What is Identity Security? | A Comprehensive Guide 101


Any account or identity can provide a digital attack path for adversaries – from an IT administrator, to HR admin, to a third-party vendor or even a customer. This is why, in identity security, organizations should be able to protect the identities of their users and the systems that manage them.

Here’s an article to help you learn everything you need to know about Identity Security, from what it is, to why it’s important, and the best methods for improving identity security within your company.

What is Identity Security?

Identity security is the process of adopting Identity Attack Surface Management (ID-ASM) and Identity Threat Detection and Response (ITDR) tools to detect credential theft, privilege misuse, attacks on Active Directory, risky entitlements, and other methods that create attack paths.

Identity security and the ability to detect and respond to identity-based attacks are crucial in the cybersecurity landscape. ID-ASM and ITDR provide organizations the means to find and fix all credential and entitlement weaknesses by detecting live threats from cyber attackers and preventing exposure.

Such exposures include credentials stored on endpoints and Active Directory misconfigurations that enable cyber attackers to extract information or conduct attacks in cloud environments.

Identity Security: ITDR vs IAM

Identity and Access Management (IAM) – which focuses on provisioning, connecting, and controlling identity access – is just the starting point of identity security.

IAM is a framework of policies and technologies for ensuring that the right individuals have access to the right resources at the appropriate times and for the proper reasons. IAM tools manage user identity information, define, and enforce security policies, audit access, and provide single sign-on capabilities.

Although IAM frequently aids in reducing identity-related access risks, policies, procedures, and technology, they are typically not created with security in mind. This is where Identity Security and IAM differ.

Ideally, coverage should extend beyond the initial authentication and access control to other identity aspects such as credentials, privileges, entitlements, and the systems that manage them, from visibility to exposure to attack detection. This can be done through ITDR.

ITDR and cyber deception-based detections can enhance XDR platforms, correlating additional attack data and activating incident response actions.

ITDR solutions add layers of defense by efficiently detecting and responding to identity-based attacks. It’s a security method that offers visibility to credential and identity misuse, privilege escalation activities, and entitlement exposures and extends from the endpoint to the Active Directory and multi-cloud environments.

From an attack vector perspective, Active Directory (AD) is an obvious high-value target asset. AD is where identity and its key elements naturally exist, which is why it is in an attacker’s crosshairs — and a top security concern. In addition, as cloud migration continues rapidly, additional security challenges arise as IT teams move quickly to provision across their environments.

When AD vulnerabilities combine with the cloud’s tendency toward misconfiguration, the need for an additional layer of protection beyond provisioning and access management becomes much clearer.

Unfortunately, an IAM can be a single point of failure if they are compromised. Therefore, having the same security system manage the infrastructure and validate that the system works securely is not secure. This is what makes ID-ASM such an important addition to an organization’s cybersecurity practices.

Why is Identity Security Important? ID-ASM and ITDR Benefits

Attackers target identity and access management gaps to gain a foothold within trusted environments and advance laterally in pursuit of high-value targets. Identity security is essential because it closes the gaps in IAM and standard security by protecting the identities and systems that manage them.

Protects Identities and Identity Management Systems

Cybercriminals find loopholes and manipulate weak digital identity systems for their activities. These attackers move laterally across an organization’s network and easily circumvent the identity management system if identity security is lacking.

In cybersecurity, lateral movement refers to the movement of an attacker within a victim’s network to gain access to sensitive data. This is typically done to extend the attack’s reach and find new systems or data that can be compromised.

Identity security can prevent lateral movement attacks by slowing adversarial advances by hiding valuable targets or obfuscating them with decoys, stalling ransomware while keeping production data–local, network, and cloud–safely hidden, and making unauthorized network reconnaissance and fingerprinting activity useless to the attacker.

ID-ASM and ITDR also help secure identity management infrastructure and validate that its identity system operates correctly, allowing the organization to:

  1. Recognize and understand attacker behavior aimed at crucial domain servers.
  2. Safeguard Active Directory and privileged credentials from theft by concealing them from cyber attackers and replacing them with imitations and decoys.
  3. Identify service account compromises that provide cybercriminals access to higher privileges on endpoints.
  4. Determine which delegation arrangements and Access Control List errors offer accounts higher rights without the appropriate membership.
  5. Protect high-value users, services, and system accounts from compromising technologies.
  6. Double up on their security systems because IAM security measures do not adequately protect the organization’s identity management systems.

Closes Gaps in IAM

Advanced cybercriminals actively exploit the loopholes in identity and access management (IAM) infrastructures because IAM systems are primarily built for management – not security.

Although some IAM tools have proved effective against cyber attackers, most have focused the technology on enhancing user authentication, which widens the attack surface for a crucial component of the cybersecurity architecture.

Identity Security recognizes these defects and operates to close the loopholes in IAM. A standard ID-ASMsolution secures the organization’s entire identity infrastructure by removing excessive privileges and detecting anomalies in privilege usage.

Any organization can benefit from Identity Security tools that continuously safeguard its identities, assets, access privileges, and activities. SentinelOne became the first XDR provider to natively include identity security for endpoints, identity infrastructure (Active Directory), and cloud environments.

By detecting AD attacks across the enterprise, steering attackers away from AD crown jewels, hiding and denying access to local and cloud-stored data, and making lateral movement exceedingly difficult for attackers – SentinelOne’s Singularity Identity platform ends credential misuse through the real-time infrastructure defense of organizations.

Get a Demo of SentinelOne.

