Security threats are constantly evolving in today’s IT world. In times like this, providing the right level of access to all users is not an easy task,with organizations dealing with this issue almost every day. Also, new threats pop up every day with workforces scattered across numerous locations. To mitigate security threats and boost operational efficiency, organizations need to incorporate solutions that can control user access to critical information. This can be achieved with an identity and access management system.
The 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report by Verizon estimated that 85% of all data breaches involved a human element. Without the right controls in place, organizations cannot track which internal users have access to its resources.
In this blog, we’ll explore the different aspects of identity and access management and how you can maximize security within your organization.
What is identity and access management (IAM)?
Identity and access management refers to a framework that incorporates necessary controls to make sure only the right people have access to the right information within an organization. In other words, it focuses on defining the roles and access privileges of users to ensure appropriate access to organizational resources.
By incorporating the right controls, it is possible to restrict inappropriate access to critical data and prevent data security breaches that may arise from within an organization.
What is the difference between identity management and access management?
While IAM works as a combined framework, it has two different components namely identity management and access management. Both components have their own functions and together help enhance the security of an organization. Let’s explore what they mean.
Identity management: Identity management is all about managing the attributes of the digital identity we create. This is not limited to just individuals. Even applications and devices have their own digital identities that need to be managed properly. Attributes like email ids, phone numbers, biometric elements, etc., are unique to every individual. Similarly, devices and applications have their own unique attributes. In an identity and access management system, these attributes are used to validate and authorize a user for specific tasks.
Access management: Access management is all about managing the “Yes or No” decisions in the environment. When users wish to access the resources in an organization, they must go through various access control points. Depending on the criticality of the resources, multiple access points can be incorporated. These access control points verify users based on their attributes and determine whether they are allowed to enter. Organizations typically have a policy framework that provides access privileges based on users’ roles and responsibilities.
IAM, CIAM and PAM
Security measures that work for your internal employees don’t always have to work for your customers. This should be considered when incorporating an IAM system. While conventional IAM can manage customer data and authenticate them, it has its limitations in dealing with the different digital identities of customers.
There is a significant increase in the number of digital identities used by individuals. Customers may use different identities from different devices or locations. Hence, providing them with a consistent user experience becomes a challenge with IAM. You need a solution that focuses on customer data, behaviors and devices. This is where customer identity and access management (CIAM) comes in.
Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM): CIAM solutions provide a seamless customer experience by securely capturing customer data and managing their authentication and access. These solutions typically come with a range of features including single sign-on, multifactor authentication, preference management, consent management, self-service account management and more. Besides providing customer experience, CIAM should also ensure security and drive business decisions through its analytics.
Privileged Access Management (PAM): While IAM and CIAM focus on a wider level of user authentication, PAM focuses on controlling the access of privileged users. For instance, administrator accounts can access privileged information with minimal control or tracking. PAM makes sure that only those with the highest level of clearance have access to this information. PAM plays a critical role in risk management since it centralizes the access management of all privileged accounts.
What does IAM do?
As you may know by now, managing user access plays a key role in the security of an organization’s IT infrastructure. Trusting your internal users with IT security is always a tricky thing. With an IAM system in place, your administrators will have the right tools to manage user access.
You can create, edit, modify or remove users anytime. IAM systems can act as sole directories for user information. However, you can also integrate them with other directors when required. When you change a user’s role with an IAM tool, the access privileges will change accordingly. You can also track the activities of your users and come up with new policies. With the help of IAM software, administrators can manage user access across the entire organization.
How does IAM work?
The primary function of an IAM system is to regulate user access. There are two steps to this process – authentication and authorization. IAM has a repository of user data to define all the users in the network. The authentication process confirms the identity of the user by verifying the credentials entered by the user against data in the repository.
After authenticating the user’s identity, the IAM system will provide the user with the appropriate level of access. This level of access is determined for each user by creating roles and permissions. For instance, in an HR department, you can define employee roles based on the tasks they handle. An employee associated with the payroll department doesn’t need access to the hiring information. By defining such roles, you can prevent unauthorized access to critical data.
What are the key components of IAM?
An IAM framework entails several core components. These components work together to perform the tasks of identifying, authenticating and authorizing users. Let’s explore the functionalities of these components.
- User identity management: Every IAM system has a database containing the identities and permissions of various users in an organization. You can create, edit or remove users from this database anytime. You can integrate this database with other directories to ensure access management.
- Provisioning and deprovisioning: Provisioning involves specifying the access privileges of the users in a database. Manually specifying the access privilege for each user is a time-consuming process. With an IAM tool, you can set up policies to assign user privileges based on roles or job functions. Deprovisioning involves removing access privileges of users like ex-employees in order to prevent their access to organizational systems.
- User authentication: IAM systems authenticate the identity of users based on the credentials they provide. The most common way of authentication involves logging in to the system with the username and password. However, most systems have additional security measures, like multifactor authentication (MFA), to enhance the security of the system.
- Single sign-on (SSO): If your IAM system has single sign-on configured, users will be redirected to the identity provider where they can complete authentication based on the conditional access policies in your single sign-on provider. This eliminates the need for users to remember multiple passwords.
