From preventive to detective and corrective IAM

Controls in security and GRC (Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance) systems are commonly structured in preventive, detective, and reactive controls. When we look at IAM/IAG (Identity and Access Management/Governance), we can observe a journey from the initial focus on preventive controls towards increasingly advanced detective and corrective controls.

Initially IAM started with a preventive focus. This is done by managing users and access controls in target systems. Setting these entitlement rights prevents users from performing activities they should not perform. Unfortunately, this rarely works perfectly. A common example is access entitlements that are granted but not revoked.

With the introduction of Access Governance capabilities, some forms of detective controls were introduced. Access recertification focuses on detecting incorrect entitlements. The initial “access warehouse” concept as well as various reports also provided insight into these details. Today’s more advanced Access Intelligence and Access Risk Management solutions also focus on detecting issues.

Some vendors have already added integration with User Activity Monitoring (e.g. CA Technologies), SIEM (e.g. NetIQ), or Threat Detection Systems (e.g. IBM, CyberArk). These approaches move detection from a deferred approach towards near-time or real-time detection. If unusual activity is detected, alerts can be raised.

The next logical step will be corrective IAM – an IAM that automatically reacts by changing the settings of preventive controls. Once unusual activity is detected, actions are put in place automatically. The challenge therein is obvious: how to avoid interrupting the business in the case of “false positives”? And how to react adequately on “false positives”, without over-reacting?

In fact, corrective IAM will require moving action plans that today are in drawers (best case) or just in the mind of some experts (worst case) into defined actions, configured in IAM systems.

However, with the tightening threat landscape, with the knowledge that the attacker already might be inside the system, and with the IAM covering not only employees and internal systems, but business partners, customers, and the Cloud, IAM has to become far more responsive. IAM needs to become not only “real-time detective”, but also needs to have corrective controls put in place. This will be the next logical step in the evolution of IAM, which started way back with preventive controls.



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