What is Identity and Access Management?
Identity and Access Management is designed to ensure that people in a company can access the right tools they need to do their respective jobs with the right permissions. Identity and Access Management (IAM) ensures your company can manage its employees’ apps without having to log in to each app as the administrator.
IAM enables companies to manage different entities like software, people, IoT devices, and hardware. It provides the IT managers with the right technologies and tools to control user access to critical information within a company.
IAM helps to manage different employees’ privileges to access certain entities. This can also apply to partners or stakeholders, and customers. The devices to be managed include – but are not limited to – routers, smartphones, servers, sensors, controllers, and computers.
The main aim of Identity and Access Management is to give each item its individual digital identity. The digital identity provided must be maintained, monitored, and modified throughout the device’s and user’s access lifecycle.
Most users do not manage passwords to optimal standards. They either use weak passwords or store them carelessly. IAM systems give administrators tools that aid in tracking user activities, their roles and also help them creating reports and enforcing policies continuously (e.g. password policies).
IAM enables easier user account administration across the entire enterprise. This ensures compliance with government regulations and industry policies.
Identity access protection has become a more important aspect after the Covid-19 pandemic started making physical boundaries set in companies almost useless. More businesses have moved to a remote environment which still gives the users access to internal systems.
This is a major security weakness area for most companies and that’s why most of them are increasingly adopting IAM architecture.
How Identity and Access Management Works
In recent years, a recommended IAM system had 4 basic elements:
- An identity repository of personal data the system uses to define its individual users.
- Tools to add, modify and delete data that is related to the access lifecycle management process.
- A system for regulating and enforcing user access.
- A reporting and auditing system.
Regulating access has always involved authentication methods that are used to verify the users’ or the device’s legitimate identity. This includes passwords, digital certificates, and software and hardware-software tokens. Software and hardware tokens are now even in android and IOS smartphones and other vendors like Authy. Modern elements also include stronger authentication controls like biometrics.
However, in the current technology world, cyber attack threats have largely increased. This makes conventional forms of authentication like using a strong username and password, not to be secure enough.
This is why most IAM products have added more secure features like multi-factor authentication, biometrics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and risk-based authentication.
Why You Need Identity and Access Management
Companies and businesses need to boost their cyber security to increase employee productivity. Here are other reasons why your company needs an IAM tool:
- To improve security. Most traditional security systems rely on passwords only which is a single point of failure. If the set password is breached, the whole company may become vulnerable to a cyber attack. With IAM, it narrows the points of failure and replaces them with tools that will catch any mistakes and give an alert in case of any suspicious activity.
- Ensures productivity. With IAM, every employee has access to the right tools they need for their work. Employees no longer need to worry about having the right access level because they already have what they need. Employee access can also be managed depending on their role or groups instead of individually which reduces the workload for the IT department.
- For identity governance. IAM manages the user account lifecycle, provisioning, and entitlements.
- For identity analytics. IAM identifies, detects, and prevents any suspicious identity activities
- For identity governance and administration (IGA). Identity and Access Management reduces the risk associated with excessive privileges and access through controlling the entitlements.
Components of an IAM strategy
Identity and Access Management is a component of the zero trust model. IAM tools should be implemented using the zero-trust principles which include identity-based security and least privilege access policies.
- Secure access. Securing access is critical at the identity management level. IAM tools should analyse and verify the identities of those login into the system. This can be done by employing multifactor authentication or combining it with adaptive authentication which will take records of other information of the login attempt like time, location, and the device type.
- Central identity management. Having centralised approach management makes the identity and access management model simpler. A human resources directory can be used to achieve this model. This can be through migrating users from different systems or integrating the IAM framework with other user directories.
- Zero-Trust policy. This policy means that the IAM tool monitors the endpoints and the user identities and activities. Each member of the company is being constantly identified and all their activities are managed through access management solutions.
- Training and support. Identity management systems providers train users who are most likely to engage with the tool. They include the administrators and other users. The providers will also offer long-term check-ups of the IAM tool and their users.
- Policy-based control. Users require authorisation to perform only the required tasks and no higher access privileges. Identity management tools are designed for controlling user access to resources and restricting them to their job roles and department privileges. The tools also ensure security through digital identities verification of user accounts no matter where they log on from.
Challenges of Implementing IAM
IAM also has its challenges and risks if adopted in a company. Some include;
- Delegation of birthright access is an issue.
- The relationship between single-sign-on and IAM needs to be well configured.
- IAM is not compliant with several cloud architectures. Integrating practices like AWS, Microsoft Azure with IAM is challenging and there might be security issues among the cloud providers.
Enterprises will be the beneficiaries of any new strategies brought into IAM systems to ensure proper user provisioning, managing access, and appropriate access. When access management features evolve, it’s likely security will be boosted.
Increasingly heterogeneous technology environments require better security because of the different vendors and entities involved. Most people and companies are moving towards this model and the need for proper Identity and Access Management systems increases.
IAM will give businesses and companies more authority over their data and security through managing access. Business owners can rely on IAM tools like Oracle Identity Management and others.
The advantage of IAM is ‘bring your own identity’ BYOI concept. This approach which is a component of IAM and close to SSO reduces the number of passwords and usernames. All these models that integrate the IAM work through shrinking the vulnerability landscape.
How cyber-secure is your business? Find out with our free cybersecurity health check.
It’s a 30-minute Zoom call that walks through a checklist to assess your current cybersecurity levels and provide a short report with some advice and recommendations.