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Axos Financial Secures and Streamlines Database Access with StrongDM










Axos + StrongDM Overview

The problem

Axos Financial struggled to manage database access efficiently amidst rapid growth. They faced the daunting task of annually reviewing over 200,000 database permissions, creating a significant operational burden for their managers.

The solution before StrongDM

Initially, Axos relied on individual access requests, resulting in a cumbersome process where users filed multiple tickets for database access. They implemented a Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) approach to streamline this process, but further improvements were needed.

The StrongDM difference

Axos turned to StrongDM to manage database access securely and efficiently. With StrongDM, they consolidated multiple access requests into a single, role-based request, eliminating direct database access. StrongDM provided an additional security layer and comprehensive audit logs, significantly enhancing their operational and security posture. The user-friendly platform also ensured high adoption rates among employees, facilitating a smooth deployment and effective access management.

Axos Financial, the holding company for Axos Bank, Axos Clearing, and Axos Invest, faced significant challenges in managing database access and streamlining hundreds of thousands of access requests.

Database Access Overload: Managing Access at Scale

Amid rapid growth, the prospect of reviewing and attesting 200,000+ database permissions on an annual basis by 200 managers posed an overwhelming challenge for Axos Financial. They needed to redesign the database access management model to keep pace with company growth, and creating a system of efficient access processes without compromising data security was critical for SVP Raghu Valipireddy. 

"Our intention was to figure out how to manage the risk from an operational and security standpoint—that's what drove us to StrongDM."

- Raghu Valipireddy, SVP, Axos Financial

Organized Onboarding: From 50 Access Requests to 1

Over half of Axos Financial employees are considered technical users. With a highly technical user base, provisioning database access to them during onboarding was particularly cumbersome. It wasn't uncommon for some to require access to as many as 50 databases. In the past, users had to individually file 50 separate database access tickets because there was no construct of role. 

Axos implemented a Role-Based Access (RBAC) approach to streamline the provisioning process and reduce the number of access requests per database. Users now make a single request in the StrongDM platform and receive all the appropriate access for their roles. Raghu Valipireddy said, "[New users] don't even need to enter a password because it is AD authenticated. So, once they log into the computer, they can interact with databases."

"If someone is looking for a quick approach to secure how access is being provisioned and they want to make that maturity improvement very quickly, I would tell them to look at StrongDM because of how easy it is to use and how easy it is to deploy and roll out. It will help them leapfrog the access improvements they need or want to make in their programs."

Raghu Valipireddy
SVP, Axos Financial

Bolstering Security by Eliminating Direct Database Access

From a security standpoint, Axos was able to eliminate direct database access. Users now must go through StrongDM, which serves as an additional security layer between users and databases, removing direct database access and providing visibility into access patterns.

Because StrongDM captures audit logs at the gateway level outside the database, Axos has an audit trail detailing who accessed which database and what they queried without impacting the performance of the database. “If we need to investigate a security incident, these audit logs are extremely useful to gain visibility.” 

StrongDM: Easy to Use, Easy to Deploy, Easy to Roll Out

While researching database access management options, the Axos team met with multiple solution providers, but the user-friendliness of the StrongDM platform stole the spotlight. According to Raghu Valipireddy, "At the end of the day, if it doesn't get adopted and if it doesn't get used by our employees, we're not even making the slightest progress from a security standpoint… StrongDM is the most customer-friendly of all the solutions, and it's easier to use than anything else we have seen. We've seen Teleport and many other database security products in the market right now…"

"You guys listened to what we really needed and helped us break it down into small pieces, and you brought in a lot of the folks internally… You took those notes and went back and fought for us from an engineering standpoint. And you helped those features get prioritized internally."

- Raghu Valipireddy, SVP, Axos Financial

Deploying Scalable Database Access

Strategic partnership was a key theme throughout the deployment. Axos collaborated closely with their StrongDM Customer Success Manager, who listened to the specific challenges and acted as the voice of the customer to the StrongDM engineering and product teams. 

Together, steps were taken to make feature enhancements and address specific needs proactively. When asked about the customer support and onboarding process, Raghu said, "Throughout my career within the access space, I've bought a number of tools, and I would honestly say the experience I had from the onboarding perspective at StrongDM is the most impressive I've seen compared to any other company. I've worked with all of those big vendors from an onboarding standpoint, but nobody has done such an impeccable job of assisting with onboarding compared to StrongDM."

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