How Segregation Of Duties Helps Strengthen IT Security?


Implementing SoD within IT security is a fundamental safeguard for your operational environment. Even the ISO/IEC 27001 standard mandates the division of duties and associated responsibilities. This is done to avoid potential conflict (SoD conflict occurs when one role has multiple permission). 

In this article, we’ll discuss how adhering to this principle, your IT team can effectively minimize the security risks. 

Why is there an emerging need for SoD implementation in IT? There are several reasons why implementing SoD is crucial, such as preventing conflicts of interest, fraudulent activities, abuse of access permissions, or errors. Another reason is to detect control failures effectively. 

By implementing this practice, your IT team can ensure that no individual can possess the ability to alter or delete information without the awareness of others (designated senior team members). Not only that, but this approach also helps to ensure the proper security of sensitive data. 

For instance, the person overseeing the creation and execution of IT controls needs to be different from the one who reports on how well those controls work. By separating their duties, your IT team can minimize the risk of biases or manipulation in decision-making. This will further help them safeguard data from potential security breaches or cyberattacks.  

Although these layers of control might seem redundant or excessive, the potential financial risks and damage to reputation associated with mishandled data can be disastrous for a business. 

Thus, it has become pivotal for your IT team to focus on keeping access and duties segregated to manage user access effectively while ensuring data security and adherence to ongoing compliance standards.

Now that you have understood the importance of SoD in IT, you might want your IT team to practice it within your organization. But somewhere, you still have doubts! How exactly segregate job functions? To provide more clarity, here's a brief explanation of how to segregate job functions.

How To Segregate Job Function

Although IT teams commonly associate the segregation of duties in IT controls with ensuring software or hardware security, but the truth is that employees constitute the most significant risk factor for many companies. Thus, implementing the separation of employees' access and responsibilities within your organization stands as one of the most effective strategies to safeguard your physical and technological assets. But how exactly to segregate job functions?

  • Assign Access Privileges Based On Employee’s Job Role

Your IT team can assign your employee's access privileges that align with their job roles. This alignment necessitates the establishment of an efficient user access review program. 

  • Document Segregation of Employee Responsibilities

Furthermore, similar to any other controls you establish, your IT team can maintain proper documentation outlining the segregation of various employee responsibilities, which is pivotal for meeting regulatory compliance. 

  • Evaluate Potential Risks & Take Preventative Measures 

The initial step involves evaluating potential risks when assigning access based on job functions. For instance, consider a scenario where an individual responsible for reviewing time cards also holds custody of paychecks. Such a combination poses a significant risk of fraudulent activities. Recognizing these vulnerabilities, your team can take proactive measures like segregating their job roles.

To provide you with more clarity, let's find out what are the steps involved while segregating duties. 

What Steps Are Involved In Segregation of Duties?

Given below are the steps involved in the segregation of duties:

Step 1: Firstly, your IT team needs to recognize types of duties that can be clearly segregated from one another while also considering instances where there might be a problem if one employee is in charge of a task that could benefit them personally. As this could potentially lead to conflicts of interest or unfair situations.

Step 2: Divide the essential functions required for your organization's operations. For example, there are multiple steps involved in operating a task. So if you break down each step, it helps your IT team spot places where someone might do something wrong or take advantage. And, if something goes wrong, knowing the individual steps helps find out where the mistake/errors occurred.

Step 3: Now, once you're done dividing functions (segregating duties), your team will be able to spot weaknesses and vulnerabilities. So in case something goes wrong during a task, Your team will easily be able to identify who is accountable for the mistake and can further trace the source of the problem within no time.  

Point To Be Noted: Your team can use different ways to enforce segregation:

  • Authorization Function: Requires approval from two individuals for a specific action.

  • Documentation Function: Involves one person documenting a function while another approves it.

  • Custody of Assets: Ensures that the creation and storage of information occur in distinct locations.

  • Reconciliation or Audit: Involves one person taking inventory while another reviews the work for completeness.

    Through these steps, your IT team can minimize risks and enhance the overall integrity of its operations.

How A Modern, Automated IGA Solution Helps IT Team Enforce SoD?

Initially, many organizations opted for using spreadsheets to organize and manage employees' access controls due to budget constraints. Also, smaller organizations find this manual management method simpler as there are fewer employees to oversee. However, as a company expands, the number of employees increases, and consequently, the responsibility of IT teams for managing access control also grows. This growth makes it challenging for IT teams to establish a strong access control system.

The solution to this challenge lies in opting for an automated IGA platform. This automated solution provides your IT teams with clearer insights into how functions are divided into their individual parts and how these parts contribute to the overall process. By having a centralized and accurate source of information, your team can further oversee all your internal controls from a single location, ensuring the establishment of appropriate segregation.

