Identity & Access Management: The Ultimate Security Feature
Learn how IAM is evolving and changing to keep pace with modern threats in today’s digital environment
Modern businesses are leaning on cloud services more and more to provide their critical services. However, as companies have shifted to adopt the cloud, the implications for securing and safeguarding crucial sensitive data is becoming increasingly important. Today, security threats are an increasingly important topic for firms.
Preventing leaks and data theft should be one of the most important considerations in your business. Identity and Access Management (IAM) is one of the primary ways that companies are increasing the security, access, and reliability of their resources to meet these challenges.
What is Identity and Access Management?
Cloud security defines a set of policies, procedures, and technologies designed to address both internal and external threats to businesses. It’s an effective way of thinking about security concerns as much as it is the tools and methods to deal with them too. One of the best frameworks used to achieve high-quality security is Identity and Access Management.
IAM defines a broad range of technologies and processes to both manage a user’s digital identity and control access to systems and resources. One of the main ways that it does this is by creating a set of roles that users take up to access the system.
These roles could be set for an individual user but are more commonly applied to a collective group. These groups are given permission to perform sets of approved actions on resources available to their role.
In practice, the way this is done and the technologies and practices used have grown increasingly sophisticated over time. In today’s systems, these tools can feature context-aware access based on analytics to biometric logins and physical security tokens to authenticate a user’s identity. However, the basic principles of the system remain the same no matter how complex the features on top of them get.
At their core, IAM security systems are still a security gateway between an organization’s resources and the users accessing them for day-to-day operations.
The Evolution of Identity and Access Management
The origins of IAM systems can be traced all the way back to the first days of mainframe computing. At that time, IAM was simply a process of permitting or restricting access based on a user’s login credentials.
Since then, decentralization and ever-growing complexity have meant that systems need increasingly granular control over access to resources. In addition, modern services demand ever more intelligent and trustworthy ways to verify a user’s identity. Today, IAM is a vital part of the security infrastructure that organizations depend on to protect digital assets and resources.
With companies increasingly migrating towards cloud-based services, this presents a unique challenge. IAM strategies have had to adapt to manage and secure a growing number of roles and resources as a result. Over time, this has meant the technologies and tools used to maintain IAM security have grown and evolved to serve this role.
A trend toward the increased use of machine learning within businesses have given organizations greater visibility, better awareness, and faster action on potential security breaches. Similarly, modern security paradigms such as Zero Trust models have enabled IAM service providers to minimize risks and prevent damage when security breaches happen.
Today, we have better ways of managing risk, responding to events, and verifying access than have ever been available before. The tasks of managing digital identities in increasingly challenging environments have strengthened the practices, tools, and technologies available to organizations.
The Key Components of an IAM Solution
As a cloud-based resource, an IAM solution is invaluable to teams for the granular controls, simplicity, and visibility it provides in IT services.
The first thing to do when adopting IAM security is to identify the key features and functionality of the system. This means selecting what will provide the biggest impact within to your organization and what will provide the fastest return on investment for your teams. With the rich array of features and advantages that IAM affords, and the bespoke IT demands every business requires, this an area of research that will require some degree of internal knowledge and investigation.
Here, we’ve listed the highest-impact features of IAM solutions that make the difference in many organizations.
Identity Governance and Administration (IGA)
Effective Identity Governance and Administration (IGA) is the backbone of IAM systems. It’s a resource that allows administrators to manage users and roles from the first steps of onboarding and provisioning all the way through to deprovisioning and revoking access to resources.
Done well, effective IGA will ensure users have access to only the right resources at the right times. At the same time, IGA provides a seamless user experience that doesn’t require interaction or interference from systems administrators to allow teams to get more done with less.
One of the most important tools an IAM solution should be able to provide is the reporting and analysis tools necessary to respond to access incidents. An IAM system worth its weight should provide advanced insights into unusual user activity, configuration errors, and risks within a system’s current user controls and access privileges.
Context-Aware Access Controls
Context-aware access controls are often one of the most under-appreciated features of IAM systems, yet often prove to be one of the most important in creating seamless security.
Ensuring users have access to resources based on time, device, location, or identity — context-aware controls ensure data can be accessed only by a trusted identity, on a trusted network, or from a trusted location. You can think of it much like an internal intuition about the way a user is logging into the network. It’s much more advanced than simply verifying that a username and password are correct.
