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The Top 5 Cyber Security Risks of Not Maintaining A User Access Register

As we continue to tread further into the digital age, the significance of cybersecurity training has skyrocketed. Whether for individuals or organisations, security measures are an essential component of our digital lives.

A crucial part of these measures, often overlooked, is the maintenance of User Access Registers for home and work environments.

This article will delve into the Top 5 cybersecurity risks associated with neglecting User Access Registers, providing detailed explanations and real-world examples to underscore the importance of this practice.


Unauthorised Access

Without a systematic access register, tracking who has access to your systems becomes harder.

This oversight makes it alarmingly easy for malicious individuals or hackers to gain access without detection. This intrusion could lead to massive data breaches, exposing sensitive personal or professional information.

For example, Uber, the ride-hailing giant, fell victim to a significant data breach in 2017. The breach occurred due to unauthorised access and resulted in the exposure of 57 million riders and drivers' data. A well-maintained User Access Register might have helped Uber detect the unauthorised entry earlier and mitigated the damage.


Insider Threats

A lack of an access register creates a fertile ground for insider threats. These threats emerge from individuals who have legitimate access to your systems—be it employees, contractors, or anyone with system privileges. They may abuse this power, steal information, or sabotage the system.

A famous example of this was the extensive data leak at Twitter in 2020, caused by an insider who exploited their access privileges. A user access register could help monitor user activity, provide insights into abnormal behaviour, and prevent such incidents.


Lack of Accountability

An essential aspect of secure systems is accountability, facilitated by an access register. If a system issue or breach occurs, an access register can provide crucial insights into who was involved and their actions.

Without it, identifying the source of a problem becomes an arduous task, providing ample time and opportunities for the perpetrators to remain undetected and unpunished.


Difficulty in Auditing and Compliance

Maintaining an access register isn't just about immediate security but also plays a significant role in regulatory compliance and audits. Many industries that handle sensitive data, like finance or healthcare, are subject to rigorous compliance regulations. Regular audits form a part of these regulations to ensure data safety and access registers play an essential role in these audits.

Neglecting to maintain an access register could lead to audit failures, attracting hefty fines and causing reputational damage.

A notable case was Equifax, the credit bureau, which was fined $575 million partly due to a lack of proper access controls during their infamous 2017 data breach (FTC, 2019).


Delay in Breach Detection

Without a well-maintained access register, breach detection can be significantly delayed.

In the fast-paced digital world, where a data breach could cost millions and irreparably damage a reputation, swift detection is critical.

According to an IBM study, detecting a data breach can take an average of 197 days (IBM, 2018). An access register could expedite this process, helping detect any unusual activity or access patterns, thereby mitigating further damage from the breach.

So now we've discussed what the Top 5 risks are; let's take a look at what should be captured in a User Access Register, and who should maintain it.

An effective access register should include specific critical information to fulfil its purpose of enhancing cybersecurity protection.

At the core, it should contain user identification details (such as usernames or unique user IDs), the access level granted (read-only, write, admin privileges, etc.), and the specific systems or data to which they have access.

Additionally, it should log any changes in these access privileges over time and record when and how frequently each user accesses the system.

Notably, the register should also capture unusual activities, like multiple unsuccessful login attempts or attempts to access restricted areas, as these could be red flags for potential security breaches.

Who maintains the register depends mainly on the organisation's size and complexity.

In smaller organisations, a designated IT staff member might be responsible for this task. For larger organisations, the responsibility often lies with the cybersecurity or IT department.

In both cases, the person or team maintaining the register should have a thorough understanding of the organisation's systems, be up-to-date with current cybersecurity threats and trends, and have the capacity to respond to any security alerts swiftly.

Regardless of who maintains the register, it is crucial to ensure regular audits of the register by an independent entity, either internally (like an internal audit team) or externally (such as third-party cybersecurity auditors), to maintain its integrity and effectiveness. This practice will help identify potential security gaps and ensure adherence to the organisation's cybersecurity policies and compliance requirements.

In summary, maintaining a User Access Register at home and work is an integral component of a robust cybersecurity strategy. It helps to protect against unauthorised access, diminishes insider threats, enables accountability, aids in compliance and auditing, and hastens breach detection.

If you want to dive deeper into this or any other cybersecurity solution -related subject, contact our team at Cyber Heroes.