What is Identity and Access Management?

Authenticate who has access to what

Identity and Access Management (IAM)

Identity and access management (IAM) is a security practice to set business discipline that includes multiple technologies and business processes that provide the right asset access to authorized users or machines while keeping fraudsters at bay.

The identity and access management framework allows businesses to define user roles, or group identities within their cloud infrastructure. Usually, IAM policies are formatted in a text file containing all identities and permissions. An example could be the team that creates a rule to permit a group of users to view and upload files to a designed storage location. But in reality, an organizational team can have hundreds and thousands of different IAM policies to handle.
Identity and Access Management (IAM Security)

Importance of IAM (Identity and access management)

IAM gives the ability to authenticate the users who can access the right assets. Identity and access management allows organizations to share IT resources among multiple users or groups. Without IAM, teams would have trouble managing and accessing the required assets.

Allowing every user to have the same level of access could leave the organization with a huge problem. Understand that not every user needs the same level of access. Why would developers working with finance teams require permissions that developers working with the HR team do? Limiting access to your resources help to mitigate the associated risks it carries. The right IAM structure allows security teams to prevent mishaps with minimal effort.

Here are 4 things to consider using Identity and access management

  • Improved Security: The foremost practice of IAM, protect your cloud environment from unauthorized access by knowing who has access to what.
  • Compliance: Get help to ensure you are in the right direction to comply with various industry standards and regulations.
  • Increased productivity: The less the interruption, the more the productivity. Limiting users' access to only required resources will indirectly improve their productivity.
  • Reduced costs: User access control is one of the focus areas in cost optimization of your cloud usage. IAM can help you reduce costs by simplifying the management of user access.

How does Identity and Access Management (IAM) work?

Considering the widespread usability and usefulness of IAM, there are many factors that get involved in the functioning of Identity and Access Management. To name a few - managing user roles and permissions, implementing security policies, auditing user activity, and many others. However, the following four steps share a basic understanding of “How Identity and Access Management works”

Here are a few benefits of using CIEM

  • Identify: With the help of defined usernames, passwords, and attributes such as user roles and permissions, IAM systems use various authentication methods for the selected users.
  • Authenticate: Authentication is done by asking users to provide their username and password (and MFA).
  • Authorize: With successful Identification and authentication process, users are authorized to access their required resources.
  • Audit: Get answers to your questions like - who has access to what resources, when they accessed them, and what they did with them. This information helps security leaders to troubleshoot any mishaps that took place.

Differentiating Identity Management and Access Management

Identity Management

Identity Management focuses on securely managing the identities of users and systems across an organization's network and cloud-based services. This includes creating, maintaining, and using digital identities to access cloud resources, applications, and services.

Access Management

Access management is the practice of controlling and managing access-based control to resources, applications, and services in an organization’s cloud environment. It benefits organizations from simple operations, increases productivity, and achieves scalability.

Need for Identity and Access Management

Over 80 % of data breaches are caused by IAM misconfigurations. A well-configured IAM can reduce the likelihood and impact of data breaches. IAM is a firm wall of enterprise security programs that is the first pillar of security and strongly authenticates the gaps between the users, and critical assets. IAM can help prevent internal misconfigurations, thereby mitigating threats from compromised user credentials.

IAM and Regulatory Compliance

In addition to well-known laws like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), many governing bodies in all geographies and industries are also acting upon their privacy regulations to strengthen compliance and safety. Organizations can comply with these regulations when IAM processes are rightly followed.

Note that insufficient or incorrect information about the organization’s IAM program can compromise the audit, even though your other security areas are functioning properly.

Benefits of IAM

Identity and access management offers many benefits. A few are listed below:

Automation

Automating tasks like onboarding or off-boarding of users in cases of new joining, changed roles, or terminations offers great help.

Anomaly detection

Access management is the practice of controlling and managing access-based control to resources, applications, and services in an organization’s cloud environment. It benefits organizations from simple operations, increases productivity, and achieves scalability.

Enabling zero trust

Correct identity and access management processes allow organizations to enable zero-trust models that perform beyond simple authentication and authorization decisions. They use updated identity records for every user, adapting to new changes as they occur and whenever new threats are detected.

Mitigating insider threats

Relying entirely on employee awareness can cause data breaches and is insufficient without proper technology. Identity and access management closes this gap, recognizing many identities apart from employees e.g., contractors, clients, partners, etc.

Implementing Identity and Access Management

Before rolling out any IAM system within an organization, identify who will lead in developing, enacting, and implementing IAM policies. The IAM team should include a mix of all your corporate functions, as IAM impacts every department and every type of user within the organization.

Organizations integrating non-employee users and IAM in their cloud architecture should follow these steps recommended by expert Ed Moyle.

  • Make a list of usage, including applications, services, elements, and other required components that users will interact with. This will help in validating and scaling in selecting the features of IAM products or services.
  • Understanding the architecture and how on-premise and cloud-based architecture is connected together.
  • Getting known specific areas of IAM is most important to the business. Understanding things like the requirement of MFA, the need for the same system for customers and employees, and supporting standards can help a lot.

Implement IAM considering best practices in mind. Make sure you centralize security and critical systems around identity. Last but not least, your organization should be able to evaluate and scale the outputs of current IAM controls.

For Identity and Access Management professionals

Cloudanix provides a central dashboard for securing AWS, Azure, GCP, and other cloud platforms through its Cloud Security Platform, which includes features such as CMEK, Identity and Access Management (IAM) misconfiguration detection, and IAM permission boundaries.

Know more

Tools used to implement identity and access management

Tools that play a vital role in implementing IAM includes password management tools, provisioning software, security policy enforcement applications, reporting and monitoring apps, and identity repositories. This can also include but is not limited to,

MFA

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is a security process that requires your IAM provider to have more than one method of authentication from independent categories of authentication methods to verify the identity of a user trying to access a resource. This ensures that the user accessing the system is who they claim to be, providing an additional layer of security beyond a single password. MFA methods include a password and a security token, a password and a fingerprint, or a password and a smart card.

(How to setup MFA devices in AWS?) - Read the blog


SSO

Single Sign-On (SSO) is a user authentication process that allows users to access multiple applications or services with one set of login credentials (username and password). This vanishes the need for users to remember multiple usernames and passwords to access multiple systems. The SSO process involves a central authentication server that verifies the user's credentials, and if they are valid, it grants access to all of the authorized systems and services. This helps increase security by reducing the number of passwords that need to be managed, improving the user experience.

(A complete developer's guide to single sign on for enterprise applications) - Read the blog

Know Your Identities

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Azure IAM Audit

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GCP IAM Audit

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