Key Aspects of an Identity Access Management (IAM) Strategy

In today’s technology driven business climate, employees require fast and simple access to data and other IT resources to complete their work. Access to these resources have to be tracked and protected to guarantee security and compliance with stringent IT regulations. As a result, IT admins have to deal with a growing number of challenges: assisting users with password issues, managing access to data and applications, provisioning users across multiple platforms, and more. Identity Access Management (IAM) facilitates the secure access of IT resources and services.

IAM ensures that users are who they say they are (authorization) and that they are capable of accessing the resources and applications they are permitted to use (authorization). Its an integration of work flow systems that necessitates organizational think tanks who analyze and make security systems work efficiently. Processes, protocols, procedures and policies are linked to IAM. Security and identity applications are also crucial considerations.

Applications and standards of IAM include singular sign-on (SSO), various application accesses, the maintenance of user life cycles, multi-factor authentication (MFA), as well as a directory for securely storing profile and identity data and data governance to ensure that only relevant and required data is shared. IAM solutions can be deployed on premises, offered by a third party via a cloud-based subscription model, or a hybrid IT model comprising of an amalgamation of both.

Trends that have solidified IAM

Mobile Computing

Mobility is an important part of a modern enterprise. Organizations have adopted the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) approach to provide remote access to corporate data and business applications. IAM is a solid enabler of mobile computing and acts as a key component in mobile computing security. To enable these devices to access the organizations’ resources efficiently and quickly, mobile devices have to utilize identification mechanisms that validate and/or verify the user. As a result, confirming the identity of a mobile device user
safely facilitates the users access to business applications anytime, anywhere.

Cloud Computing

The rising demand of cloud computing services has made the IAM landscape more complex since control over access to corporate data is difficult to sustain in such an environment. The adoption of cloud computing solutions has resulted in a decreased reliance on network access controls and an increased reliance on logical controls provided by IAM services. These services facilitate the secure access of apps hosted on the cloud, while managing identities, including protecting personally identifiable information (PII). Managing virtual resources in a cloud environment calls for increased rights that when compromised, may grant attackers the ability to commandeer valuable targets in the cloud.

Social Media

The world is more connected that it has ever been, and social media is at the helm of if it. Organizations use social media to interact with clients and boost brand awareness; however, there are some resultant IAM risks that come with these technologies. Public relations, operations, and regulatory compliance are at the top of the list of potential social media risks. On top of using IAM to protect company-owned social media accounts, employees should also be educated on the importance of using social media with caution.

Data Loss Prevention

In this digital age, data is the lifeblood of the organization. IAM is the first line of defense when protecting said data. Data loss prevention (DLP) is a complimentary information security discipline that can be improved when leveraged with IAM capabilities. IAM provides identity context to DLP tools to enhance monitoring capabilities. Controlling access to data reduces the likelihood of a data loss incident – limiting users with access to data results in fewer opportunities for data to be intentionally or inadvertently compromised by an external or internal user.

Stringent Compliance Requirements

Several governments require enterprises to pay close attention to identity management. Regulations like HIPAA hold companies accountable for controlling access to employee and client information. The most recent regulation that demands strong user access controls and security is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It mandates that organizations safeguard the personal data of EU citizens. Complying to these government regulations calls for the automation of several aspects of providing secure user access to data and enterprise networks. IAM systems relieve IT of monotonous but crucial tasks and help them stay in compliance with strict government regulations.

A properly implemented IAM strategy can help an enterprise deal with the first pace of emerging technology trends. Below are some of the key aspects that should be included:

1. People are at the center of it

The most important stakeholder affected by an IAM strategy is the user. End users can make or break your security. Security is crucial but so is convenience. Significant efforts have to be made towards streamlining the process of accessing business data or applications. Authentication steps should be limited as much as possible. When the process of accessing emails or account portals seems to tedious or too long, people may seek quicker alternatives, inadvertently limiting the efficacy of your security controls. IAM solutions shouldn’t be exclusively used to control access by employees to business resources; a holistic IAM strategy should include identity and access management solutions for their clients.

2. It is Constantly Being Iterated

IT is continually evolving, but the speed of change in how companies off all sizes operate and interact has never been more frenetic. At its core, IAM aims to associate all activities within an environment with specific device or user and report those activities. The best IAM strategies are constantly being iterated. Scopes and requirements have to be reaffirmed and success metrics have to be redefined, by accessing the current state of the strategy, and defining its future state. Comprehensively auditing current processes and practices on a regular basis provides insight into exactly what types of systems are used by employees to transfer and share information.

3. Compliance is a top consideration

Current regulations governing the transmission and use of data are the direct result of State and Federal governments, and industry alliances attempting to stifle the threat of data theft. Its crucial to ensure that compliance guidelines and risk management are built into the identity management strategy. Privacy management and data access governance is an important aspect of IAM. It controls who is capable of accessing user data and how they can share or use it. This means that organizations can be sure to meet the growing requirements of changing industry and global data privacy regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

4. It Leverages Cloud Computing

Adding identity and access management tools to existing on-premises solutions is seldom secure or efficient. Since applications, devices and networks all support varying protocols; this approach typically results in a contrasting collection of homegrown IAM solutions that lack centralized controls, compromising the entire layer of identity controls. Cloud based Identity and Access Management-as-a-Service (IDaaS) can simplify even the most complex user management challenges. It not only facilitates the rapid rollout of new capabilities, but also solves the issue of finding and hiring security personnel with the skill to support on-premises IAM solutions. Some cloud-based IAM solutions can benefit from include: Directory service, Single sign-on (SSO), Multifactor Authentication (MFA), OpenID connect (OIDC), OAuth, Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) and other standards and protocols for the exchange of authorization and authentication.

5. It’s an Impetus for Collaboration

IAM systems foster collaboration by breaking down the barriers to access for employees, allowing them to work and safely share information across the organization. By utilizing authentication standards, IAM lays the groundwork to carefully share identity information across a variety of mobile applications, on-premises apps, and SaaS tools without compromising security. This expediency and ease of use will likely drive collaboration throughout the organization, enhancing employee satisfaction, productivity, research and development, and revenue.

Author: Gabriel Lando