An Introduction to Identity and Access Management (IAM)
IAM, short for Identity and Access Management, is a framework of policies, processes, and technologies to provide business owners and IT managers control over users who access their organization’s network or cloud accounts.
The IT department, or your Managed Services Provider (MSP) must ensure that everyone accessing your IT or cloud systems is authorized to be there.
In addition to controlling who can log in to systems, IAM systems allow employers to also grant or restrict access to relevant company resources on a per employee basis. This prevents misuse by restricting employee reach to only those areas of the IT infrastructure that are pertinent to their jobs.
When a digital user identity for a new employee, is created on the IAM system, IT managers can add the identity to permission groups, modify and manage permissions, and use tools to track user activities on the network. They can also permit and restrict access to sensitive company data and resources as needed by employees, suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders.
Managers can use the data generated by these systems to create reports based on user actions to ensure better data security for the company.
Why Businesses Need IAM?
IAM systems are vital for any organization’s security, regardless of their size. They help make today’s digitally enabled businesses safe from data breaches, hack attacks, and other vulnerabilities.
These systems also empower businesses by letting them know and control who gets access to their network. This helps ensure compliance with internal policies as well as government regulations for their particular industry.
Digital assets and sensitive data, such as account numbers, employee credentials, health and medical information, company secrets and more, are under constant threat from ransomware, phishing, malware and hack attacks.
Hackers ‘phish’ for employee data through seemingly innocuous emails so they can gain entry into the company network and wreak havoc. Additionally, ransomware can hold this vital data hostage for a hefty sum of money.
Lost or compromised employee credentials can thus lead to billions of dollars in damages for companies, as made evident by the fact that the cost of global ransomware caused damages worth $11.5 billion in 2019 alone.
Another problem is that sometimes users such as employees are granted more access than they need, which may lead to misused data and company resources. Implementing a diligent IAM system across your organization can give you an added layer of security for critical business information.
This security layer ensures that all users across the network follow strict data protection guidelines and security policies.
Additionally, IAM systems allow centralized management, which means that whether your team is in office, on-site, or working remotely; your business gets a boost in overall productivity. Centralized control also takes away the hassle and complexity involved in protecting the company and user data.
You enjoy cost savings while empowering and encouraging employees for higher productivity.
Types Of IAMs – There’s One For Your Needs
IAM technology offers password management tools, frameworks for security policy enforcement, monitoring and report generation apps as well as provisioning software.
Provisioning software helps your organization manage information about users on your network in a quick, safe, reliable, and cost-effective manner. IAM systems can be used with on-site systems like Microsoft SharePoint and with Cloud-based systems like Microsoft Office 365.
Different IAM technologies can prove valuable to businesses. These include:
- Identity Analytics (IA): The smart algorithms in this IAM system involve preset rules allowing security teams to detect and stop risky identity behaviors. The intelligent system also learns from user behaviors and adapts accordingly – machine learning.
- Identity Management and Governance (IMG): IT managers can monitor employees’ and suppliers’ online behavior on your network and intervene where necessary. They make sure making sure that it’s in line with company governance and privacy policies. This happens from the time employees first join the network to the time that they leave the organization – the identity life cycle.
- Risk-Based Authentication (RBA): It is a system that evaluates where, why, and how a user has logged on to your network and monitors the session to create a risk score. High-risk users are prompted to do two-factor authentication. This is where they prove that it’s really them logging on to the network through email, SMS or phone verification. Low-risk users can continue with single factor (username-password) sign-ins.
- Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM): This is a system that allows easy management and authentication of customers accessing your network. It can also be integrated with the company’s existing CRM/ERP databases for creating profiles based on behavior, personalizing engagement based on these profiles. In other words, CIAM can improve customer relationships by fostering loyalty while keeping data secure.
- Identity as a Service (IDaaS): Based on the SaaS model, this IAM system helps manage millions of user identities so you can scale your business without worrying about data security. It defines the registration and login process for users where they can access portals, web, and native mobile applications with a single sign-on (SSO). You can monitor and control file access and resource permission to protect your data while providing increased functionality.
- API Security: Security teams can manage IoT device logins and personal data with API security. It integrates easily with cloud and micro-service IAM structures and B2B commerce to manage user access and SSO on mobile applications.
Businesses need to implement robust yet flexible solutions to tackle problems with the modern and constantly changing IT and security landscape – IAMs deliver on all counts.
How IAMs Work
IAM systems typically have a set of tools for adding, deleting, and altering user data, a way to regulate user access and enforce policies. It also includes reporting and auditing to monitor user activities on the network over-time.
User access regulations in the past were limited to passwords, digital certificates, smart cards and tokens. Physical employee cards provided a kind of two-factor identification in addition to a username/password combination to confirm user identity.
With the growing risk of information and identity theft, IAM systems have now evolved to incorporate the use of biometrics, Artificial Intelligence, risk-based authentication, and machine learning. These measures work well in tandem with strong passwords to make sure that only relevant users get access to the network and that too for the right reasons.
Biometric, for instance, works the same way that facial recognition and fingerprint scanners work for unlocking smartphones. This technology protects the owner’s data from falling into the hands of any unscrupulous characters even if they have physical possession of the mobile device.
In essence, IAM administrators can manage access privileges easily for all users – on-site, in-office, remote, or on the go, whether they’re using Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, UNIX, or IoT devices.
Benefits of Using IAM Systems For Your Business
The advent of remote and mobile working capabilities makes it increasingly important for businesses to give users access to internal systems, no matter where they are located.
This can mean giving partners, suppliers, contractors, employees, and even customers access to information that can streamline business processes, increase efficiency, and lower associated operating costs. But this comes with a real security risk.
IAMs minimize this risk while giving various stakeholders limited access to information that is relevant to them. This enables greater collaboration throughout the organization, boosts productivity and employee satisfaction, and improves research and development efforts, all of which result in increased revenues for the company.
Businesses that implement IAM systems report fewer helpdesk calls for IT support concerning password resets. Similar time-consuming, mundane, and costly tasks can be automated by administrators using these systems.
IAM systems define which users have access to which resources under specific circumstances. In contrast, well-managed and controlled identities reduce the risk of internal and external data breaches.
If you want to ensure company-wide regulatory compliance, start by providing the tools necessary to implement complete access, security, and audit policies – begin with an IAM system that’s right for your business.
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