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Catch me if you can: using identity governance to remove the disguise from cybercrime



Catch me if you can: using identity governance to remove the disguise from cybercrime

Mark McClain, CEO and co-founder, SailPoint 

It was hardly the crime of the century, but there was certainly a great deal of planning and panache in its execution.

In 2016, a gang of thieves in New York targeted Apple Stores in a series of heists that netted iPhones and other devices to the value of $16,000, simply by strolling into the shops dressed in the famous Apple uniform of branded blue t-shirts and jeans.

In crime, subtlety and disguise is usually a much safer and more effective option than violence and brute force, and the same principle is as true for cyber offences as it is for bank robberies. In effect, these cyber-heists are committed by thieves disguising themselves as legitimate employees, stealing the keys to the company server room and making off before anyone notices there has been a break-in. And unfortunately, as the world becomes ever more connected, it’s becoming increasingly easy for criminals to hide behind a cyber disguise.

For highly regulated industries like finance, government and healthcare, the threat of a cyber-heist is even more real as the implications involve not just the usual financial loss and reputational impact but also potential compliance implications, too. And, with recent research valuing the average cost of a data breach at nearly £700,000 (or $1 million), it’s imperative that organisations like banks continue to protect their sensitive data and applications. The key to that is understanding who within the organisation has access to all of the digital tools, systems and data that keep the company moving forward, and importantly, whether they should have access and how they are using that access.

Identity governance is critical to addressing these three questions, because it helps IT teams manage and govern access for their organisation’s digital identities – or users, which today span across employees, contractors, partners and even software bots. Keeping up with these users and their access is incredibly complex for IT teams and becomes even more so when you think about the number of organisational changes that happen on a daily basis as users join or leave the organisation or change job responsibilities and roles. Failure to manage these changes leaves the door open for hackers. For example, if a user leaves the organisation but their access isn’t properly shut down, this now ‘orphaned’ user account is ripe for the taking by hackers.

These orphaned identities – which have legitimate access but are no longer being used by a current employee – as well as identities that have picked up new entitlements as they change roles or responsibilities, are two of the biggest vulnerabilities to business security today, and these area problem largely of an organisations’ own making. It seems obvious, but it is vital that companies can answer the question of who has access to what information and whether or not they should have that access. Ensuring that all existing and new applications are automatically added to a system that can govern access throughout a user’s career and importantly, revoke access after it’s no longer needed, can achieve this. And it’s not just employees that organisations have to contend with. Today’s business operations rely on other users within the enterprise beyond employees, including contractors, business partners and even software bots – and these users can sometimes be far outside of the traditional corporate firewall. It is for this reason that organisations today need to think of the slew of digital identities that make up the enterprise as the new ‘security perimeter.’

This identity problem isn’t just confined to temporary staff and business partners, however. In many cases, permanent employees can retain their former access privileges long after they have left the company, while internal moves (either through promotion, or horizontally within the organisation) can leave workers with inappropriate access to data and systems. This multiplies the opportunities for criminals to target individuals through social engineering or spear-phishing attempts – in effect, giving the keys to the company safe not just to one security guard, but to every worker on the premises.

It’s apparent that cybersecurity needs to be at the top of the agenda for every business, ensuring visibility into all digital identities– from interns to board members –to govern appropriate access to applications and data. So how can businesses succeed?

Harnessing the power of Identity governance and AI

Identity governance allows organisations to answer the critical questions of who has access to what, who should have access and what they’re doing with that access, addressing exposure points and reducing the risk of a data breach by mitigating the amount of damage hackers can do, if a breach were to occur. This also allows employees to be more efficient and focus on their respective roles with access to the right applications, systems and data to do their jobs – but without putting their organisation at risk.

The latest generations of identity governance solutions are now exploring behaviour analytics through artificial intelligence and machine learning as a new frontier in identity governance. Bank robbers may be adept at disguising themselves as real employees, but they can’t hide their actions, which is why it’s become important that identity governance solutions start to incorporate machine learning to look for unusual activity, including anomalies like a user logging on with unusual frequency; a user downloading large amounts of data from unexpected devices or file storage systems; or a user accessing data and applications at odd or abnormal times.

