Almost two decades ago, Salesforce.com introduced the idea of delivering business applications over the internet. Today, most enterprises are shifting to the cloud. Consequently, businesses are having to hire cloud computing experts to train their employees to use cloud applications.

Cloud applications are a new phenomenon for employees in the majority of business organizations. Therefore, many of them have yet to understand them well enough to stay safe. Unavoidably, with a low-level understanding of the corollaries of their actions in the cloud, many employees do a poor job in securing their credentials.

This failure can result in the attenuation of an entire company system, making it awfully easy for cybercriminals to launch an attack. While even the most cynical of people appreciate the many benefits of cloud applications, every business must do everything necessary to keep its business processes safe by ensuring that its employees keep all application credentials safe, and thereby avoid data breaches.

For hackers, there is never a dull moment in cyberspace; any time is as good as any to launch an attack against a business enterprise. This perpetual risk of being attacked has informed the decision to deploy Identity and Access Management (IAM) systems as a way of securing company data.

There is every indication that cloud applications in business environments will only increase in number. Thus, every business that wants to flourish in the cloud must now find the best IAM solutions to stay afloat in the cyberspace where a single attack can thrash and topple even the most stable of companies.

So how can a business use an Identity and Access Management system to secure its data? Here are a number of tips:

1. Build a strong IAM system

IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence published a report in 2015 in which over 2/5ths of security professionals surveyed said the most common cyber-attacks in a company are those that are never discovered. An Identity and access management system is designed to protect a business from such unknown attacks.

An effective IAM solution should allow employees in a company to access their business cloud applications in a single location, thus eliminating the need for them to memorize the passwords for each cloud application they want to use.

2. Create a strategy for managing unstructured data

In any business organization, unstructured data is a moving target that is always increasing in size. What’s more, the size of the data, its value, as well as its dainty nature, often remains unknown. As a result, accessing and sharing unstructured data becomes extremely hard to control. This is a sharp contrast to application-oriented data which, in an archetypal situation would be well-documented and protected.

By default, unstructured data keeps sprawling within the system while remaining secreted. As a result, it does not get classified, valued or managed. To make matters worse, over 3/4s of all business data is unstructured and it is ever present in a business’ most mission-critical processes. Consequently, it makes the perfect target for cyber criminals.

Given the centrality of unstructured data in the business system, many business executives have resorted to creating an identity department. Its tasks include formulating policy and providing development and oversight of ‘identity’.

It is also the responsibility of the identity department to maintain and monitor the relationships that exist between data and identity. Business leaders are doing this in an effort to manage unstructured data and make company systems hack-proof.

3. Use IAM audit trails to achieve increased visibility of business data

Operational data is constantly evolving and rapidly increasing. Using IAM audit trails a company can improve visibility into this and other data types within the business internal network, including anomalous browsing events that could be the first signs of a security breach.

Additionally, identity and access management system audit trails can be used to monitor how well employees adhere to the set business policies and whether there may be a need for adjustments of further controls.

4. Lock down access and privileges for employees

There’s no real dissection of the state of security in any business organization that can take place without proper management of employee access and privileges. And with the continuous growth of business data (estimated to grow at an annual rate of 30%-40%), the need to increase cloud applications grows too.

This means that unless employees are trained on excellent password and access management practices, the invariably present cyber threats could in a split of a second turn into an all-out cyber-attack.

Many employees would rather have a single password to access all the cloud applications they use on a daily basis. Yet, this is a flawed approach to password management that could cost the entire company a great deal.

By using an Identity and Access Management system, a business is able to create strong and inimitable passwords for every application while keeping all employee and company information secure.

Posted by mattmurren

Matt Murren is the CEO at True North ITG Inc. True North is well known Disaster Recovery and Healthcare IT Services provider.