Everything You Need to Know About Identity Management

identity management

Identity management is at the heart of every business’s ability to be productive and secure in the digital age where data breaches are escalating an evolving. Almost two-thirds of organizations believe they’ve had a breach due to employee access according to the Beyond Trust 2019 Privileged Access Threat Report.

This shows the importance of identity access management (IAM) for users across business assets like applications databases, communication and collaboration tools, the network and cloud assets. This includes even third-party vendors and every employee from the moment of onboarding through permission changes in role needs to when they leave the company.

IAM systems give administrators the ability to change user roles and permissions as needed while enforcing policies going forward. This includes the ability to simplify reporting and compliance auditing for any government regulations.

The tools and software supporting identity management must be flexible and robust to meet complex access needs for network systems, applications and the cloud. This can range from  Microsoft SharePoint and the wireless network to Office 365, ERP and CRM systems. Administrators need a simple, flexible, and scalable way to manage different user access privileges including:

  • On-site and branch office employees
  • Third party, off-site contractors
  • Hybrid compute environments (on-premise computing, software as a service (SaaS) applications and BYOD users)

 The Importance of Identity Management

Lost or stolen passwords can provide bad actors with the means to gain access to the network and data. Identity management is the first line of defense against cyberattacks from ransomware, hacking, phishing schemes, and other malware attacks.

Even small businesses struggle with providing access to only the systems that individual users need to do their jobs. That’s why IAM systems must accommodate consistent access rules and polices across an organization while enabling administrators to assign specific access permissions for each employee. By having central management capabilities, administrators have transparent control and flexibility over identity management.

Regulatory compliance

Nearly every small business has regulatory compliance needs that they must meet for personally identifiable information (PII) data of its customers. That can translate to electronic personal health information (ePHI) or payment card industry compliance (PCI).

Identity Management Synchronization

Identity management is one of several common cybersecurity challenges for small businesses and enterprises. Success in this area requires forethought and collaboration across human resources, IT, security and other departments. 

Identity information often comes from multiple repositories, such as Microsoft Active Directory (AD). Microsoft developed AD as a user-identity directory service for Windows domain networks, so it requires a cohesive configuration and management strategy.

An identity management system must be able to synchronize the user identity information across a variety of systems and applications while providing administrators with a single source of truth. But not all users need or should have the same access, which has given rise to different methods and tools for identity management.

Identity Management Methods

There are several methods for identity management that are both necessary and prevalent to aces security and operation. These are just a few of the most important methods.

Risk-based authentication

This system analyzes each login by looking at the device, location, and network origin and applies different levels of strictness based on the current risk profile. The higher the risk, the more restrictive the authentication process becomes for a user.

Context-aware network access control

This policy-based method looks at the current context of a user’s access request. That may mean blocking user access requests that come from an IP address that hasn’t been identified and authorized as safe (whitelisted).

Federated identity management

Federated identity management lets you share digital IDs with trusted partners. It’s an authentication-sharing mechanism that allows users to employ the same username, password or other ID to gain access to more than one network.

Identity Management Tools

An identity access management system is often comprised of one or more tools that fulfill their function via software or are code-based protocols that enable functionality.

Single Sign-On (SSO)

SSO enables users to carry over their identity authentication status from one network, website or app to another using the same access credentials.

Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP)

This open standards-based protocol is used for managing and accessing a distributed directory service, such as Microsoft Active Directory.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

 MFA goes beyond usernames and passwords to add additional authentication levels. More that 70 percent of businesses today are using as many as four authentication methods according to the Okta 2019 Business at Work Report.

Conclusion

Identity management requires a management strategy to decide on the right tools, processes and rules, which can be a time consuming and complex process. Many small businesses lack the IT support or the security expertise to create, implement and test that strategy to ensure it’s truly secure. 

The small IT budgets for many businesses requires identity management solutions and support that are cost effective but still provide the latest tools, approaches and expertise. By working with the right identity management partner, small businesses can create and implement scalable, flexible and comprehensive IAM strategies. This helps them to keep systems, applications, and data safe while providing the user access needed for optimum business productivity.

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