IAM Automation: The Secret to Governance and Cybersecurity Success in Higher Ed

  September 8th, 2020
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For colleges and universities, governance and cybersecurity can get quite complicated. These institutions of higher learning are entrusted with an enormous amount of personal data (emails, transcripts, test scores, salaries, etc.), from students, teachers, alumni, and more. The safety and security of it is of the utmost importance, but due to the complexity of higher ed organizational structures, many schools are still operating with manual legacy and homegrown solutions for identity and access management (IAM).

When the Covid-19 pandemic forced schools to shift to remote and hybrid learning, the importance of strong policies and protocols for cybersecurity and governance only increased, as did the degree of difficulty. With increased remote access, universities have to contend with a slew of unknowns as students and staff who once primarily accessed systems via internal networks are now signing in from countless external sources.

The solution? Automation. It’s a core value of IAM solutions and can help schools meet and maintain governance and cybersecurity goals by simplifying critical IAM processes:

Better Define and Manage Roles

Lifecycle management, particularly properly assigning user roles, is a critical piece of higher ed IAM and governance. It’s complicated because of the unique organizational structure of colleges and universities — roles can overlap (professors who are also students, for example), change frequently (active students become alums), and new users are a near-constant (welcome, freshmen!). Because of these complexities, a manual approach is both time-consuming and prone to human error. 

To assign roles effectively and efficiently, higher ed IAM requires flexibility and customization. By automating and integrating the IAM solution, the system is able to both discover and define roles based on the parameters provided, saving time and avoiding costly, potentially disastrous mistakes.

Improve Data Cleaning Capabilities

Given the sheer volume of data processed in higher education, it’s inevitable some bad data will exist in the system. Unfortunately, there’s a persistent myth that this data needs to be cleaned before any automation can be implemented. That simply isn’t true. 

Automation supports data cleanup, not the inverse. Automated processes and workflows can be used to quickly flag inappropriate access and deal with orphan and dormant accounts and profiles, eliminating potential cybersecurity risks before they begin.

Strengthen Controls

Preventing inappropriate access either by internal users or outside threats is a core piece of cybersecurity and governance for colleges and universities. It’s important that schools not only have the right controls in place but that they’re able to quickly react to any potential threats to the system.

From automatic access deactivation to risk scores to password security, controls are key to tighten access procedures (a crucial part of cybersecurity). Automation exponentially improves these processes to quickly spot and solve any potential breaches before they happen.

Institutions of higher learning are dealing with an exponential amount of personal data at any given moment, and manual solutions simply won’t cut it anymore. The transition to IAM automation is by no means a challenge that’s unique to the higher ed world, but when it comes to governance and data privacy, the stakes are high and complicated. Getting it right is critical not only for governance and cybersecurity success, it benefits the whole IT ecosystem from admin to end-user.

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