Poor User Account Management Practices Create Risk and Inefficiency

With employees requiring access to a growing range of applications, systems and other IT assets, organizations need to take steps to strictly govern that access through effective user account management. However, a new study reveals that a widespread inability to implement basic best practices creates significant security risks while also impeding employee productivity.

As the name implies, user account management includes processes for provisioning new users and managing user credentials and access privileges across the IT environment.These processes are especially critical when it comes to the “privileged account” credentials that grant certain users administrator-level access to IT resources.

The study conducted by Dimensional Research indicates that organizations are struggling to keep up with growing user requirements. In many cases, user identities must be manually updated across disparate applications and resources, leading to data entry mistakes and delays that impact productivity. Nearly half (44 percent) of survey respondents report that it can take multiple weeks to provide new users with access to all of the applications and systems they need.

Automated tools make it possible to streamline the processes involved with adding, changing and deleting user information and permissions. However, nearly one-third of organizations are still using manual methods or spreadsheets to manage account credentials. Nearly 10 percent of survey respondents say a single password reset takes more than 30 minutes to complete.

Predictably, when there are delays, the technology doesn’t work as expected or it becomes too complex and burdensome, users begin looking for workarounds that make their jobs easier. This is why many businesses in the study report that they let many of the basic user account management tasks and responsibilities slip — particularly when it comes to privileged accounts.

The study found that 4 percent of organizations do not bother to manage privileged accounts at all. Two-thirds (66 percent) grant privileged account access to third-party partners, contractors or vendors. Even worse, 75 percent of survey respondents admit to sharing passwords for privileged accounts with their peers at least sometimes, with one in four admitting this is usually or always the case.

That is incredibly dicey behavior considering these accounts provide administrator-level access to servers, security systems, network devices, databases, applications and more. If hackers were to gain access to privileged account credentials, they could potentially take full control of an organization’s IT infrastructure, disable its security controls, steal confidential information, commit financial fraud and disrupt operations.

Ineffective administrative account management practices coupled with careless sharing of passwords governing these accounts demonstrate major gaps in user account management programs across the board. IT security professionals seem to be aware of their shortcomings. The survey found that only 15 percent of respondents are confident that they will not be hacked due to an access control issue.

User account management is a critical element of IT security today, helping to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of IT resources. However, failure to follow industry best practices can create significant risk. That’s why SSD provides user account management, remote workstation setup and unlimited end-user support through our managed services plans. We can help enhance your security posture and ensure user efficiency through consistent account management processes.