What is Identity and Access Management?

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Calender
December 4, 2023
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Identity and Access Management (IAM) plays a vital role in today's digital security domain, automating complex user management processes and ensuring that only the right people can access sensitive information. IAM is more than basic security; it is an essential element of cybersecurity.

SaaS IAM lies at the core, guaranteeing authorized individuals' access to essential tools and applications. As we navigate through a SaaS-driven environment, grasping the fundamentals of IAM becomes crucial.

IAM has evolved, adopting technology such as biometrics and artificial intelligence. Since IAM is vital to cybersecurity processes, it is crucial to understand its related security risks.

This guide unravels IAM, its risks, benefits, and components, highlighting its critical role in strengthening cybersecurity. Read on to learn about the intricacies of Identity and access management and understand how IAM simplifies and strengthens security in the digital age.

So, let us get started.

What is Identity and Access management?

Identity and access management is a strategic framework that ensures precise control over user access to essential software and resources according to their roles, restricting illegal access and potential security threats.

This comprehensive framework encompasses the policies, technologies, and processes that regulate and secure access to sensitive information within organizations.

Image of IAM use cases

It ensures that your employees, concerning their roles and responsibilities, have access to the resources needed to execute their jobs. Identity management and access systems allow your firm to manage access and permissions from one place, eliminating the need to log in to each application.

IAM is essential in complicated technological ecosystems because it ensures compliance with growing privacy and security regulations.

Why should organizations focus on IAM?

According to IDSA's 2022 Trends in Securing Identities Report, 84% of respondents suffered an identity-related security breach the previous year. 96% of the 84% said they could have averted or mitigated the intrusion by implementing identity-focused security measures.

So, companies should focus on IAM for online security, automating error-prone tasks, and enhancing productivity.

IAM is a digital guardian, and its importance should not be overlooked. Traditional security measures were vulnerable because they relied entirely on passwords. IAM is a comprehensive solution that quickly discovers and mitigates faults to thwart cyber threats.

In addition to this, it streamlines operations and eliminates the inconvenience of password-related difficulties, simplifying access management.

IAM goes beyond IT, assuring compliance with ever-changing privacy requirements, and has evolved into a critical component of safe digital operations.

Its flexibility makes it suitable for enterprises of all sizes, matching budgetary constraints while effectively meeting various security requirements. With IAM, you can improve your organization's safety and streamline processes.

How does IAM work?

IAM works by doing two critical things:

1. Identity Verification

IAM verifies that the user, software, or hardware is who they claim to be. It employs modern approaches, such as cloud identity tools, that are more secure than standard usernames and passwords.

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2. Managing Access Levels

IAM guarantees that users have appropriate access levels.

Instead of allowing access to everything with a single login credential, IAM offers specialized access slices, such as editing, viewing, or commenting in a content management system.

In simple terms, IAM ensures that only the right people can access the system and only have permission levels to do what their roles entail.

What does Identify and Access Management do?

Here are the core functionalities of IAM

  1. Manages Identities: IAM manages identities by creating, modifying, and deleting users. It also connects with and synchronizes with one or more additional directories.
  2. Provisions and de-provisions users: When a user requests access to a system, IAM determines which resources the user has access to and what level of access (such as editor or viewer) they have, depending on their responsibilities in the company. Conversely, when a person quits the organization, IAM removes them from all systems to which they have access. After all, an ex-employee who still has access to an organization's resources can have significant security consequences.
  3. Authenticates users: When users seek access, IAM authenticates them using multi-factor authentication and adaptive authentication technologies.
  4. Authorizes users: After authenticating, IAM grants access to certain apps and resources based on preset provisioning.
  5. Provides reports: IAM offers reports to assist firms in identifying potential cybersecurity threats and strengthening their safety processes following worldwide compliance.
  6. Offers single sign-on: IAM enables consumers to access all connected web properties with a single identity. SSO secures the authentication process while making accessing services easier and faster.


What are the components of Identity Access Management?

Authentication

Authentication is essential to identity and access management because it ensures secure access to resources by confirming the identities of users, devices, and systems.

The authentication process entails users validating their identities using credentials, such as usernames and passwords, compared to information stored in the identity and access management system. It assures that people are who they claim to be. IAM applies a variety of authentication methods, including:

  • Username and Password: These are the standard credentials for user verification.
  • MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication): Adds an extra layer of protection by requiring users to provide several identities, including codes or biometrics.
  • SSO streamlines user access to different apps by permitting them to authenticate once and access numerous assets with a single set of credentials.
  • Adaptive authentication, sometimes known as "risk-based authentication," modifies safety standards in response to perceived risks. For instance, logging in from a known device may just require a username and password, whereas an unfamiliar device may require extra authentication.

