The questionnaire is a modernized version of a traditional IT security audit with an emphasis on cloud-based applications and services, including questions about Service Organization Control standards for SOC 1 and SOC 2 compliance, Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) connectors and support for open standards, and support terms.

3. Demand Enterprise-Ready Security Standards
When properly adhered to, technology standards accelerate deployment, drive down costs, promote compliance, boost productivity, and advance cloud maturity. Make sure that both your IAM solution and your cloud application providers support open standards for identity and access management including SAML and SCIM (System for Cross-domain Identity Management).

SAML, for example, facilitates authenticating users across multiple cloud applications without the need to repeatedly prompt for user password. Behind the scenes, it associates their protected login information with each application that the users are authorized to access. With SAML as a requirement for connection to cloud-based applications and services, deployments are accelerated and audits are much easier. It's easy to verify that you have employed security methods that exceed the minimum requirements.

4. Integrate SSO with Active Directory
While new companies may pursue a cloud-first approach, many enterprises still support Microsoft Active Directory on-premises to authenticate users and define security policies across a Windows network. While the potential exists to bridge Active Directory to cloud applications and services, it is complex and lacks out-of-box integrations that facilitate cloud provisioning and compliance reporting. These limitations are a hindrance when it comes to managing the lifecycle of cloud-based applications.

Combining Active Directory with a standards-based SSO solution that federates user directories across cloud apps in real-time eliminates the need for "one off" integration projects for each new cloud-based application. Make sure that your chosen cloud IAM solution integrates with Active Directory and includes utilities to create custom fields and map data between systems,  synchronizes user and group information in real-time across the cloud applications for which you've subscribed, and supports open standards such as SAML and SCIM that promote greater interoperability and lower costs.

As cloud applications and services proliferate, so do the risks and challenges of securing enterprise data and controlling access to critical business applications. By implementing  cloud identity and access management solutions, organizations are better positioned to federate user identity information, provide secure SSO and authentication, and automate user account provisioning - all of which contribute to securing data in the cloud.

More Stories By Chip Epps

Chip Epps is Senior Director of Product Marketing at OneLogin (www.onelogin.com) where he helps advance cloud security initiatives and guide the evolution of identity and access management technologies.

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