Defining Identity and Access Management
Identity and Access Management is an umbrella term that covers an infinite number of different virtual tools, devOps practices, concepts, processes, policies, and technologies. It can be defined as the IT security discipline, framework, and solution that manages digital identities, which includes identity provisioning and de-provisioning, identity authentication and security, and access authorization to resources or for performing specific actions. In other words, it protects data security and privacy with effective user authentication and authorization with the help of a single sign-on solution that features multi-factor authentication, after which, users are assigned access rights to particular resources with Identity management solutions that consistently monitors access while keeping a check on least privilege access rights.
Today, ensuring that our crucial information remains protected while giving users access to accomplish their different tasks is quite a balancing act. With the cyber attacks being more severe and on the rise today, there has to be a concrete solution for managing both identity and access. And, since no two users are alike, the access and permissions must be issued accordingly to maintain the security of the entire system. And, this is what an identity and access management system helps you with. It defines and designates roles and access privileges of different users on the network. You can deploy these systems on premises with the help of a third-party vendor through a cloud subscription or can get it deployed in a hybrid model.
Fundamentals of Identity and Access Management
A fundamental security component, identity management makes sure the users have the required access while the systems, data, and applications remain inaccessible to unauthorized users.
Here’s how things are defined:
- Identifying users and then assigning them the roles
- The systems, information, and other critical areas remain protected by IAM
- Defining correct levels of protection and access for sensitive data, information, and location
- Flexibility to add, remove, and amend users in the IAM system
- Defining role’s access rights in the IAM system with effective additions, removals or amendments
How does Identity and Access Management Works: Technology Behind IAM
IAM is supported by a centralized technology that either replaces or seamlessly integrates with the existing systems. It comes with a central directory of users, roles, and predefined permission levels, granting access rights to users based on their role and need to access specific resources.
Here’s how identity is managed?
Identity management helps organizations to identify, authenticate, and authorize users by following authentication steps like:
- Unique username and password
- Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)
- Single Sign-On (SSO)
Here’s how access is managed?
Though interconnected, access is slightly different from identity and defines the resources that an identity is permitted to use. It works in the following manner:
- Role-based access control (RBAC)
- Granting user privileges
Basic Elements of Identity and Access Management System?
IAM system allows the IT to have control on user access to sensitive information within the organization and regulates it in the following ways:
- Managing the employee database of users and job roles
- Recording, capturing, and authenticating user login information like usernames, passwords, etc.
- Adding, deleting, and changing individual users and their roles as per their job roles
- Collecting login history and systems access for audit purposes
- Defining access controls for every part of the system and data
- Monitoring and tracking user activities across different resources
- Consistent reporting on user activities
- Enforcing access policies across resources
Key Features of Identity and Access Management
Though there are many technologies to streamline password management and other aspects of IAM, some of the most commonly used solutions are:
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
Taking a layered approach to security, the IAM framework is based on multi-factor authentication, which uses a combination of different security passages like the password, security token, or a fingerprint to grant access to the user with multiple authentication factors.
Single Sign On (SSO)
A system that allows users to authenticate themselves once and then granting them access to all the associated applications, systems, data, and software without having to log into each of them separately. In short, no additional authentication is required for the services they wish to utilize thereafter.
Privileged Access Management
PAM is a segment of network security solutions that authorizes, manages, and monitors account access with a high degree of administrative permissions in order to protect the organization’s most vital information and resources. In other words, it controls and monitors the privileged user activity of the internal employee. These systems keep a check on security when users with high-level permissions get access to sensitive systems.
Different Ways to Achieve Authentication with IAM
There is a range of digital authentication methods that can be implemented with the help of an IAM like:
Pre-shared Key (PSK)
A type of digital authentication in which the password is shared among authorized users that have access to the same resources. However, this kind of authentication is usually less secure as compared to individual passwords.
One of the most common types of authentication where the organizations require long or complex passwords, which should be the combination of letters, numbers, and special characters for advanced security.
When it is about granting access to highly sensitive information and systems, behavioral authentication can be implemented for more granular access. With IAM systems artificial intelligence, organizations can figure out if the user or machine behavior does not match while automatically locking down the entire systems.
For a more precise authentication, modern IAM systems use biometrics in the form of fingerprints, irises, faces, palms, and voices, etc. Biometrics has turned out to be the most effective way of authentication as compared to passwords.
Different Areas Where Implementation of IAM Systems Must Be Considered?
Implementation of IAM systems helps you with that extra layer of security in protecting your crucial enterprise systems, software, applications, information, and other assets against unauthorized access. With IAM solutions, the impact or likelihood of data breaches gets reduced while ensuring only legit and authenticated users have access to the resources. Below are the different areas that must be protected with IAM, allowing just the authorized access:
- Protection of sensitive data and information stored on local servers, in the cloud, or anywhere else
- Securing software and applications used by the employees, customers, business partners, and others
- Protecting all IT environments that are used for development, testing, staging, operations, and launch
- Safeguarding devices like laptops, desktops, smartphones, tablets, and other stuff against cyber attacks
- Protection of business locations including private workplaces, data centers, and secure locations
- Security of data that is being transmitted, received, stored, or interacted with between different areas
Benefits of Identity and Access Management
Mobile integration got easier with IAM
With the trend of work-from-home culture on the rise, IAM technologies come with protocols that allow easy integration with this kind of work culture, ensuring complete protection to the mobile users and employees.
Reducing the need for frequent password resets
IAM decentralizes the standard help desk practices by allowing user authentication from anywhere, anytime.
Automated audit trails
Besides authentication and authorization, IAM systems also help with audit automation, providing you with detailed records of attempted access along with reducing the risk of external threats and the impact of the attempted breach.
Increased system efficiency
Implementing IAM systems lead to efficient systems and reduced operating costs as it allows the organizations to use a single network for different internal operations and client-facing purposes.
Reduced internal and external breaches
Well-managed identities help the admin with better control over user activities and permissions, resulting in reduced internal and external breaches. So the overall impact of the breach is lessened on the implementation of an IAM system, which ensures network security as per the compliance standards.
With organizations integrating new technologies into their business, it has become all the more important to protect the identity and access. Today, digitization has shifted the security perimeter to identity from firewall and systems like IAM helps us enforce policies, restricting the amount of information and applications that can be accessed by specific users. It protects our sensitive information, data, applications, and systems from getting breached while allowing only the authorized users to have access.