Access control

Access control plays a vital role in digital security because it regulates each digital Identity's level of access to network resources according to the company's rules. Access levels are assigned to customers, employees, and system administrators.  

The most common access controls include:

  • RBAC (Role-Based Access Control): RBAC grants permissions and access rights to individuals based on their roles within an organization. Users are provided access based on their jobs, simplifying administration and ensuring proper access levels.
  • PAM (Privileged Access Management): PAM is concerned with securing privileged accounts and restricting access to vital systems and data. It regulates and monitors privileged access to avoid misuse or unauthorized actions.

Authorization

After successful authentication, identity and access management systems execute authorization checks to ensure users only access resources matching their permissions. So, authorization decides which resources or actions a user can access.

Policies and rules are set to manage access control, ensuring that users only interact with resources relevant to their jobs and responsibilities. This includes controlling access to sensitive information, systems, or applications.

By implementing the principle of least privilege, authorization reduces security risks by granting users only the access required for their assigned duties.

Administration

Administration includes the ongoing management of Identity and access management systems and processes. It entails the maintenance of user identities and access credentials.

Tasks include creating and deleting user accounts, modifying permissions, managing roles, assuring proper access level assignment, and guaranteeing system integrity.

IAM administrators are critical to the integrity of the IAM system, guaranteeing its alignment with company policies and responding quickly to changes in user roles or permissions.

Effective administration adds to streamlined operations, security adherence, and regulatory compliance, serving as the foundation of an enterprise's complete management of digital identities.

Key Identity and access management technologies

IAM solutions provide administrators with the tools to change user roles, track actions, produce analytics and reporting, and implement policies.

Here are the key IAM technologies:

Single Sign-On (SSO)

SSO enables users to access multiple apps or services with a single set of credentials. Eliminating the need for several passwords improves user identity management, minimizes password fatigue, and enhances overall security.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Another User identity management technology is multi-factor authentication, which adds layer of protection by asking users to provide various forms of Identity before giving access. This frequently entails a mix of something the user knows or possesses, like a password, a security token, or biometric verification (using external tools such as age verification software).

Certificate-based access control

Certificate-Based Access Control depends on digital certificates for authenticating the identification of users or devices. It provides a powerful method for ensuring the legitimacy of access requests, which is especially useful for securing network communications.

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

RBAC is a policy-based access control method that allocates permissions to individuals based on their organizational responsibilities. It simplifies user access management by integrating permissions with pre-defined roles and streamlining the allocation of privileges.

Identity Governance and Administration (IGA)

IGA integrates identity governance and administration processes to ensure user identities are accurately managed throughout their lifecycle. It comprises onboarding, offboarding, access checks, and policy enforcement to promote compliance and security.

Identity and access analytics

Identity and access analytics include data analysis and machine learning to monitor and detect unusual trends or behaviors connected to user access. It improves security by detecting potential threats, unauthorized access, and departures from established norms, allowing for proactive risk management.

Benefits of utilizing Identity Access Management

The advantages of utilizing access management are:

1. Enhanced Security

IAM serves as the foundation of organizational security by carefully managing user identities and access rights. It imposes strict authentication, authorization, and auditing procedures, dramatically minimizing the risk of internal and external data breaches. This increased security ensures strict regulatory requirements are met, building trust in digital defenses.

2. Operational efficiency and cost savings

IAM solutions automate complex user access management duties, streamlining operations and saving time, effort, and money. This efficiency enables IT teams to refocus their efforts on key initiatives that drive technical improvements.

Identity access management optimizes resource allocation, increasing ROI and retaining a competitive advantage. Streamlined workflows pave the way for greater efficiency, innovation, and profitability.

Benefits of identity and access management

3. Strengthened Security Policies

Identity access management frameworks enable enterprises to create and implement robust security policies. IAM prevents unlawful escalation and manages the challenge of privilege creep with rigorous user authentication and specific access rights management.

This intentional alignment of access benefits with specific job tasks ensures an edge in an ever-changing threat ecosystem.

4. Regulatory Compliance

Access and Identity management systems record user activity and access patterns, maintaining precise records and providing unquestionable evidence of compliance with government rules.