Incorporates Zero Trust Architecture

Zero Trust is an approach that prioritizes security by assuming that nothing is trustworthy until verified. In other words, the zero trust design concept removes all “trust” from an organization’s network architecture by taking there are cyber criminals within and outside of a network. The main message behind the design can be summed up through the phrase, “never trust, always verify.”

Zero Trust is a cybersecurity framework that aims to harden the IAM infrastructure and handle applications, data, devices, transport/sessions, and user trust. The technology-centric design assumes that there is no regular network advantage and fortifies the identity management systems, especially those deployed in multi-cloud environments.

A standard Identity Security system has a Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) to secure your identity system at all possible breach points. This makes protecting your network and as thoroughly as possible from cyber criminals today vital.

ZTA solves the breach point challenge by implementing granular and secured authorization near the resources, whether premised or cloud-based depending on an organization’s defined access policy.

Prevents Data Breaches

Data breaches are a significant concern for organizations since they can lead to the loss of sensitive data.

By discovering hidden elements throughout the network that enable lateral movement – including exposed surfaces, orphaned credential assets, and policy violations – the best identity security platforms empower security and IT teams with the insights required to proactively shut down paths to critical assets or add deception to strengthen their defenses.

The best Identity Security software feeds false credentials to lure cybercriminals into engaging and revealing themselves, providing invaluable threat intelligence.

Features of the Best Identity Security Systems

The most effective identity security systems, like SentinelOne, have specific ITDR features that enable your AD to withstand direct attacks.

Supports Your ZTA

Sound identity security systems often come with zero trust architecture that:

  • Limits implicit trust in applications and data resources with controlled access management functions.
  • Identifies identity exposures on endpoints, Active Directory, and the cloud system to reduce your overall attack.
  • Detects identity attacks from either endpoints or domain controllers.
  • Alert on violations of identity trust, limiting access to only trusted or validated applications for specific data forms within the user context.

Defends Identity at Domain Controller and EndPoints

An excellent identity security system should:

  • Protect your domain controllers from attackers in real-time.
  • Broaden the scope of potentially compromised devices to encompass managed and unmanaged hardware running any OS, including IoT and OT.
  • Safeguard your domain controllers and prevent attackers that have bypassed your organization’s endpoints

Achieves Quick Value

Ideally, identity security:

  • It is easy to implement with low friction results.
  • Offers flexible deployment scenarios for their network decoy engagement.
  • Provides full coverage for on-premises protection for the Active Directory and multi-cloud environments.

SentinelOne’s Singularity™ Identity platform ends credential misuse through:

  • Identity Threat Detection and Response: The identity suite delivers holistic prevention, detection, and response. It protects in real time against credential theft, privilege escalation, lateral movement, data cloaking, identity exposure, and more supporting conditional access and zero trust cybersecurity.
  • Identity Attack Surface Management: Identity assessment tools provide instant Active Directory visibility of misconfigurations, suspicious password and account changes, credential exposures, unauthorized access, and more, enabling identity-focused attack surface reduction.
  • Identity Cyber Deception: The network and cloud-based deception suite lure attackers into revealing themselves. Through misdirection of the attack with tactics including breadcrumbs and decoy accounts, files, and IPs, organizations gain the advantage of time to detect, analyze, and stop attackers and insider threats without impacting enterprise assets.

Get a Demo of SentinelOne.

How to Improve Identity Security within your Organization

There are many effective ways to improve identity security within your organization. Some of these include:

Identify and Remediate Privileged Account Exposures

Organizations can prevent cyber criminals from the network by identifying privileged account exposures, remediating misconfigurations, and removing saved credentials, shared files, and other vulnerabilities.

Prevent Credential Harvesting

Attackers target reversible passwords in scripts or group policy files stored in domain shares like Sysvol or Netlogon. Organizations can prevent credential harvesting by implementing multi-factor authentication.

Also, by using a tool like Ranger AD, defenders can find these passwords and fix the exposures before attackers can find them.

Use the Right Identity Security Tools

Organizations should use identity security tools that protect their environment from identity attacks, support zero trust architectures, and are easy to implement. Identity security tools like Ranger AD Assessors, Singularity Hologram, IDTR in combination with XDR, and other SentinelOne identity security tools can help organizations improve their identity security and reduce the risk of identity attacks.

Identity Security with SentinelOne

The 2021 Cost of a Data Breach Report (an international study by IBM Security in collaboration with the Ponemon Institute) showed that the average data breach cost surged from $3.86 million in 2020 to $4.24 million in 2021. And the Identity Theft Research Center (ITRC) recorded a 68% increase in data compromises in the USA last year.

Given the penchant for attackers to misuse credentials, leverage Active Directory (AD), and target identities through cloud entitlement, detecting identity-based activity with modern ID-ASM and ITDR solutions is critical.

SentinelOne leverages its deep experience in privilege escalation and lateral movement detection to offer a best-of-breed solution in the Identity Threat Detection and Response and Identity Attack Surface Management spaces. The company has secured its leadership position based on its broad ITDR and ID-ASM solutions portfolio, including:

  • Ranger® AD for continuous assessment of Active Directory exposures and activities that would indicate an attack. It scans Active Directory, the database of all enterprise users, highlights security gaps, and suggests how to remediate them.
  • Singularity® Identity for detection of unauthorized activity and attacks on Active Directory, protection against credential theft and misuse, prevention of Active Directory exploitation, attack path visibility, attack surface reduction, and lateral movement detection.

Get a Demo of SentinelOne.

Experience the World’s Most Advanced Cybersecurity Platform

See how our intelligent, autonomous cybersecurity platform can protect your organization now and into the future.