Layers of Security: Budget-Conscious Access Management for Top ROI

CTOs are always looking for better ways to protect their businesses – often with stretched budgets. And as the year comes to an end, they’re often digging for pennies from between the couch cushions while planning for next year’s budget. They want to strike the balance between securing business data without cutting too deeply into the bottom line. This is something they must take into account when investing in robust solutions that are effective, don’t hamper productivity, and can deliver clear ROI.

It’s true that a fully fleshed-out access security suite is not a cheap investment. But as with all investments, the upfront costs alone never tell the full story. We need to consider PAM as a long-term investment, weighing up its total cost of ownership (TCO) against the very real risks of going without.

The risks of cutting corners

The cost of a breach can easily dwarf an investment in proper access security solutions. Privileged accounts are the number one targets for hackers and a compromised admin account can easily lead to a major breach. Access to an admin account gives a hacker the ‘keys to the kingdom,’ as they can move laterally between the most sensitive systems undetected.

And what about all your other users? Hundreds if not thousands of user accounts to access corporate applications, data, and services which rely on employees’ personal password habits and security expertise. The average employee has dozens of platforms to log into, leading to poor password hygiene (low complexity, written on post-its, shared between users…), not to mention the risk of your unsuspecting workforce falling prey to phishing and ransomware attacks.

The risks of a breach are well publicized. IBM’s Cost of a Breach Report 2020 estimates the total cost of a data breach to be at $3.86M. The report also found that there was an average $1M savings to be made from containing a breach in less than 200 days versus more than 200 days. And then there is the harder to quantify reputational damage that needs to be considered, too.

With so many risks to systems and endpoints and an entire workforce to consider, while juggling budget constraints, it can be a challenge to know where to begin.

Layers of Security

As with any complex project, building a holistic cybersecurity program can take time. The first step, however, is to secure the most sensitive and critical assets. Secure the crown jewels before worrying about the rest, building layers of security one at a time.

Whether it’s PCI, ISO 27002, GDPR, Cyber Essentials or the NIST Framework, all of these regulations strongly recommend strict access controls for privileged accounts. Therefore, a good Privileged Access Management (PAM) solution is the place to start for a big-impact first step. It establishes a strong and immediate baseline of regulatory compliance, helping businesses to stay ahead of evolving regulations, and protects access to vital systems.

A strong PAM solution reduces the attack surface and provides complete capabilities to not only secure access but also to trace and monitor access to sensitive assets. The principle of least privilege will be applied across all users, including remote workers and 3rd parties to ensure that the workforce has only the elevated access they need, when they need it, and not more.

Once this first “crown jewel” level of security has been established for privileged access, additional security solutions can be layered to create a holistic cybersecurity posture at all levels. For instance, with privileged user access taken care of, the next step is to address “regular” user access, implementing Identity and Access Management for employee access to corporate software and applications. SSO and MFA technologies ensure that employee pain points of too many passwords is resolved while ensuring that user identities are authenticated.

Layering on an additional layer enables the protection of employee workstations and other network endpoints with Endpoint Privilege Management (EPM). Eliminating local administrator rights, EPM solutions offer peace of mind that ransomware and cryptoviruses will be blocked at the source, even if accidentally downloaded and regardless of user privilege levels.

Deploying a comprehensive cybersecurity suite can be a daunting project, when faced with regulations and security needs on one hand, and tight corporate budgets on the other. When implemented one layer at a time, costs can be more easily absorbed.

And with the financial risks of a breach mitigated, more tangible immediate benefits can be seen too. Increased security and automated processes give IT teams time back to spend on other jobs instead of chasing after support tickets and putting out security fires, boosting their productivity.

TCO of access security solutions

It can be difficult to accurately calculate ROI and TCO for IT software projects – especially when factoring in the potential impacts of a breach. TCO calculations take into account tangible costs such as cost of licenses and infrastructure. They also need to factor in the intangible, such as time-to-value, prolonged exposure to risk, integration and maintenance costs over time.

When investing in access management solutions, upfront costs may seem high. However, they’re also predictable and can be budgeted for immediately. Businesses will enjoy a quick implementation, immediately reduced attack surface, and long-term value through minimal maintenance intervention and other mitigating factors. They can also avoid the risk of costs associated with breaches, regulatory fines, and unplanned outages.

Budgeting for a secure digital future

As the end of the year approaches and next year’s budgets loom, CTOs everywhere are wading through files upon files to determine how best to spend their budgets to make every penny count.

When it comes to long-term investments, Identity and Access Security solutions offer a layered, robust approach to holistic cybersecurity that can prove to offer not only strong return on investment, but also a low total cost of ownership (TCO) over time. Starting with privileged access to secure critical assets, a layered approach to access security and identity management enables CTOs to optimize their budgets year after year – and ensure strong security for a secure new year!