System Access Use It or Lose
SarbOx, HIPAA, or TJX take your pick. Doesn't matter whether
it's fear of regulators or fear of fallout from a security breach
or both every business needs tight control of all system
access. The hardest part is ensuring that access, once granted,
is removed promptly when workers
job roles, or
use the account.
has left the building"
We need two separate and distinct sets of processes to track terminations
of employees and non-employees:
For employees, we use termination data from the payroll system
(Who works here?).
non-employees, we create "positions" to give managers
a familiar paradigm. Like employees, each position is assigned
to a department and account code, has a supervisor, and there
is no limit on the number of positions for any individual.
regular employees, non-employee positions have an expiration date
of no more than one year in the future, forcing the non-employee's
supervisor to renew the position annually. Without renewal, the
position automatically expires the equivalent of a termination.
an employee is terminated, or a non-employee's final position (if
they have more than one) expires, all system accounts for that worker
are flagged in our homegrown user access application. The network
account is automatically inactivated by a daily, scripted process,
and all relevant system administrators are automatically notified
to cancel accounts.
Any organization has a certain amount of worker "churn"
as staff are promoted, demoted or transferred. New responsibilities
may require different system access, so every job change must be
reviewed by the user access team.
rights in major systems are grouped into generic job roles to minimize
individually-customized rights. An automated process sends a daily
e-mail to the user access team, listing any job changes in the past
24 hours, and system rights are modified as necessary.
it or lose it
If a system account is really needed, it will be used regularly.
If it isn't used, it is simply one more vector for attack on the
system, and should be inactivated. This principle is really just
as important as closing accounts for terminated workers, but is
not always given the same attention.
that we had data about last login for each account (System
Access Who Has What?), we could implement a security
policy inactivating any system account that has not been used for
90 days. The only exception is the network login, which is left
active as long as there is any active system account.
the 23rd of each month, an automated process sends e-mails advising
of any accounts that will be closed during the following calendar
supervisor of anyone with unused account(s), a list of all unused
accounts for supervised workers; and,
worker with unused account(s), a list of any unused account(s).
the account is no longer needed, no action is required by either
supervisor or worker. If the account is still needed, the worker
simply needs to use the account at least once prior to the date
listed in the e-mail
e-mail to worker with unused account
Sent: Tuesday, August 23, 2005 7:20 AM
To: Smith, John
Subject: Account cancellation warnings, user notice
System account cancellation(s)
NOT REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE. Read below for further information.
this information if you have any questions or concerns, please
contact the IT Help Desk at 781.555.5555 (x5555).
proper system security, all system accounts that are not used
for 90 days are automatically canceled. The following account(s)
will be canceled after the date(s) shown, because the accounts
are not being used. If there is still a need for the account(s),
cancellation can be avoided by using the account prior to
the date shown. This should only occur if there is still a
valid need for the account.
System Username Deactivation
------ -------- -----------------
PACS jsmith3 Sep 11 2005
Last Logon: Jun 13 2005 3:01PM
process has worked beautifully for several years. We no longer have
unused accounts cluttering our domain controllers and clinical systems.
There have been only a few complaints, none of them serious enough
to make us reconsider this policy.
solid data about accounts and usage, it is possible to have tight
control over accounts, using fairly simple automated processes.
will support good security measures if they are clearly explained
and there are no surprises along the way.
19 March 2008