In the previous post, we discussed the drawbacks of restrictive, complex security strategies, and why the need to enable the secure, free flow of information has led to the emergence of identity and access management (IAM) solutions. IAM is comprised of the processes and technology used to govern and automate the lifecycle of electronic identities, including user authentication, authorization and auditing.
While IAM was originally developed to manage a relatively small number of internal users and their devices, modern IAM solutions can support and deliver services to millions of internal and external users on any device. This makes it a core facet of any comprehensive IT security strategy.
Organizations large and small realize just how vulnerable they are to today’s security threats and are using more sophisticated IAM to tighten up their defenses. IAM helps organization address poor password management by taking password creation out of the user’s hands to better control access to certain systems, data and applications. IAM also adds contextual intelligence to user access processes, enabling the security system to make real-time authentication decisions.
For example, if someone has a valid username and password but attempts to access the network from an unusual place at an unusual time, administrators are instantly alerted and access may be denied based on security policies. If someone is attempting to log in to a system that has nothing to do with their job responsibilities, administrators are alerted and access may be denied. Contextual clues can be used to detect a threat, prevent a breach, or at least minimize the damage caused by a breach.
IAM also uses app shaping to provide more granular application access controls. IT is able to control what users can see and do in an application by hiding certain data and limiting certain functionality that might increase the risk of data loss. For example, some groups of users may not have access to customer data or the ability to delete certain files. By having tighter control over individual applications, organizations can improve security without hampering productivity.
In addition to the above mentioned capabilities, make sure the IAM solution you choose provides automated, real-time reporting and alerts. This is the only way to ensure that suspicious activity and unusual trends are quickly detected and addressed, and the proper parties are instantly notified. Look for the ability to provide a visual audit trail that will automatically take screenshots of suspicious behavior and compliance violations so you have evidence of errors and unauthorized access. Finally, an IAM solution needs to have the reliability and scalability to support all of your internal and external users and their applications, process your company data, and ensure that all security policies are enforced.
Part of the challenge organizations face is the need to balance user demand for simple access with the organizational need for effective authentication. In the next post, we’ll discuss how multifactor authentication and single sign-on make this possible.