Strategic Trifecta: Access Management

#mobile A single, contextual point of control for access management can ease the pain of managing the explosion of client devices in enterprise environments.

Regardless of the approach to access management, ultimately any solution must include the concept of control. Control over data, over access to corporate resources, over processes and over actions b y users themselves.

The latter requires a non-technological solution – education and clear communication of policies that promote a collaborative approach to security. As Michael Santarcangelo , a.k.a. The Security Catalyst, explains:  “Our success depends on our ability to get closer to people, to work together to bridge the human paradox gap, to partner on how we protect information.” (Why dropping the label of “users” improves how we practice security) This includes facets of security that simply cannot effectively be addressed through technology. Don’t share confidential information on social networks, be aware of corporate data and where it may be at rest and protect it with passwords and encryption if it’s a personal device. Because of the nature of mobile devices, technology cannot seriously address security concerns without extensive assistance from service providers who are unlikely to be willing to implement what would be customer-specific controls over data within their already stressed networks. This means education and clear communication will be imperative to successfully navigating the growing security chasm between IT and mobile devices.

The issues regarding control over access to corporate resources, however, can be addressed through the implementation of policies that govern access to resources in all its aspects. Like cloud, control is at the center of solving most policy enforcement issues that arise and like cloud, control is likely to be difficult to obtain. That is increasingly true as the number of devices grows at a rate nearly commensurate with that of data. IT security pros are outnumbered and attempts to continue manually configuring and deploying policies to govern the access to corporate resources from myriad evolving clients will inevitably end with an undesirable result: failure resulting in a breach of policy.

Locating and leveraging strategic points of control within the data center architecture can be invaluable in reducing the effort required to manually codify policies and provides a means to uniformly enforce policies across devices and corporate resources. A strategic point of control offers both context and control, both of which are necessary to applying the right policy and the right time. A combination of user, location, device and resource must be considered when determining whether access should or should not be allowed, and it is at those points within the architecture where resources and users meet that make the most operationally efficient points at which policies can be enforced.

Consider those “security” concerns that involve access to applications from myriad endpoints. Each has its own set of capabilities – some more limited than the others –  for participating in authentication and authorization processes. Processes which are necessary to protect applications and resources from illegitimate access and to ensure audit trails and access logs are properly maintained. Organizations that have standardized on Kerberos-based architectures to support both single-sign on efforts and centralize identity management find that new devices often cannot be supported. Allowing users access from new devices lacking native support for Kerberos both impacts productivity in a negative way and increases the operational burden by potentially requiring additional integration points to ensure consistent back-end authentication and authorization support.

Leveraging a strategic point of control that is capable of transitioning between non-Kerberos supporting authentication methods and a Kerberos-enabled infrastructure  provides a centralized location at which the same corporate policies governing access can be applied. This has the added benefit of enabling single-sign on for new devices that would otherwise fall outside the realm of inclusion. Aggregating access management at a single point within the architecture allows the same operational and security processes that govern access to be applied to new devices based on similar contextual clues.

That single, strategic point of control affords organizations the ability to consistently apply policies governing access even in the face of new devices because it simplifies the architecture and provides a single location at which those policies and processes are enforced and enabled. It also allows separation of client from resource, and encapsulates access  services such that entirely new access management architectures can be deployed and leveraged without disruption. Perhaps a solution to the exploding mobile community in the enterprise is a secondary and separate AAA architecture. Leveraging a strategic point of control makes that possible by providing a service layer over the architectures and subsequently leveraging the organizationally appropriate one based on context – on the device, user and location.

The key to a successful mobile security strategy is an agile infrastructure and architectural implementation. Security is a moving target, and mobile device management seems to make that movement a bit more frenetic at times. An agile infrastructure with a more services-oriented approach to policy enforcement that decouples clients from security infrastructure and processes will go a long way toward enabling the control and flexibility necessary to meet the challenges of a fast-paced, consumerized client landscape.

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Published Aug 08, 2011
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