5 Reasons to Automate the Self-Service Access Request Process

Access request management can be a cumbersome process. This fundamental aspect of identity management enforces data rights based on the principle of least privilege and access governance rules.  Increasing regulation of data security, personal data, and privacy forces organizations to navigate privacy and data requirements from the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) domestically to international regulations like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Hybrid ecosystems increase the complexity of the process, reducing the effectiveness of servicing access requests manually and, thus, expanding the need to automate aspects of the access request/fulfillment process.

What is Access Request Management?

Access request management is the holistic process of receiving, evaluating, and either approving or denying user requests to interact with data and organizational resources. Managing access requests is more than approving or denying access requests based on the identity of the requester; it’s a balancing act between organizational security and operational efficiency. Access request management requires an understanding of digital identity and the risk of access in a given access request. Understanding access request risk involves an in-depth comprehension of privacy and security regulations and which of them applies to the purpose of the request, the user’s digital identity, and the access type.

Access requests can be simple to service, such as granting employee access to a shared resource. However, in the hybrid environment, the implications of access are more challenging to navigate. The different types of resources expand beyond applications and roles to include cloud infrastructure, SaaS applications, shared data, service accounts, RPA, and other new types of access.  Managers and IT approvers face the duress of evaluating the risk associated with access requests across a breadth of legacy and emerging technologies.

What is Access Request Fulfillment?

Access request fulfillment is the service provided at the resolution of an access request.  IT or application administrators grant or revoke access to resources once a request has been evaluated.  Whether this is adding the requester to a role, creating an account in an application, adding the user to a group, or some other action, fulfillment frequently relies upon a manual process.  An IT Administrator often receives the approved request via some channel and has to determine what technical process will give the access the requester wants. Service of an access request becomes a challenge when the access is described in business terms which do not easily translate to precise technical detail. 

Because business and technical terminology are rarely in alignment, requesters often present access requests phrased in broader business terms. These terms don’t translate easily to the desired access control entitlements, leading to confusion and “best guess” entitlements. When internal communications lack clarity there is increased risk that access will not adhere to the principle of least privilege, exposing sensitive data or mission-critical resources and violating security, privacy, and compliance regulations.

What Is a Self-Service Access Request?

A self-service access request is a data or resource access request originating from the individual seeking access.  In legacy environments, these often happen in emails, phone calls, or an IT service management ticketing system. This can lead to a lack of audit trail and manual service of the request.  In a modern identity implementation, access requests are often handled in an Identity Management (IDM) tool or process. These tools have both an online request process and a fulfillment engine to streamline the service of access requests.

New tools also can integrate analytics capabilities.  Intelligent access analytics can save organizations time and money by suggesting appropriate access and highlighting risky requests.  Low-risk access requests can even be automatically approved and fulfilled, easing the burden of managers to approve all requests.

Additionally, access requests can be approved with mitigating controls such as an automatic review date or an end date.  Limiting persistent access significantly lowers risk in that access is removed automatically. An IDM platform that allows self-service access requests makes security and compliance easier through consistent enforcement and tracking of digital identities across the IT ecosystem.

What is Human Error Risk?

Manual service of access requests comes with an inherent risk of human error. Most common is the risk that the access request will be for excessive access. To avoid potential delays, requesters will submit access requests for permissions above and beyond the scope of their task. This can lead to privilege creep over time. Additionally, excessive access requests violate the principle of least privilege.  Unfortunately, IT managers and administrators often approve all access requests with little scrutiny to avoid appearing obstructionist, and due to a lack of familiarity with fine-grained access. Other common human error risks are a lack of access tracking and the failure to limit the duration of access.

Approval isn’t the only aspect of access requests vulnerable to human error. Service of access requests is equally susceptible.  The potential for a typo or erroneous group selection can easily result in a lack of access, excessive access, or improper group membership.  All of these can create security or privacy violations or even lead to a data breach. Administrators manually fulfilling access requests often deal with large workloads in fast-paced environments, increasing the potential for mistakes.

What is an Audit Trail and What is its Purpose?

An audit trail is a sequence of electronic records or logs that document events including who was involved, what activity took place, where it occurred and the time/date the events took place.  When discussing access request management, an audit trail is documentation and evidence used to establish a chain of how access requests were approved, what data was involved, when rights were granted, and who approved them.

Audit trails are often used to demonstrate regulatory compliance to security and privacy regulations such as PCI-DSS, HIPAA, SOX, GLBA or GDPR. An audit trail provides evidence to the auditor regarding access requests for specified resources over time proving that at any given time only appropriately authorized people had access to sensitive data or restricted resources.  Access request logs often are required as a part of the audit trail. Manual documentation consistent enforcement of security and privacy policies, compiling access request logs, and tracking of digital identities for audit purposes can be onerous.

5 Reasons to Automate Self-Service Access Requests

  • Mitigate Human Error Risk – Automating access requests and fulfillment removes the human error risk factor and promotes least privilege by flagging unnecessary or excessive access for requesters and approvers. Typographical and selection mistakes are eliminated as well.
  • Establish an Audit Trail – Automated logging of access requests ensures the creation of accurate audit trail documentation for regulatory compliance purposes.
  • Streamline Compliance – Automated access requests and fulfillment creates a centralized location for audit trail documentation and streamlines the generation of reports verifying that access to specific data and resources has been restricted appropriately as required by security, compliance, and privacy regulations. 
  • Create Better User Experience – Streamlining access requests expedites the approval/denial process based on recommendations and minimizes the approval time for low-risk access. Automating fulfillment increases employee productivity.  A consistent and intuitive process reduces the workload for requesters and approvers.
  • Increase IT Department Productivity – Automating low-risk access request approval and the fulfillment of all access removes the manual burden from the IT Administrators increasing their available cycles for other projects.

Why Saviynt? Intelligent Identity to Ease Operational Burdens

Managing the digital identity lifecycle and associated access request/fulfillment across an organization is fraught with challenges even before the audit requirements of security and privacy regulations. Dealing with day-to-day provisioning, de-provisioning, on-boarding, and access requests makes manual identity management labor-intensive, time-consuming, and expensive. Saviynt can help.

Saviynt mitigates human error risk associated with access requests and fulfillment through our automation and risk visibility. We tie entitlement management to the principle of least privilege.  We utilize peer and outlier analytics to identify risky access combinations and determine the appropriate approval process before fulfillment. 

Saviynt can help establish an audit trail and streamline compliance through our use of continuous monitoring and logging to demonstrate regulatory compliance with security, data, and privacy regulations such as PCI-DSS, HIPAA, SOX, GLBA or GDPR. Our Control Exchange library has over 200 out-of-the-box controls based on privacy and security regulations and industry standards. These controls provide application- or platform-specific insight into access with Separation of Duty (SOD) or compliance risk and streamline mitigation and audit.

Saviynt’s platform provides an identity-based approach to application access governance. With our integrated compliance controls, intelligent analytics, and continuous monitoring and documentation, Saviynt’s platform can help ease operational burdens. Automating your access request and fulfillment process increases productivity and reduces risks to your applications and data, streamlining your digital transformation while saving your organization both time and money.

MJ Kaufmann

About author

MJ Kaufmann is an industry veteran with two decades of experience in the field. Her experience covers a wide range of technology from networking to application development and systems analyst, through information security. She holds a Master's in Information security as well as two industry certifications, NSTISSI No. 4011 and NSTISSI No. 4013.

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