Feb 20 2023

How Identity and Access Management is Transforming Security for Businesses

In a work-from-anywhere world, businesses must be fast, flexible and secure. IAM is making that possible.

As businesses embrace a distributed way of working, IT leaders are considering how to create consistency when it comes to security. Decision-makers also are determining what platforms and tools will most effectively protect staff and systems from cyberattacks.

Identity and access management is proving to be a game-changing solution. According to a Cybersecurity Insiders survey, 89 percent of organizations believe IAM is very or extremely important to the future of their enterprise. Here’s everything you need to know about IAM and how it can transform the way we work now.


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What Is Identity and Access Management?

Identity and access management might sound like a singular security solution, but it’s more sophisticated than that. Identity and access management is actually “a complex orchestration of a number of different functionalities and capabilities,” says Ryan Galluzzo, the digital identity program lead for the Applied Cybersecurity Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

IAM is a framework in which business processes, security policies and various technologies work together to manage an organization’s digital identity privileges. It ensures that the right people (and their devices) are given access to the appropriate data and applications.

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Ideally, a strong security posture should be a frictionless experience for the user. A business can scan a new identity and record it without asking that user to log in repeatedly. To do this, the front-end system must have set authorization methods to identify user identities and authenticate access privileges.

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Several Kinds of Identity Access Management to Know

A core benefit of IAM is that it strengthens an organization’s overall security by managing digital identities and user access to data, systems and resources. These automated identity checks mitigate risks, improve compliance and increase efficiencies across a company. Before deploying an IAM system, it’s worth understanding the different types available:

  • Single sign-on: A single ID allows users to sign into multiple systems. No re-authentication required.
  • Multifactor authentication: Two pieces of authentication grant access. The means of authentication are made up of three categories: knowledge (i.e., password), possession (i.e., a code sent to a smartphone) or inherence (i.e., voice recognition).
  • Risk-based authentication: These are situational actions such as first-time access of sensitive information or logging in from an unfamiliar location. This will trigger an email, SMS or push notification asking users to verify themselves.
  • Adaptive authentication: This is an artificial intelligence-driven method that studies user behavior over time and understands their access parameters.
Ryan Galluzo bio
Robust IAM is one of the keys — if not the key — to establishing a consistent security posture.”

Ryan Galluzzo Digital Identity Program Lead, Applied Cybersecurity Division, National Institute of Standards and Technology

How Can IAM Improve Business Security?

There are numerous reasons why IAM is beneficial to businesses. For one, it ensures compliance with data privacy regulations. These apply to industry-specific and federal regulations and ensure that organizations have verified access to management policies to avoid potential fines and penalties. Second, if an organization uses a cloud provider without adequate security policies, IAM can step in. Third, if a cloud provider does offer identity and access management capabilities, an enterprise can rely on IAM for an additional layer of security.

Given the vast number of devices and software that make up a modern digital work environment, all requiring authentication, IAM can make any sign-in process smoother by unifying identity checks across devices.

LEARN: Find out how IAM helps organizations safeguard against security gaps.

“Often, as enterprises have added and built new applications, tools and services, their users end up with records and account information distributed in numerous locations. This creates very real challenges,” says Gallus. “Unifying identity allows organizations to centralize management of accounts, access and privileges.”

But most important, IAM helps IT leaders improve security. With more sophisticated risk management, leaders have greater insight into a business’s attack surface. “Robust IAM is one of the keys — if not the key — to establishing a consistent security posture. Knowing who is accessing your resources, when, and with what rights and entitlements is fundamental to maintain confidentiality,” says Galluzzo.

How AI Is Improving Identity Access Management

The use of artificial intelligence enhances that capability further. If paired with IAM technology, it can, based on its programmed knowledge of a user’s existing behavior and access, proactively monitor for unusual behaviour. For example, excessive failed login attempts or attempts from unknown locations and devices may indicate a threat. Artificial intelligence-driven IAM also can learn information on users quickly through a process called progressive profiling.

“Over time, the organization can progressively gain more information to confidently confirm the identity of the individual,” says Galluzzo. The hope is that AI would understand what a user needs to access a system and let the user do so instantly, because all back-end authentications would occur unseen. This creates less friction for employees and solidifies security.

CLARIFY: Deepen your understanding of security and passwords.

Ultimately, that is the core component of IAM. “The more robust and discreet your identity and access management tools are, the more effective you can be,” says Galluzzo.

“Figuring out how to orchestrate and manage those sets of tools to achieve different outcomes is an important capability that organizations need to have. Particularly in the modern world.”

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