Getting access certification right

Access Certification
Getting Access Certification right

Getting Access Certification right with governance

Access Governance is the process of monitoring and controlling who in your organization has access to what, when, and how. Access governance and access management are easily confused. But the scope of access governance extends beyond simply managing access to resources. Access governance defines security processes and policies for the enterprise's management of data. 

The access landscape has grown. Access monitoring now includes access to business-critical applications, hardware, infrastructure, and the network. This realization can be attributed to several factors: 

  • Increasingly complex regulatory environment
  • Escalating frequency and scale of cyber-attacks
  • Recognition of internal threat actors
  • Adoption of the cloud

In access governance, the term "access rights" describes users' permissions to read, write, modify, delete, or access a computer file, change configurations or settings, or add or remove applications. 

An access governance solution governs access rights in multiple ways. For example: 

  • Collect data on user accounts with access to the various applications, databases, and network devices to offer a single, unified, and easy-to-manage view of access rights and accounts on all systems 
  • Assign employees specific access to only what they need to fulfill their job responsibilities efficiently and no more
  • Implement robust security controls and mitigate the risk of:


  1. Orphan accounts: accounts that belong to ex-employees or vendors
  2. Rogue accounts: accounts created beyond the control of your provisioning system
  3. Privilege creep: occurs when individuals accumulate unnecessary permissions and access over time

Implementing an access governance solution offers several advantages. Access governance solutions provide a comprehensive view of roles and privileges within the organization that provide clarity within the business. This results in deep insight into how different users manage access across the organization. An access governance solution should offer user-friendly, intuitive dashboards that allow managers a high-level overview, facilitating a rapid response. It enables the management and control of access efficiently, systematically, and continuously. An access governance solution also positively impacts the access certification process. Access certification and recertification requirements are reduced, and users can be certified anytime. Furthermore, an access governance solution facilitates collaborative and analytics-based decision-making based on user data.

Many enterprises using an identity management tool believe this will suffice for access governance. However, an identity management tool is only a point solution -  access governance is far more complex. An access governance solution monitors the ever-changing access rights of users to numerous applications, hardware, infrastructure, and network. Identity management tools will allow IT to automate identity management and access control. But an access governance solution provides a high-level business overview of access requests, the compliance efforts, and how your risk management strategy ties into user roles and responsibilities. However, identity management is an essential component of access governance.

The IGA market is struggling today because the products that came to the market two decades ago were built on the concept of role-based access controls. That was a fallacy because there was a problem with that model. Roles are not static; they are constantly changing.

A policy-based system, on the other hand,  takes your policies and ensures that your company's systems are governed by its policies. A platform such as SafePaaS can take data from all your enterprise applications, databases, operating systems, and cloud infrastructure and act as your enterprise-wide central governance hub, a framework for all your access. SafePaaS is built on policies. And that is our key differentiator.

Access certification

According to ISACA, "user access review is a control to periodically verify that only legitimate users have access to applications or infrastructure." Access certification is a part of the broader initiative of access governance. During a user access review, you may discover users who departed the company or transferred to another team but continue to have access to applications or infrastructure after their access credentials or privileges have been removed. Users with excessive access or privileges are a vulnerability that bad actors can exploit. The result could be a financial and reputational loss to the company. However, following best practices that give you total clarity and ensure unauthorized users don't have access to a system or application can help mitigate this risk.

A security risk that is particularly difficult to secure is people. You can't control everything they open, click, or view, but you can control their access to your sensitive data. However, keeping user access secure is becoming more challenging with increasing numbers of employees continuously changing roles, departments, coming and going, devices, locations, applications, cloud infrastructure, databases, operating systems, and servers. 

Three of the most common user access challenges are:

  • Hiring, promotions, transfers, and third-party contractors
  • Release of new products or partnerships and reorganizations
  • Infrastructure changes like cloud adaptation, system upgrades, or the implementation of new applications

In addition to stresses from these challenges caused by routine business changes, the number of government regulations influencing how business is conducted continues to rise. The number of regulations is mounting, making compliance more complicated than ever. Complex regulations make compliance an enormous undertaking for organizations. The ability to track, review, and control what individual employees have access to while providing a data trail for auditors and compliance is critical. 

This increase in regulations and the complexity of access means that organizations must prioritize, standardize, and closely manage identity access. 

Other business drivers causing an increased need for user access review/ certification  are:

  • Rising cyber threats
  • Insider threats
  • Growing scrutiny from auditors 
  • Auditors increasingly demand complete, accurate, timely user access certification
  • Hybrid work models call for complete confidence that access granted is limited to job roles and privileges 
  • Granted to business applications are approved and periodically certified
  • Control access to meet audit standards established and expected
  • Save hundreds of hours quarterly on manual work
  • Ensure internal security standards are met
  • Eliminate error-prone spreadsheets
  • Ensure sensitive data is kept safe

What capabilities should you look for in a solution?


