IAM consulting: A key priority on the CISO agenda | HCLTech

IAM consulting: A key priority on the CISO agenda

Sonal Srivastava, Global Lead for IAM Strategy, Consulting and Advisory at HCLTech, explores the role of IAM Consulting in safeguarding digital identities and navigating the threat landscape
6 minutes read
Mousume Roy
Mousume Roy
APAC Reporter, HCLTech
6 minutes read
IAM consulting: A key priority on the CISO agenda

Amidst the ever-increasing cyber threats and stringent regulatory requirements, the need for establishing robust cybersecurity measures has never been more pressing. Within today’s hybrid and dynamic environments, Identity and Access Management (IAM) holds a critical place in protecting an organization’s security posture. HCLTech Trends and Insights recently spoke with Sonal Srivastava, Global Lead for IAM Strategy, Consulting and Advisory at HCLTech, to delve deeper into pivotal role of IAM in shaping cybersecurity strategies.

"Identity is the bridge that connects everything in an organization," he explains. "From human users to non-human entities like machines and applications, managing identities and controlling access is crucial for safeguarding organization’s assets, data and resources.”

The traditional notion of network perimeters has dissolved in the face of rapid technological advancements and evolving work paradigms. Srivastava mentions this paradigm shift, stating: "With the advent of cloud computing and remote work, boundaries have blurred. Identity has become the primary focus for security, as it determines who has access to what, regardless of location or device."

He sheds light on the intrinsic link between IAM and the broader cybersecurity ecosystem, emphasizing its pivotal role in mitigating multifaceted cyber risks. "In today's interconnected environment, the efficacy of cybersecurity strategies hinges on robust identity governance and access management," he asserts. "IAM not only serves as a bulwark against external threats, but also enhances regulatory compliance and fosters a culture of proactive security measures."

The role of IAM in zero trust

For Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs), IAM serves as the cornerstone for managing the organization's overall security posture. As breaches and cyberattacks often exploit vulnerabilities in identity and access systems, controls & processes, making it imperative for CISOs to prioritize IAM initiatives in their security strategies.

Zero trust, the mainstream security framework, places identity at its core as the foundation for implementing the recommended privilege principles. Srivastava elaborates: "Zero trust mandates continuous authentication and authorization, making IAM indispensable. By verifying identities at every access attempt, organizations can mitigate the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches."

Despite its criticality, implementing IAM poses several challenges for organizations. He identifies legacy systems, decentralized processes and the rapid pace of technological change as key hurdles. "Legacy infrastructure, poor housekeeping, siloed solutions and non-standard processes hinder IAM efforts," he notes. "Organizations must navigate these complexities while ensuring alignment with business objectives and regulatory requirements."

Srivastava shares how the transition to cloud and hybrid environments has eliminated the boundaries of traditional data centers and necessitating a reevaluation of enterprise security. He aptly describes how COVID-19 has catalyzed identity's evolution into the new perimeter, amplifying the urgency for robust IAM frameworks to ensure business continuity amidst remote workforces and evolving threat landscapes.

While organizations navigate hybrid environments and adopt emerging technologies like AI and ML, the complexity of IAM adoption and/or modernization continues to grow. He elaborates the need for CISOs to adapt and innovate in architecting modern IAM solutions that address evolving security challenges while ensuring compliance and resilience.

Leveraging consulting and advisory services

To address these challenges, organizations can benefit from consulting and advisory services. Srivastava underscores the value of expert guidance, stating: "Consultants provide unprejudiced insights, identify core problem areas, quantify risks and develop tailored strategies to address IAM challenges. They also assist in crafting a roadmap for implementation and, most importantly, enable the customer for securing stakeholder buy-in to move ahead.”

HCLTech adopts a pragmatic approach to IAM consulting, focusing on understanding each client’s unique needs which could range from digital transformation to mergers, acquisitions and divestitures, identity modernization and zero trust adoption. He explains: "We understand the client's expectation and pain points, tailor solutions accordingly and deliver tangible outcomes. Our client-centric and risk-based approach ensures that the IAM program delivers the expected outcome on time and as per the defined blueprint."

Srivastava sheds light on the challenges organizations encounter in implementing IAM solutions. He illustrates this with a consulting engagement at a leading automotive manufacturer. "The organization, with its stringent adherence to legacy processes, faced hurdles in adapting to new technologies," he explains. "Through consulting, we established a central governance unit to streamline IAM deployment, addressing siloed processes and ensuring unified oversight."

