Guide To Identity And Access Management: A Core Cybersecurity's Solution

In 2020, 94.5% of respondents from a global survey stated that securing digital transformation initiatives is a cybersecurity priority for their organization post-Covid-19 Pandemic. One of the key systems that can quickly help companies achieve this goal is Identity and Access Management.  These systems allow companies to easily and securely store identity and profile data. With proper data governance functions in place, IAM can greatly boost enterprise cybersecurity solutions.

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What is Identity and Access Management in Cybersecurity?

Identity and access management (IAM) is one of the most important aspects of cybersecurity. A term used in information security, IAM describes the process of managing who and how company personnel are able to access resources. These systems allow organizations to manage access to data, systems, and applications, ensuring that gaining access to sensitive information is only possible for authorized users.

By offering centralized management to grant access to resources, organizations can reduce the risk of data breaches and other cybersecurity incidents. IAM systems also help organizations comply with regulations such as the GDPR and HIPAA. Consequently, organizations should consider implementing an IAM system if they want to improve their cybersecurity posture.

Choosing the right IAM system can be difficult, as there are many different systems available on the market. When choosing an IAM system, it’s important to consider the ease of use, scalability, and security of the system:

  • Ease of use: The IAM system should be easy to use, so that employees can quickly and easily access the resources they need.
  • Scalability: The IAM system should be able to scale up or down as needed, so that it can meet the needs of your organization.
  • Cost: IAM systems can be expensive to implement, so it’s important to choose a system that fits your budget.
  • Security: The IAM system should be secure and reliable, so that you can trust your data to it.

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What does IAM do?

For an IAM system to function properly, authorized users and entities should be able quickly validate their credential and access applications or data when they need to, without interference, using the devices they want to use. There are several different forms of digital authentication that enterprises can implement in order to validate a user’s identity:

  • Unique passwords: In its most basic form, usernames and passwords offer a swift means of providing authentication for digital identities. More unique passwords are inherently stronger and more difficult to exploit. Often, organizations require longer or complex passwords to make passwords more secure. Requirements may include a combination of letters, symbols and numbers. Users may have difficulty remembering more complicated passwords, unless they are able phrases or concepts not associated with their person to build passwords that meet requirements and are easy to remember.
  • Pre-shared key (PSK): PSK is a digital authentication procedure that shares passwords with authorized users so that they can access the same resources. Examples include Wifi passwords, or account logins for department resources. These are typically less secure than individual passwords and require the team to be cautious in how and where they share credentials. Similarly, users should look for secure ways to notify their team when credentials change.
  • Behavioral authentication: Particularly useful when dealing with highly sensitive information, organizations can leverage behavioral authentication to offer a more granular analysis of keystroke dynamics or mouse-use characteristics to validate a user’s identity. Furthermore, artificial intelligent can be applied to quickly recognize if user or machine behavior falls outside of the norm and can automatically lock down systems.
  • Biometrics: Increasingly, modern IAM systems use are implementing biometrics for precise authentication. Credentials may include a range of biometric characteristics, including fingerprints, irises, faces, palms, gait, and voice and, in some cases, DNA. This method is more secure than traditional passwords but also requires sophisticated validation tools.

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Benefits of IAM

In additional to the general improvement of cybersecurity posture, companies that implement IAM systems and follow best practices gain a competitive advantages. Businesses can provide limited access to users outside the system (i.e. customers, partners, etc.) across network functions, such as mobile or on-premises applications, SaaS, and more, all without compromising security. Other benefits of IAM systems include:

  • Reduced risk of data breaches: IAM systems help organizations reduce the risk of data breaches by restricting access to sensitive data to authorized users only. Strict policies govern attribute based access control, ensuring all privileges provided for individuals and services are properly authenticated, authorized and audited.
  • Increased compliance: IAM systems can help organizations meet regulatory compliance requirements, such as the GDPR and HIPAA. Failure to meet these requirements can have immense consequences in addition to damages caused by a breach. These systems enable companies to respond to audits and demonstrate that data required can be ready on-demand.
  • Automated IAM: automation tools allows businesses to operate more efficiently by reducing the time, energy, and money that would be required to manually manage network access.
  • Enforceable security polices: an IAM framework makes it easier for security personal to enforce and manage user access authentication policies, ensuring that validation and privileges are assigned properly, that users leaving the system have their credentials revoked, and allows them to address privilege creep and ensure user access to sensitive data is directly related to job function and does not occur without appropriate permissions.

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IAM technologies and tools

While serving as an essential piece of the cybersecurity puzzle, IAM systems can be complex and expensive to implement. It’s important to choose the right system for your organization. Making this decision involves understanding how other trending technologies are shaping IAM systems:

  • IAM and AI: artificial intelligence enables organizations to take a granular and adaptive approach to authentication and access management. Along with its use in biometrics or behavior screening, AI leverages machine learning to provide wide scale analysis of access data and offering better chances of detecting anomalies or fraud. This paves the way for corrective and proactive IAM methods that can revoke privileges quickly in the event of breach or cyberattack.
  • IAM, Identity as a Service (IDaaS) and managed identity services: Increasingly, vendors are offering identity and access management services delivered from cloud environments. Identity as a Service (IDaaS) can be offered as a standalone solution or to augment existing on-premises IAM systems. Similar to other managed security services solutions, a security provider will monitor and manage enterprise IAM solutions running either on the cloud or on-premises.
  • IAM for the cloud: A modern enterprise utilizes many applications and tools to access data, all of which may need to be functional in traditional on-premises systems, private clouds, as well as one or several public cloud environments. This means a company must manage access to resources from wherever users are located. An idyllic model is an identity and access management system that supports SSO and MFA across hybrid multicloud environments.
  • IAM and BYOD: As user environments become more consumerized, employees increasingly expect the freedom to work from anywhere using their personal devices (i.e.  mobile phones, tablets, laptops or wearables). In response, many organizations are adopting bring your own device (BYOD) programs, combining IAM with unified endpoint management platforms to embrace mobile options and adopt BYOD securely.   
  • IAM and IoT: More companies are implementing Internet of Things (IoT) solutions within their networks. However, hackers have proven that any device can be exploited to steal sensitive data, especially IoT devices that do not follow security best practices.  Without access management, IoT networks are obvious targets for malicious actors. IAM solutions address IoT devices by treating them as entities that need to be identified and authorized prior to network access. This is one of the best tools to ensure security across a broad network of devices.

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