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Understanding user provisioning and deprovisioning

Improve security and streamline access management with efficient provisioning and deprovisioning of user accounts.

Updated May 6, 2024
User provisioning and deprovisioning

Managing access to enterprise networks is a critical aspect of information security. Under the ongoing and severe threat of data breaches, organizations must employ sufficient identity and access management (IAM) to safeguard their systems. Proper user provisioning and user deprovisioning is one way to improve Active Directory security.

In this blog, you’ll see the positive impact that improved user provisioning and deprovisioning can have on your IT department and end users. We’ll also provide some methods to streamline the process and improve your corporate cybersecurity.

What is user provisioning?

Active Directory user provisioning refers to onboarding new users. In other words, creating a user account, providing access rights to the required resources, and enrolling in group memberships.

An inefficient, slow, or complex provisioning process can create a frustrating end-user experience. Poor user management can also leave holes in the organization’s security perimeter, increasing the chances of unauthorized access and costly breaches.

What is user deprovisioning?

User deprovisioning applies to the offboarding process, revoking employee access when needed. And no, it's not the most sexy tool in the directory management toolbox. But it's essential to good directory management.

If you get deprovisioning wrong, you'll find yourself facing a lot of unnecessary security risk.

The importance of user provisioning and deprovisioning

Your user provisioning and deprovisioning policies lay the groundwork for all of your access policies.

And it’s impossible to overstate the potential consequences of poorly configured access policies.

Security gaps created by compromised accounts with access to key resources can cost an organization millions of dollars in:

  • Financial losses

  • Legal costs

  • Regulatory fines

  • Downtime

  • Reputational damage

That’s why user provisioning and deprovisioning are vital processes for securing access to your data and resources.

Your user lifecycle management should onboard a user quickly and securely, while giving them access to the resources to do their job. And, once they’ve left the organization or changed roles, you’ll need to revoke that access immediately.

A robust access management system ensures appropriate privileges and prompt revocation of access when it’s no longer needed. This will help protect sensitive data, promote a culture of employee cyber attack prevention, and maintain organizational security.

4 Best practices for user provisioning

User account provisioning is critical for securing organizational data and giving new hires the access they need. Best practices include defining roles and permissions, employing strong passwords, having regular access reviews, and using automated provisioning tools.

Implementing these practices mitigates the risk of data breaches, unauthorized access, and insider threats. There are several ways you can get started.

Use automation for user provisioning

Automated user provisioning helps organizations streamline the onboarding process. Among its many benefits are the following:

  • Reduced risk of human error during manual configuration

  • Consistent assignment of permissions, privileges, and access policies

  • IT team and help desk time savings

  • Faster and more secure access for your new employees

By automating the provisioning process, organizations can ensure their user accounts are uniform and contribute to system security.

Establish clear policies for user provisioning

Clear policies are vital for user account creation and management. They prevent confusion, promote consistency, and define roles and responsibilities across an organization.

Having clear, established policies ensures prompt and accurate user account creation. Later on, it also makes updating and deprovisioning a much smoother process.

Policies should also detail several things, including:

  • How permissions and access levels are granted

  • How new user accounts are created

  • Who is responsible for provisioning and managing new users

  • How the process for submitting access requests works

Policies ensure that only authorized personnel access sensitive data, improving overall security and integrity.

Use role-based access control

To increase efficiency and security further, you can employ role-based access controls (RBAC). With an RBAC strategy, you’ll define roles within your provisioning solution, assigning them to the appropriate users. This way, your common roles are defined and ready to deploy.

RBAC brings IT teams a number of benefits, such as:

  • Easier user administration: RBAC reduces the errors that can come with user-based access controls and ensures appropriate access levels.

  • Improved productivity: RBAC allows IT teams to provision new users promptly, reducing the time and effort spent managing user accounts.

  • Increased security: RBAC limits access to resources to those only necessary for job functions. This reduces unnecessary access to sensitive data and, consequently, your overall attack surface.

Regularly review user permissions

Regularly reviewing and monitoring your users’ access helps maintain the security and integrity of organizational resources. You’ll check that permissions are appropriate and that there is no unauthorized access to sensitive data.

