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10 identity management metrics that matter

Frank Villavicencio | Sept. 30, 2011
Within the IT security community, identity- and access-management (IAM) initiatives are considered high value, but are notoriously problematic to deploy.

5. Average time it takes to provision or de-provision a user. This shows how long a new user waits to get access to the resources they need to do their work. It has implicit productivity and ROI ramifications. Nine times out of 10, if someone doesn't get access to applications in a timely fashion, there are process issues behind the delay. This metric can flag a business process that needs to be reviewed and possibly adjusted.

6. Average time it takes to authorize a change. This metric can provide insight into the efficiency of an organization's approval processes. For example, if there are four people involved in approving a sales rep's access to, but it takes two weeks for that approval to be granted, that's two weeks the sales rep is limited in his capacity to sell. Knowing how long it takes for approvals to be granted can help identify bottlenecks or out-of-date processes.

7. Number of system or privileged accounts without an owner. These are also known as orphaned accounts. They crop up when people who had the credentials to grant them access to important resources--making them privileged users--no longer need access to those resources but never had their privileges removed. This problem here is obvious--who wants privileged accounts that don't belong to anyone floating around?

8. Number of exceptions per access re-certification cycle. A high number of exceptions is expected for new applications or user sets being brought under governance, but over time this should trend toward zero. A consistently high number of exceptions is a strong indicator of poor identity data quality (that is, lots of users having access that they should not have), or of process problems (that is, the person requesting re-certification does not have all the information they need to complete the process.)

9. Number of reconciliation exceptions. Reconciliation exceptions are typically caused be the inability of an IAM platform to reliably tie an identity to an account in a target system. This is usually the result of manual entry errors (that is, user names or unique identifiers are not matched), or worse yet, of an account created by backdoor channels. These exceptions should trend toward zero over time, and any spikes should trigger a thorough investigation and further discussion.

10. Separation of duty violations. Examples of separation of duty violations include developers who have admin access to production databases and traders who can submit and approve their own transactions. These are more difficult to catch and measure, given their sophistication and cross-application nature, but are also the riskiest to miss, given the potential damage that could be inflicted if they're exploited. Exploitations of these problems are the kind that often make headlines. The organization should implement preventive controls to monitor these violations, report them and orchestrate their remediation.


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