The automated IGA platform also extends its benefits by offering automated audit capabilities. These capabilities help your IT teams enhance the effectiveness of the segregation of duties by identifying gaps or vulnerabilities in the segregation of duties framework. Through this process, your IT team can properly segregate critical tasks to prevent conflicts of interest, potential fraud, or errors

Also, with the help of audits, your IT team gains insights into how your organization's processes can be improved. If certain tasks are not properly segregated, your team can further make the adjustments accordingly which will further help enhance controls and better segregation. 

Moreover, by conducting regular audits, your IT team can monitor changes that have taken place within the organization, ensuring that controls are adapted to new roles and responsibilities.

Besides that, auditors' involvement further helps ensure the SoD is implemented properly. They review your controls and procedures and ensure they are being followed as intended. And also, the auditors verify whether job descriptions match access levels and whether the segregation of duties is being maintained. 

Now that you have got familiar with all the benefits an automated IGA platform brings to the table, why not also look further and explore the range of available options? However, to simplify your search, there is one solution that stands out from the rest and worth considering is Zluri. Zluri is a modern, autonomous, and automated IGA platform that enables your IT team to effectively segregate duties based on employees' job roles and enhance access controls. How does it work? Here's a quick read-through. 

Seamlessly Implement SoD With Zluri’s Autonomous & Automated IGA Platform 

Segregation of Duties (SoD) serves not only as a security risk mitigation strategy but also as a vital compliance mandate within regulatory frameworks. Unfortunately, most organizations fail to effectively implement SoD due to the absence of suitable solutions. But, with Zluri, your IT team no longer has to struggle to implement SoD effectively. 

Zluri offers exclusive capabilities like a data discovery engine, reporting capabilities, access control, access certification, and more. These features are designed to help your IT team manage, control, and govern user access, ensuring only the right users have the right level of access permissions to required SaaS applications. 

Furthermore, Zluri helps your IT team divide tasks among different individuals, thereby eliminating the potential for manipulation during decision-making processes. This approach acts as a safeguard, preventing issues like excessive access grants, over-provisioning, conflicts of interest, and subsequently, minimizing the chances of security breaches.

For example, Zluri ensures that each SaaS application within the organization has designated app owners. So while conducting user access reviews, the reviewer team, such as the GRC team, won't have complete control over the entire review process; there will be involvement of app owners as well. This separation of duty is placed in order to minimize the risk of manipulation or biases in decision-making during access reviews.

This was just a glimpse of how Zluri enforces SoD. So, let's learn about its features one by one in detail and find out how Zluri implements SoD effectively and efficiently. 

  • Identify Who Has Access To What With Zluri’s Data Discovery Engine

Knowing which individuals have access to specific SaaS apps, systems, or data allows your IT team to have a clear view of who is responsible for what tasks. This visibility enables you to assess whether the right people are handling the right responsibilities. 

So what Zluri does is, it offers your team a data discovery engine. It provides your IT team with complete visibility into user access data by scanning how users access the organization's critical systems and applications.  

How does it do that? Well, it utilizes five discovery methods: SSO or IDP, finance and expense management systems, direct integrations, browser extensions (optional), and desktop agents (optional). These methods enable IT teams to obtain in-depth insights into user access contexts. They can easily trace out which users are accessing which all apps, systems, and data, whether the assigned access aligns with their job role, department, or position, which level of access permissions they have, and more.

Zluri discovery engine

Further, armed with such detailed insights can help your IT team understand the access patterns and ensure that only authorized personnel have access to sensitive information. Also, by identifying who has access to what, your IT team can assess potential risks associated with specific roles or functions. This helps in recognizing where conflicts of interest or unauthorized access might arise, allowing your team to take preventive measures.

  • Seamlessly Govern Access Controls With Zluri’s Access Certification Capabilities 

Why is there a need for governing access controls? Well, by governing access controls your team will have a clear understanding of who has access to critical functions, accordingly they can establish barriers to prevent unauthorized actions, minimizing the chances of fraud or misuse. However, manually governing user access can be time-consuming and prone to error, as your IT team has to go back and forth to gather the data manually using spreadsheets and JSONs.

So to simplify the governing process, Zluri offers your team with automated access review capabilities. This capability includes a set of features which is a unified access review feature; with the help of this feature, your IT team can easily identify which users have access to which apps, what access permissions the users are assigned, and more. And this valuable insight is gathered from Zluri's access directory, where all user access-related data is stored in one centralized location.

Armed with these insights, your IT team can further enforce the principle of least privilege, ensuring employees are granted only the necessary access privileges required for their role, reducing the risk of inappropriate actions or conflicts.

Not only that, your team will be able to appropriately distribute tasks among individuals or accordingly make adjustments. This will help ensure that tasks involving critical functions are segregated among different individuals, preventing the concentration of power and reducing the risk of intentional or unintentional misuse.

And, if any new logins or unauthorized access attempts occur, Zluri provides your IT team with real-time alerts and updates them on users account’s  recent access activities with the help of its activity and alerts feature.

