Why do organizations continue to struggle with entitlement risk modeling? It boils down to risk being aligned to roles and role-based access. The irony is that roles were never intended to be risk models. They were once low-hanging fruit, a logical way to provide an early means of grouping users to entitlements and later associating risk to such groupings.

The Problem With Role-Based Risk Modeling

Let’s briefly step back and distinguish the difference between groups and roles. Groups are typically bundles of individuals or entitlements that can be managed together within a single system, application or common system framework. Roles extended such groupings can span across both common and dissimilar enterprise systems and applications. The purpose of roles and groups was once to boost efficiency in managing entitlements and improve oversight of common members. Somewhere along the line, they became common tools for risk modeling.

Ultimately, security teams must determine whether each entitlement is in conflict, toxic or nontoxic, to another entitlement. This would be a tall order. The unfortunate problem with using roles for risk modeling is that each time an additional entitlement is added or removed from a role, the enterprise is forced to evaluate whether a new risk has been introduced.

To further complicate things, roles frequently contain multiple entitlements and even subroles with many contents. The role contents must constantly be evaluated for direct or indirect conflicts with business rules, policies and regulations that determine requirements for segregation of duties (SOD). Roles will, of course, be modified and consolidated as a common practice, and role contents will be added and removed.

The maintenance required to constantly evaluate and mitigate potential SOD risks each time a role is modified with a new or removed entitlement is impossible to effectively manage. It’s no wonder that organizations rarely achieve maturity in their risk models when they are based upon roles. The constant nature of role maintenance totally contradicts any risk maturity when specifically aligned to roles.

A Smarter Approach to Risk Modeling

A more effective approach is to separate risk models from roles — in other words, just let roles be roles. By aligning risk to static business activities, the roles can remain dynamic without disrupting risk models and resume their intended purpose of driving efficiencies in provisioning, user management and recertifications/attestations.

Business activities that largely remain unchanged are best defined by the lines of business (LOBs) or auditors, and they are easily modeled from common business process management frameworks. In fact, there is an open standard model of industry-specific business processes and even a generic cross-industry model available from an open community led by the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC). The APQC community refers to these standard models as process classification frameworks (PCFs). Most business process management solutions leverage the open standard APQC PCFs and LOBs are usually very familiar with industry-specific PCF models. LOBs and auditors commonly use these frameworks in business process management, benchmarking operations and auditing.

At this point in time, only IBM Security Identity and Access Governance can successfully separate risk modeling from past role management, embrace the APQC PCF model and accommodate an organization’s own business activities. The solution was designed from the ground up to leverage this more effective business activity risk modeling approach. This allows security professionals to use roles the way they were originally intended instead of introducing inefficiencies into the risk management and modeling strategies.

Read the white paper: How Identity Governance became a key compliance and risk control

More from Identity & Access

Cybersecurity in the Next-Generation Space Age, Pt. 3: Securing the New Space

View Part 1, Introduction to New Space, and Part 2, Cybersecurity Threats in New Space, in this series. As we see in the previous article of this series discussing the cybersecurity threats in the New Space, space technology is advancing at an unprecedented rate — with new technologies being launched into orbit at an increasingly rapid pace. The need to ensure the security and safety of these technologies has never been more pressing. So, let’s discover a range of measures…

Backdoor Deployment and Ransomware: Top Threats Identified in X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2023

Deployment of backdoors was the number one action on objective taken by threat actors last year, according to the 2023 IBM Security X-Force Threat Intelligence Index — a comprehensive analysis of our research data collected throughout the year. Backdoor access is now among the hottest commodities on the dark web and can sell for thousands of dollars, compared to credit card data — which can go for as low as $10. On the dark web — a veritable eBay for…

Kronos Malware Reemerges with Increased Functionality

The Evolution of Kronos Malware The Kronos malware is believed to have originated from the leaked source code of the Zeus malware, which was sold on the Russian underground in 2011. Kronos continued to evolve and a new variant of Kronos emerged in 2014 and was reportedly sold on the darknet for approximately $7,000. Kronos is typically used to download other malware and has historically been used by threat actors to deliver different types of malware to victims. After remaining…

An IBM Hacker Breaks Down High-Profile Attacks

On September 19, 2022, an 18-year-old cyberattacker known as "teapotuberhacker" (aka TeaPot) allegedly breached the Slack messages of game developer Rockstar Games. Using this access, they pilfered over 90 videos of the upcoming Grand Theft Auto VI game. They then posted those videos on the fan website GTAForums.com. Gamers got an unsanctioned sneak peek of game footage, characters, plot points and other critical details. It was a game developer's worst nightmare. In addition, the malicious actor claimed responsibility for a…