Access Reviews: Understanding the Concept & Key Benefits

Team Zluri

23rd August, 2023


Ensuring the safety of valuable data and assets requires vigilant monitoring of access privileges, i.e., who can access what. The concept of "Access Reviews" has evolved into a crucial strategy for IT managers to ascertain and determine who has access to what.

By conducting regular access reviews, IT teams can protect sensitive information and ensure that they meet regulatory requirements. 

This article delves into the fundamental concept of Access Reviews and explores its key benefits to modern organizations.

With the increasing complexity of IT environments and the constant threat of data breaches, grasping the significance of Access Reviews and their core advantages is paramount. Access reviews empower you to independently gather information about user access data without needing input from others.

By conducting regular reviews, your IT teams can effectively guarantee that users are granted only access pertinent to their responsibilities. This practice minimizes potential vulnerabilities and bolsters the organization's cybersecurity stance. 

In the subsequent sections, Let’s delve deeper into access reviews, uncover their advantages, and demonstrate how to conduct proficient reviews that strengthen security and maintain regulatory compliance.

What Are Access Reviews?

Access reviews involve systematically evaluating and validating user permissions and access privileges to your organization's digital systems, applications, and sensitive data. It ensures that permissions and privileges granted to all individuals interacting with data and applications are authorized and suitable for their roles. This process oversees various entities like employees, vendors, service providers, and third parties.

Referred to as entitlement review, account attestation, or account recertification, access reviews are crucial for monitoring the complete lifecycle of user accounts. It includes assessing user permissions, access levels, Segregation of Duties (SoD), and entitlements across systems and platforms. This comprehensive evaluation identifies discrepancies, vulnerabilities, and over-privilege instances that could compromise data security.

This evaluation covers all existing access rights to the organization's data, applications, and infrastructure. The primary objectives of these reviews are to:

  • Identify which access rights have been authorized and approved.

  • Determine the extent of access each user possesses.

  • Establish a clear understanding of who has access to specific resources within the organization.

The responsibility for these reviews lies with IT admins who safeguard sensitive data, ensure compliance, and uphold the principle of least privilege. IT admins analyze data from systems, including user accounts and permissions. This insight reveals the organization's access landscape. 

IT teams collaborate with department heads and stakeholders to evaluate and adjust access rights. This teamwork enhances security, mitigates risks, and maintains the principle of least privilege.

Through analysis and collaboration, IT admins identify and resolve access discrepancies, contributing to the integrity of the digital ecosystem.

Why Are Access Reviews Important?

Several key reasons underscore the significance of conducting access reviews:-

  • Ensuring Data Security & Preventing Unauthorized Access

Insider threats pose a significant risk to organizations, often involving employees or trusted individuals who misuse their access privileges. According to the Verizon 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report, the leading cause of breaches is the "use of stolen credentials."Access reviews provide a mechanism to detect and prevent such threats by identifying unusual or unauthorized access patterns. Timely action can be taken to address any anomalies and mitigate potential breaches. 

By regularly reviewing and adjusting user permissions, organizations can ensure that only authorized individuals have access to sensitive data. 

  • Compliance with Industry Regulations and Standards

Many organizations dealing in different industries are governed by a framework of rigorous regulations and standards that prescribe the proper handling and access protocols for data. To ensure compliance with these standards, companies must implement and conduct regular access reviews, a compulsory control mechanism. 

This practice is particularly prevalent in sectors subject to many standards such as HIPAA, CRBF, Solvency, CMMC, SOC 1 and 2, SOX, ISAE 3402, ISO 27002, ISO 27001, and others.

Access reviews help your organization adhere to these compliance requirements by ensuring that user access aligns with established guidelines. This helps avoid potential legal consequences and penalties for non-compliance.

  • Adapting Access to Evolving Employee Roles & Responsibilities:

As employees' roles and responsibilities evolve over time, their access needs may change. Access reviews enable your IT teams to adjust user permissions according to shifting job requirements. This ensures that access remains relevant and appropriate, reducing the risk of over-privilege or under-privilege scenarios.

To sum up, access reviews serve as a cornerstone of effective access management, enabling organizations to maintain data security, comply with regulations, and proactively address potential security risks. By aligning access with changing roles and responsibilities, organizations can ensure a robust security posture and foster a culture of responsible data usage.

4 Benefits of Access Reviews

Listed below are the potential advantages of access reviews:

1. Streamlined Audit Processes & Reporting

Consider a financial institution that falls under the regulations of both the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). The institution must undergo regular audits to maintain compliance and uphold strong security practices. Efficient and thorough audit procedures are vital to prove they uphold security standards. Here's where access reviews come into play. 