This rigorous record-keeping allows quick responses during compliance audits and regulatory inquiries, demonstrating the organization's dedication to compliance and governance. Meeting regulatory criteria consistently positions businesses as industry leaders, promoting stakeholder trust.

5 Identity and access management risks

1. Misconfiguring identities

Misconfigurations in Identity and access management can pose significant security risks. These errors include permitting users access to unauthorized information, permitting logins from unapproved IP addresses, and leaving APIs vulnerable. Such misconfigurations frequently result in data breaches and illegal access.

Misconfigurations are a primary cause of security breaches, stressing the importance of Cloud security Posture Management solutions for detecting and remediating vulnerabilities by monitoring audit logs and activities against safe baselines.

It’s equally important to explore and implement data security posture management (DSPM), which also covers issues like the visibility of sensitive information and controlling access to it.

With businesses increasingly relying on a parade of different applications and third-party infrastructures, the relevance of having a consistent and formalized set of data security practices is obvious.

2. Compliance challenges

Adhering to regulatory standards is vital, and failing to comply can lead to severe repercussions. Difficulties in meeting compliance, such as staying updated on changing regulations, can expose businesses to legal and financial troubles.

Businesses operating under industry-specific guidelines such as SOC 2, GDPR, HIPAA, PCI DSS, and NIST-800 53 encounter significant data access and privacy hurdles. IAM tools are pivotal in managing access, preventing malicious activities, and detecting breaches.

IAM systems like CloudEagle that offer complete visibility into identities, access privileges, and usage patterns during audits are invaluable.

Compliance reporting requires centralized visibility and control across systems, which is especially important in cloud services. An efficient IAM solution should provide centralized compliance reporting for access permissions, provisioning, de-provisioning, and user/administrator activity.

3. Manual provisioning and deprovisioning

Manual provisioning and deprovisioning processes are prone to error, mainly when dealing with numerous SaaS services managed at the departmental level. IAM systems simplify new employee provisioning and provide smooth integration with basic directories, such as Active Directory.

User deprovisioning automation, integration with user storage, and clear audit trails constitute vital components.

This prevents vulnerabilities after employee termination and ensures access is terminated across all applications. Inadequate provisioning and de-provisioning can lead to delayed or illegal access, posing security and operational risks.

4. Poor access management policies

Inadequate or poorly specified access management policies can lead to security flaws. Organizations risk illegal access and potential data breaches without definitive rules on who should have access to what resources. Deploying new apps frequently necessitates the manual setup of security measures, which presents cost and time limitations.

Without a centralized IAM solution, developers may inadvertently allow too much access. Implementing automation and intelligent workflows aids in the operationalization of identification programs and the proactive resolution of security risks.

5. Excessive permissions

Granting people more permissions than they need raises the attack surface and increases the risk of data compromise. This can happen unintentionally while managing several employees or offering access in advance for future needs. Malevolent parties can exploit this or result in unintended data misuse.

Negligence in permission management jeopardizes data security. This emphasizes the significance of exact access control, which poses a significant danger to data integrity and confidentiality.

How can CloudEagle streamline Identity and access management?

In the realm of IAM, CloudEagle stands at the forefront with comprehensive identity and access management features, providing a transformative approach to security.

With real-time monitoring, robust authentication, and easy integration with SSO and HR systems, CloudEagle guarantees precision and efficiency throughout the identity and access lifecycle. Its automation capabilities, customized workflows, and user-friendly interfaces empower IT and HR teams while streamlining operations and increasing productivity.

Image of CloudEagle dashboard

Automated provisioning and deprovisioning streamline access requests, speed up access approval and revoking processes, and reduce errors caused by manual approaches.

Whenever a new user joins, CloudEagle will automatically suggest relevant apps to the user, and when he quits, the access will be automatically revoked, keeping your stack secure.

Image of CloudEagle's user deprovisioning module

The integrated dashboard of CloudEagle gives a unified view, providing complete control and enabling rapid response to potential risks. Comprehensive reporting provides valuable compliance and security insights.  

CloudEagle also has an app access module where users can raise access requests, and the relevant administrators can grant access and permission levels based on the user’s role and responsibilities.

Here’s how Alice Park from Remediant streamlined user provisioning and deprovisioning using CloudEagle.

Choosing CloudEagle can help you secure your SaaS ecosystem and attain unrivaled excellence in IAM procedures.

Request a demo to see how this SaaS management platform can help you with identity and access management.

Written by
Prasanna Naik
Co-founder, CloudEagle
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