Another compelling case he shares revolves around a pharmaceutical customer in the US. "This organization grappled with disparate identity management tools and lacked a cohesive IAM strategy," he elaborates. "Conducting a maturity assessment, we identified gaps and recommended IAM solutions tailored to their needs, empowering them to enhance their IAM maturity."

With the help of expert guidance, and through unbiased assessment of the current state, strategic planning for end state and stakeholder buy-in for the envisioned strategy and roadmap, consulting and advisory engagements can drive meaningful initiatives with targeted outcomes, enabling organizations to adopt modern IAM solutions, industry trends and best practices, while making them more resilient for detecting and responding to identity related threats and positioning them for sustained success in the digital age.

Embracing emerging trends

"AI and ML are revolutionizing IAM, enabling adaptive authentication and real-time threat detection," Srivastava asserts. "However, responsible AI usage is imperative, considering evolving regulatory frameworks and ethical considerations." 

He emphasizes the need for CISOs to stay abreast of evolving regulations governing AI safety and security, advocating for a cautious approach to adoption. Another trend on the horizon is quantum computing, with direct implications for encryption and authentication within IAM. Srivastava urges CISOs to remain vigilant and informed about advancements in this area, as quantum computing poses both opportunities and challenges for cybersecurity.

Transitioning from trends to measurable outcomes, Srivastava emphasizes the significance of specific metrics in evaluating the efficacy of IAM investments. He advocates for metrics that track key aspects such as adoption and utilization of IAM tools and technologies within the organization, user experience and compliance status of accounts. By aligning metrics with deliverables and monitoring their trends over time, organizations can gauge the success of their IAM initiatives and drive continuous improvement.

Srivastava's insights touch upon the dynamic nature of IAM and the need for strategic adaptation in response to evolving trends and regulatory landscapes. By embracing innovations like AI, ML and responsible usage practices, organizations can enhance their security posture and adapt to the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape. 

However, navigating the myriad of IAM trends and different expectations of multiple stakeholders can be daunting for organizations. Srivastava offers pragmatic advice on investment planning: "Whether it is machine identity management or Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM) or something relatively simple as Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), organizations must align investments with the gaps that pose highest risk and have most impact on the security. Conducting a maturity assessment of the existing landscape is crucial to identify gaps, be aware of risks and prioritize investments. A view of where you are is a crucial step in this direction and helps in defining the vision for future. "

Cloud: The catalyst for innovation


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Leveraging HCLTech's expertise

Srivastava highlights HCLTech's role in guiding organizations through their IAM journey. "HCLTech offers comprehensive consulting and advisory services tailored to each client's unique needs. From landscape reviews to strategic investment planning, we empower organizations to navigate the complexities of cybersecurity with confidence."

Srivastava identifies several key trends that CISOs should consider in their investment strategies. Machine identity management emerges as a critical area in modern times, underlining the importance of non-human identities requiring equal scrutiny as human identities. Secrets management, essential for safeguarding machine-to-machine and application-to-application communications, assumes heightened importance in the context of DevOps, cloud and microservices architectures.

He emphasizes the significance of identity threat detection and response in today's world, where ransomware and phishing attacks are increasingly common. It must be assumed that a breach will happen, and organizations must have a strategy in place to deal with it.

Cloud adoption necessitates robust privilege management practices universally across all “hyperscalers” that an organization might have subscribed to. This is where CIEM emerges as a crucial aspect, ensuring visibility, control, governance and security across sprawling cloud deployments.

Identity analytics and user behavior monitoring, coupled with adaptive authentication and phishing-resistant MFA, further bolster security postures, especially for retail businesses with vast customer bases. Meanwhile, Privileged Access Management (PAM) remains a cornerstone of IAM strategies, safeguarding critical infrastructure and mitigating the risk of attacks targeted to privileged identities and privileged access (including ransomware attacks).

IAM is one of the top priorities of CISOs worldwide and there is no doubt that through strategic consulting and advisory services, organizations can enhance their IAM maturity, mitigate risks, modernize and align with emerging trends. To navigate through this journey and identify optimal investment pathways, Srivastava advises CISOs to proactively allocate budgets for advisory, consulting and assessments. 

By leveraging HCLTech's expertise in IAM Strategy Advisory and Consulting, CISOs can effectively address gaps in their IAM landscape, have a proper strategy and blueprint and execute them effectively with clarity and confidence to reinforce their security posture against emerging threats and ensure resilience in the face of evolving threats.

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