Access reviews provide a structured framework for conducting audits, ensuring access rights align with established policies and regulations. It involves regular assessments of user access rights, permissions, and roles. This framework ensures that only authorized individuals have the appropriate level of access to sensitive financial data.

As the institution conducts access reviews, it identifies instances where access rights don't align with GLBA and PCI DSS standards. Corrections are made promptly, reducing the risk of unauthorized data exposure

Further, this alignment streamlines the auditing process, making it easier to generate accurate and detailed reports for internal and external stakeholders. Consequently, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to security and compliance while reducing the administrative burden associated with audits.

2. Improved Accountability & Transparency

Access reviews foster a culture of accountability and transparency among your employees by creating a system where access privileges align precisely with job functions. How?

Let's consider a healthcare organization that handles sensitive patient information is subject to strict regulations like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). To ensure patient data security and compliance, the organization recognizes the importance of controlling access to this information.

Without a comprehensive access review process, employees across various departments might accumulate access rights beyond their immediate responsibilities. This creates a situation where staff members can access patient records and data they don't require for their roles. Such unauthorized access raises concerns about potential data breaches and compromises patient privacy.

Now, envision that the healthcare organization implements a robust access review system. The organization realizes that a nurse primarily working in pediatric care shouldn't have unrestricted access to the entire patient database.

As access reviews uncover these discrepancies, adjustments are made promptly. The nurse's access rights are refined to only include information relevant to pediatric care. This alignment between access privileges and job functions significantly mitigates the risk of unauthorized data exposure.

This approach fosters a culture of accountability within the organization. Employees understand that their access is monitored and tailored to their specific roles. Consequently, they take ownership of their access rights and become more responsible in their interactions with patient data.

Employees become more vigilant about potential security breaches when access rights are clear, appropriate, and regularly reviewed. 

3. Efficient Resource Utilization & Cost Savings

In an organization, different departments use an extensive suite of software applications for their operations. Each department has its unique set of tasks and, thus, specific software requirements. However, without a systematic approach to access management, the organization faces challenges related to overprovisioning and resource inefficiency.

Let's say the organization adopts access reviews to address this issue. They begin by conducting thorough assessments of access rights for each department. During this process, they identify instances where employees can access software applications that aren't essential for their roles.

For instance, the HR team might have access to project management tools designed for the R&D department. These access privileges, although unintended, consume valuable licenses and system resources that could be better utilized elsewhere. Furthermore, such overprovisioning might contribute to performance bottlenecks, slowing down critical systems.

By conducting regular access reviews, the organization ensures that users are granted only the access necessary for their tasks. The HR team's access rights are tailored to their roles, freeing up licenses and system resources that can be redirected to departments that require them.

As a result, the company experiences improved efficiency in resource allocation. The software licenses, previously wasted on unnecessary access, can now be allocated to the R&D department, enhancing their productivity. Performance bottlenecks are minimized, leading to smoother operations across the organization.

In addition to efficient resource allocation, there's a financial benefit. By curbing overprovisioning of access, the organization reduces licensing costs associated with granting unnecessary privileges. This translates into tangible cost savings, contributing to the company's bottom line.

4. Detection & Mitigation of Access-Related Risks

Organizations manage sensitive client data and transactions and recognize that the constantly evolving landscape of cybersecurity threats poses a significant risk to its operations. They are determined to stay ahead of potential breaches and protect their clients' information.

Regular access reviews involve a thorough examination of user permissions and access rights across systems. If the IT team identifies an anomaly: such as a marketing employee gains unauthorized access to a financial database with confidential customer data.

Further investigation reveals the access was not approved through proper channels, signaling a potential security breach attempt. Through proactive access reviews, the IT team quickly revokes unauthorized access, preventing exposure of sensitive data and mitigating reputational and client impact.

Access reviews consistently provide real-time insights into access-related risks. Unusual access changes or attempts trigger an immediate investigation, allowing the IT team to stay ahead of potential threats. This proactive approach minimizes security incidents and prevents breaches.

The potential benefits of access reviews extend far beyond mere access control.  Maintaining a dynamic and well-regulated access environment can bolster their security posture, promote efficient resource allocation, and establish a culture of transparency and responsibility. 

What Are The Complexities Involved In Access Reviews?

Access reviews often present significant challenges stemming from a variety of factors:

  • Potential Overwhelm and Inefficiency: The sheer complexity of access reviews can lead to a sense of overwhelm, resulting in inefficiencies, human errors, and the inability to meet deadlines. Such shortcomings can jeopardize your organization's regulatory compliance, with far-reaching consequences.

  • Resource-Intensive Nature: Conducting thorough access reviews demands substantial time and effort. However, this resource-intensive process can inadvertently lead to "rubber stamping," where reviews become less meticulous due to time constraints, potentially contributing to additional human errors.

