Identify Your Identities: Bob Smith is Not BSmith

Understanding the distinction between an individual’s identity and their account(s) is more than a matter of semantics—it's a critical component of Identity Hygiene and a robust cybersecurity program.

March 31, 2024
Watch the webinar now to equip yourself with the knowledge needed to manage and protect digital identities effectively.

Identity and account(s) are closely connected, but mixing them up can put organizations at risk for problems they don’t want. Let’s explore the ins-and-outs of managing identities and accounts.

Identity: The Human Behind the Screen 

An identity in the cybersecurity context refers to the human in the organization: Sarah in Marketing or Bob in Finance. All too often we confuse Bob with Bob’s account. Bob is not an account in so much as your contractor is not his hammer. An account is simply a way to access a resource.   

Account: The Gateway to Digital Realms  

Conversely, an account acts as a gateway, granting access to an organization’s assets and services based on credentials and permissions. It’s the “how” of access—a conduit through which identities interact with digital resources. Moreover, accounts come in various flavors like user accounts, admin accounts, and service accounts. Each account type has with its own set of rules, roles, and responsibilities.  

The Crucial Distinction and Its Implications  

Mixing up identities with accounts is akin to confusing a driver’s license with a car. Ultimately, one speaks to the individual’s privilege to drive (identity), while the other pertains to the vehicle that facilitates this action (account). In the cybersecurity arena, this distinction is critical for several reasons:  

  • Enhanced Security Controls: By clearly distinguishing between identities and accounts, organizations can tailor security controls more precisely. Although an identity might have overarching access needs, individual accounts can be restricted based on specific roles or activities to adhere to the principle of least privilege.
  • Risk Management: Differentiating identities from accounts allows for more nuanced risk management strategies. Understanding that accounts, especially those with elevated privileges, can be potent tools in the wrong hands. This necessitates rigorous control measures and monitoring to prevent unauthorized access and potential breaches.  
  • Compliance and Governance: In today’s regulatory environment, ensuring compliance often means having airtight governance over who has access to what. The identity-account dichotomy plays a pivotal role here. Meeting stringent compliance standards requires enabling organizations to assign, audit, and manage access rights efficiently.  

Managing the Maze: Best Practices  

Navigating the identity versus account management maze requires a holistic strategy, centered around several best practices:  

  •  Comprehensive Inventory and Categorization: Maintain an up-to-date inventory of all accounts, categorized by type and associated with specific identities. This facilitates easier management, monitoring, and auditing.  
  • Principle of Least-Privilege: Assign access rights based on the minimum necessary for individuals to perform their duties, reducing the risk surface.  
  • Regular Audits and Reviews: Conduct regular audits of account configurations and access rights, ensuring they remain aligned with individual roles and organizational policies.  
  • Ownership and Accountability: Establish clear ownership for each account, including temporary and service accounts, ensuring someone is always accountable for its use and security.  
  • Future-Proofing Through Technology: Leverage advancements in AI and digital transformation to enhance account management processes, improving the accuracy of entitlement understanding and the efficiency of governance mechanisms.  

Concluding Thoughts: Towards a Secure Digital Identity Ecosystem  

The path to a secure digital identity ecosystem is paved with the understanding and effective management of the intricate relationship between identities and accounts. By emphasizing the critical distinction between these two entities, organizations can bolster their cybersecurity defenses, mitigate risks, and navigate the ever-evolving digital landscape with confidence.  

In a world where digital identities are as unique as fingerprints, ensuring their security is not just a technical challenge but a fundamental element of organizational integrity. Let’s commit to mastering the art and science of identity versus account management, paving the way for a more secure and resilient digital future.  

How SPHERE Can Help 

SPHERE provides a comprehensive solution to streamline and secure your organization’s Identity Hygiene processes. By incorporating SPHEREboard into your security strategy, you can leverage its powerful capabilities to simplify the complexity of your environment, improve visibility into identities, and enforce strong security controls. SPHEREboard’s innovative approach to Identity Hygiene aligns with the growing need for organizations to prioritize identity security to mitigate risk. 


SPHERE is the global leader in Identity Hygiene. We are dedicated to reshaping modern identity programs by embedding this foundational fabric, enabling organizations to quickly reduce risks. Our expertise lies in leveraging automation to deliver immediate time-to-value. We work through an identity lens that protects an organization’s accounts, data, and infrastructure.    

Driven by our core values of passion, empathy, and transparency, our vision drives us to continually innovate. Our clients sleep better knowing their attack surface is drastically reduced with SPHEREboard’s continuous protection.  We’re ready to help you address your Identity Hygiene and security challenges. 

Watch the webinar now to equip yourself with the knowledge needed to manage and protect digital identities effectively.

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