What Is IAM?

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More Companies Are Turning to IAM

The short answer to what is IAM, or identity and access management, is that it defines and manages the access privileges of users and devices. IAM establishes one digital identity per user or device. Once verified, that digital identity applies throughout the lifecycle of the user or device. But there’s a great deal more to the solution.

Traditional security measures rely on one point of failure – a password. If that password gets breached, you’re vulnerable to a cyber-attack. On the other hand, IAM reduces the points of failure and incorporates tools to catch mistakes when made. Equally important, employees no longer need to worry about having the correct password. Instead, groups or roles manage user access.

IAM authenticates a user’s credentials, software, or hardware against a database. It then grants only the appropriate level of access. Typically, usernames and passwords allow access to a suite of tools. IAM delivers more granular control of that access.

That granular access enables administrators to assign access privileges by any number of variables or roles. For example, users may only view or access specific platforms. Or they may only be able to access data subsets to create, amend, or delete data but not transmit it.

Ultimately, IAM allows businesses to define and enforce precisely how individual roles access systems and data based on the company’s specific needs.

Investment in IAM is Growing

IAM establishes security by allowing authorized access only. Consequently, it impacts an array of areas within an organization:

  • Data and information
  • Software and applications
  • Development, testing, staging, and operational platforms
  • Devices
  • Locations
  • Integrations

With an IAM framework, administrators control access to sensitive information. Systems like single sign-on (SSO), multifactor authentication, and privileged access management (PAM) store identity and profile data securely. As such, users access only relevant data. In addition, administrators rely on various tools and technologies to manage user roles, track their activity, generate reports on activities, and enforce policies.

COVID and the move to a remote workforce accelerated IAM’s growth by creating a business world without boundaries. Today, users now routinely access information outside their organization, and IAM provides the framework for doing so safely. As a result, nearly 80% of U.S. executives forecast increasing their spending on IAM capabilities, according to a study by Ping Identity.

A KPMG survey further supports the anticipated growth in IAM. It found that 92% of businesses plan to increase investment in identity and access management tools in the coming years. In fact, IAM market growth projects to a CAGR of 13.1% to more than $24 billion by 2025.

Core Elements of Identity and Access Management

At its core, identity and access management involve a handful of core elements:

  1. Identification and definition of individuals
  2. Provisioning and de-provisioning of users
  3. Single sign-on
  4. Role-based access control based on job, authority, and responsibility
  5. Tools for adding, deleting, and editing that data
  6. Regulation and enforcement of access
  7. Auditing and reporting

Because it offers tight resource access control, IAM aligns perfectly with zero-trust systems and IoT device security. Commonly, IAM systems also use more advanced technologies like biometrics, AI, and risk-based authentication.

It’s important to note that IAM extends beyond users. Digital identities extend to devices and application keys, APIs, agents, and containers. Moreover, it connects to adaptive authentication and MFA tools.

Implementing an IAM Solution

An IAM solution relies on zero-trust principles, including least privilege access and identity-based security policies. Additional implementation requirements include:

Central Identity Management: Because identity management sits at the core of an IAM system, a centralized directory is required.

Secure Access: Securing the user’s identity is critical; so, multifactor authentication and even adaptive authentication are required.

Policy Control: Users receive authorizations based strictly on the tasks required and nothing more. Role, department, or other attributes determine access.

Zero-Trust Network: Zero-Trust requires constant monitoring and security of users and access points.

Privileged Access: Accounts using special tools or privileged access to sensitive information receive additional security if required.

Training and Support: Users and administrators most engaged, for example, customer service, receive appropriate training and support.

IAM Systems Support Compliance

Sarbanes-Oxley, Gramm-Leach-Bliley, NIST, and HIPAA, among others, require organizations to control access to customer and employee information. Plus, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) calls for strong security and user access controls.

IAM systems meet these regulatory standards through the least privilege principle. As a result, users receive only the access required.

As presented by TechTarget, IAM provides a host of controls to support compliance.

Identity and Access Management Benefits

Organizations face security challenges associated with distributed workforces, distributed applications, provisioning, bring your own device (BYOD), passwords, and regulatory compliance.

IAM tools enable better collaboration, increased productivity, greater efficiencies, and reduced operating costs. In addition, they deliver these benefits:

  • A centrally managed IAM solution delivers better visibility and control to security management.
  • IAM allows administrators to consolidate, control, and simplify access privileges. That increased control reduces internal and external breach risks.
  • Users enjoy a better experience through single sign-on. First, SSO integrates password management across multiple domains as well as various authentication standards and protocols. Users can access cloud-based, SaaS, web-based and virtual applications with their unique identity. Second, they can access corporate networks regardless of time, location, or device.
  • Because IAM systems are automated, they decrease the time and effort associated with manual network management. They also reduce the probability of human error.
  • IAM makes it easier to enforce user authentication policies.
  • IAM automates audit reporting. That on-demand reporting allows organizations to comply more readily with regulatory standards as comprehensive reports demonstrate compliance.
  • Security policies span all systems, platforms, applications, and devices. As a result, administrators can identify compromised users and data faster with IAM tools.
  • Authentication is possible anywhere, anytime, with audit trails, analytics, access rules, and policies.
  • Provisioning and de-provisioning are automated. Administrations can, therefore, revoke user access authority easily to avoid security breaches. At the same time, automated provisioning accelerates giving new employees access to systems.

Although generally viewed as a critical requirement for the enterprise, small to mid-sized businesses benefit equally. Let’s face it, SMBs face many of the same issues of enterprise operations with increasingly mobile workforces and distributed applications. IAM solutions that deploy strong multifactor authentication with more granular access control support even smaller operations.

Ready to Consider an IAM Solution?

As mentioned, identity access and management solutions support SMBs. We’ve supported the SMB market in Harrisburg, York, Lancaster, and surrounding areas for more than 15 years as a managed IT services provider.

We understand that cybersecurity impacts every client, regardless of size. That’s why we deliver a range of IT solutions and cybersecurity services to clients that make them virtually hack-free.

Give us a call at 717-914-0102 to learn how to help your security to the enterprise level.

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