Haters may call it alphabet soup or too confusing to care about, but here at PTG, we’re pretty keen on all of our acronyms and what they represent. Not only are there dozens of terms to remember, making these shortened versions the perfect little helper, but writing PAM instead of things like Privileged Access Management over and over again saves time and space. It's our goal to simplify these complex topics into something a little more palatable- if you will.
Today’s alphabet soup is a hearty helping of security from your favorite chefs in the industry. Instead of harping on MFA and EDR or even PAM for your SMB, today our IT topic may be a little longer than a TL;DR but covers an equally important topic: IAM.
Nope, not the pet food, this is Identity and Access Management. So before you G2G, let’s jump into the world of IAM.
What is Identity and Access Management (IAM)
For those who are short on their alphabet soup knowledge, Gartner has a fantastic definition of identity and access management: “IAM is the discipline that enables the right individuals to access the right resources at the right times for the right reasons.”
IAM is the discipline that enables the right individuals to access the right resources at the right times for the right reasons.
The longer explanation? IAM is a security discipline that makes it possible for the right people and things to use the applications or data they need when they need to, without security slowing them down. The overall program of IAM is made up of the systems and processes that allow IT admins to assign a single digital identity to each person, authenticate them when they log in, authorize them to access specified resources, and monitor and manage those identities throughout their lifecycle.
Why is IAM Important to Your Business
The reality is businesses of every size, even small ones, must be able to provide secure access for their contractors, partners, remote users, mobile users, and especially their customers. Through digital transformation, unique identities are assigned to Internet of Things (IoT) devices, robots, and pieces of code such as APIs or microservices. Multicloud hybrid IT environments and software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions can further blur the IAM landscape, as well.
Identity and access management literally stands between users and your important assets, making it a crucial element of any security strategy. IAM, like many of the topics we discuss, helps protect against compromised user credentials and those easily cracked passwords on common network entry points.
A survey by Ping Identity states that “70% of global business executives plan to increase spending on IAM for their workforce over the next 12 months, as a continuation of remote work increases demand on IT and security teams.” They also found that more than half of the companies surveyed have invested in new IAM products since the pandemic began.
When deployed correctly, IAM helps businesses with productivity and creates better-functioning digital systems. Teams can ideally work seamlessly from anywhere, while management and IT ensure they access the resources they need for their jobs – but nothing more.
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How IAM can boost your business's security
Alright, so you’re interested in IAM but you aren't sure how to implement this at your business. We’ve got you covered.
1. Use Adaptive Access
Your authentication system should be smart – your digital identity is more than just a name and a password, but instead works as a sort of orchestra together, from your username to the devices you use to the way you click and search the web. The more your small business can tap into deeper contextual insights, like device IDs, behavioral biometrics, and location data that can identify users, the less need there is for knowledge-based authentication in your system.
Smart authentication should also be able to adapt. Old, static rules for authentication set the bar for verification too low or too high. Using an adaptive access strategy that uses artificial intelligence (AI) technology to build deep contextual insights, your team can build risk scores and determine the level of trust or risk associated with each user.
When these advanced capabilities are combined with an access policy engine, they allow the organization to base access on risk level. That means low-risk users can be given a streamlined or even passwordless experience to access what they need, while high-risk users can be tasked with multifactor authentication (MFA) or even denied access in some cases.
2. Use Identity Analytics
Determining who has access to what – and if it’s the right level or not – is one of the most difficult tasks for IAM implementation. Too often, managers have rubber-stamped access requests to everyone, and in other instances, users can bring access to certain apps from previous roles at your organization.
This kind of mess can lead to excess entitlements, and in some cases, create segmentation of duty violations. Yikes. Many legacy IAM programs rely on periodic audits to clean up the mess, but that can result in problems that go undetected for long periods of time.
This is where an identity analytics solution can help alongside your IAM solution. Businesses should look for identity analytics tools that provide a 360-degree view of access risks and the ability to recommend actions based on those risk insights. Feel free to reach out to us if you need recommendations!
3. Use Decentralized Identities
Decentralizing identities allows users to control their digital identity. Thought leaders across industries are exploring how they can get started with decentralized networks to solve a variety of problems. Digital toolkits, which will totally change user privacy and security, are available for developers to utilize which make it easy to establish and participate in decentralized identity networks. Businesses can begin deploying proof-of-concept implementations that can make the dream of self-sovereign identity a reality today.
Hopefully, this blog clarified one of the more complex – albeit equally important – topics in our stable of lettered acronyms. And IAM is another in the long list we’ve thrown at you, but like the others, it holds very special importance to the greater security soup and keeping your team safe from those looking to harm your network or steal your data. Alphabet or some other flavor, this soup is made up of complex topics that we are trying to make a little more digestible so you can make more informed decisions for your business.