How user access reviews can help organizations mitigate risk

How user access reviews can help organizations mitigate risk

A user access review helps to ensure that only authorized personnel have access to important systems and infrastructure. This guide outlines all the key activities involved in conducting one at your organization.

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What is the purpose of a user access review?

User access reviews are an essential part of ensuring that your organization’s data is protected and secure.

Access reviews involve keeping track of who can access an organization's data and applications, including employees, vendors, and third parties. Also known as entitlement reviews, account attestations, or account recertifications, these reviews are critical for managing, monitoring, and auditing user accounts.

They can assist with identifying whether or not users have been granted excessive permissions (which can create unnecessary risk).

By regularly reviewing users' roles and responsibilities as well as their level of access, organizations can reduce risk while making sure that employees are able to do their jobs effectively and efficiently

What are the benefits?

Conducting regular access reviews helps lower the potential for security issues, recognize accounts that are not in use, confirms that only those who need it have access to the system, confirms that personnel who have changed roles have not kept access to things they should not have, guarantees that those who have left the company can no longer access any of the company's systems, and guarantees that GitLab meets all necessary compliance and regulatory requirements, thereby keeping customers' trust.

When should you conduct access reviews?

The frequency of these reviews should be determined by the sensitivity of the data being protected and the potential impact of a security breach.

For example, if you are dealing with sensitive customer information, financial data, or other highly confidential information, it may be necessary to conduct reviews on a monthly or even weekly basis. On the other hand, if the data being protected is less sensitive, such as internal company documents, reviews may only need to be conducted on a quarterly or semi-annual basis.

Compliance with Standards, Laws and Regulations in Access Reviews

Compliance with standards, laws and regulations is an essential aspect of any standardised review. Data protection legislation is constantly evolving, so it’s important to ensure that your company complies with the most current regulatory requirements. Failure to do so could result in severe penalties such as fines or even criminal prosecution by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

In this section we will look at some of the key compliance areas that you should be aware of when performing access reviews:

  • Industry standards - ISO 27001 & ISO 27002
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework
  • Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act (HIPAA), HITECH Act & GDPR

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act is a US federal law that was passed in 2009. It requires healthcare providers who conduct electronic health records to comply with certain security standards. The HITECH Act has been updated several times since its inception, most recently in 2015 with the passage of the Cybersecurity for Healthcare Industry Act (CYBER). This act established new requirements for all entities providing medical services or handling medical data.A user access review is an essential control activity that plays a critical role during both external and internal IT audits. It helps to minimize potential threats and ensure that only authorized personnel have access to important systems and infrastructure.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Implementing a User Access Review

A user access review is a powerful mechanism for identifying the users and devices that have been granted access to your company's sensitive data. It's an essential part of any security strategy, as it gives you visibility into who has access to what resources, including privileged accounts and critical systems.

A user access review can be performed on its own or in conjunction with other security initiatives such as scanning for vulnerabilities and establishing strong password policies for all accounts.

There are several benefits associated with performing a user access review:

  • It provides clarity about how much information is being shared internally or externally by employees.
  • It allows you to audit any existing processes on your network.
  • It helps you identify risk areas where potential attacks could occur (e.g., weak passwords).  "

Improving Access Audits Within Your Organization

  • Define the problem

Before you can fix something, it's important to understand exactly what's wrong. If your goal is to improve access audits within your organization, it's important to define what problems you're facing right now and why they're significant.

  • Set goals

Now that you've defined the problem(s), it's time to set realistic goals for solving them—and be sure they include an end date! It's easy to get overwhelmed by all of the work ahead of us when we don't have a clear deadline in sight, so setting short-term deadlines is key here (e.g., three months). This will allow us both some breathing room while still providing ample motivation for making progress towards our ultimate goal of improving access audits within our organization as efficiently as possible by setting concrete milestones along the way (e.g., "In three months' time, I want all audit reports completed within 24 hours").


We hope this article has provided you with a better understanding of what user access reviews are, as well as some best practices for conducting them. While it might seem like an intimidating task at first glance, the truth is that they’re not that difficult to execute and can be used to help improve your organization in numerous ways—especially when it comes time to audit those users who have been given access!

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