- Access management based on roles and permissions: Identity and access management also focuses on granting users the exact level of access they are entitled to. Based on a user’s role and access permissions, they will have specific access to certain assets in the system.
- Audit and activity logs: The activity logs in IAM tools collect various information such as last login, activity duration, systems accessed, etc. These logs are critical to assess security risks and ensure compliance. Most importantly, you can use them during an investigation to determine the who, what, when and where.
What is the purpose of IAM?
IT environments have become increasingly complex in recent times. Also, security threats are becoming more sophisticated every day. The traditional way of granting access via usernames and passwords is no longer adequate to combat modern threats. Identity and access management systems have gained prominence mainly because of this.
The main objective of IAM is to provide seamless access for the right users at the right time to the right resources. At the same time, it also prevents unauthorized access to an organization’s critical resources. By restricting user access and limiting it to legitimate parties, you can minimize vulnerabilities and boost your overall security posture.
Why is IAM important?
Did you know that an average employee in an organization has access to about 11 million files? It is no wonder that stolen information from employees contribute to nearly 90% of all cyberattacks. While security solutions can keep most external threats at bay, they cannot always prevent unauthorized access from the accounts of internal users.
Modern-day IAM solutions go beyond just restricting user access. With automated monitoring, you can prevent suspicious activities within the infrastructure and eliminate threats instantly. IAM can also ensure fraud prevention, adherence to regulatory compliance, increase in operational efficiency and more.
What are the benefits of IAM?
Here are some of the key benefits of IAM:
- Enhanced security: This is the most important benefit of IAM. Gaining control over user privileges protects your systems and data from unauthorized access. By actively monitoring for suspicious activities, you can prevent corrupt insiders from stealing your data and covering their tracks.
- Higher productivity: With an IAM system, you can easily configure the right level of access for the right users. Users no longer have to worry about using the right password for the tools they work with.
- Better collaboration: Organizations typically work with many vendors and third-party service providers from outside the company. With an IAM system, they can configure the right level of access for them without compromising on security. This improves collaboration from all stakeholders associated with a task.
- Streamlined process: Some of the features like SSO in an IAM system can significantly reduce the ticket requests for password resets. Other features like automated identity creation and management can remove the need for manual processes and boost efficiency in the workflow. With enhanced security, workflow process and automation, IAM can streamline your IT workload to a great extent.
How does IAM improve information security and privacy?
The primary benefit of identity and access management concerns information security. Most cyberthreats originate from the information stolen from employees. IAM eliminates the threats associated with weak passwords by enforcing enhanced security measures. Since the access privileges of users are restricted, organizations can mitigate threats to information security associated with malicious or negligent insiders.
Most modern-day IAM solutions focus mostly on credential management. Some of the sophisticated features, like advanced monitoring, anomaly tracking, risk-based authentication, etc., help you enhance the security and privacy of critical information.
What is the role of IAM with Compliance?
If IAM processes are not implemented strictly, organizations may risk non-compliance with various privacy regulations. Most privacy laws require strict controls on who within an organization can access customer data. In addition to enhancing security, IAM systems also help companies adhere to regulations by controlling access to customer and employee data. You can use the reports you generate in IAM to identify security flaws and provide paperwork during regulatory audits.
How do you implement IAM?
Implementing an IAM system requires careful consideration of certain factors. From eliminating all potential cyberthreats to ensuring compliance adherence, the implementation process should cover everything. Let’s check out some of the core steps involved in the process.
- Have a vision and develop a plan: Just like any other IT process, IAM frameworks start with a vision. You need to identify what you aim to achieve with this. Then, you must focus on developing a foundation for enforcing the IAM policy.
- Incorporate central identity management: Identity management is much simpler when centralized. You can synchronize all identities from different directories into your IAM and manage it centrally.
- Create policies for control: Users should have access based on their job functions or roles. You can do this by creating policies that define the level of access for different roles.
- Incorporate zero-trust policy: This approach works on the principle of least privilege access, which means a user will have the least possible level of access to do the task required. Also, contact monitoring is another key aspect of this approach.
- Secure your privileged access: Your accounts are not all the same. There are privileged accounts that are way more critical to your operations than other accounts. For these accounts, you need to incorporate additional security by limiting user access and installing special tools.
- Provide training and support: Users who regularly deal with the IAM system should be provided adequate training to handle it. Users should also know who to contact when something goes wrong with the system.
Support IAM with IT Glue
IT Glue seamlessly integrates with Active Directory, an IAM tool, allowing IT professionals to view all users managed in IT Glue from a single pane of glass. IT Glue also consolidates assets, configurations, apps and services, licenses, passwords and more in a secured platform. This ensures better collaboration among all stakeholders involved.
To control access of all the sensitive data you store, IT Glue comes packed with features like granular permissions, audit trail, revision history, IP access control, SSO, MFA, host-proof hosting and more. All these features can help prevent unauthorized access and keep your IT documentation secure.
To learn more about how IT Glue can help you with identity and access management, request a demo.
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