Monitoring system access can also provide valuable insights into user behavior. You might spot potential security threats or vulnerabilities early — before they cause a data breach.

As users’ needs change, so should their levels of access.

Part of your regular reviews should include removing any unnecessary privileges if a user’s role has changed. Once somebody leaves the organization, you should also revoke all access immediately — protecting all relevant data and applications. And this is not just good security, this is also a common compliance requirement.

The role of automation in user provisioning

When you automate user provisioning, you streamline your access management processes. New user accounts will have the exact privileges and accesses they need, while updating and revoking access becomes much more straightforward. Above all, automating user provisioning improves organizational speed, efficiency, and security.

But it’s essential to make sure that any additional security tools work with your user management system. You don’t want to manually update policies across several directories.

To protect further against unauthorized system access, organizations can use a multi-factor authentication (MFA) solution like UserLock. MFA helps protect your system resources by requiring a second verification upon login, helping prevent threat actors from using compromised credentials.

UserLock integrates with existing Active Directory (AD) environments seamlessly. Organizations can provide the added protection of MFA without changing how they manage their users, roles, and permissions.

With UserLock, user access policies are applied per their AD group or organizational unit memberships. If a user’s role changes in AD, that change will reflect in UserLock automatically. This eliminates the need for time-consuming and error-prone manual account creation and management. When users leave, UserLock works with AD to revoke their access to systems, resources, and data.

If you’re using existing on-premise or hybrid AD, choose security and automation tools that build on that functionality to streamline user management and improve security.

2 Best practices for deprovisioning

To avoid unauthorized access to apps, it’s essential to build deprovisioning into user management workflows. This is another stage where regular reviews and automation can help increase security.

Deprovisioning best practices include revoking access to systems and resources, disabling or deleting user accounts, and updating security protocols.

Monitor and review user access regularly

Regular monitoring and reviews of user access are crucial for effective deprovisioning. It helps mitigate the risks of insider threats, data breaches, and compliance violations. Reviewing privileges ensures that no users have access to apps or data outside of their role’s scope.

Proactive reviews of deprovisioned accounts also enable the identification and resolution of potential security breaches — before they can escalate.

Use automation for user deprovisioning

Automated deprovisioning supports more efficient user lifecycle management. Manual deprovisioning is a time-consuming and error-prone task that brings various security risks. Automation, however, streamlines the deprovisioning process.

The benefits of using automated provisioning include the following:

  • Ensure that user access is promptly and accurately revoked as your organization requires

  • Reduce manual, repetitive, and error-prone tasks for IT teams

  • Create consistent and auditable processes

  • Prevent bad actors or insider threats from using orphaned accounts to gain unauthorized access

Tips, solutions, and resources for managing user provisioning and deprovisioning

Managing user provisioning and deprovisioning can be a challenging task for IT teams. But implementing the right tools and resources can simplify and streamline the process.

To improve your user provisioning and deprovisioning methods, try the following tips:

  • Use automation to make your processes as fast, consistent, and error-free as possible

  • Implement clear and logical policies that contribute to your security posture

  • Use role-based access controls to streamline the process and prevent security risks

  • Regularly review your user permissions to check for outdated access, security concerns, and new opportunities to improve

  • Educate users with best practices and cyber security tips that help them contribute to system security

  • Ensure that security tools will integrate with your existing access controls, rather than add to your workload

Automate your user provisioning and deprovisioning process

UserLock’s MFA solution seamlessly integrates with existing AD environments. It provides an additional layer of security to the login process while allowing you to continue using existing AD access controls.

UserLock builds on existing AD environments to give IT teams powerful capabilities, such as:

  • Tracking inactive users and monitoring for suspicious user behavior

  • Monitoring AD login attempts with real-time alerts for IT admins

  • Filtering options to check on user sessions and track connections, locations, and duration

  • Blocking network access in one click when deactivating a user account, ending the current session, and preventing future login attempts

  • Extending AD controls to give users secure single sign-on (SSO) to cloud-based apps — no duplicated access controls or directories

UserLock provides granular MFA and SSO to strengthen your security perimeter — without changing your existing AD configurations or permissions.

Try UserLock for free

3400+ organizations like yours choose UserLock to secure access for Active Directory identities and meet compliance requirements.

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