Identity Access Management for ISO27001

If you have been following along with our blog posts on building up our security framework then by now you will have thoroughly vetted your staff prior to them joining and have HR controls in place we now move on to consider their user account and access management. Having a good User Access Management is vital, not just for ISO 27001 but also other security standards such as PCI-DSS and GDPR.

There are 6 controls in all, from the initial account creation right down to preventing privilege creep by auditing user privileges.

Security category – 9.2. User access management

9.2.1. User registration and de-registration.

This control details how our organization onboards new employees and disables the accounts of former employees. The process should be formally documented and procedures in place for the registration and deregistration of accounts. This includes provisioning unique user ID’s for the employee. The registration process should be carried out for any information service that the user needs access to and should include regular audits to ensure user accounts are disabled when a staff member leaves their role. This control is primarily about authentication.

9.2.2. User access provisioning.

While the previous control described the authentication process staff should go through to log into an account to access a server, the level of access the user requires is described here. During the user provisioning process, specific rights and permissions will need to be granted to the employee and these rights should be recorded in a central repository which makes auditing and reviewing them easier. It can reasonably be expected that an employee may change roles one or more times during their time with your organization. During these role changes the level of access and rights the user requires can fluctuate and regular reviews can counter privilege creep; where long serving staff retain access to systems they no longer have a business need to access. With correct access management we can reduce risks and if we specify sanctions for any unauthorized access attempts a staff member might make we will improve our security posture.

9.2.3. Management of privileged access rights.

Privileged access should be strictly controlled as it allows the employee to circumvent security controls. A good example of this is not allowing staff to use root or admin accounts to perform their daily duties, and only using those privileged accounts when there is a specific need. The privileged access usage should be clearly documented including which users can access privileged rights and for which services. Requiring users to authenticate with their unique ID allows us the ability to audit the use of these accounts and to check and protect against abuse of privileged access. The access such be reserved and only used if there is an absolute need. There should also be a documented procedure outlining the authorization process required to gain access to this privilege level.

9.2.4. Management of secret authentication information of users.

One of the biggest risks that is often ignored at companies is how a user’s credentials are provided to them, and managed. An example of poor practice is if a company’s IT department simply emails passwords to users in clear text and with no requirement in place for the user to change their password or keep it secret. Proper password management should ensure credentials are sent to users over a secure medium in a co-ordinated and documented way, with steps taken to ensure that the user changes their password once received and acknowledges receiving it. The user should have to agree to a password policy that describes not only password requirements such as complexity but password management best practises such as not sharing it, or keeping it written on a post-it under your desk.

9.2.5. Review of user’s access rights.

Users roles change over time. What access a user requires now, may not be what they require in 6 months’ time. In many companies long serving employees can move between roles throughout their time with the organization. Having regular audits or reviews of user access rights can ensure that rights a user has retained from a previous role can be removed when no longer needed.

9.2.6. Removal of users of access rights.

When an employee leaves the organization or their contract changes often the level of access the require for different services changes. In this case un-needed access should be removed then and there to prevent permission creep. This also extends to informing relevant staff of the role change to avoid un-intentional disclosure of information.

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