Enterprisescreatesuch a slew of identity data, including false positive alerts, that it’s nearly impossible for IT teams to process it, let alone identify anomalous behaviour. Adding identity analytics as an extension of existing identity governance programs can take the leg-work out of analysing this mass of data, and with the right identity context, help IT teams identify the proverbial needle in the haystack. With identity analytics, companies can also identify low-risk tasks like access requests that can be automated or allowing certification decisions to be delegated to team managers who have the best overview of what data is required by each employee. This helps organisations not only govern smarter, but govern more efficiently, too.

Technology isn’t the sole solution to the problem though: every organisation needs to get back to ‘identity governance 101’ basics first: identifying who has access to what, and how that access is being used. By harnessing the power of identity governance and then layering in identity analytics, enterprises of all types, including financial institutions, can ensure they not only know who they’re handing the keys to, but what’s being done once the door has been unlocked.

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G20 to show united front on support for global economic recovery, cash for IMF



G20 to show united front on support for global economic recovery, cash for IMF 1

By Michael Nienaber and Andrea Shalal

BERLIN/WASHINGTON/ROME (Reuters) – The world’s financial leaders are expected on Friday to agree to continue supportive measures for the global economy and look to boost the International Monetary Fund’s resources so it can help poorer countries fight off the effects of the pandemic.

Finance ministers and central bank governors of the world’s top 20 economies, called the G20, held a video-conference on Friday. The global response to the economic havoc wreaked by the coronavirus was at top of the agenda.

In the first comments by a participating policymaker, the European Union’s economics commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said the meeting had been “good”, with consensus on the need for a common effort on global COVID vaccinations.

“Avoid premature withdrawal of supportive fiscal policy” and “progress towards agreement on digital and minimal taxation” he said in a Tweet, signalling other areas of apparent accord.

A news conference by Italy, which holds the annual G20 presidency, is scheduled for 17.15 (1615 GMT)

The meeting comes as the United States is readying $1.9 trillion in fiscal stimulus and the European Union has already put together more than 3 trillion euros ($3.63 trillion) to keep its economies going despite COVID-19 lockdowns.

But despite the large sums, problems with the global rollout of vaccines and the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus mean the future of the recovery remains uncertain.

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz warned earlier on Friday that recovery was taking longer than expected and it was too early to roll back support.

“Contrary to what had been hoped for, we cannot speak of a full recovery yet. For us in the G20 talks, the central task remains to lead our countries through the severe crisis,” Scholz told reporters ahead of the virtual meeting.

“We must not scale back the support programmes too early and too quickly. That’s what I’m also going to campaign for among my G20 colleagues today,” he said.


Hopes for constructive discussions at the meeting are high among G20 countries because it is the first since Joe Biden, who vowed to rebuild cooperation in international bodies, became U.S. president.

While the IMF sees the U.S. economy returning to pre-crisis levels at the end of this year, it may take Europe until the middle of 2022 to reach that point.

The recovery is fragile elsewhere too – factory activity in China grew at the slowest pace in five months in January, hit by a wave of domestic coronavirus infections, and in Japan fourth quarter growth slowed from the previous quarter with new lockdowns clouding the outlook.

“The initially hoped-for V-shaped recovery is now increasingly looking rather more like a long U-shaped recovery. That is why the stabilization measures in almost all G20 states have to be maintained in order to continue supporting the economy,” a G20 official said.

But while the richest economies can afford to stimulate an economic recovery by borrowing more on the market, poorer ones would benefit from being able to tap credit lines from the IMF — the global lender of last resort.

To give itself more firepower, the Fund proposed last year to increase its war chest by $500 billion in the IMF’s own currency called the Special Drawing Rights (SDR), but the idea was blocked by then U.S. President Donald Trump.

Scholz said the change of administration in Washington on Jan. 20 improved the prospects for more IMF resources. He pointed to a letter sent by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to G20 colleagues on Thursday, which he described as a positive sign also for efforts to reform global tax rules.

