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What Is Okta Advanced Server Access

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By: Owen Dubiel

July 26, 2021

Oktas ASA (Advanced Server Access) is the necessary next step into properly securing both cloud and on-premise assets. Gone are the days of just securing the network perimeter; that network boundary has now expanded to the cloud. Symmetrically controlling access to all assets is essential to maintaining any enterprise's overall security posture. On top of effectively providing access centrally, it must be performed in a method that end-users can quickly adapt daily. This article will answer "what is Okta ASA?"—covering in-depth the technicals around how it addresses PAM and Zero-Trust server access.

Zero-Trust Server Access

To achieve a proper zero-trust stance, we must get away from the mindset of using "static" or "stale" passwords for our resources. It doesn't matter what your password length is or how many times it is changed; it still can be compromised. By centralizing access management by utilizing the Okta ASA groups, you can further limit access to resources on a "per usage" basis. This shifts the focus to one-time access used instead of the traditional static password approach. By combining factors like dynamic user groups and whitelisting devices, etching out Zero-trust into your infrastructure is closer than ever before.

Some may think of zero-trust as being "restrictive," when in reality, it is just precise. By establishing what user groups are allowed to access which resources upfront via progressive policies, you no longer have to worry about that RDP access you granted to the new IT 6 months that went to the wayside.

One common way threat actors can compromise an organization is via unmanaged permissions. Most of the time, the company is unaware of access rights and devices connected to their network until it's too late. Many different things can cause this, leaving the company and not handing over permissions properly, or a test account was created and never decommissioned. The problem occurs mainly when a breach is upon administrators, and they have to scramble to figure out how to restrict access to the affected account or machine to isolate the threat. It would be nice to have peace of mind that zero-trust is enabled and one location where all-access is globally controlled?

PAM (Privileged Access Management)

Forget the days of recklessly managing permissions on an ad-hoc basis. With Okta ASA and its PAM technology, you can quickly scale SSO to both on-prem and cloud resources with ease. It is essential to implement SSO to avoid both human error in the authentication process and frustration when trying to authenticate on a day-to-day basis.

By having your hybrid access controls in Okta ASA, you are also easing the compliance burden of having global audit logs all in one location. Having a central location for audit logs allows admins to quickly identify who was accessing what resources when requested during an in-person audit.

Okta ASA includes a Universal Directory that allows admins to create a centralized location for all its users, groups, and associated devices to pair with. This new feature reduces the overall maintenance compared to traditional LDAP or ADFS solutions hosted on-premise (including removing the need for password resets). It would be nice to have a single pane of glass view of every user in your organization and what access they have globally? Many companies have struggled with this as they continue to transition into the cloud. They have to continue to manage on-prem identity. Still, now they have a cloud identity that is not associated with on-prem whatsoever, thus creating security gaps and headaches for both management and users that have to manage several accounts.

Designed for the Cloud

Okta ASA is designed and built for the future, focusing on in-depth tool integration like seamless DevOps IAM to avoid security bottlenecks in the development pipeline. Eliminate the traditional method of checking code into security tools before deployment to prod and have it automated. Whether it be static code analysis or vulnerability scanning, allow your tech teams to stay empowered. Okta ASA exposes itself entirely via its API to be easily integrated and automated into your environment, no matter the size or complexity. If you are expanding to containers, Okta ASA enables its users to utilize Terraform to easily manage access to groups that may need to deploy infrastructure as code to cloud environments.

One of the most significant complaints when implementing access controls in the cloud is how restrictive they can be. With Okta ASA, you empower end-users to operate uninterrupted, with one account per their job function. Thus, avoiding some of the pitfalls of utilizing multiple accounts or differing security solutions to accomplish actual access management.

Conclusion

While Okta ASA may take a bit of effort upfront to implement successfully, organizations must plan to know the cloud is the future of computing. By spending the time now to implement Okta SSO, MFA, lifecycle management, and its universal user directory, you are not only saving money but increasing your security posture tenfold. The best part is that Okta ASA costs a flat rate fee per server (not per user) to deploy. We can no longer "protect the boundary" as it pertains to security; it is time to optimize and enhance your access management fully. To learn more about privileged access management, in general, and to get a grasp on what it takes to implement, check out some online courses for hands-on learning.

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