Cybersecurity 101: Identity and Access Management

If you’re trying to get into the nitty-gritty of cybersecurity as a member of a management team, an IT technician, or as something else entirely, you must familiarize yourself with identity and access management, also known as IAM. To help you understand what it is and how you can make the most of it, let’s dive in.

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What is IAM?

When we are online or using any connected network, we all have a specific digital identity. It is also possible to have multiple digital identities, whether that’s on different systems, under different logins, or a whole host of other reasons. That’s why it’s important to have an identity management system that secures access for only the digital identities who have the correct user access permissions.

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There are two main steps to IAM: authentication and authorization. Authentication makes sure that the user is who they say they are by checking if a username and password combination is correct and present in the relevant directory service. Authorization then checks this user identity and confirms that it passes access control permissions—meaning that they have the right to access what they are trying to access.

How does it fit into cybersecurity?

The reason why identity management is so important for cybersecurity is because it helps to ensure that the right staff and users have access to the appropriate data. Being able to access improper levels of data or security clearance is far away from cybersecurity best practices; as companies grow and employee numbers climb, secure access to certain data areas becomes even more important.

Improper access management can leave organizations vulnerable to phishing, criminal hacking, ransomware, or a whole host of other malicious digital attacks and malware.

How can it be put into practice?

The first IAM solutions were often physical additions to a firewall system. These access management systems were located within the organizations’ firewalls and were often managed by internal IT teams. Nowadays, many organizations are turning to cloud IAM to address the massive amounts of cloud-based data. On-premise IAM is no longer secure enough to manage online identities where data and communication are often transferred via cloud services. To answer the new online, cloud-based demand, access management solutions have also taken to the cloud.

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With cloud services, appropriate access and identity management can all take place online without the need for onsite facilities and hardware. For companies accustomed to on-premise physical identity management systems, this means a significant change and a shift from their long-standing systems. To help alleviate the stress of changing a whole system (the success of which could mean major security risks), the option of hybrid solutions began to rise, combining the best features of both cloud and onsite IAM. The identity management services are slowly migrated online and the extra features of cloud IAM are built up gradually. Once completed, the physical directory service and identity management can be shut down at the right time, and when the organization feels confident and comfortable to do so.

In sum, the role of identity management is to ensure correct user access to personal data, shared networks, and other digital areas of work. Identity management systems are in place to protect both workers and clients, organizations, and individuals. In a world where so much takes place online and people are often not what they seem, intelligent web applications like these are vital for ensuring proper cybersecurity.

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