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Businesses just beginning to address identity security, despite growing threats
Wed, 26th Oct 2022
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Nearly half of businesses are just beginning to address identity security, despite growing threat of identity-based attacks, a new report has found.

Enterprise identity security firm SailPoint Technologies has unveiled the findings of its new research report, The Horizons of Identity. As hyper innovation and rapidly evolving technologies drive global organisations, mature identity programs are becoming business essential to secure and enable digital capabilities at scale. 

The survey databased on insights from more than 300 global cybersecurity executives reveals the current state of the identity security industry and assesses the maturity of enterprise identity programs.

According to the report, investing in identity security is no longer optional, and the cost of inaction is rising. It found 84% of organisations have experienced an identity-related breach (source: IDSA), with 96% believing those incidents could have been prevented. In addition to the cost of the breach itself, new regulations can impose costly fines. 

While maintaining compliance is not always an insignificant cost, non-compliance can be many times more expensiveGDPR, for example, stipulates up to 4% of global revenue in fines for non-compliance.

 The report says the growing number of identities that interact in increasingly complex ways underscores the need for a strong identity program.

Identities go far beyond user credentials – todays' enterprises need to secure machine identities, customers, employees, contract and temporary workers, partners, and more. According to the report, machine identities make up 43% of all identities for the average enterprise, followed by customers (31%) and employees (16%). Its no coincidence that machine identities and customer identities are the two identity types projected to grow at the fastest rate over the next 3-5 years. Notably, the total number of identities is projected to grow by 14% over that same span.

"The truth is that almost every enterprise understands identity security is a challenge, but many of them don't know where to begin," says Matt Mills, President Worldwide Field Operations at SailPoint.

"Our hope is that by establishing a maturity model that both vendors and consumers can reference, we can create common ground upon which enterprises can reach full maturity faster, and without the growing pains that many endure as they search for answers," he says.

"Our report shows that 45% of companies are still at the beginning of their identity journey. This means they have the unique opportunity to take advantage of todays technology to build a comprehensive, AI-enabled approach to identity security from the ground up. 

"As enterprise identity needs move beyond human capacity, this approach has quickly become table stakes. Not only that, but identity security has risen to the top as business essential to securing today's enterprise."

Unsurprisingly, high-tech companies tend to have the highest level of identity security maturity, according to the report, followed by financial services and security firms. Media and entertainment and transportation, on the other hand, have the most room for growth. Of companies with the highest identity security maturity, 71% are large enterprises and 64% are located in North America, compared with 21% in Europe and 14% in the Asia-Pacific region.

"It's clear that organisations of all sizes in our region, including Australia and New Zealand, are far behind where they need to be in terms of identity security maturity, despite the critical nature of some of these businesses, the dollars at stake and the reputational damages that can be incurred," says Gary Savarino, Identity Strategist, APAC, SailPoint. 

"Quite simply, more needs to be done for organisations to better protect themselves from the increasing security threats that come from the growing number of human and machine identities."

Savarino says Australian and New Zealand businesses are often apprehensive due to the supposed complexity of navigating identity security. 

"In reality, it doesn't have to be complicated as there are solutions that are simple to use and can be easily implemented and integrated across existing systems and workflows," he says. 

"To defend against cyber attacks, businesses need to look towards an intelligent identity security platform that automates and streamlines identity processes, providing a critical singular view into all identities and their access."

 As digital identity environments have become more complex, the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) has helped drive identity maturity. Over 50% of respondents indicate that they have already implemented AI/ML models to boost their capabilities, or plan to do so within the next two years. Yet 21% cite confidence in their current AI capabilities, demonstrating room to grow. 

Moreover, there is increased understanding of the value of an integrated identity model to reduce the overall attack surface, with 50% of survey respondents indicating they want an identity-centric security platform where identity is linked to cover machine, cloud, SaaS, and API, making it the top ranked platform preference.

One of the report's most interesting findings was that as enterprises increase their identity security maturity, they become better at using their security tools more efficiently. Of the companies in the beginning stages of maturity, over a quarter say they allocate more than 15% of their cybersecurity budget on identity. Conversely, 71% of more mature companies say they spend a smaller share of their budget but get more value. That means 28% of the least mature companies are overspending without fully realising the benefits of their security.

This underscores the need for organisations to view identity security as an ongoing program rather than a solution that will be complete at some point. Identity security must evolve alongside the business.