While the integration of technology into all areas of businesses have allowed corporations to step up to the changing needs of this digital age, it has introduced new risks and challenges in terms of security. Traditional security systems that simply protect the network perimeter cannot address the emerging threats and vulnerabilities that come from the growing complexity of entry- and end-point identities, the disappearing security perimeter from the usage of hybrid multi-cloud systems, as well as the enormous volume of data distributed across the network that have to be safeguarded. By providing the right people with the right access at the right time, IAM (Identity and Access Management) is able to maintain the kind of reliability and accessibility to user access control that is imperative for most businesses today. The ability to validate identities remotely and manage their access without compromising sensitive data is the pillar to more secure and flexible security systems, like the zero trust model, during the era of digital transformation.
What is IAM?
Identity and access management helps enterprises to manage access to information and applications by defining the roles and access privileges of individual network users, employees, and contractors as well as the circumstances in which they are granted or denied those privileges. The system provides IT administrators with tools and technology, like password management tools, provisioning software, security policy enforcement applications, reporting and monitoring apps, and identity repositories, to change a user’s role, track user activities, create reports on those activities, and enforce policies on an ongoing basis. By ensuring a consistent application of user access rules and policies across an organisation, strong IAM systems can add an important layer of protection and play a critical part of any enterprise security plan.
There are four main components of an IAM framework: Authentication, Authorisation, User Management, and Central User Repository. Authentication determines whether a user has provided the credentials needed to gain initial access to an application system or a particular resource. If the user is authenticated, a session is created until the user logs off or if the session is terminated by other means like a timeout. Part of the authentication component includes single sign-on (SSO) which is a core capability of IAM. It was designed to reduce the number of passwords and logins that individuals have to remember. SSO relies on a central identity repository so that users only have to login once to gain access to all of the apps, services, and systems that are under the same IAM framework. As digital wallets and digital identity proliferate, credentials need to be more secured. That is where multi-factor authentication steps in. Multi-factor authentication goes beyond traditional authentication methods by requiring the presentation of two or more authentication factors. It includes a mixture of knowledge factors like passwords or PIN numbers, possession factors such as an ATM card or a mobile phone, or biometric factors.
Authorisation implements role-based access control remotely. It decides whether a user is permitted to access particular resources by checking the resource access requests, such as users attributes, user roles, actions taken, access channels, time, resources requested, external data and business roles, against authorisation policies.
User management refers to the set of administrative functions such as identity creation, propagation, and maintenance of user identity and privileges. Within the category of the IAM framework, there is life cycle management, privileged access management, and self-profile management service. Enterprises can utilise life cycle management to manage the lifespan of a user account from the initial stage of provisioning to the final stage of de-provisioning while privileged access management helps to protect and govern access to privilege accounts with enterprise-grade password security. Companies can then implement the principle of least privilege by limiting access rights for applications, systems, and devices to the bare minimum they need to perform. This helps to create a more secure network environment and prevent access to unauthorised users. Self-profile management service allows enterprises to benefit from timely updates and accurate maintenance of identity data. With self-password resets, the help desk’s workload from handling password reset requests is alleviated. While some of the user management functions are centralised, others are delegated to the end user or to user departmental units. Since the updates are the responsibility of those who are closest to the situation, the accuracy of system data can be improved.
Finally, the central user repository is the primary source and database of users for an IAM programme. It presents an aggregated view of identities within an enterprise. By merging data from different identity sources, keeping data in synchronisation with other identity sources, and consolidating identity information in real time, it simplifies the whole system, streamlines the user management process, and increases organisation security by eliminating the need to overlook multiple accounts.
Benefits of IAM
Companies can confidently and securely give users outside of their organisation access to internal systems, driving effective collaboration and enhancing productivity. Password resets and other time consuming, costly tasks are automated which reduces the number of help-desk calls to the IT support team. Incorporating IAM into the organisation’s network security requires companies to clearly define their access policies. These well-managed identities result in a greater control of user access which reduces the risk of internal or external threats. IAM is not limited to a specific size of a company. It can easily be scaled up or down and be adapted to meet the needs of any organisation.
IAM Best Practices
Implementing IAM into your security network is easier than it seems. Here are some IAM best practices to get started. The first one is very straightforward. Enable multi-factor authentication for privileged users inside the network. Multi-factor authentication helps to more accurately validate users which is especially needed for high-level access to sensitive data. Second, try to include policy conditions if possible for extra security. This can come in the form of time or user restrictions. Only allow access to a particular set of information for a designated amount of time or have limitations for temporary user identities. By having these extra conditions, you are able to control and limit the number of digital identities that must be maintained, modified and monitored. Thirdly, remember to regularly audit user credentials and remove them when not in use. Take advantage of credential reports that can track the lifecycle of passwords and access keys. By knowing the user details, date created, when the password was last used, and when the password was last changed, companies gain a clearer visibility of who is actually accessing the company’s network and application. Finally, use groups to assign permissions to IAM users instead of defining permission for individuals. This helps to save time while keeping it more secure and manageable. By designating access privileges to specific groups that relate to their various job functions, access rights for everyone within that group can be quickly appointed. Inter-departmental moves can also be easily done just by placing the individual in another group instead of having to redefine the whole set of permissions. As mentioned, integrating IAM into your security network is a critical part in protecting the company’s sensitive data. Now that you have the basics, incorporate IAM solutions before it is too late.
Looking to enhance your company’s information security? Contact us here for our consultation services. As a known technical specialist in information security and premier provider of information infrastructure management solutions in the Asia Pacific market, Argentra provides IT security solutions, security risk consulting, and custom security software that will help improve your organisation’s ability to protect its sensitive and confidential information.