Opinion: How safe is your customer identity data?

The upsurge in online consumer transactions and social networking has coincided with a dramatic rise in identity data theft

The upsurge in online consumer transactions and social networking has coincided with a dramatic rise in identity data theft. Some of the world’s largest corporations have recently fallen victim to hacking attacks and identify data theft, while other online businesses have been compromised and sidelined for days or weeks, losing millions of dollars in revenue and suffering significant reputational damage. It’s never been more important for companies to act in order to avoid becoming the next victim of identity data theft.

So, what can organisations do to safeguard their customer data?

If credit card information is stolen and fraudulent financial transactions occur, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) has strict compliance controls on credit card issuers and merchants. Anecdotal evidence suggests that smaller merchants largely ignore PCI and simply wear the costs as negotiated with the issuer. However, not all identity data is linked to credit cards and is therefore not covered by PCI. 

In these cases, the onus is on the organisation to ensure its identity data is secure – ideally with a system that is based on risk management.

Smaller companies may not have a dedicated Governance, Risk and Compliance program to detect non-compliant security policies. While larger organisations may be attacked by ‘advanced persistent threats’ (APTs), smaller companies with less security are now being targeted because the account details the company has retained are often used to gain access to larger targets.

Identity Management (IdM) is one domain of identity data security that can actually increase revenue and productivity. An effective IdM strategy creates a foundation for coordinated security and processes that allow companies to manage the user identity lifecycle.

A centralised IdM system reduces the time required to build security into each application for authentication and authorisation, and reduces the time to market for online applications. It allows security to be focused on protecting the identity data, rather than having separately managed identity data stores dispersed throughout the organisation, supporting each different application.

An IdM system significantly reduces the workload on service desk resources and security administrators. The business can operate more efficiently with a reduced number of systems administrators who can then redirect their focus to high value and challenging tasks, rather than spending time on mundane password resets. Password policies reduce the risk of accounts being hacked through the setting of passwords that are too simple and do not change on a regular basis.

IdM systems automate many manual processes and workflows in the provisioning of user accounts and application entitlements. Orphan accounts (active user accounts that should be disabled, e.g. in the case of an employee termination) and access entitlement accumulation are two major security shortfalls for companies without an operational IdM system.

An IdM system automates the removal and disablement of these accounts through de-provisioning, preventing identity data theft or identity data fraud by disgruntled ex-employees. IdM systems also restrict access entitlements to ‘need to know’ information, based on roles, instead of discretionary access controls that accumulate with time and can sometimes grant users with too much access to sensitive information. Such access can be misused by inside threats or targeted by hackers, Trojans and other malware.

The benefits of IdM to your customers are: faster, easier access to new services with a single sign-on username and password; self-service user preferences and contact information; and self-service password resets (without long waits on the phone for service desk assistance).

If your CIO has not yet funded an IdM program, it’s now time to budget for IdM (or an IdM review) before your organisation loses its customer identity data, its credibility and – above all – its customers.



Anton Koren Senior Principal Consultant, Identity Management Oracle Consulting Services ________________________________________________

Anton Koren is a Senior Principal Consultant for Oracle Consulting Services at Oracle Corporation. Anton is technical advisor on Identity Management strategy, architecture and deployment to clients and business partners. Anton joined Oracle in 2011, as a Senior Principal Consultant. Prior to his tenure at Oracle, he held positions of Product Group Manager, and Senior Architect (Identity Management) at UNIFY Solutions, Identity Architect at CSG Limited and Software Engineering Manager and Development Manager at CA.

Anton holds a Bachelor of Applied Science from Deakin University and a Graduate Diploma of Marketing from Monash University. Anton is a CISSP, a member of the Australian Information Security Association (AISA), and a member of the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA).

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