What is Identity and Access Management (IAM), and why is it important?

by | Jun 6, 2023 | articles

Topics Covered Authentication | Cybersecurity | IAM Click a topic for similar articles

In order for employees to work productively, it is essential that they have access to the files and tools required to do their job. With this being said, it is also possible for an employee to have too much access, which can lead to major security issues. The process of managing and authenticating user identities and what they can access is called Identity and Access Management (IAM). In this article we will discuss the basics of IAM, and why it is important for businesses.

What is Identity and Access Management?

Identity and Access Management is a framework containing processes, policies and tools for defining and managing the roles and access rights of both users and devices for IT systems.

The users may include customers, employees and contractors. The devices may include computers, personal mobile phones, servers, etc. The IT systems include SaaS applications, on-premises applications and file storage. The goal of IAM is to ensure that users’ identities are authenticated, and they can access the right tools necessary to work effectively.

How does Identity and Access Management work?

IAM solutions typically manage three tasks: identification, authentication, and authorisation.

The user will be identified by entering their login credentials, which the IAM solution will check against a directory of all users.

Once the user enters their password and one time passcode, the solution will provide authentication. For some access, there may be additional conditions that must be met, such as where the user is located, or what device they are using.

Finally, an IAM Solution will manage the authorisation of a user’s access. This includes granting users the right level of access, for example in a CRM solution, a user with editor rights can update existing records, whereas an administrator can change field names and create new accounts.

A comprehensive IAM solution will also allow reporting on these tasks, along with security additional features, such as lifecycle management and user behaviour analytics.

Why is Identity and Access Management important?

For businesses, Identity and Access Management is important as it improves their security posture, aids in compliance and enables secure third-party collaboration. With effective management of user access, businesses can significantly decrease the likelihood of data breaches, and unauthorised access to confidential information. This also goes hand-in-hand with complying with regulations such as HIPAA and GDPR. Finally, businesses that have an IAM solution can easily provide outsiders, such as contractors and agencies, access to necessary systems without creating security risks.

For employees, there are some features within an Identity and Access Management solution, which can improve the user experience, such as Single Sign-On (SSO) or password less authentication. With SSO, users only need to enter their login credentials once, and then can access all the systems and files necessary for their role. Password less authentication is a modern authentication method that negates the need for passwords altogether. With this technology, users can use other methods to prove their identity, such as biometrics and physical devices, like a mobile phone or security key.

What technologies are used in Identity and Access Management?

An Identity and Access Management solution contains several technologies and tools that work together to provide secure access.

The backbone of any IAM solution is a directory that contains all users’ identity and their associated access privileges. Within here there must be a selection of tools to create, monitor and delete users and their access privileges. This is essential for user lifecycle management. An IAM solution should also have systems to audit the login and access history of applications and files, and a comprehensive solution should have automatic risk protection that uses AI to detect and respond to compromised identities to limit the potential damage they could cause.

Arguably, the most important component of an IAM solution is multifactor authentication (MFA). All directory solutions will allow this, but it is essential that businesses enable MFA. This simple action will prevent 99.9% of account compromise attacks, and make a business a less attractive target for cybercriminals.

How we can help your business

A comprehensive Identity and Access Management solution is vital for businesses of all sizes. If your business has an IAM solution and has not reviewed it recently, contact us and we can help you ensure it is configured correctly and follows best practices to support your businesses and employees. If your business is yet to adopt an IAM solution, there are many options on the market to suit different use-cases, we can help by providing the right solution for your specific needs. To find out more, contact us today.

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