Segregation of Duties: Some Best Practices

    Hackers these days have been targeting enterprises and governments. These organizations are also vulnerable to attacks by disgruntled or greedy employees/ex-employees, suppliers, contractors, and other insiders due to the same factors that make them extremely vulnerable to external hackers. Though data breaches are often the products of negligence, misconduct, or human errors. That is why the Segregation of Duties policy is extremely critical for all enterprises.

    What Is Segregation of Duties (SoD)?

    Segregation of Duties policy (SoD policy) prevents a single person from being liable for the performance of competing duties. The objective is to reduce the chances of any illegal or accidental exploitation of organizational assets or their misuse. There is a lower risk that someone will attempt to violate the rules or go undetected for errors while several individuals are involved in a sensitive workflow.

    SoD has been used in accounting, risk management, and financial administration for many decades. In recent years, however, the term has advanced into the field of cybersecurity. Its broad aims are:

    • Prevent conflicts of interest, wrongful actions, fraud, violence, and the creation of secret silos around operations.
    • Detect weaknesses in control, such as breaches of confidentiality, theft of information, and circumvention of security controls.
    • Prevent mistakes due to workers wearing “too many hats” from occurring.

    Principle of Least Privilege and SoD

    SoD is rooted in the Principle of Least Privilege (POLP), in which only the necessary access that is needed to perform their work – no more and no less – is given to end-users. Although end users are usually not excited about the constraints imposed by POLP, the aim is not to make the life of someone miserable. Instead, the objective is to reduce the size of the threat surface and decrease the probability and intensity of a cyberattack. This is particularly notable now that hackers are targeting low-level accounts that are compromised. They spread laterally through devices and networks once they gain a foothold, and eventually access critical systems and sensitive data.

    SoD Best Practices

    Let’s now discuss the best practices concerning SoD.

    • Conduct an internal audit to ensure that access to systems is not unregulated to unmonitored for any single person.
    • Set up databases that should be based on the Least Privilege Principle to comply with task and function segregation.
    • Conduct regular audits of data security and pay special attention to potentially fraudulent activities. As malicious activity is almost always covert and difficult to detect, organizations that lack in-house experience in this field are recommended to work with an external company or consultant.
    • Make it abundantly clear that audits and reviews, such as periodically checking network logs, are being conducted. It will act as a reminder to the fact that these verifications are in operation.
    • Provide cybersecurity instruction to end-users, preferably via an online platform. The training fosters a culture of cybersecurity knowledge and diligence, which is a deterrent in itself, in addition to minimizing common errors and reducing mistakes.

    In order to implement an effective Segregation of Duties policy, organizations should introduce the latest technologies. Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) and Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC) hybrid approach and adaptive multi-factor authentication (adaptive MFA) are some security-enhancing features. There are data security and analytics solutions that deliver these features, thereby significantly enhancing organizations’ data security posture. Organizations should invest in these solutions, protect their valuable data, and attain complete peace of mind.

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