As an example, this system might trigger an alert when a user logs in with the correct details from an unknown device. This might indicate a user is simply replacing an aging laptop or it could mean their credentials that have been taken in an attack. The second case is something that needs to be acted on fast, while the first is something still worthwhile logging for future audits.
Multi-factor authentication, or two-step verification, is a major security upgrade that modern IAM solutions regularly deploy to enhance user security. While legacy enterprise systems often lag behind the web to some degree, this isn’t an area you want your organization to fall behind on.
Modern security tools can enable IAM systems to eliminate some of the most glaring security flaws in organizations. Passwordless authentication, as an example, allows teams to eliminate the weakest point of security by using biometric logins or device tokens to access resources. No more yellow sticky-notes securing vital business information, no more business-critical notebooks going missing on the train.
Single sign-on systems combined with two-step verification or passwordless authentication can ensure robust security and control even in cases where credentials have already been compromised.
Zero Trust Security
Related to authentication, zero trust security is a model companies use to get rid of the implicit trust that many systems feature. The policy requires validation at every stage of a digital interaction. This replaces a traditional model of security where users are verified once and future security is assumed from there. Instead, the zero trust model assumes that any user, role, or resource could potentially be compromised at any time and tailors access controls and verification accordingly.
An effective IAM solution should promote identity-based access controls, provide strong threat detection and response, while creating an environment of continuous monitoring and compliance. Implemented well, zero trust is a proactive approach to mitigating security threats and eliminating risks.
Before implementing IAM into an organization, first you should identify who will play a role in developing, creating, and managing its identity and access policies. An IAM system will impact every user, department, role, and many of the company’s internal and external resources. As a result, it’s vital that users, administrators, and shareholders are well-informed and well-advised of its changes ahead of time.
The team should aim to understand what users will interact with in the system first. This model will allow them to build assumptions and specifications to describe the system and analyze the features and functionality most pressingly needed. Next, they should aim to understand the organization’s existing cloud-based services, their interaction, and their use.
Some key questions to answer during this process should include:
- Does the system require flexible user roles?
- Can the organization make use of cloud identity provisions?
- Is multi-factor authentication necessary and beneficial?
- Can automated access control recommendations be integrated seamlessly?
- Will a robust and reliable audit trail benefit the organization?
It’s important that a team implementing identity and access management to boost security and improve access understands the shape and size of an organization. Only then will they be able to tailor the system precisely to the way a business will use it.
The Future of Identity & Access Management
Identity and access management systems are some of the fastest-evolving areas of technology today. Exciting new technologies and innovations have to be viewed through a security lens first before being adopted into businesses. IAM is an important tool in managing that process.
One of the most promising areas of modern development is the recent explosion in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tools. Today, they are more capable and more easily available than we could have imagined just a few years ago. Paired with internal data and knowledge unique to your organization, these tools can be an invaluable way to identify patterns and behaviours that no admin could ever have spotted unaided.
In addition, tools like these allow IAM teams to do more by automating roles and routines when it comes to provisioning and access management.
Similarly, technologies such as Blockchain have extremely strong potential in this fast-growing field. Being able to maintain a secure tamper-proof record of access, roles, and identities could reshape the way we think about IAM data and transform our ability to provide user privacy and data control almost overnight.
Each of these technologies play a big role in creating an environment of increased user privacy and improved data protection.
In recent years, regulators have put more and more emphasis on the importance of security, data protection, and privacy across all domains with regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). This trend is going to continue for a long time with an increased need for access controls, encryption, and data retention policies.
As a result, the future of IAM is being shaped by a combination of factors ranging from emerging technologies to organizational requirements and regulatory compliance.
IAM plays a crucial role in modern cloud-based systems by ensuring strict data controls, full audit capabilities, and regulatory compliance right down to the letter. With the cloud playing a vital role in almost every company today, it’s now more important than ever to ensure its resources and users are protected against every angle of attack.
The D3V team uses these tools to offer advanced and robust security solutions to clients. Our goal is to help our clients overcome modern challenges and adapt to a new networking infrastructure to ensure confidentiality, integrity, and systems availability at every turn.
To meet these challenges head-on sign up for a free consultation to initiate the process of setting up the Google Cloud IAM and other cloud security permissions.