Your organization should strive to make the access certification process as simple as possible.  In a typical access certification process, managers must certify that the previously approved access is still valid. Depending on the size of your organization, you may be performing access certification in spreadsheets or emails. However, if you want to upgrade your current access certification process by implementing a solution, you should look for the following capabilities.

Intuitive capability 

Refers to consolidating all of your systems into a single platform. So if you're performing user access certification in Salesforce one way, another way in Workday, and still another certification process for SAP - it's hard for the executives to rely on that data because you have to reconcile all these systems and users manually. However you perform your access certification, it's hard to get to a consolidated system if you use tools performing catalog-level approvals.

Enterprise-level organizations rely on cumbersome processes to certify user access. A typical process consists of automating tests, running scripts, generating reports out of those scripts, and then sending them out to different locations worldwide. Many are still using tools that are based on abstract roles and do not allow visibility down to the entitlement level.

User access certification becomes challenging when employees change roles within departments, for example, when someone moves from accounts receivable to accounts payable. This new role may allow her to change credit limits and issue orders that may exceed the customer credit limit, for example.

Consolidated Controls

Many enterprise-level organizations report problems of privileges being scattered across many applications. And because roles are constantly changing in these large organizations, some way of centralizing control is needed. 

Closed-loop access

Refers to the ability to take you from provisioning access all the way through the access process to remediation (the termination of unnecessary access). Your financial results are important therefore, timely remediation of access risks is essential. If an access issue stays open or remains open-ended for a period of time, your financial statements are at risk because auditors will question the circumstances of that access not having been terminated. 

If your auditors find an issue like this, they will perform an investigation called a Materialized Risk Analysis or a Look-back analysis. This analysis further burdens your organization with unexpected problems. To avoid a scenario like this, you need closed-loop remediation that can automatically remove excessive access when it's discovered during access certification. The ability to remediate user access through your solution is crucial and a capability you should look for when evaluating access governance solutions.

Lower IT Costs

Reduce your IT costs by saving hundreds of hours manually processing access certifications by automating the access and access review process.

Reduce Audit Burden

A robust access control process will reduce your audit burden by ensuring that your users have the appropriate access through frequent certifications each year.

Prevent ITCG Control Failure

With audit analytics, you can provide evidence to auditors around your security standards, ensuring that only the users that should have access to the company's most important asset, information, have the proper access.

Global Roles and Entitlement Management

Any purchase today requires a business justification for a return on investment. Having your global roles and entitlements consolidated into a platform helps you reduce the cost and the burden on your IT systems. 

SafePaaS allows self-service ticketing. With seamless integrations into ServiceNow, Jira, or Remedy, your ticket can be automatically generated and processed through SafePaaS.

For customers using SailPoint or Okta for provisioning, you can select them and automatically add them to your certification list when the provisioning requests are coming in. The next time you do quarterly recertification or review, you will have the requests in place. SafePaaS' ability to integrate is significant because if you're performing this process manually, errors will occur, and you'll end up with an audit finding. One of the most common audit findings is when auditors look at what was in the provisioning system and where user access was provisioned. As more organizations move to a multi-cloud, hybrid environment, we see this becoming a pain point and increasing the cost of IT to remediate these kinds of issues offline manually. SafePaaS solves this problem by automatically performing the entire access certification process, including remediation, in unison with your other IAM or ITSM tools.

Gaps not covered by legacy systems

According to Gartner's report on access management, "by 2025, converged IAM platforms will be the preferred adoption method for access management, IGA, and PAM in over 70% of new deployments, driven by more comprehensive risk mitigation requirements." Converged IAM combines access management, IGA, and Privileged Access Management (PAM) in a single platform. 

Through their analysis, Gartner determined that the governance market is shifting. Older IGA technology, built two decades ago, no longer addresses customers' needs. As illustrated by Gartner's graph in the report, the technology environment has changed. Organizations are going digital and cloud-based. This indicates that user requirements are different today than when Active Directory or other older systems were first implemented. Of the organizations surveyed, 30% of the respondents said they're replacing their incumbent IGA system. This creates the opportunity to move to a system like Okta or Azure that include modern capabilities. But, unless you have good policies driving your internal controls, you're still behind the eight-ball access governance-wise.

Access certification is a critical process for organizations concerned with accountability, risk management, and regulatory compliance. Automating the access certification process increases access accuracy and effectiveness while formalizing the process for audit purposes. Access certification provides the organization visibility into its users’ identities and access rights to critical business information and services. It establishes compliance controls for ensuring that access is correct at the certification time. The user access certification process enables organizations to answer critical questions such as:

  • Who has access to what?
  • Who approved those access privileges?
  • When was access granted?
  • Is their access still valid and in line with policy?

Make your user access certifications quick and easy. Change how you conduct access certifications by enabling process owners to participate in reviews. Conduct user access certifications instantly. 

SafePaaS is the only access governance software with a built-in workflow for automating access certification reviews. Its flexible workflow allows process owners to request approval from others during an access certification review process.

Want to learn more about how SafePaaS can help with access governance and access certification? 

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