Though it serves as a crucial IAM domain in all sectors, identity governance and administration (IGA) for energy is of particular importance. From the light switch in the home to the emergency shutoff at a nuclear plant, control of energy remains a vital part of life (literally in the case of hospital equipment). When a utility depends upon a grid, ensuring that the paying customers are not deprived of their technological lifeblood, perhaps at the most critical of times, is the responsibility of energy providers.
The world has run on electricity for over a century and has only become more dependent upon it in that time. A downed power line can disrupt an entire neighborhood, but an interrupted provider can cripple a nation. Cyber-attacks are targeting energy providers more than ever. Over three-quarters (77%) of organizations across US critical national infrastructure (CNI) have seen a rise in insider-driven cyberthreats in the last three years, according to new research from cybersecurity services firm Bridewell. You need to prepare before a potential, preventable attack becomes a reality. IGA in the energy industry is as much about preventing and remediating breach events as it is ensuring that authorized users have swift and easy access. Cybersecurity in energy is a necessity, because without energy there is no “cyber” to secure.
The Unique IAM Challenges of the Energy Industry
While the usual needs driving engagement with a managed identity service for businesses are common with many other industries, energy enterprises face a few challenges unique to them. The most pressing need as of 2023 is the issue of buying and selling renewable energy acquisitions. Robert Youens, Senior Manager, Simeio, reports that “renewable energy acquisitions require extensive IAM space to quickly onboard the huge number of applications needed to meet compliance regulations.” For companies using manual governance solutions, onboarding can drag on for months.
In the daily operations of facilities like petrochemical plants, IAM also touches the complex machinery used in production. Site control rooms require users to quickly access critical systems to handle essential tasks, especially in emergencies where seconds count. Some companies expedite access using a common “room” identity to access these critical systems. Unfortunately, this machine identity can make tracking who made a change difficult. What’s more, orphaned accounts, often with great power thanks to overprovisioning, left over from terminated employees can provide a devastating back door into your most vulnerable hardpoints.
Given the potentially dangerous nature of heavy machinery, cyberattacks on interconnected metal behemoths can be particularly insidious. DDOS and Ransomware attacks have proven to be the greatest cybersecurity threat to the energy industry, while infrastructure-based attacks like the NC substation shooting add another threat vector. High profile events like the 2021 Colonial Pipeline attack highlight the need for powerful detection and remediation systems. Only through solid IGA can you avoid a costly payout to both the hackers and regulators.
How IGA Addresses Energy Industry Challenges
Only an efficient and secure solution can deliver the results needed for this litany of challenges. IGA, especially when paired with the capabilities of a robust PAM and identity orchestration system, ensures that the right people get quick access to critical assets. IGA catalogues every access request, recording the time, place, and user for each instance, ensuring that no gaps can form in your timelines. Fully integrated IGA can even cover the vulnerabilities of your third-party vendors, an all-too-common vector in cyber-attacks.
A strong IGA makes energy enterprises safer, both in the digital space and on the “factory floor.” IGA accomplishes this by enforcing proper role-based permissions. Before a single lock might protect a common control room. Now the system interface itself serves your cybersecurity needs, requiring authorization and authentication. Your critical machine worth hundreds of thousands of dollars performing functions worth millions will not be open to just anyone. Yet, thanks to measures like SSO and MFA, friction is minimized. This allows your plants to pump out power without interruption from onerous security procedures.
The benefits of IGA also extend into the realm of rollouts for crucial new developments. When paired with “hyper” automation, important new applications and systems can be quickly integrated into pre-existing architecture. Enterprises enjoying managed IGA providers have an easier time melding of new systems into their identity fabric. What once took months might be accomplished in mere minutes. This grants unprecedented agility when fulfilling the needs of compliance and upgrades, all without compromising security.
Choosing the Best IGA for your Energy Enterprise
The ideal IGA for your enterprise should be managed, expert-driven, and scalable. A managed identity service greatly enhances your enterprise performance. Not only does the service provide an insightful assessment, but it gives you the tools needed to effectively implement recommendations. Such an identity service doesn’t straitjacket you into a single installation, unsuited for your needs and unoptimized for your workflows. Like a bespoke tailored suit, an identity service puts every penny you invest towards delivering the best possible performance.
When searching for an identity MSP suited for your energy industry identity needs, check a potential provider’s portfolio. You want someone with experience across diverse industries yet as focused on identity as possible. A managed identity service that also tries to juggle hardware production won’t have the specialization needed to shape your ideal IGA solution. An experienced identity expert becomes intimately familiar with the difficulties of their client industries communicates their readiness to conquer them. Do not forget the human element in your search; good on-call customer support is always a must.
Finally, your ideal identity service provider understands that identity solutions cannot be “fire and forget.” They require constant monitoring, maintenance, and evolution to meet changing needs. Beyond just staying current with compliance, a strong identity service provider looks to the future. Analysis of important market and cybersecurity trends helps predict which investments are most relevant to keeping your IGA agile and safe. Whether that means instituting a new cybersecurity strategy or accommodating your movements into the green energy market, strong foundations allow you to scale up.