Identity and Access Management (IAM) refers to the processes, policies, and tools that are used to manage digital identities and control access to resources. With today’s digitalisation, IAM is a critical aspect of modern cybersecurity. In this article, we will discuss the key factors that impact IAM, including processes, policies, and tools, the pros and cons involved in balancing different elements of IAM, the challenges associated with different approaches, and the importance of considering the impact of IAM.
Managing digital identities
When you use IAM you manage your different digital identities - this includes securing that only authorised people have access to your personal information. This also entails that they have access in a certain amount of time - as is stated in GDPR, case workers and other external users should only be able to access relevant data as long as it is necessary.
IAM involves several processes, policies, and tools to manage digital identities and control who has access to different resources. Some of the key components of IAM include:
Identity Management: Identity management involves creating and managing digital identities for users and devices, including user accounts, access credentials, and authentication mechanisms.
Access Management: Access management involves controlling who has access to different assets, including applications, data, and systems. This process ensures that users have access to only the assets that they need to perform their job functions - by limiting access, you ensure that users only see what they are supposed to.
Authentication and Authorisation: Authentication and authorisation are the processes of verifying a user's identity and determining what resources they are authorised to access. If a user isn’t authorised to access a certain asset, they won’t get access.
Privileged Access Management (PAM): Privileged access management involves managing and monitoring access to high-level privileges and sensitive data by privileged users. A privileged user is e.g. admins who control databases and servers. If a PAM-user has their data and credentials stolen, the hacker can access the entire database - so the security around PAM-users should be sublime.
How it works
With each digital identity having access to specific networks and files, the access has been limited to the necessary.
One employee might have access to the HR database with customer information whilst another employee has access to the server and software settings.
You often find that IAM systems use RBAC (cf. role-based access control). This ensures that the access policies are clearly drawn - what each employee has access to depends on their jobtitle and function in the organisation.
The security should, as mentioned, be high around CISO’s and the IT department since they often have access to the entire database. This makes them attractive victims for hackers.
What to consider about IAM
One of the biggest challenges in IAM is balancing the need for security with user convenience. Complex authentication mechanisms and access controls can make it difficult for users to access the resources they need, potentially leading to frustration and decreased productivity.
Once in a while employees need information they don’t usually have access to, hence the greater inconvenience. One should remember though, that it is to maintain good cybersecurity that everyone cannot access everything.
Furthermore, organisations must also consider the challenge of managing access across different systems and applications, particularly in complex IT environments with multiple legacy systems and cloud-based resources.
IAM systems must be able to integrate with these different systems and provide a unified view of user access across the organisation, so that CISOs and IT departments know who can access what. This also makes the work easier when figuring out where a hacker has accessed the systems, if the organisation has fallen victim to a cyberattack.
Considering the impact
When implementing IAM systems, organisations must consider the potential impact on business operations and user experience. IAM systems must be designed to meet the needs of employees while also maintaining security and compliance, so that the organisation’s systems are secure.
Additionally, IAM systems must be able to adapt to changing business requirements and technologies, ensuring that they remain effective in the face of new threats and vulnerabilities. The threat landscape is constantly changing, so being up to date with the newest threats is crucial.
IAM is a critical aspect of modern cybersecurity, enabling organisations to manage digital identities and control access to resources. Balancing the tradeoffs and challenges of IAM requires careful consideration of the potential impact on business operations and user experience.
By implementing a comprehensive IAM strategy that incorporates the right processes, policies, and tools, organisations can protect against potential cyber threats and minimise the risks of data breaches and other cybersecurity incidents.
Caroline is a copywriter here at Moxso beside her education. She is doing her Master's in English and specializes in translation and the psychology of language. Both fields deal with communication between people and how to create a common understanding - these elements are incorporated into the copywriting work she does here at Moxso.