Why Modern Cybersecurity Hinges on Secure Identities


The digital landscape is undergoing a seismic shift and gone are the days when patching software vulnerabilities was the sole concern of cybersecurity professionals.

Today, a cunning adversary armed with stolen credentials can potentially pose as a greater threat than a zero-day exploit. This change necessitates a fundamental revamp of security strategies, with identity taking centre stage.

 Why identity matters

For decades, the cybersecurity narrative revolved around the ‘castle and moat’ approach. Organisations meticulously fortified their perimeters, patching vulnerabilities within their networks in the same way as plugging holes in a wall.

However, the rise of cloud computing, coupled with increasingly sophisticated malware, has rendered this approach obsolete. Attackers have discovered it is often easier to exploit human vulnerabilities or steal credentials than to penetrate sophisticated network defences.  Why go to significant effort to hack in when you can simply log in?

Also, the economics of cybercrime have shifted. Developing complex exploits has become a costly and time-consuming activity. Instead, social-engineering tactics and credential theft offer a more cost-effective and reliable method for gaining access to sensitive data. A well-crafted phishing email or a compromised login on a public Wi-Fi network can have devastating consequences for an organisation.

This shift in tactics highlights the criticality of identity security. Strong passwords, multi-factor authentication, and user awareness training are no longer optional – they are the essential building blocks of a modern security posture.

 The ‘identity fabric’

The widespread adoption of remote work has further emphasised the importance of identity security. Employees now access company resources from diverse locations, blurring the lines of the traditional network perimeter.

This ‘work from anywhere’ model necessitates granular access controls and robust identity management practices. A single compromised identity can grant attackers access to a treasure trove of sensitive data.

This interconnected web of identities, access points, and applications forms what security professionals call the ‘identity fabric’. It encompasses everything from user accounts and privileges to workflows and integrations. A robust identity security strategy requires a holistic approach to securing this entire ecosystem, mitigating any potential weaknesses that could be exploited by malicious actors.

 Building a fortress of identities

Thankfully, organisations can fortify their identity fabric by implementing several key practices. These include:

  • Identity and asset inventory:
    The foundation of any security strategy is a comprehensive understanding of what needs to be protected. Organisations must maintain a detailed and up-to-date inventory of all identities, accounts, systems, applications, and resources within their environment. This information is crucial for effective threat modelling and vulnerability assessment.
  • Identity accountability:
    Implementing robust IAM solutions like Identity Governance and Administration (IGA), Privilege Access Management (PAM), Single Sign-On (SSO), and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is paramount. These solutions provide organisations with the tools to manage identities effectively, ensuring that only authorised users have access.
  • Remote access security:
    With the rise of remote work, securing access points for employees connecting from outside the traditional network perimeter becomes critical. Organisations must implement strong authentication protocols and secure remote access solutions to mitigate the risk of identity-based attacks.
  • The principle of Least Privilege:
    Granting users only the minimum level and time of access required to perform their jobs or tasks is a fundamental security principle known as ‘Least Privilege’. This approach minimises the potential damage caused by a compromised account.
  • Directory services consolidation:
    Managing multiple identity directory providers within an organisation can create complexity and increase the attack surface. Streamlining directory services fosters consistency and simplifies identity threat management.
  • Continuous identity security:
    Security is not a one-time fix so building a culture of continuous identity security is crucial. This involves implementing best practices across all aspects of IAM strategy, from integrating security considerations into legacy infrastructure to incorporating security principles into the design of new systems.


Advanced techniques for a secure identity fabric

While these foundational practices form the bedrock of a strong identity security posture, several advanced techniques can further enhance an organisation’s defences. They are:

  • User behaviour analytics (UBA):
    UBA solutions continuously monitor user activity patterns to identify anomalies that may indicate compromised accounts. These tools can be invaluable in detecting suspicious login attempts or unauthorised access to sensitive information.
  • Adaptive authentication: This approach dynamically adjusts authentication requirements based on factors such as user location, device type, and the sensitivity of the resource being accessed. For instance, an organisation might require multi-factor authentication when accessing critical financial data from a new device.
  • Cybersecurity awareness training: Employees are often the weakest link in the security chain. Regular cybersecurity awareness training can equip employees with the knowledge and skills to identify phishing attempts, protect their credentials, and report suspicious activity.

The future of cybersecurity

The nature of cybersecurity is changing, and organisations that fail to recognise this risk becoming victims to evolving cyber threats. By prioritising identity security and embracing a comprehensive approach that encompasses the identity fabric, organisations can build a robust defence against modern attackers.

Scott Hesford, Director of Solutions Engineering, Asia Pacific and Japan, BeyondTrust
Scott Hesford
Scott Hesford is Director Solutions Engineering APAC for BeyondTrust. Based in Melbourne, Scott has more than 15 years’ experience in the IT industry and in his current role supports organisations to mitigate the risk of security breaches by securing privileged identities across the hybrid enterprise