Why is identity and access management so important?







Why is identity and access management so important?

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Published: 2022/07/07

5 min read

Around 80% of data breaches occur due to weak or stolen passwords. At the same time, insider threats cause a notable percentage of violations, according to the “Identity and Access Management Report 2022″ by Identity Management Institute. With security threats constantly increasing, implementing the best identity and access management (IAM) solution is vital.

While cloud-based, hybrid work and digital business processes have opened up possibilities, they have also created new risks. As a result of sophisticated ransomware attacks on the digital supply chain and embedded vulnerabilities, technology gaps and skills shortages have been exposed. “To address the risks, CISOs need to transition their roles from technologists who prevent breaches to corporate strategists who manage cyber risk,” says Peter Firstbrook, VP Analyst at Gartner. Identity and access management will be the backbone of this strategy.

What is Identity and access management (IAM)? 

Identity and access management is a set of processes, policies, and tools that ensure only authorized people or devices can access the right technology resources. Identity and access management solutions play a crucial role in everyday work by enabling employees to perform their duties.  Software components, applications and platforms that are tailor-made for individual organizations lay at the center of an IAM framework.

An adequate set of identity management systems consists of technologies and policies that empower organizations to correctly onboard and recognize each identity, authenticate it with a trusted credential, authorize access to resources, assign responsibilities, track activities, offboard and manage other attributes associated with an individual user.

Read more: The Benefits of Self-Sovereign Identity Authentication Using Blockchain

Identity management and access management – what’s the difference?

Identity management is sometimes called access management. Though often used interchangeably, there are important differences between the two – a bit like authentication and authorization, which are also often confused or regarded as the same. The first (authentication) is given to a person or device, and the second (authorization) is the permissions or rights to resources that a particular person or device can access. How do identity management and access management differ?

  • Identity management deals with managing the attributes related to a user (or a group of users) that requires access. Companies use technologies like passwords, biometrics or multifactor authentication to protect identities.
  • Access management assesses those attributes based on pre-established rules and makes ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decisions (access granted/access denied). Usually, it’s the IT administrator’s responsibility to grant access rights and privileges to each entity.  But it may also result from consents managed by users themselves.

IAM remains the cornerstone of security 

Identity management systems are an everyday part of our life – from logging in to our bank, accessing a video streaming service to using a company account. IAM protects systems and resources from unauthorized access, denying entry to unknown users and alerting security systems if such an attempt occurs.

Companies adopt IAM policies not only to protect data and combat any unauthorized access, but also to prevent any unnecessary hardware loss due to cyberattacks. Furthermore, applying safe and robust security systems is a part of governance mandate in many parts of the world, as regulatory policies necessitate all sorts of solutions to safeguard sensitive data.

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Identity and access management framework

Identity and access management platforms and tools let administrators give access to systems based on the roles assigned by the organization to users or entities (devices, programs or other digital identities in the system). Assigned roles remain directly connected to the user’s job and responsibilities.

Systems gather user login information to assign or remove access privileges. Access management and identity management frameworks track roles for each user or group. They are also responsible for password management and user account creation and deletion.

Applying the solutions described above would be impossible without implementing a central directory that acts as a repository. Such a component synchronizes data across an entire enterprise and makes it available through various access platforms. The best-known central directories are Active Directory for Windows platforms and Open LDAP for Linux systems.

Four crucial steps play a significant role in an identity and access management framework’s ability to verify a user’s or program’s digital identity:

  • Authentication: A program or user presents credentials verified by solutions like single sign-in, multifactor authentication, session and token management.
  • Authorization: A system uses roles, rules, privileged access, LoA (levels of assurance) and attributes to decide whether a program or user is permitted to perform the requested activity.
  • Access Governance:  A framework applies procedures established to request, approve, assign, control and audit access.
  • Accountability: A system pinpoints a program or user and holds them accountable for the operations conducted in the system.

Importance of Privileged access management (PAM)

In a network or digital system, privileged access happens when an entity (human or machine) uses an administrative account with elevated permissions to perform maintenance, make changes, or address emergency outages. In its “Why and How to Prioritize Privileged Access Management, article Gartner states that prioritizing PAM as a cyber defense mechanism is essential. It is crucial to enabling zero trust and cybersecurity strategies that extend beyond compliance requirements.

As IBM security experts put it, today’s best practice in access management is “least privilege.” It means assigning each user access rights to only the resources needed to complete the task for the shortest amount of time necessary. Privileged access management is the best solution for distributing such attributes, but with great power comes great responsibility, as most privileged accounts must stay secure at all times. That’s why authentication plays such a crucial part in the framework.

The future of identity and access management looks bright

Over the past few years, the IAM market has grown substantially to a value of $13.41 billion in 2021 and is expected to increase its worth to $34.52 billion by 2028 – according to research quoted in the “Identity and Access Management Report 2022”.

The report written by the Identity Management Institute points to several factors that are contributing to such growth. Enterprises across the banking, fintech, healthcare and many other sectors that transfer data to the cloud must ensure that identity and access management technologies secure intellectual property, protect confidential customer data and create a safer and more compliant environment. Such a task will be impossible without proper technology and software partners.

The innovation path does not end there, as the report strongly suggests that enterprises also explore IAM strategies beyond basic authentication and access management. What is their ultimate goal? To automate more of their operations and secure critical data portfolios with the help of identity management technologies that provide sophisticated IT solutions.

Identity and access management systems are pivotal for every enterprise and organization. Software Mind has extensive identity management-related experience and is up to date with the newest security trends and solutions. Software Mind’s experts will gladly guide you through the world of security solutions. Just fill out this contact form and let us know how we can help.

About the authorWojciech Kozak

Software Delivery Director

A Software Delivery Director with over 20 years’ experience in the IT industry who has spent the past 15 years working with the largest Polish TELCO Operators. Wojtek combines a technical background in application development services with wide business knowledge, especially in regards to the telecommunication industry. His extensive experience and passion enable him to effectively manage development teams that implement ambitious projects with high quality.

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