Civil society groups, religious leaders and some Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. Congress have called for a much larger allocation of IMF resources, of $3 trillion, but sources familiar with the matter said they viewed such a large move as unlikely for now.

The G20 may also agree to extend a suspension of debt servicing for poorest countries by another six months.

($1 = 0.8254 euros)

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber in Berlin, Jan Strupczewski in Brussels and Gavin Jones in Rome; Andrea Shalal and David Lawder in Washington; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Susan Fenton and Crispian Balmer)


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Oil set for steady gains as economies shake off pandemic blues – Reuters poll



Oil set for steady gains as economies shake off pandemic blues - Reuters poll 2

By Sumita Layek and Bharat Gautam

(Reuters) – Oil prices will stage a steady recovery this year as vaccines reach more people and speed an economic revival, with further impetus coming from stimulus and output discipline by top crude producers, a Reuters poll showed on Friday.

The survey of 55 participants forecast Brent crude would average $59.07 per barrel in 2021, up from last month’s $54.47 forecast.

Brent has averaged around $58.80 so far this year.

“Travel and leisure activity look set to catch up to buoyant manufacturing activity due to the mix of stimulus, confidence, vaccines, and more targeted pandemic measures,” said Norbert Ruecker of Julius Baer.

“Against these demand dynamics, the supply side is unlikely to catch up on time, leaving the oil market in tightening mode for months to come.”

Of the 41 respondents who participated in both the February and January polls, 32 raised their forecasts.

Most analysts said the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies (OPEC+) may ease current output curbs when they meet on March 4, but would still agree to maintain supply discipline.

“With OPEC+ endeavouring to keep global oil production below demand, inventories should continue falling this year and allow prices to rise further,” said UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo.

Oil demand was seen growing by 5-7 million barrels per day in 2021, as per the poll.

However, experts said any deterioration in the COVID-19 situation and the possible lifting of U.S. sanctions on Iran could hold back oil’s recovery.

The poll forecast U.S. crude to average $55.93 per barrel in 2021 versus January’s $51.42 consensus.

Analysts expect U.S. production to rise moderately this year, although new measures from U.S. President Joe Biden to tame the oil sector could curb output in the long run.

“A structural shift away from fossil fuels” may prevent oil from returning to the highs of previous decades, said Economist Intelligence Unit analyst Cailin Birch.

(Reporting by Sumita Layek and Bharat Govind Gautam in Bengaluru; Editing by Arpan Varghese, Noah Browning and Barbara Lewis)

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Japan’s jobless rate seen up in January due to COVID-19 emergency measures – Reuters poll



Japan's jobless rate seen up in January due to COVID-19 emergency measures - Reuters poll 3

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s jobless rate is expected to have edged up in January as service industry businesses suffered renewed restrictions on movement to fight spread of the coronavirus in some areas, including Tokyo, a Reuters poll of economists showed on Friday.

While industrial production activity picked up in Japan, emergency curbs rolled out last month such as asking restaurants to close early and suspending the national travel campaign hurt the jobs market, analysts said.

The nation’s unemployment rate likely rose 3.0% in January, up from 2.9% in December, the poll of 15 economists found.

The jobs-to-applicants ratio, a gauge of the availability of jobs, was seen at 1.06 in January, unchanged from December, but stayed near September’s seven-year low of 1.03, the poll showed.

“As the impact from the coronavirus pandemic prolongs, it is hard for firms, especially the service sector, to expect their business profits to improve,” said Yusuke Shimoda, senior economist at Japan Research Institute.

“So, their willingness to hire employees appear to be subdued and it is difficult to see the jobs market recovering soon.”

Some analysts also said the government’s steps to support employment and existing labour shortages will likely prevent the jobless rate from worsening sharply.

The government will announce the labour market data at 8:30 a.m. Japan time on Tuesday (2330 GMT Monday).

Analysts expect the economy to contract in the current quarter due to the emergency measures to counter the spread of the disease.

(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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