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Tech director Vihar Garlapati strengthens access control in finance and healthcare with advanced security technologies

As digital transactions have surged, so have the opportunities for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities in newly adopted systems

Photo courtesy of Vihar Garlapati
Photo courtesy of Vihar Garlapati

Opinions expressed by Digital Journal contributors are their own.

“Security begins with identity,” declares Vihar Garlapati, a technology and security expert who masterfully incorporates identity considerations into enterprise security infrastructures using advanced technologies and cutting-edge solutions.

The recent pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies. The necessity to maintain business continuity amid lockdowns and social distancing measures has driven organizations to embrace digital solutions, leading to a significant shift in operations, customer interactions, and workforce management. 

However, this rapid digitalization also comes with the challenges of data privacy, breaches, and online fraud. As digital transactions have surged, so have the opportunities for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities in newly adopted systems and individuals’ and businesses’ increased digital footprints. 

For Garlapati, who has over 17 years of hands-on experience in applications and security space, this highlights the importance of robust digital security measures and the need for continuous vigilance against cyber threats. Thankfully, with new technological advancements, organizations are armed with tools to counter these risks. 

Strengthening enterprise security with identity and access management

Recent reports indicate that 97% of organizations have witnessed cyber threats surge in 2023, with the global average data breach cost going up to $4.45 million. These numbers show how cyber threats have increased, prompting organizations to do more to protect their assets.

However, this is not doom and gloom for Garlapati. He firmly believes that companies, particularly in his specialty sectors, finance, and healthcare, can still protect themselves, even from emerging threats and sophisticated adversaries. The key, he says, is to implement a robust, multi-layered cybersecurity program that includes advanced solutions for Identity and Access Management (IAM), Identity Governance and Administration (IGA), Single Sign-On (SSO), Multi-factor Authentication(MFA).

Balancing Two key objectives: Keep the bad guys out and the good guys happy

Garlapati acknowledges that modern healthcare and financial services organizations often struggle to balance two frequently competing objectives: keeping critical data and resources inaccessible to unauthorized parties while ensuring that those resources and data are easily accessible to authorized users.

However, as the danger of cyber threats increases, IAM should be a priority for every organization, regardless of size or industry. Robust access controls are necessary if a company has something to protect.

Garlapati adds, “The right IAM tools and processes allow businesses to balance these objectives seamlessly. With IAM in place, they can see and, more importantly, control who has access to what and to what extent. With such visibility and control, they can safeguard their assets from the bad guys and enhance resilience to threats while ensuring low-friction access and consistent experiences for the good guys.”

The power of AI in identity and access management

In Garlapati’s years in the cyber security industry, he is acutely aware that there is always something new to discover. He has been monitoring the latest AI developments in IAM and is excited about the potential benefits of incorporating AI in IAM within organizations. He sees AI-enabled IAM as an opportunity to embrace a new, better way to implement authentication, identity management, and secure access.

IAM systems backed by AI can detect anomalous user behaviors and pinpoint whether those are potential threats. The systems also provide more secure authentication. “Ingenious AI algorithms can effectively detect and impede cyberattacks and data breaches before they have a chance to occur. And which organization doesn’t want to be two steps ahead of attackers, right?” Garlapati notes.

Organizations complying with relevant regulations must limit access only to authorized persons and deny it to everyone else for further protection. However, Garlapati admits this is difficult to achieve, especially for bigger and more complex organizations. AI-enabled IAM is beneficial in this case. AI and user behavioural analysis can minimize this sorting challenge and integrate automation in granting access.

An AI-powered IAM system will continuously “learn” user behaviours, understand what constitutes “normal” activities, and apply appropriate access restrictions in line with compliance requirements. Very little human intervention is involved and required, making compliance and security much easier. 

Expertise that generated real, tangible results

Garlapati has extensive experience in IAM infrastructure design, setup, maintenance, and team-building. He deploys and manages cutting-edge solutions for IAM, IGA, SSO, and MFA, implementing cloud and SaaS-based services for enterprise growth and best-in-class solutions to enhance their enterprise risk management, compliance, and productivity.

His proficiency in integrating systems and automating processes and his extensive background in overseeing sizable teams has enabled multiple companies to derive increased business benefits from their technological investments. By adeptly blending technical expertise with business insight while maintaining compliance with PII and PHI regulations, Garlapati has significantly propelled organizational growth by over 100%, playing a crucial role in obtaining SOC 2 and HITRUST certifications. SOC 2 and HITRUST certifications are critical for healthcare organizations seeking to attract new customers and maintain existing ones.

Garlapati was also one of the first technology and business integration specialists to adopt OpenAM, one of the oldest open-source IAM platforms for a large wealth management firm. He elaborates, “Through OpenAM and IAM, I helped the organization meet a crucial security objective: ensuring secure, low-friction, consistent access to valued resources for authorized users while keeping those resources safe from unauthorized and potentially malicious actors. This has led to client satisfaction and growth opportunities.”

Garlapati also led the end-to-end SSO flow for end users for the same organization. He was responsible for selecting and configuring a suitable technology platform (IBM DataPower) and securing it with the most robust controls and policies. He took accountability and oversaw the entire tech stack for the funds transfer services used by numerous US-based and international banks. This led to seamless, error-free, and secure domestic and international funds transfers for all the banks that used these applications and infrastructure.

The way forward for Garlapati — and IAM

Garlapati shares that by 2025, cybercrime will cost the world $10.5 trillion annually due to weak security controls, particularly weak access controls, in organizations. “There are so many organizations that hackers can break into undetected. Once they get a foothold, there’s no telling what they can do to a company’s systems or data,” Garlapati warns.

Organizations must secure their networks and digital resources with the right technologies and tools to keep these hackers out. They must also establish and execute a clear vision and strategy for all IAM, SSO, IGA, and other cybersecurity applications and ensure the holistic security architecture is correctly designed, developed, and maintained.

Garlapati concludes, “If banks, wealth management firms, hospitals, etc. can tick all these boxes, there’s no reason they can’t streamline access control and keep hackers out of their systems and data.”

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