Identity risk management: What is it and how can you achieve it?

Risk. It’s more than just an infuriating board game from your childhood. And when identity risk is involved in your cybersecurity landscape – and it will be involved, since identity is one of the most easily accessible and most frequently attacked facets of your IT environment – the potential consequences of its compromise extend well beyond losing control of a fantasy continent on a game board. Identity is attacked so often because compromised credentials are the easiest way into your digital infrastructure, making an infiltrated identity a gold mine for hackers seeking your most critical data.

So, if identity risk is so prevalent and so devastating, how can you use its management as the perimeter of defense in your security infrastructure? First, it’s important to know what this mythical identity risk management really is.

What is identity risk management? 

While general risk management concerns the broad real-time detection of risk and reaction to threats, identity risk management is a methodology that specifically spotlights identity and its corresponding vulnerabilities and threats. Given identity’s critical role in every organization, along with its propensity to be targeted by attackers, managing this specific risk bolsters your security immeasurably.

The four main elements of identity risk management are:

  • Risk prevention
  • Risk detection
  • Risk remediation
  • Risk prediction

Implementing these four elements propels an identity security landscape to be hardened against even the most devious of attacks.

How can you achieve identity risk management?

Implementing risk prevention, detection, remediation and prediction within your systems can be a hefty undertaking. Tools encompassing identity governance, privilege management, access management, and Active Directory management are essential components of a comprehensive cybersecurity plan. A few key steps can start your journey towards comprehensive identity risk management.

Risk prevention: Keep your locks updated

Identity risk management assumes that the best way to deal with risk is to keep it from happening in the first place. Easier said than done, but there are actions you can take to up prevention in the realm of identity risk.

For starters, regularly monitoring for and getting rid of vulnerabilities like unused entitlements will keep attackers sneaking in the proverbial backdoor. How? By determining which locks on which doors need to be updated and changing them before they can be opened with an old or illegally obtained key.

In the same way, digitally, identity governance tools can monitor which users have access to what, highlighting unused entitlements for removal before they can be exploited.

Much of this can be done through attestation and certification tools to achieve industry compliance. Solid tools with attestation features can automatically verify correctness of entitlements, requests or exception approvals. Tools that can use the same workflows for both attestation and recertification, for regular certification of permissions, will save you time and energy, tilting the game of identity risk management in your favor.

Risk detection: Monitor your opponent’s moves

The ability to detect the very real threat of a compromised identity is crucial. Incorporating policies, defined as regulations to company resources for both internal and external employees, can help you assess risk through monitoring of policy violations. The proper tools can even regularly check for adherence to company policies.

Because just as you’d monitor your opponents’ moves in the board game Risk, you’ll want to monitor for unusual and unpermitted changes in your policies and system configurations. Why? Because recent changes to configuration or rights assignments are normally an indication of vulnerability, if not threat. But if it can be detected, it can be corrected.

Risk remediation: Execute on your triggers

Taking the appropriate actions to resolve threats and vulnerabilities in identity risk management requires a plan of execution that can be triggered by unlicensed configuration changes in your system.

The best plans contain a combination of preset actions, such as disabling the account of a user whose credentials appear to be compromised, driving an attestation, opening a trouble ticket or any combination of items.

Tools that incorporate Behavior Driven Governance (BDG) will allow you to execute on such triggers with clear and continuous visibility into what access rights are being used, and by whom, to enforce the principle of least privilege. While identity governance administration solutions are not the typical place to resolve all risks, they are perfect for identity risks related to threats from a compromised user account. And having the ability from BDG to revoke user access is one of the strongest ways to outwit your opponent.

Risk prediction: Use your experiences

But the best way to beat an opponent, whether in the board game Risk or in identity risk management, is to predict that opponent’s every move. Predicting those moves is often a matter of experience. And we know from experience that insight into other areas of potential identity risk allows us to manage that risk before it begins.

Using change log information is one of the best ways to predict future infiltrations made with compromised credentials. After all, even if changes do not violate policy, they can still present possible risk, and change log information can clarify to risk prevention, detection and mitigation tools whether the changes are malicious or not.

However, the best tools go beyond utilizing change log information. Especially when every user with authorization signifies a threat to your IT environment. Solutions with risk indexing, which enter a risk value for every company resource and rule, can protect your data even further by providing default functions for the risk index calculations.

Utilizing risk scores gives you the upper hand against anyone attempting to exploit vulnerabilities by predicting exactly what their openings might be, and advancing your strategies to ensure you win the game.


Identity is the gateway to your most valuable data, making it the perfect infiltration point for attackers looking to get their hands on that data. Protecting against the identity risk posed by these attackers, and posed by the very vulnerabilities that leave the door open to them, is critical. You can shore up risks to your identity with a robust identity risk management solution. Prevention, detection, remediation and prediction of identity risk is feasible with the right rules and the best tools. Fend off opponents’ attempts to take over the board by keeping your identity safe.

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