Furthermore, Zluri offers the convenience of automating the entire access review process. Simply go to Zluri's IGA interface, create a certification, select the apps and users for review, and rest the reviewers will verify if the access aligns with the user's role and responsibilities, ensuring that there are no instances of unauthorized access. And after the completion of the review, the reports are sent to the reviews by mail (those who requested the review). 

By automating the access certification process, you yield 10 times better outcomes and save the IT team's efforts by 70%.

Once you have acquired contextual data through Zluri's unified access feature, you can then create access rules based on these valuable insights. Also, Zluri enables your IT team to enforce SoD policies based on industry regulations and internal best practices. These policies act as a guide to ensure that access rights comply with the required standards.

Next comes the schedule certification feature, enabling you to create certifications based on the gathered data. This enables your team to take appropriate actions based on the insights obtained. 

Additionally, after successfully creating access certification, if any user activity deviates from the set access policies, Zluri initiates auto-remediation actions, such as it runs a deprovisioning playbook to revoke access if users' access does not meet the access criteria or modify access with the reviewer's intervention. 

Note: For critical data, Zluri enables manual review and remediation of access to ensure extra scrutiny and control.

With Zluri's context-rich information, your team can confidently take actions that align with your access management policies. It's a smarter, more efficient way to ensure the right access for the right users, all while keeping your data secure. Zluri's automated access reviews and access rules are the key to simplifying your access governance process.

Here’s how you can create access certification in Zluri:

Step 1: From Zluri’s main interface, click on the ‘Access Certification’ module.

Step 2: Now select the option ‘create new certification.’ You have to assign a certification name and designate a responsive owner to oversee the review. 

Step 3: Under Set Up Certification, choose the  ‘Application’ option. Proceed further by selecting the desired application for which you want to conduct the review and choose a reviewer (generally, the primary reviewers are the app owners) accountable for reviewing access to that particular application. 

After that, you need to select the fallback owner/reviewer; if the primary reviewer is unavailable, the fallback owner can review the user access (you can select anyone for the fallback reviewer whom you think is responsible enough). Also, the reviewers will get notified through the mail that they will conduct a review. 

Once you are done selecting the reviewers, you can click on Next.

User Access review

 Step 4: Select Users for Review, choose the users whom you want to review for the selected application. Once you are done selecting the users click on next. You will be able to view all the information related to the users. Then you need to specify the criteria or parameters such as user department, job title, usage, and more. Now click on update and then click on next.

Note: Select those relevant data points only that you wish your reviewers to see while reviewing the access. By filtering the criteria appropriately, you enable your reviewers to make swift and well-informed decisions, streamlining the review process and ensuring efficiency.

User Access review
User Access review

Step 5: Now the Configure Action page will appear, basically, here you have to choose actions. These actions will run post the review. 

There are three actions:

Approved- once reviewers approve the user access, Zluri won't run any action, the users can continue with their same access without any interruption.

Rejected- when the reviewer declines or doesn’t approve the user access, you have to run a deprovisioning playbook to revoke the access of that application from the user. If the user has access to critical apps then you can request the assigned reviewer to manually deprovision the user access or else Zluri will auto-remediate if it’s not critical access. 

Modify- In this last case; you again need to create a playbook to modify the user access. However, you need to state whether the access permission needs to be upgraded or degraded. 

Step 6: Additionally, you can even schedule the actions by setting up the start date and within what time span you want the review to be completed. 

User Access rights

Step 7: Lastly you can keep track of the automated access review process by clicking on the ‘Review Status’ and view whether the review is still pending, modified, declined, or approved.

Also, you can add multiple applications and follow the same process for each selected application.

Zluri also provides the owner access to a snapshot view of the entire certification process status. Also, they can get an overview of the pending reviews and monitor the status of each app’s review, including their assigned reviewers and their completion status.

You can even send reviewers reminders who are yet to complete their reviews.   

Further to streamline the process for reviewers, Zluri provides reviewers with all the user access data in a single screen, i.e. reviewer screen. For the same screen, reviewers can approve, modify, and decline access by verifying the data, and also they have to add relevant comments on the same.

Now, you will be able to view the entire status of the review process on the chart and once the process is completed and the owner (assigned reviewer of the certification process) is fine with the review. You can click on conclude, and it will straight away send the reports to the reviewers' email. 

Zluri is not restricted to these only, It offers additional capabilities like integration and reporting features. Zluri’s integration features are quite beneficial at the time of gathering access data. Though Zluri already has data within its platform, but integration allows it to gather even more valuable insights. Leveraging these integrations further enhances your access review process and strengthens the organization's overall security posture.

Additionally, Zluri provides detailed reports and analytics on user access patterns, access violations, and access-related risks. Organizations can use this data to identify potential SoD protocol violations and take actions to maintain compliance.

Now that you've learned how Zluri helps in implementing SoD, so why wait any longer? Book a demo now and witness yourself how Zluri seamlessly controls, manages, and governs user access, while ensuring data security and adhering to compliance requirements. 


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