Identity Management in A “Cloud First” World

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We’re living in a digitally-driven society whereby users require access on-demand. They want to pull up information and sign in to systems no matter their location. The majority of companies understand this is the new standard. However, it’s also necessary for them to create a balance between these needs, on the one hand, and security challenges and requirements, on the other.

Computer hackers and other cybercriminals also know businesses support employees and other users remotely and so make every attempt toward exploiting enterprise identity systems. In doing so, they may compromise a legitimate user’s credentials and, ultimately, gain access to the company’s operations. Companies will find that this is one of the most common ways cybercriminals will attack. For example, according to a study conducted at the University of Maryland's Clark School, the hacker rate on computers with Internet access occurs, on average, every thirty-nine seconds.

IT professionals face serious challenges keeping remote access secure. It’s the IT team’s responsibility to meet the requirements of a wide variety of users across many different applications. It isn’t uncommon for access permissions to change or experience modifications daily due to various scenarios.

For example, a new user is going through the hiring phases. During their onboarding process, they need IT to provision access. During that time, other users are leaving the organization. These individuals may be departing due to sudden terminations or because they were planning their retirement. Either way, IT must revoke their access and permissions. Under other circumstances, a user’s role may experience changes because they’re transferring or receiving a promotion. These individuals also need updates to their access rights. In doing so, IT is ensuring they’re reflecting the employee’s new position while simultaneously eliminating any permissions they no longer need.

IT teams must implement a variety of cloud and on-premises applications to meet these continuous demands. To achieve that, they’ll also require the use of flexible and responsive solutions for identity and access management. IAM (access and identity) products are responsible for handling access rights for a variety of categories of employees, as well as other users. These individuals are using a wide range of devices for accessing different systems, workloads, and data. Integration with access control systems must occur with a variety of existing, as well as future systems. The process allows users to access information on-demand no matter its storage location.

Identity and access management issues aren’t the new challenges that IT teams face. A traditional network perimeter now no longer contains all of a business’s data. While network security will always depend on the use of intrusion prevention systems and firewall protection, because they must also protect information beyond their traditional network perimeter, organizations are unable to wholly depend on them. As a consequence, there are significant risks to using cloud computing and mobile devices. Because these technologies are spreading data across a much broader area, there is a daunting challenge of protecting a company’s information.

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How Does IAM Play an Important Role?

Before we look at the important role that IAM plays in IT security, let’s look at its definition. IAM (identity and access management) defines and manages the access privileges and roles of each network user, as well as their circumstances, in which administers grant or deny privileges. The process incorporates three key concepts: identity, authentication, and authorization. In combination, the three of these processes ensure that specific users receive appropriate access to allow them to complete their jobs. These concepts also prevent those without permission from gaining access to sensitive information and resources.

Under most circumstances, accessing data or a system requires a user to claim their identity by entering their username into a system. An authentication process that the program completes will verify this identity claim. Passwords or other basic knowledge-based techniques may be part of the authentication process. However, more advanced technologies, including token-based or biometric authentication, may be in place. Following the user’s successful completion of authentication, the IAM system must undergo the authorization process to move forward. Proving a user’s identity isn’t sufficient for gaining access. The system must ensure users are performing actions that are within the scope of their permissions.

Unless IT professionals have a centralized approach to IAM, they would be responsible for managing the authentication and authorization across a significant amount of diverse technological landscapes. These landscapes support a wide range of company functions. Some of these functions include meeting internal requirements, while others are face-to-face customer interactions. Security professionals make two things their priority to work effectively in such environments when managing IAM solutions. First, they must understand the business operations. Next, it’s critical they know the ways IT systems enable those operations in conjunction with levels of access.

When organizations effectively use IAM solutions, it helps them ensure they’re facilitating efficient and secure access to technological resources. In doing so, they’re also delivering the following three critical benefits:

Data Security Improvements

IT professionals have a consistent method for managing user access through the consolidation of authentication and authorization into a single, functional platform. Each time a user leaves a company, administrators in the IT department can revoke access using the IAM solution. In doing so, they can feel confident the revocation immediately occurs throughout every system integrated within the IAM platform.

Security Cost Reduction

Administrators can perform their work more effectively using a single AIM platform for managing all user access. Under some circumstances, security teams may face some additional upfront work as they integrate the new system. However, once the IAM platform integration is complete, they’ll save money dedicating time to the management of its use.

Resource Access

SSO (single sign-on) technology is one of the many benefits users will receive through the use of accessing a centralized platform.This technology helps limit the number of security system interactions and also increases a user’s success regarding legitimate attempts toward accessing resources.

In combination, these three benefits of the IAM platform will significantly improve organizations’ management of secure access through the use of centralized identity system.