  • The complexity of Implementation: Once an access review is concluded, translating the identified changes into action can be a daunting and intricate task. This complexity adds to the challenges, consuming valuable time and resources.

    Fortunately, there’s a platform -Zluri- offering a seamless automated solution to address these challenges. It enables you to effortlessly and effectively complete a wide range of access reviews. Whether you're tackling periodic access reviews or engaging in continuous user access assessments, Zluri streamlines the process, ensuring a smoother experience from start to finish. 

    Let’s explore this in detail!

The Solution: Zluri’s Automated Access Reviews/Certification

Manual access reviews, while once a common practice, are fraught with a range of challenges that can hinder the effectiveness of the process. The sheer volume of user accounts, permissions, and resources to be evaluated can overwhelm human reviewers, potentially resulting in oversight of critical access discrepancies or unauthorized privileges. Moreover, manual access reviews tend to consume significant time and resources, diverting personnel from more strategic tasks.

Review access

That's why Zluri offers automated access review solutions that offer a comprehensive and streamlined approach to this critical security practice. Zluri's user access review effortlessly facilitates managing and evaluating user permissions. Its core objective revolves around ensuring the security and organization of your organization's digital environments. With Zluri's access review process, your organization can achieve higher accuracy and consistency, minimizing the risk of human error.

So, how does Zluri bring this into action?

To understand this, imagine a scenario where your organization employs a variety of applications and systems, and keeping track of user permissions across these diverse platforms becomes challenging. Zluri comes to the rescue by providing a central hub that presents a comprehensive list of these applications. Through this hub, your IT team gains the ability to effectively manage your SaaS environment with ease.

With this clear perspective, you acquire the capacity to seamlessly manage user access across your array of SaaS applications. You're empowered to manage access requests and scrutinize them for adherence to pertinent rules and regulations. This practice not only upholds security but also guarantees that appropriate individuals possess the correct levels of access. 

Now, let's delve deeper into how this process functions.

Boost your users' data control through Zluri's unified access solution

Zluri introduces a unified access feature designed to simplify the intricate process of gaining a complete view of user access across diverse systems and applications. With unified access, Zluri reinforces your organization's security measures, enhances operational effectiveness, and ensures adherence to industry regulations. This approach to access management includes the following key components:

  • Extensive Access Directory: Zluri introduces a centralized access control hub that grants you comprehensive authority over your organization's access directory. This hub provides you with an all-encompassing perspective of resource and application access across your network. This comprehensive insight is paramount in upholding a secure ecosystem and averting unauthorized entry. A lucid understanding of access privileges empowers you to promptly detect and address potential vulnerabilities, thus fortifying the safety of your data.

    Consider this scenario: your organization spans multiple departments and employs a substantial workforce. The task of monitoring who can access what becomes an overwhelming challenge. Juggling diverse access lists, permissions, and user roles across various applications becomes a constant effort.

    Yet, with Zluri, you can simplify this intricate web, obtain an overarching insight into access privileges, and ensure a fortified setting for your organization's sensitive information.

  • Access Privileges: Gaining a nuanced comprehension of user access privileges is paramount to effective access administration. Zluri empowers you to establish and oversee user roles, departments, and additional contextual elements that dictate their access privileges. This context may encompass job responsibilities, project engagements, or pertinent data points. With this finely-tuned control, you can ensure that each user is granted access exclusively to the resources essential for their specific duties, thus mitigating the risk of data breaches and elevating overall security.

    Let's imagine a situation where a research and development team is working on a confidential project. Some team members need access to highly sensitive data and proprietary software tools, while others should only have access to general project information. With Zluri's capabilities, you can effortlessly fine-tune access permissions. 

    Your team members with specific roles can enjoy unfettered access to the critical data and tools they require, ensuring efficient progress on the project. Meanwhile, Zluri ensures that those not directly involved in the sensitive aspects of the project are restricted from accessing confidential information, safeguarding the integrity of your research and development endeavors.

  • Activity Monitoring & Alerts: Maintaining a vigilant watch over user actions in real-time holds immense significance in upholding your organization's security readiness. Zluri offers a valuable avenue to gain insights into user behaviors, including timestamps of their recent logins and logouts across different applications. This data enables you to effectively trace user activities and promptly detect any anomalous actions that could signify potential security risks.

    However, Zluri's offerings extend beyond this – the platform doesn't halt at that point. It proactively alerts you, providing valuable foresight. It sends your team swift email alerts when unusual behaviors or possible security breaches are detected. 

    For example, if an employee tries to access confidential account data from an unfamiliar location. Zluri's real-time insights and alert mechanism would promptly inform you, enabling swift action to avert a potential data breach before it escalates. This proactive mechanism empowers you to take immediate measures, curbing the impact of security incidents and ensuring the holistic security of your IT landscape.

