Identity Sprawl: The Hidden Risks of Unmanaged User Accounts

Identity Sprawl: The Hidden Risks of Unmanaged User Accounts

Identity Sprawl: The Hidden Risks of Unmanaged User Accounts

Identity Sprawl: The Hidden Risks of Unmanaged User Accounts

In the modern business landscape, organizations are adopting various technologies and platforms to streamline their operations, enhance productivity, and improve overall efficiency. However, this digital transformation also presents new challenges, such as identity sprawl. 

We previously shared an article detailing 4 more SaaS security risks, including identity sprawl, that your business should know about. Today we’ll be diving into identity sprawl, how it occurs, and how your company can reduce it for the benefit of your business operations and continuity.

What is Identity Sprawl?

Identity sprawl refers to the proliferation of user identities across an organization’s multiple systems, applications, and platforms. As companies adopt more technologies and tools, employees often end up with multiple user accounts, each with its unique set of credentials. This fragmentation of user identities can lead to several issues, including increased security risks, inefficient management, and potential compliance violations.

Recent research commissioned through Gartner Peer Insights reveals that 61% of businesses consider identity management to be a highly time-consuming and expensive endeavor, even when handled by a centralized or dedicated team. The repercussions are apparent, as a staggering 84% of organizations experienced a breach related to identity issues in the past year.

The Risks of Identity Sprawl

Identity sprawl poses several risks to businesses. It increases the attack surface for cybercriminals, as each user account becomes a potential entry point for unauthorized access. Additionally, managing multiple user accounts becomes a daunting task, leading to administrative burdens, password fatigue, and potential security gaps. Identity sprawl also hinders user productivity, as employees grapple with the burden of remembering multiple credentials and navigating different systems.

A recent report by IDSA found that the most common type of identity-related breach for organizations last year was phishing. About 59% of companies were successfully targeted by phishing or spear phishing attacks. Additionally, 36% experienced privilege abuse due to poor management of access privileges. Stolen credentials were responsible for breaches in 33% of cases, and 23% of businesses faced brute-force attacks such as credential stuffing or password spraying. Identity sprawl often plays a role in these incidents. This scattered data makes it challenging to manage and protect identities effectively.

How Does Identity Sprawl Occur?

Identity sprawl can occur in various ways, including:

Adoption of New Technologies

As organizations adopt new software and platforms, they often create separate user accounts for each system. This can lead to employees having multiple usernames and passwords to remember and manage.

Mergers and Acquisitions

When companies merge or acquire other businesses, they may inherit additional systems and user accounts, which can further contribute to identity sprawl.

Shadow IT

Employees may use unauthorized or personal applications and tools for work purposes without alerting your IT department, creating additional user accounts outside of the company’s control.

Decentralized Identity Management

A lack of centralized identity management can result in inconsistent user account creation, maintenance, and deactivation processes.

All of these factors contribute to the growth of identity sprawl within an organization, leading to increased complexity and potential security vulnerabilities.

How to Reduce Identity Sprawl

Addressing identity sprawl not only enhances your organization’s security posture but also streamlines operations, improves efficiency, and ensures business continuity. Here are some strategies your company can implement to reduce identity sprawl:

1. Centralized Identity and Access Management (IAM)

Implementing a centralized identity and access management solution can help you consolidate user accounts, streamline access management, and enforce consistent security policies across your organization. By centralizing identity management, you can gain better visibility and control over user identities, making it easier to monitor and manage access to your systems and applications from a single console.

2. Adopt Single Sign-On (SSO)

Single sign-on (SSO) technology enables users to access multiple systems and applications with a single set of credentials. By implementing SSO, you can reduce the number of user accounts employees need to manage, simplifying the login process, improving productivity, and minimizing the risk of password-related security breaches.

3. Implement Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

Role-based access control (RBAC) is a security framework that assigns access rights to users based on their job roles within the organization. By implementing RBAC, you can ensure that employees have access to only the systems and resources they need to perform their tasks, limiting the potential attack surface, and reducing the overall number of user accounts and the likelihood of excessive privileges.

4. Regularly Review and Audit User Access

Periodically reviewing and auditing user access can help you identify and address identity sprawl issues. By regularly assessing user account permissions and access levels, you can detect inactive or unnecessary accounts and remove or modify them as needed. This helps maintain a lean and secure user account environment.

5. Establish Clear Identity Management Policies and Procedures

Developing clear and comprehensive identity management policies and procedures is crucial for preventing identity sprawl. These policies should outline the processes for creating, maintaining, and deactivating user accounts, as well as guidelines for granting and revoking access privileges. Ensure that employees are trained on these policies and that they are consistently enforced across the organization.

Automate user provisioning and deprovisioning processes to ensure efficient management of user accounts. Automated workflows reduce the manual effort required to provision and revoke access, minimizing the chances of oversight or errors.

Educate employees on the importance of maintaining good password hygiene and adhering to security policies. Promote awareness about the risks of identity sprawl, the significance of managing user accounts, and the role employees play in maintaining a secure digital environment.

Reclaim Control Over Your User Accounts

Identity sprawl can hinder business operations, compromise security, and burden employees with unnecessary complexities. However, by understanding the risks associated with identity sprawl and implementing appropriate strategies, businesses can reclaim control over their user accounts and establish a streamlined and secure identity landscape. 

At Verve IT, we understand the complexities of managing user identities in today’s evolving digital landscape. Our team of experienced professionals is committed to helping companies like yours tackle identity sprawl and implement effective identity management solutions.

To learn more about how Verve IT can help your organization reduce identity sprawl and enhance your business operations, explore our managed services or contact us today. Together, we can create a more secure and efficient digital environment for your business.

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