Identity and Access Management is Crucial in a Digital World. But it’s Complicated. Let’s Break it Down.

No one ever looks forward to a security breach, especially when it comes to data – but it’s important to be prepared for one. And with 95 percent of security breaches connecting back to human error, it’s critical to have full control over who can access what pieces of information. One way to do this is with an identity and access management framework or (IAM). A good IAM framework allows IT managers to control user access to critical information within their organizations. It also can help companies better comply with government regulations by allowing them to show that corporate information is not being misused. “It’s important to note that IAM is not just for employees like it used to be. It’s crucial for organizations to provide secure access for contractors, business partners, remote users, customers and, even, pieces of code.”  But as cyber crimes become more strategic, it’s essential to make sure that whoever is providing your organization with identity and access management is staying ahead of strategies that would lead to a data breach. Confused? That’s common. Let’s try to break it down.

So What does Identity Access Management Do?

Data security isn’t possible without a system to govern identity and access. When done well, IAM helps ensure the productivity of your business while keeping digital systems functioning seamlessly. IAM systems can be deployed on-premise, provided by a third-party vendor or deployed in a hybrid model. At its core, an IAM system includes how people are identified in a system, how roles are identified and assigned to people, adding or updating what groups of people have access to sensitive information and finally, protecting that sensitive data by securing the IAM system itself.

If you’re thinking about implementing an IAM system, it’s important to conduct an audit of existing and legacy systems to identify gaps and opportunities. Map out all user types and access scenarios to determine what needs your IAM solution has to meet.

Security can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. At a high-level, there are several ways that IAM can integrate with other security facets. A growing number of vendors are offering identity and access management services through the cloud. Additionally, in the mobile world we live in, IAM can be combined with unified endpoint management platforms to help organizations embrace the mobility of employees and adopt BYOD securely. And on another level, IAM solutions see Internet of Things devices as actual entities that need to be identified, which helps protect hackers from compromising access to corporate networks and customer data.

The Benefits of an Identity Management System. It’s Not Just about Security.

IAM technologies can automate initiating, capturing and recording user identities and their access permissions. And, when companies properly manage identities, they have greater control of user access, which reduces the risk of data breaches. And no one wants a data breach. Additionally, an IAM framework can make it easier for a company to enforce rules around user authentication, validation and privileges.

“When an IAM framework is in place, it should reduce the time it takes to set up user accounts with a controlled workflow. It should also allow administrators to view or change access rights instantly. Think of it as digital authentication.”  With IAM, you can ensure people must prove their digital identity. How? Through unique passwords,a pre-shared key, behavioral authentication and biometrics. Overall, a good IAM should increase efficiency and lower costs by opening systems to customers, contractors and suppliers.

Today, artificial intelligence (AI) is playing a transformative role in identity and access management, which means organizations can take a more adaptive approach to authentication. AI is essential to user and entity behavior analytics to identify suspicious activity. Essentially, AI can flag indicators like large volumes of login attempts in a short time period, malicious logins, unknown locations and unrecognized devices. The quicker these things are flagged, the quicker an attempted hack can be stopped.

This Sounds Great, but are there Risks?

Identity and access management systems are not void of risk. To help mitigate some risk, your IT staff can obtain an IAM-specific security certification. It’s important to note that biometrics can pose security challenges including data theft so keeping only necessary data can reduce that risk. Additionally, cloud-based IAM can pose a risk, so organizations should ensure control over all aspects of cloud-based IAM so that access to user identities and passwords is not something cyber criminals can obtain.

How do I Know Who to Use for Identity and Access Management?

According to a list prepared by EM360 Tech, the top 10 Identity and Access Management tools for 2022 include: JumpCloud, SailPoint, CyberArk, Twingate, Okta, Oracle, AWS, Axure Active Directory, Google Cloud and AuthO. It’s significantly important to research which provider has the right solution for your needs.

How do I Know if my Current IAM is Vulnerable?

According to a blog we posted earlier this year, your IAM may be vulnerable if you can answer yes to the following question.

Do you:

  1. Rely on traditional password-based systems?
  2. Trust that a VPN is sufficient encryption for your sensitive data?
  3. Not employ MFA sign-on?
  4. Use unintegrated, unsupported or outdated software?
  5. Take more than four hours to hire, fire or modify the access of a user?
  6. Not have the ability to flag and trace your privileged access authorization?

With all of the cyber threats 2023 has to bring, it’s important to overcome your weak points by mapping them out, as stated above. A low level of maturity in areas of high risk is often an indication that the processes and tools you have are not effective.

And, with remote and hybrid work acting as the new normal, the usage of mobile devices for critical daily work is penetrating almost every facet of our day-to-day – making the security of networks more important than ever. Additionally, with the looming threat of phishing and other web-based attacks, it’s more important than ever before to make sure your identity and access management solution has all critical information protected. The forecast for the coming year and IAM is that AI will be instrumental with its ability to recognize patterns and expand knowledge at the same rate as risk. So talk to your IAM vendor about their thoughts on AI and how they plan to implement it if they aren’t already.

So, what’s the forecast for your business risk? Take some time now to look inward and map out a plan to keep all critical data protected. Sure, it sounds cliche but, at the end of the day, it’s much better to be safe than sorry.