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6 Essential UAR Processes to Improve Cyber Compliance

4 Min. Read

As regulatory compliance requirements grow more complex and expensive, so do cyber compliance management initiatives. Today, they sprawl across several departments, including legal, financial, and IT, and they involve tracing data flow around the entire organization. At the same time, data is multiplying in both volume and the spread of sources.

This article shares six essential User Access Review (UAR) processes to improve cyber compliance.

Improve Cyber Compliance

Compliance management often feels like a never-ending nightmare of investigating access permissions, tracking down whoever is responsible for a certain data flow, and interviewing people about the tools they use and external parties they connect with. A savvy User Access Review (UAR) process can keep security teams sane.

In brief, UAR involves examining which bodies and individuals can access which tools, data, systems, and more. The idea is to ensure everyone has the resources they need to do their jobs and that no unauthorized users can access private data.

Many regulatory frameworks, including NIST, PCI DSS, HIPAA, GDPR, and SOX, require documented UAR as part of compliance. Additionally, performing UAR gives you visibility into data flow and access from tools and third parties, which is crucial for your knowledge of potential vulnerabilities.

It’s worth investing in elevating your UAR standards and improving the review process because solid UAR forms the foundation for reliable and feasible compliance management.

1. Involve More Stakeholders

Although the burden of UAR processes falls squarely upon cyber and compliance teams, other departments should be kept abreast of their importance. IT, security, business, and HR teams need to understand the impact of UAR so that cyber and compliance aren’t fighting against the tide when carrying out investigations, and the process itself can be more efficient.

It’s also important to consult with other stakeholders before conducting a UAR to ensure that all access decisions are aligned with business requirements and compliance objectives.

Involve More Stakeholders
Involve More Stakeholders

2. Automate the Elements That You Can

There’s no reason for UAR to turn into a headache and a source of stress. Instead, use automated tools and identity management systems to streamline the user access review process. For example, Cypago automatically finds orphaned and dormant accounts, reveals poorly-defined user access permissions that need attention, and then presents all this information in a user-friendly single source of truth, which you can use to execute changes.

Automation can help reduce manual effort, minimize errors, and ensure timely reviews by relieving much of the burden from IT and governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) teams. Moreover, once UAR becomes quick and easy, you can run reviews more frequently, raising your compliance posture and reducing the risk of nasty surprises.

3. Implement Segregation of Duties (SoD)

Segregation of Duties, or SoD, is an important approach that helps prevent any conflicts of interest when it comes to assigning user access. With SoD, the roles which are responsible for granting and revoking user access are not the same ones as those who manage the actual systems or applications in question.

Implement Segregation of Duties (SoD)
Implement Segregation of Duties (SoD)

Implementing SoD using a tool like SecureEnds helps reduce the risk of individuals abusing their privileges or bypassing security controls. By ensuring that access rights are granted based on need and proper authorization, SoD serves as a crucial bulwark against insider threats.

4. Schedule Regular Review Cycles

Like every compliance management method, UAR needs to be carried out regularly. Employees come and go, individuals are moved to different roles, and third parties change frequently. You must run a UAR often enough to prevent inappropriate users from being grandfathered into access-sensitive databases and remove former employees or partners from all your tools and systems.

The frequency depends on your risk profile and regulatory requirements — you may need to run UAR quarterly, semi-annually, or just once a year. It’s equally important to regularly review your review cycles to ensure they are still relevant to your current level of risk.

Implementing access review and separation of duties using Microsoft Entra Identity Governance helps to automate employee and business partners to access apps and services—in the cloud and on-premises—at an enterprise scale and helps ensure that people have access when they require it—without the burden of manual approvals.

Microsoft Entra Identity Governance | Access packages
Microsoft Entra Identity Governance | Access packages

With Microsoft Entra ID Governance, you can balance security and productivity by ensuring that the right people have the right access to the right resources for the right amount of time. Identity governance increases users’ productivity and helps to strengthen security and meet compliance and regulatory requirements.

5. Use Role Based Access Controls (RBAC)

Tools like ManageEngine enable you to implement role-based access controls or RBAC, whenever someone assigns access rights. With ManageEngine, you can use RBAC to define standardized roles with predefined access permissions so that such privileges are assigned based on roles and responsibilities and not decided anew for each individual.

RBAC makes it easier to manage access rights daily, helping to streamline such decisions, enforce least privilege principles, and prevent errors and abuse. Organizations that regularly use RBAC find that UAR goes much more smoothly because fewer mistaken access rights need correction.

Access management for cloud resources is a critical function for any organization that is using the cloud today. Microsoft Entra role-based access control and Azure role-based access control (Azure RBAC) help you control access to Microsoft Entra resources such as users, groups, and applications and access to Azure resources such as virtual machines or storage using Azure Resource Management.

Role Based Access Controls (RBAC)
Role Based Access Controls (RBAC)

6. Document Every Review

Carrying out the UAR process is vital, but it’s also not quite enough. You also need to maintain detailed documentation of every UAR, including the reasons behind all your access decisions, any remedial actions you had to take, and reviewer comments about the UAR.

Tools like ConductorOne provide robust built-in auditing and reporting features that simplify the process of documenting every UAR. These audit trails help you demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements and internal policies and justify your decisions if the worst should happen and a breach occurs.

In Conclusion

As regulatory demands evolve and data complexities grow, implementing the six key UAR processes outlined in this article becomes paramount.

By involving more stakeholders, automating where possible, implementing Segregation of Duties (SoD), scheduling regular review cycles, embracing Role-Based Access Controls (RBAC), and diligently documenting each review, you not only enhance your compliance posture but also fortify your defense against potential threats.

Remember, UAR isn’t just about ticking boxes on a compliance checklist; it’s about building a proactive shield against unauthorized access and potential vulnerabilities. Invest in mastering UAR, and you’ll not only navigate the complex landscape of compliance management but also rest easy knowing your cybersecurity is in solid hands. Strengthen your foundation, elevate your standards, and confidently face the cybersecurity challenges.

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Thank you for reading my blog.

If you have any questions or feedback, please leave a comment.

-Charbel Nemnom-

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About the Author
Charbel Nemnom
Charbel Nemnom is a Senior Cloud Architect with 20+ years of IT experience. As a Swiss Certified Information Security Manager (ISM), CCSP, CISM, MVP, and MCT, he excels in optimizing mission-critical enterprise systems. His extensive practical knowledge spans complex system design, network architecture, business continuity, and cloud security, establishing him as an authoritative and trustworthy expert in the field. Charbel frequently writes about Cloud, Cybersecurity, and IT Certifications.
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