How user access reviews help organizations achieve SOX compliance

Compliance is critical for many organizations. It not only keeps an organization’s valuable data safe, it also protects against fines, lawsuits, and general mismanagement of data. While it varies based on the industry and size of the organization, the cost of non-compliance can be staggering. That doesn’t include the reputational damage, downtime, and the cost of clean up if a breach occurs. For large, publicly traded companies, it’s important to understand the role user access reviews and SOX compliance plays in keeping organizations compliant and secure.

How is SOX compliance achieved?

While SOX compliance is both thorough and complex, the main aspects state that the following needs to be monitored, logged, and audited:

  • Internal controls
  • Network activity
  • Database activity
  • Login activity (success and failures)
  • Account activity
  • User activity
  • Information Access

In short, that all comes down to user access and if a large organization is managing that access. That access is critical, not just for compliance, but security as well. It only takes one mismanaged access point for a bad actor to find their way into a much larger system full of highly-valued assets and data. If access is not managed, controlled, and as it states above, monitored and audited, an organization could find themselves facing compliance fines and a major security breach.

How do user access reviews help achieve SOX compliance?

User access reviews help solve the lack of visibility that an organization may have into their user access. User access reviews look at who is accessing what, what level of access they have, and if they have valid reasons for access rights. If you don’t know who is able to access what, your organization will have a harder time developing proper access policies and enforcing access controls.  In terms of SOX compliance, user access reviews achieve that monitoring, auditing, and logging of access. From a cybersecurity perspective, this kind of review can prevent a breach from ever occurring. The act mitigates insider threats such as: privilege abuse, access creep, or the termination gap, and highlights any anomalies that could point to a bad actor moving laterally in a system. According to a recent Gartner report, 30 percent of data breaches are the result of some sort of insider events, and 63 percent of all insider events stem from either a deliberate error or carelessness. User access reviews also serve as a fail-safe, making sure certain access controls an organization may have put in place are in fact operating as they should. While manual user access reviews can be difficult to achieve, especially if one is looking at a large, public, company, there are a variety of software programs that can automate those reviews. SecureLink Access Intelligence automates the process, delegating reviews to managers and supervisors that would have the best insight into specific access permissions, allows organizations to easily document access changes, and aligns access rights with access policies, preventing internal threats. All of this achieves SOX compliance. 

User access review best practices for SOX compliance

To ensure compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, be sure to follow these best practices for user access reviews:

1. Develop a user access review policy that gathers information on who is accessing what and what levels of access different users should have based on their job duties.

2. Create a formalized access review schedule that collects all the necessary data needed to present for SOX compliance. This review schedule is not only the collection of user access, but should be a time to review who has access to what and if those permissions are still necessary. Any review procedure should take into account role-based controls and zero trust.

3. Implement role-based access controls and least privilege access so the risk of a breach, access creep, or other insider threats is mitigated, and no single user is given too much privileged access.

4. Grant temporary access when needed — not permanent. Access should only be granted on an “as needed” basis for a particular function, and then removed when that function (be it a task or timeframe) is complete.

5. Make sure the right teams are involved in user access reviews, so that proper access is provisioned and deprovisioned.

6. Implement clear communication between your HR, IT, and other teams to ensure that access is provisioned and deprovisioned properly during the quarterly user access review process.