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What is Identity Access Management? (IAM) | Veriff

We delve in Identity Access Management, how and why it affects modern businesses, and the crucial things you need to know.

AuthorUcha Vekua, June 16th, 2021

Identity Access Management (IAM) is a framework of policies that defines and manages the privileges of individual users and devices within an enterprise. It ensures that the right users have access to the resources they need. Using the IAM framework, IT managers can moderate user access to critical information for employees, contractors, partners, etc. 

In this article, we’ll dive deep into this topic to tell you all about the use of Identity Access Management, the metrics, systems, and challenges that come with implementing these frameworks within your company.  

How does IAM work?

In the beginning, Identity Management Systems consisted of different basic parts. These traditionally involved various authentication methods for verifying an identity, such as passwords, digital certificates, etc. As technology advanced, modern approaches started to develop, which included biometric elements.

Because of the advanced and complex technological environment, there have been many considerable changes in IAM systems over the last couple of years - a strong username and password aren't really effective anymore. Today's most advanced systems include elements of biometrics, AI & Machine Learning, and risk-based authentication. 

Why IAM is important

IAM is extremely important to protect access to corporate resources, and there is huge organizational pressure for this. Companies need to ensure that they have built the proper information flow systems within their team so that everyone receives the data they need to do their job. This is where IAM plays a considerable role and automatically enables access and control of all corporate assets on-premises. 

Usually, IT professionals think that IAM is for larger corporations and it needs huge financial resources to maintain the system, but in reality, the technology is available to everyone. It has many valuable features and always fits an up-to-date security landscape. We need identity and access management tools in our companies because they can play a significant role in an organization’s security system. This requires IT managers to define their access policies, which then connect all parts of the business, and ensure the company’s information security is managed in an automated way. 

What IAM means for compliance

Companies need to take lots of steps to make sure that the right people have access to the correct information. This often requires creating policies and identifying the exact people and roles that want to access specific data. In order to achieve that, IAM is using the principle of least privilege. In this case, the user only has access rights to the information that can help them fulfil their daily work duties. With this real-time access control, IAM helps companies meet risk management and compliance mandates. Modern technologies can determine a corporation's compliance with every requirement they need for proper functioning. 

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Key IAM metrics to look out for

There are a couple of metrics for the IAM framework that have proven to be applicable in specific scenarios, improving the overall process. There are eight KPI (Key Performance Indicator) sets from the ISO 27001 based identity wheel. Let’s go through them individually.  

Identity & role repository

This is a simple metric that shows us the quality of the IAM processes. If the number of users in a system is more than the overall number of employees within a company, then something is not right. Monitoring these metrics can help reveal interesting facts about a database.

Orphaned accounts

These can offer a way to gain access to resources within an organization via no longer active accounts. These can be accounts that old employees were using in the past which have not yet been closed down.

Privileged accounts

These are usually the accounts that have significantly more rights and access than other accounts. IT managers should monitor these accounts properly to avoid risky situations.

Users with excessive access rights

This case is slightly different from the previous one because it focuses on accounts that accidentally have too much access. In this case, the focus is different.

Separation of Duties (SoD)

SoD is one of the most difficult and costly when it comes to proper implementation. The objective, in this case, is to spread tasks and permissions appropriately across a large number of people. It doesn’t only help us to prevent fraud but also includes privacy and security.

Identity hygiene

This is strongly interconnected with information security. This metric doesn’t only help to prevent risks, but it also needs less effort to maintain security.

Data quality

Data quality ensures accurate results from all the controls we talked about above. The relevant data should be correct. Usually, processes are automated with the help of IAM systems, and that’s why this metric is valuable. 

Business-specific KPIs

This is a more specific metric that is relevant for particular cases. For example, in financial institutions, employees often need the proper training to perform well in a job. For example, there could be employees that have permissions to access specific systems but haven't yet done the necessary training, and the number of these employees could be an IAM-related KPI. 

Identity Access Management systems

A key task that measures the success of IAM systems can be the authentication of users within the company to access the data they need. There are different systems that IAM uses to grant access, ensuring that everything is safe and under control.

Single sign-on (SSO) systems

SSO systems help to increase productivity for users. With only a username and password, individuals can have access to multiple applications. 

Two-factor authentication (2FA) systems

2FA adds another security layer, requiring users to present two identifying credentials to access applications. In addition to the password, it can ask you for a unique code sent to your email address. 

Multifactor authentication (MFA)

MFA is similar to two-factor, but in this case, we have more security layers. It decreases the chances of a successful cyberattack.

Privileged access management

This is a system which securely manages multiple accounts of the users that have given their permissions to the corporate resources of a company. 

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Identity Access Management tools

There are various tools used for IAM frameworks to simplify the setup process and overall procedures. All of them have a different purpose and use case. You can choose depending on what your company might need in a specific scenario. Let’s break down some of them.

CouldKnox Permissions Management Platform

CloudKnox manages identities within cloud systems. It has an activity-based authorization system, and uses machine learning to analyze previous activities across all could-platforms.

Microsoft Azure Active Directory

Microsoft Azure usually works in the cloud but can be extended to physical devices as well. According to available statistics, more than 200,000 customers are using the tool to protect 400+ million users. It has an easy-to-use interface and helps users to monitor activities within their organizations.

CyberArk

CyberArk is the leader of the IAM industry. It breaks down the identity and access management sides into different offerings, giving customers a chance to use the specific type of IAM they need to successfully secure their company.

How to implement Identity Access Management

In order to successfully implement the IAM system into your company, you need to follow the steps that will help you find the most suitable option for you. First, it is necessary to find a person within the company who will play a leading role in developing and enforcing these policies. You need to keep in mind that IAM impacts everyone in the company, and starting to use such a framework comes with its challenges.

The challenges of implementing IAM

If we break down the biggest challenges that your organization might face when you want to implement the IAM framework, then there are multiple factors you need to keep in mind. According to statistics, data protection is the biggest component in this list. Also, integrating with legacy systems can be a huge factor when it comes to IAM. Companies usually struggle to move to the cloud as well, which can be a fundamental factor for successful IAM framework integration in most cases.

The future of Identity Access Management

In the future, it will be essential for companies, organizations, and corporations to track their data, the identity of those accessing it and constantly keep an eye on proper data protection. Data provides valuable information about a company and the individuals within it. This information should have appropriate security layers to make sure that individuals who access to the data have correct authorization. Setting the employee access permissions can effectively help to protect data and reduce threats. 

In the future, machine learning will play a massive role in AIM framework development. More and more corporations will start implementing these systems in order to have effective data protection within their companies, which will bring us to the new challenges and approaches that solve new problems.

Here at Veriff, we work hard to make the digital world safer with the tools we are building daily. Our products help companies worldwide to build trust and implement Identity Access Management tools within their organisations.

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Ucha Vekua

Ucha Vekua

Content Creator

Ucha is a young Content Creator from Georgia - loves to tell stories about his international experiences and startup adventures. He has been part of the Veriff team since 2019, and aside from that, Ucha is actively working with multiple tech organizations to share their successful journey.

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