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How Vanta uses Okta for identity and access management
In this series, you’ll hear directly from Vanta’s own Security, Enterprise Engineering, and Privacy, Risk, & Compliance Teams to learn about the team’s approach to keeping Vanta secure. We’ll also share some guidance for teams of all sizes — whether you’re just getting started or looking to uplevel your operations.
In this post, you’ll hear from Bart Tissue, Senior Systems Engineer on our Enterprise Engineering team, who led Vanta’s implementation of Okta.
Using Okta to manage access
The Vanta Enterprise Engineering team’s mission is to enable our employees to do their best work — and we use Okta to help make this possible. Vanta uses Okta for internal Identity and Access Management (IAM) to help provide a seamless access experience for our employees. Not only do our employees benefit from a simple dashboard for the systems they need behind WebAuthn, but we’re also able to help keep Vanta secure with industry-leading best practices, tooling, and customization.
Behind the scenes, it’s a complex tool that manages automation for access controls, along with ensuring the right individuals have access to the tools they need for their everyday roles. Among Okta’s rich feature set is Okta Workflows, which allow us to automate and orchestrate identity processes.
Lifecycle management with Okta Workflows
When the Enterprise Engineering team at Vanta was formed in early 2022, our onboarding process was still very manual. As an example, user accounts for each new hire had to be manually created, which required both time and several steps to ensure this process was handled correctly.
Using Okta Workflows has allowed us to automate this by querying the Google Users API and Groups API to check for identical emails, as well as all other systems in which usernames can be created and be unique. If a match is found, Okta Workflows will create a unique username based on our defined formula. If a match isn’t found, it’ll create a unique account based on our defined formula for all new hires, which eliminates the manual work of double-checking if this account already exists. Not only is this more accurate than requiring a human to manually verify, but it also saves our team a significant amount of work prior to a new hire’s start date.
In addition, offboarding is a sensitive and critical process at all companies. We use Okta Workflows to remove individuals automatically from all SCIM-enabled tools. Okta Workflows also allows us to automate offboarding tasks such as setting up the transfer of files from Google Drive and events from Google Calendar, deleting passwords specific to third-party apps that require email log-in, and removing individuals from our Github org when they no longer should have access.
Use cases for Okta
There are many fun use cases to consider! For instance, we use Okta webhooks to share fun and updates with relevant teams and eliminate manual cross-posting. Some internal examples include:
- For the Vanta Recruiting team: When a candidate is hired, we use Okta to spin up a celebratory message to all teammates who were part of the recruiting and interviewing process. One benefit is that this helps our teams stay informed and better support the new hire as they prepare to join Vanta.
- For the Vanta People team: As part of our onboarding process, all new hires are added to specific channels and calendar events to help welcome them to Vanta and to ensure our People team is able to share important information early on.
In addition, we use group rules in Okta to automate access groups based on data from our HRIS system to add individuals to specific groups. This allows new hires to be granted access to certain channels, tools, and systems so they’re able to access these tools on their first day, rather than requiring manual requests and approvals for important tools that are part of their everyday workflows.
Partnering for successful implementation
Given that Okta is ultimately an IAM tool, partnering with our Security team early on allowed us to ensure we had a collective understanding of its setup and a shared trust in management of Okta. We recognize this isn’t always the case, so it’s important to establish this trust and shared understanding up front.
In addition, as Okta controls access to the bulk of our tools, it was important for us to build partnerships with the main stakeholders (and their teams) of different tools we planned to move behind Okta to define a plan and ensure the transition went smoothly. To do so, we met with teams across Vanta to build partnerships by sharing our goals, offering to help eliminate any manual work, and highlighting capabilities within Okta. By working together to identify opportunities to streamline access to different tools (and building a significant amount of trust along the way), we’ve been able to eliminate hours of weekly manual work for teams across Vanta.
In the words of a few Engineering Managers at Vanta:
- “You’ve saved me 3-4 hours of manual work per week!”
- “We had a new hire join the team today and they were auto-magically given access to all of the tools and added to all of the right channels!”
Tips for implementation
As with any new tool, it’s important to remember that new tools are like new routines — it takes people time to get used to using them, and it may not be comfortable at first. While Okta has many benefits, it can take employees a bit of practice to get used to the Okta flow.
For our implementation, we decided to start with putting a few tools behind Okta so they’d be visible on the dashboard. Following an All Hands presentation for our staff highlighting the benefits of using Okta, we dove in by inviting all employees and contractors into the tool right away so they’d have their login information set up — and so they’d be able to start establishing a new routine with Okta as their one-stop shop for all tools.
We provided a clear, step-by-step guide with company-specific screenshots, frequently asked questions, and a defined timeline so our staff could set up Okta on their own. During our implementation period, we also provided timely reminders to anyone who hadn’t set up Okta yet — and we continue to use the same channels to communicate important updates that might affect end users when they arise.
While every company is different, here are some general tips:
- Determine your timeline for migration, and err on the side of overcommunicating this with any individuals ahead of time. This is especially helpful for managers and your leadership team, and be sure to provide a clear ask so they can help support your implementation.
