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July 4, 2024

User Access Reviews: Roadmap for ISO 27001 Compliance

Samuel Bismut
CTO and co-founder

User Access Reviews: Roadmap for ISO 27001 Compliance

Ensuring that only authorized individuals have access to necessary SaaS applications and data is a cornerstone of ISO 27001 compliance. This standard aims to create a controlled access environment where access is granted based on individual necessity. Regular user access reviews are crucial for adhering to this standard, enabling effective management and governance of the organization's access landscape.

The Benefits of ISO 27001 Compliance

Complying with ISO 27001 enhances security by allowing IT teams to manage who has access to what, reducing the risk of data breaches and unauthorized access. Additionally, it helps protect the organization's reputation. In the event of a security breach, effective access control management minimizes potential penalties and negative PR impacts. Many, especially larger and more established, companies prefer to buy from vendors that have at least one certification. In the European market, ISO 27001 is widely recognised

The Risks of Non-Compliance

A non-compliant company trying to get certified will struggle in the process without proving comprehensive conformity on the requirements. Beyond the issues of not getting certified or losing your certification, failing to comply with ISO 27001 can have severe consequences for the company. It is akin to giving keys to your office to anyone who asks, inviting potential attackers into your systems. Such negligence can lead to data loss, legal and regulatory penalties, revenue decline.

Key Aspects to Focus on for ISO 27001 Compliance

To comply with ISO 27001, focus on these critical aspects of user access management that are required to be fulfilled in order to pass the audit:

1. User Access Lifecycle: Establish clear processes for managing user access from onboarding to offboarding. This includes granting, modifying, and revoking access as needed.

2. Requesting Access: Develop a formal system for users to request access to systems, applications, or resources, specifying their needs.

3. Approving Access Requests: Implement a flexible approval process, ensuring only authorized personnel can grant access, typically involving managers verifying the alignment of requests with job responsibilities.

4. Implementing Access: Ensure a structured approach to implementing approved access, including provisioning user accounts, modifying permissions, and setting up necessary security controls.

5. Managing Changes to Access: Establish protocols for updating access permissions as users' roles change, revoking unnecessary access, or granting additional access as required. Automated user provisioning not only makes the job of your IT manager easier, it also increases security and compliance.

6. Monitoring Access: Regularly monitor user access to detect anomalies or unauthorized activities. Use security tools and logs to track who accesses what and when, identifying potential threats proactively.

7. Revoking Access: Ensure access is promptly revoked when no longer needed or when a user leaves the organization to prevent unauthorized access.

By effectively addressing these aspects, your IT team can seamlessly comply with ISO 27001, ensuring controlled and secure access to your organization's systems and data.

How User Access Reviews Help Achieve ISO 27001 Compliance

ISO 27001 includes Annex A, which outlines controls for the information security management system (ISMS). One essential control is the "periodic review of access rights." Regular access reviews are mandatory for compliance, ensuring that all users with access are authorized. This process helps identify unauthorized users and mitigate risks associated with disgruntled former employees, temporary staff, or contractors. Most companies do this quarterly so they check if the accesses are still up to date 4 times per year.

For example, if an ex-employee's account remains active, they could misuse their credentials to gain unauthorized access. This could lead to unauthorized data access, data leaks, or even malicious attacks.

Depending on the organization's size and complexity, user access reviews can range from simple data extractions to sophisticated analytical methods. Here's how your IT team can conduct user access reviews effectively:

Best Practices for User Access Reviews

1. Implement Role-Based Access Control (RBAC): Assign specific permissions to different job roles to streamline onboarding and access management. This simplifies access reviews by focusing only on special permissions.

2. Set Up and Update Access Policy: Develop and maintain an access policy that outlines what permissions are needed for each job role. Update this policy as organizational needs evolve.

3. Decide Review Frequency: Determine how often access reviews should occur based on compliance requirements and the criticality of the resources. Conduct regular reviews to maintain security.

4. Record Audit Results: Keep a record of findings from access reviews to identify potential issues and improve the process. This will also make the process easier for the upcoming audit which is never far away!

Simplifying and automating Access Reviews with Corma

Managing user access reviews manually can be challenging, especially in large organizations. Automated solutions like Corma can simplify this process. Corma offers features such as automated access reviews, auto-remediation, and activity alerts, helping your IT team manage user access and meet ISO 27001 requirements without dozens and dozens of manual work.

For example, consider an intern who gains access to multiple departments' systems during their internship. Even if they don't intend to misuse this access, retaining these permissions poses a risk. Corma conducts frequent reviews and helps revoke unnecessary permissions, ensuring security.

Corma's advanced capabilities provide full visibility into user access data, simplifying the access review process. By leveraging tools like Corma, your organization can effectively manage user access, maintain data security, and ensure ISO 27001 compliance. By implementing these best practices and utilizing advanced tools, your IT team can achieve and maintain ISO 27001 compliance, ensuring a secure and well-controlled access environment.

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