Elevate Access Reviews with the Power of Automation

Zluri provides you with the prowess of automated review functionalities, delivering a fluid access control framework. By harnessing Zluri's automated review capabilities, you can establish robust security measures and adeptly protect your confidential information while upholding compliance with regulatory standards. 

Automate access review

The array of Zluri's automated review capabilities includes:

  • Access Rules/Guidelines: Utilizing Zluri's access insights, you acquire an extensive grasp of your organization's access landscape. These insights establish the groundwork for formulating exact access guidelines. Imagine a situation where you observe that certain team members have unwarranted access to confidential financial records. In this case, you can promptly institute guidelines to limit their permissions, bolstering financial data security and upholding regulatory compliance.

  • Scheduled Certification: Zluri streamlines the certification procedure by enabling proactive scheduling of certifications. Once you've garnered crucial insights, you can initiate action by configuring certification tasks.

    Access certification

    These certifications serve to validate whether employees' access adheres to organizational protocols and regulatory mandates. Through scheduled certifications, you guarantee that access permissions remain current and compliant, ensuring continuous alignment with standards.

  • Automated Remediation: Zluri extends access management to a new level through its innovative auto-remediation capabilities. This dynamic feature surpasses conventional reviews by taking proactive measures in response to access violations. In the event of unauthorized access or suspected security breaches, the system automatically initiates corrective measures for swift resolution. This preemptive strategy elevates your organization's security stance while effortlessly maintaining alignment with industry benchmarks.

    Imagine a situation where an employee within your IT department undergoes a shift in responsibilities or is promoted to a higher role. With Zluri's capabilities, adapting access privileges to suit these changes becomes a straightforward process. Whether it's accommodating career progression or role alterations, seamlessly adjusting access rights keeps pace with the evolving job responsibilities.

    Moreover, Zluri's auto-remediation swiftly addresses instances of unnecessary access. As part of this action, access can be promptly revoked, effectively minimizing potential security vulnerabilities.

    Through Zluri's automated reviews, the weight of manual tasks is significantly alleviated by 70%, resulting in a review process that operates at a remarkable speed 10 times faster. This intelligent automation shoulders the demanding tasks, encompassing data collection, access data compilation, and access pattern analysis. As a result, your IT team gains ample time to concentrate on strategic endeavors, unburdened by labor-intensive procedures.

Let's now delve into the process of automating the access review. Here's a breakdown of the steps:

Step 1: Access Zluri's primary interface and navigate to the "Access Reviews" module. To initiate an access certification, simply select "Create a New Certification."

create access certification

Step 2: Proceed by designating an appropriate certification title and assigning a responsive owner.

Step 3: Within the certification setup, decide on your preferred approach for reviewing user access: opt for either Application or Users.

For example, if you opt for reviewing access based on Applications, include the specific application that you intend to audit for users' access.

User Access review

Step 4: Next, from the dropdown menu, designate a primary reviewer and a backup reviewer. Once your reviewer selections are complete, proceed by clicking on the "Next" button.

Note: Typically, primary reviewers are app owners. Additionally, be careful in selecting the fallback reviewer, opting for someone you deem responsible. A backup reviewer becomes essential when the primary reviewer is unavailable.

Review Access

Step 5: Opt for the specific users you intend to involve in the certification process. Additionally, you have the option to apply filters to data points like user department, job title, usage, and others, aligning with your certification prerequisites. Conclude this step by clicking on the "Next" button.

users access

Note: Select the relevant data points that you wish your reviewers to access during the review. By appropriately filtering the criteria, you facilitate your reviewers in making efficient and informed decisions, thus streamlining the review process and enhancing overall efficacy.

User access review

Step 6: Proceed to tailor actions according to your requirements by selecting options from the dropdown menu.

For instance, in the case of a rejection action, you can opt for the appropriate deprovisioning playbook to remove unnecessary user access.

Once you've established the action, click on "add applications."

Note: You have the flexibility to include multiple applications under the same certification.

user access review

Step 7: Specify the beginning and conclusion dates for the certification process, based on your desired review timeline.

Users access

Note: To retain the setup for future utilization, you can also choose to "Save Template."

Step 8: Finally, oversee the automated access review process by selecting 'Review Status,' where you can monitor whether the review is pending, modified, declined, or approved.

Furthermore, you can visually track the entire review progress through a chart. Once the review concludes and receives approval from the designated reviewer, a simple click on 'conclude' triggers immediate report delivery to their email.

So, don't wait any longer! Schedule a demo now to experience Zluri firsthand and discover the benefits of an efficient access review process.

Table of contents

Discover shadow IT, optimize spends and govern user access in one platform.

Related Blogs

See More