- Create resources that allow your employees to take steps on their own when needed, such as implementation guides, and try to anticipate and answer challenges and questions that your staff may encounter in the process.
- Highlight the benefits of a tool like Okta to help ensure your employees understand why they’re being asked to change their workflow — and how to more effectively access the tools they need going forward.
- Identify the best channel for company wide communication, whether a specific Slack channel, email, intranet post, or other method that works for your team and company. Be sure to communicate concise, relevant updates where needed to ensure your employees know what to expect, and when.
Determine whether the GDPR applies to you and if so, if you are a processor or controller (or both)
Do you sell goods or service in the EU or UK?
Do you sell goods or services to EU businesses, consumers, or both?
Do you have employees in the EU or UK?
Do persons from the EU or UK visit your website?
Do you monitor the behavior of persons within the EU?
Create a Data Map by taking the following actions
Identify and document every system (i.e. database, application, or vendor) which stores or processes EU or UK based personally identifiable information (PII)
Document the retention periods for PII in each system
Determine whether you collect, store, or process “special categories” of data
Determine whether your Data Map meets the requirements for Records of Processing Activities (Art. 30)
Determine whether your Data Map includes the following information about processing activities carried out by vendors on your behalf
Determine your grounds for processing data
For each category of data and system/application have you determined the lawful basis for processing based on one of the following conditions?
Take inventory of current customer and vendor contracts to confirm new GDPR-required flow-down provisions are included
Review all customer contracts to determine that they have appropriate contract language (i.e. Data Protection Addendums with Standard Contractual Clauses)
Review all in-scope vendor contracts to determine that they have appropriate contract language (i.e. Data Protection Addendums with Standard Contractual Clauses)
Have you performed a risk assessment on vendors who are processing your PII?
Determine if you need to do a Data Protection Impact Assessment
Is your data processing taking into account the nature, scope, context, and purposes of the processing, likely to result in a high risk to the rights and freedoms of natural persons?
Review product and service design (including your website or app) to ensure privacy notice links, marketing consents, and other requirements are integrated
Does the notice to the data subject include the following items?
Does the notice also include the following items?
Do you have a mechanism for persons to change or withdraw consent?
Update internal privacy policies to comply with notification obligations
Update internal privacy notices for EU employees
Determine if you need to appoint a Data Protection Officer, and appoint one if needed
Have you determined whether or not you must designate a Data Protection Officer (DPO) based on one of the following conditions (Art. 37)?
If you export data from the EU, consider if you need a compliance mechanism to cover the data transfer, such as model clauses
If you transfer, store, or process data outside the EU or UK, have you identified your legal basis for the data transfer (note: most likely covered by the Standard Contractual Clauses)
Have you performed and documented a Transfer Impact Assessment (TIA)?
Confirm you are complying with other data subject rights (i.e. aside from notification)
Do you have a defined process for timely response to Data Subject Access Requests (DSAR) (i.e. requests for information, modification or deletion of PII)?
Are you able to provide the subject information in a concise, transparent, intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language?
Do you have a process for correcting or deleting data when requested?
Do you have an internal policy regarding a Compelled Disclosure from Law Enforcement?
Determine if you need to appoint an EU-based representative, and appoint one if needed
Have you appointed an EU Representative or determined that an EU Representative is not needed based on one of the following conditions?
If operating in more than one EU state, identify a lead Data Protection Authority (DPA)
Do you operate in more than one EU state?
If so, have you designated the Supervisory Authority of the main establishment to act as your Lead Supervisory Authority?
Implement Employee Trainings to Demonstrate Compliance with GDPR Principles and Data Subject Rights
Have you provided appropriate Security Awareness and Privacy training to your staff?
Update internal procedures and policies to ensure you can comply with data breach response requirements
Have you created and implemented an Incident Response Plan which included procedures for reporting a breach to EU and UK Data Subjects as well as appropriate Data Authorities?
Do breach reporting policies comply with all prescribed timelines and include all recipients i.e. authorities, controllers, and data subjects?
Implement appropriate technical and organizational measures to ensure a level of security appropriate to the risk
Have you implemented encryption of PII at rest and in transit?
Have you implemented pseudonymization?
Have you implemented appropriate physical security controls?
Have you implemented information security policies and procedures?
Can you access EU or UK PII data in the clear?
Do your technical and organizational measure ensure that, by default, only personal data which are necessary for each specific purpose of the processing are processed?
