What is Identity and access management

March 07, 2021 | by: David Kodjani

Identity and Access Management (IAM) is one way to find out who a user is and what they are authorized to do.

The IAM is like the bouncer at the door of a nightclub with a list of who is allowed in, who is not allowed in, and who can access the VIP area. IAM is also called identity management.

In more technical terms, IAM is a way to manage a given set of digital user identities, and the privileges associated with each identity. This is a general term that covers a number of different products that all perform the same basic function. Within an organization, IAM can be a single product or a combination of processes, software products, cloud services, and hardware that give administrators visibility and control over organizational data to which individual users can. to access.

The components of identity management and access are:

  • Identification

This is to recognize the user who wants to connect. IAM solutions associate the user with a specific information sheet. It is thus possible for the system to instantly know the personal data of the visitor and his right to access the files. All users are therefore easier to administer and structure: this mapping limits the possibilities of intrusion.

  • Authentication

Authentication allows the user to enter the application. At this stage, complex encryption procedures take place, in particular the use of several authentication factors which make it possible to guarantee the integrity of the connection or of the payment. It can be a code validation, a biometric confirmation or a digital certificate. Increasingly used, this so-called strong authentication is the best defense against phishing today.

  • Authorization

Authorization represents the right to access a given file. Identity and access management determines which user has which rights to the files and thus ensures rigorous structuring of access. These can be of a variety of types, ranging from just reading to running or fully administering a program.

  • User management

This covers the administration of all user files. This makes it possible to modify the profiles and to modify the access rights as needed. In addition, the use of a central directory offers the possibility of extending user access to third-party systems.

The term "access" refers to the data that a user can see and the actions that they can perform when logged in. Once an X user logs into their email, they can see all the emails they have sent and received. However, he should not be able to see emails sent and received by Y, his co-worker. In other words, just because a user's identity is verified doesn't mean they should be able to access anything they want in a system or network. For example, a low-level employee within a company should be able to access their corporate email account, but they should not be able to access payroll records or confidential human resources information.

Access management is the process of controlling and monitoring access. Each user of a system will have different privileges within that system depending on their individual needs. An accountant does indeed need to access and edit payslips, so once he has verified his identity, he should be able to view and update these records as well as access his email account.

In cloud computing, data is stored remotely and accessible via the Internet. Because users can connect to the internet from almost any location and on any device, most cloud services are device and location independent. Users no longer need to be in the office or on a company-owned device to access the cloud. The proof, teleworking is more and more frequent. Therefore, identity becomes the most important point of access control, not the network perimeter; A user's identity, not their device or location, determines what data in the cloud they can access and whether they can access it.

Suppose a cybercriminal wants to access sensitive files in a company's data center. Before the widespread adoption of cloud computing, the cybercriminal had to pass the corporate firewall that protected the internal network or physically access the server by breaking into the building or bribing an internal employee. The main objective of the criminal was to pass the perimeter of the network.

However, with cloud computing, sensitive files are stored in a remote cloud server. Since company employees need to access files, they do so by logging in through a browser or an app. If a cybercriminal wants to access files, then all he needs is employee login credentials (such as a username and password) and an Internet connection; the criminal does not need to go through a network perimeter.

IAM therefore helps prevent identity attacks and data breaches due to escalation of privileges (when an unauthorized user has too much access). IAM systems are therefore essential for cloud computing and for managing remote teams.

IAM is often a cloud service that users have to go through to access the rest of an organization's cloud infrastructure. It can also be deployed at the premises of an organization on an internal network. Finally, some public cloud providers may bundle IAM with their other services.

Companies that use a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud architecture can instead use a separate vendor for IAM. Decoupling the IAM from their other public or private cloud services gives them greater flexibility: they can still keep their identity and access their database if they change cloud providers.

As part of identity and access management, companies must implement practices, strategies and procedures, as well as solutions and products, tailored to their specific needs.

IGA is a generic term for the set of IAM measures taken by a company to ensure and prove that users have adequate and sufficient access. Correctly implemented, the IGA allows it to control and govern all its identities, as well as the access granted, in particular to applications, data and privileged accounts. Strong access governance reduces risk and ensures better control over local, hybrid or cloud networks.

Active Directory, or AD, also allows companies to create and manage privileged access for a large number of users. These are divided into several levels (called "groups" in the AD). Each group has specific access rights and privileges on the different systems to which users authenticate.

The main benefit of AD is centralized access control over a large part (but not all) of the network, which simplifies the implementation of settings, such as security updates, and the granting of access. privileges to users. However, the basic IAM functions required for proper AD use often prove to be complex and error-prone without the implementation of additional IAM tools to lighten the workload.

With Role-Based Access Control (or RBAC), used by most companies with more than 500 employees, access to systems is limited to authorized users based on their role within of the company (or of the group to which it belongs in the AD).

This approach provides different levels of access to applications and data depending on the role. Permissions are automatically granted based on the tasks assigned to employees, as defined by an authoritative information source, such as an HR system.

There are also easy-to-use solutions to make sure the authentication process doesn't slow down productivity. Smartphone approval and fingerprint recognition are just two examples of how businesses can effectively deploy an additional layer of security without penalizing employees.

As most systems have an administrator account with rights and privileges which are often shared, it is wiser to add secure management of privileged credentials to the IAM solution. Management of privileged passwords can be added as an additional layer of security. Privileged password management tools store privileged passwords in a secure vault, assign them according to pre-established approval paradigms and workflows, and change them at predefined intervals.

Coupled with privileged password management, privileged session management allows organizations to control, monitor and record privileged sessions of administrators, remote vendors and other high-risk users. Session recordings play a particularly important role in IT, as they help organizations detect suspicious activity in their systems.

Another useful tool for IT, the behavior analysis of privileged users is used to identify suspicious behavior and to highlight both internal and external threats. User behavior analysis technology can detect anomalies and prioritize them based on risk level, enabling organizations to prioritize response to threats and take appropriate action.

Combined with other sources of information, such as system and audit logs, and session data, privileged account analysis data strengthens and complements the privileged access management (PAM) functions of enterprises. .

The advantages of Identity and Access Management solutions are of several kinds.

Security is the first of these. Integrating complex functionalities and requiring a real implementation framework, these solutions bring with them a real structuring of the data. The resulting organization and the authentication methods used allow better visibility on accesses and, quite naturally, a much higher level of security than it would be without.

Beyond issues data protection, IAM also has real organizational advantages. Facilitating the organization of customer information, it contributes to improving the customer's journey on a site and provides access to valuable data for monitoring and exchanges, whatever the stage of the relationship between it. ci and the company.

The security processes cover use on a smartphone, providing great flexibility of use.

With cyberthreats not about to stop, the best way to prepare for them is to build a cybersecurity strategy that integrates the many facets of AMI.

Cybercriminals have found it easier to prey on people, often seen as the least resistance path to corporate networks. So identity is quickly becoming the new security perimeter for companies.

Proper implementation of access and identity management is essential to limit the potential impact of a cyber attack on the business and reduce the risk of internal malicious activity.

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