The Hidden Identity Threat: Excessive Application Access

MJ Kaufmann

MJ Kaufmann

Security Specialist

One of the most vital principles in information security is the principle of least privilege. It’s a core component of Zero Trust and a time-tested method of reducing identity and access risk. Yet, 80% of data breaches  continue to result from users and accounts that have excessive application access and access to sensitive data. 

Most excessive access is unintentional and too often goes undetected until a problem occurs. Consider a development team working on an emergency application fix. The developers gain access to resources that contain sensitive data. This isn’t an issue since it’s data they need to test their fix to the application. But once the application is fixed, the developers no longer need access. Did anyone remember to remove that access? Too often, the answer is no. The result is now all of those developers have access to sensitive information that they no longer need. Situations like this occur across enterprises every day – and they introduce unnecessary risk that can – and often does – result in a data breach.

Even more concerning is that people outside the organization, like contractors, vendors, or previous employees, may still have access to your organization’s sensitive data and applications. How does this happen? In much the same way as the scenario above. Third-party vendors are usually not in the HR system and manage their own staff. And turnover may require circulating multiple individuals onto a project throughout its duration. Some people may stay while others rotate in and out. But all of them require application access to do their jobs. It’s this type of access – which requires frequent updating of permissions – that is often a culprit of third-party risk and excessive application access. Because deprovisioning doesn’t stop anyone from working, it is easily forgotten.

When that application access is left in place after the project or task is completed, former vendors, and sometimes even former employees who’ve retired or left the organization – continue to have access. Their credentials still work, providing a path into your organization’s most critical assets.

So, how can you address the threat of access sprawl at your organization? The best course of action is to rope in excessive access issues and maintain it with application access and governance solutions. By implementing the right software and taking preventative measures, your organization can save a lot of money and time while simultaneously reducing risk. 

In the infographic below, we share some key data and research your organization should consider in its fight to close the access gap. We also provide some simple and effective steps you can take to curb and prevent excessive application access threats.

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