Develop a roadmap for successful implementation of an ISMS and ISO 27001 certification
Implement Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) process to recognize challenges and identify gaps for remediation
Consider ISO 27001 certification costs relative to org size and number of employees
Clearly define scope of work to plan certification time to completion
Select an ISO 27001 auditor
Set the scope of your organization’s ISMS
Decide which business areas are covered by the ISMS and which are out of scope
Consider additional security controls for business processes that are required to pass ISMS-protected information across the trust boundary
Inform stakeholders regarding scope of the ISMS
Establish an ISMS governing body
Build a governance team with management oversight
Incorporate key members of top management, e.g. senior leadership and executive management with responsibility for strategy and resource allocation
Conduct an inventory of information assets
Consider all assets where information is stored, processed, and accessible
- Record information assets: data and people
- Record physical assets: laptops, servers, and physical building locations
- Record intangible assets: intellectual property, brand, and reputation
Assign to each asset a classification and owner responsible for ensuring the asset is appropriately inventoried, classified, protected, and handled
Execute a risk assessment
Establish and document a risk-management framework to ensure consistency
Identify scenarios in which information, systems, or services could be compromised
Determine likelihood or frequency with which these scenarios could occur
Evaluate potential impact of each scenario on confidentiality, integrity, or availability of information, systems, and services
Rank risk scenarios based on overall risk to the organization’s objectives
Develop a risk register
Record and manage your organization’s risks
Summarize each identified risk
Indicate the impact and likelihood of each risk
Document a risk treatment plan
Design a response for each risk (Risk Treatment)
Assign an accountable owner to each identified risk
Assign risk mitigation activity owners
Establish target dates for completion of risk treatment activities
Complete the Statement of Applicability worksheet
Review 114 controls of Annex A of ISO 27001 standard
Select controls to address identified risks
Complete the Statement of Applicability listing all Annex A controls, justifying inclusion or exclusion of each control in the ISMS implementation
Continuously assess and manage risk
Build a framework for establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continually improving the ISMS
Include information or references to supporting documentation regarding:
- Information Security Objectives
- Leadership and Commitment
- Roles, Responsibilities, and Authorities
- Approach to Assessing and Treating Risk
- Control of Documented Information
- Internal Audit
- Management Review
- Corrective Action and Continual Improvement
- Policy Violations
Assemble required documents and records
Review ISO 27001 Required Documents and Records list
Customize policy templates with organization-specific policies, process, and language
Establish employee training and awareness programs
Conduct regular trainings to ensure awareness of new policies and procedures
Define expectations for personnel regarding their role in ISMS maintenance
Train personnel on common threats facing your organization and how to respond
Establish disciplinary or sanctions policies or processes for personnel found out of compliance with information security requirements
Perform an internal audit
Allocate internal resources with necessary competencies who are independent of ISMS development and maintenance, or engage an independent third party
Verify conformance with requirements from Annex A deemed applicable in your ISMS's Statement of Applicability
Share internal audit results, including nonconformities, with the ISMS governing body and senior management
Address identified issues before proceeding with the external audit
Undergo external audit of ISMS to obtain ISO 27001 certification
Engage an independent ISO 27001 auditor
Conduct Stage 1 Audit consisting of an extensive documentation review; obtain feedback regarding readiness to move to Stage 2 Audit
Conduct Stage 2 Audit consisting of tests performed on the ISMS to ensure proper design, implementation, and ongoing functionality; evaluate fairness, suitability, and effective implementation and operation of controls
Address any nonconformities
Ensure that all requirements of the ISO 27001 standard are being addressed
Ensure org is following processes that it has specified and documented
Ensure org is upholding contractual requirements with third parties
Address specific nonconformities identified by the ISO 27001 auditor
Receive auditor’s formal validation following resolution of nonconformities
Conduct regular management reviews
Plan reviews at least once per year; consider a quarterly review cycle
Ensure the ISMS and its objectives continue to remain appropriate and effective
Ensure that senior management remains informed
Ensure adjustments to address risks or deficiencies can be promptly implemented
Calendar ISO 27001 audit schedule and surveillance audit schedules
Perform a full ISO 27001 audit once every three years
Prepare to perform surveillance audits in the second and third years of the Certification Cycle
Consider streamlining ISO 27001 certification with automation
Transform manual data collection and observation processes into automated and continuous system monitoring
Identify and close any gaps in ISMS implementation in a timely manner
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Determine which annual audits and assessments are required for your company
Perform a readiness assessment and evaluate your security against HIPAA requirements
Review the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights Audit Protocol
Conduct required HIPAA compliance audits and assessments
Perform and document ongoing technical and non-technical evaluations, internally or in partnership with a third-party security and compliance team like Vanta
Document your plans and put them into action
Document every step of building, implementing, and assessing your compliance program
Vanta’s automated compliance reporting can streamline planning and documentation
Appoint a security and compliance point person in your company
Designate an employee as your HIPAA Compliance Officer
Schedule annual HIPAA training for all employees
Distribute HIPAA policies and procedures and ensure staff read and attest to their review
Document employee trainings and other compliance activities
Thoroughly document employee training processes, activities, and attestations
Establish and communicate clear breach report processes
to all employees
Ensure that staff understand what constitutes a HIPAA breach, and how to report a breach
Implement systems to track security incidents, and to document and report all breaches
Institute an annual review process
Annually assess compliance activities against theHIPAA Rules and updates to HIPAA
Continuously assess and manage risk
Build a year-round risk management program and integrate continuous monitoring
Understand the ins and outs of HIPAA compliance— and the costs of noncompliance
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