Access management: What is it and how can it benefit your practice?
Law firms of all sizes often deal with highly sensitive client data, which needs to be kept secure. It can be extremely dangerous if this confidential client information is breached, which is why law firms need to ensure access rights are correctly managed for all employees.
This can be difficult, though, in law firms because there is often much movement of employees, and outside help, with the many tedious tasks of the cases that they handle. It is also common that interns from colleges, or junior positions, are filled to help sort out information or files of large cases and also perform research. These types of employees often are given limited access to systems to help with the tasks. With the frequent movement of these types of employees, it can be difficult for the law firm to properly handle the task of access management. Additionally, there are also other employees who often work with a law firm in a junior position, waiting to move to a higher role dependent on the fact that they pass the state bar; these employees then also need changes in their access right assignments.
Another major issue faced by law firms is ensuring that access to client information is secure. The law firm needs to ensure that the information that their client shares with them is secure. This is why it is extremely important that no one can access this data without a direct need.
Often, access rights are often overlooked or are not correct. An employee starts as an intern, moves up to a junior position, passes the bar then is a full time employee, all which requires different access rights to different systems and applications. Then, if that employee leaves the firm, the disabling of their data and application access rights is frequently overlooked as it is a manual process.
So what exactly is access management?
According to Gartner, access management is the security discipline that enables the right individuals to access the right resources at the right times for the right reasons. The management of access is also to ensure that secure data is kept safe and that only authorized user are able to access and make changes to this secure data.
Law firms often regularly make mistakes when it comes to access management, which they may not realize. Often, as mentioned early, there can be access issues from the beginning. When an employee starts at the firm a profile and access rights are often copied from another employee to make the process simpler, and that new employee is given extra access rights that they should not have.
Another frequent example of an access issue is there is several different types of employees who need different access levels at the law firm. It is very easy to lose track of who has access to what, which can be a huge security risk, especially at a law firm. For example, an intern might be given access to a secure database to work on a project, and this access might never be removed.
Lastly, as mentioned previously, access can be forgotten to be removed when an employee leaves the organization. This is because a manager needs to manually go into each system and application and disable access, which can be time consuming. This is why it is often put to the side and never disabled, which can lead to a security issue.
So how can these law firms ensure that they are not making these errors and ensure correct access management? Some firms use solutions, such as automated account management, to ensure that the management of access is easily and securely handled and that access rights are accurate.
Automation can allow a manager to easily enter all employee information into a source system, check off which applications they need access to, and accounts are automatically created with the correct access. This ensures that employees have the correct access to begin with, eliminating the mistake that law firms often make of giving too many access rights, from a copied user account profile.
To help with the issue of ensuring that each employee has the correct access, several automated account management solutions allow the option to generate a report of exactly who has access to each system and application at the firm. This allows them to easily see all rights and any errors. For example if an intern accidently has access to secure client data. The manager can then easily make the appropriate changes to correct the access issue.
Automation also makes disabling accounts extremely easy. Instead of needing to manually disable the account in each system and application, which is often overlooked, this task can be automated. When an employee is no longer with the firm, a manager can easily disable the account in the source system, and all connected accounts are automatically disabled, so that former employees can no longer access data. This ensures that the disabling of the account is not overlooked, which is often a common issue at law firms.
Since law firms handle some of the most sensitive data, it is important that they have a process in place to ensure that they are handling the access rights correctly. They often make several mistakes when it comes to access management that can easily be mitigated. Automated account management solutions can help to increase security while also streamline the access management process make it much easier to manage.