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What is identity and access management?

As the digital world keeps expanding, the demand for identity and access management has increased. Almost 500 identities are stolen every day in the UK, and identity fraud costs the country around £193 billion every year, with business fraud estimated to be £144 billion of that amount.

With these staggering figures, it’s easy to see cybercriminals are using more sophisticated techniques to get around security measures and steal identities. By enabling proper identity and access management tools in your business, you can ensure your business data stays secure.

What is identity and access management?

Identity and access management (IAM) is a collective term that covers technologies, processes, and policies to manage user identifies and regulate access within your organisation. IAM ensures the right people and job roles (identities) can access the tools they need to perform their jobs.

IAM consists of two main processes:

  • Identity management (authenticating users)
  • Access management (authorising users)

The issue is many people don’t understand the difference between authentication and authorisation when it comes to digital technology. This becomes a weakness in security systems that malicious actors can exploit. Having authentication protocols doesn’t necessarily mean there are strict authorisation standards in place.

For example, a single administrative account can exist to authenticate users. Users can only access information if they have login credentials. However, if those login credentials are found by a malicious actor, authorisation is then guaranteed, and they’re able to gain unauthorised access to the system.

Authentication versus authorisation

So, what is the difference between authentication and authorisation? Simply put, authentication is verifying a user is really who they’re representing themselves to be. Once this has been confirmed, authorisation is the process of checking the specific data, applications, and files the user has access to.

Identity and access management refers to the process of configuring your IT infrastructure to ensure that user identities are verified and appropriate permissions are granted to users in accordance with their needs when they need them. Identity, which is represented through user accounts and passwords, is used as a way of identifying who a user is.

Access management takes into account how different users should be allowed to access certain resources on your network. Those who have permission can access specific resources while those without permission will not be able to do so.

Why is identity and access management so important?

IAM ensures your digital data is secured from malicious actors who may want to steal personal information or gain unauthorised access to your systems.  It provides a layer of security for the company that prevents the loss of proprietary information, financial fraud, and other types of cyber-related crimes.

Identity and access management helps to protect your data while simultaneously making it easier for users to gain access to it.

In your business, identity and access management can help with things like:

  • Making it easy for employees to log on to various systems
  • Helping customers find the right information quickly
  • Providing a robust process for changing passwords
  • Protecting sensitive data from malicious intrusion.

How can you implement IAM in your organisation?

There are quite a few ways to implement identity and access management. Some of the most common methods include:

  • Single sign-on (SSO) – one set of logon credentials (username and password) to access any of several related, yet independent, software systems
  • Multi factor authentication – requires two or more proofs of identity, such as username, password, and a temporary code sent via text or email.
  • Digital certificates – also known as public key or identity certificates, allows a user’s device to securely identify itself to access server or network resources.

The best way to set up identity and access management in your organisation is to review your  current infrastructure for gaps and use this information to determine which is the best IAM approach for your specific business needs. A comprehensive plan can be developed to implement IAM to maintain security across the entire system.

Create a strong IAM strategy

A sound security strategy is required to protect your business resources, making it easier to verify who each user is and what they can access on your systems. This prevents unauthorised access which can prove to be a serious security risk.

It’s also important to remember this process is ongoing. You will have to update your strategies on an ongoing basis to ensure that they are keeping up with industry standards and the fast-paced information technology industry.

With identity and access management, your business IT environment is secure but still accessible to the right people. The security experts at INTELLIWORX will partner with you to create IAM strategies and processes for your organisation, and keep your data secure.

Shane Maher

We passionately work on the IT Infrastructure of mid-tier businesses and support MSPs into cloud services. I have over 17 years of commercial experience that includes supporting and managing IT systems, developing infrastructure solutions, both onsite & in the cloud.

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