With the growing complexity in technology, IT security has now become a challenge. Which is why organizations/business entities are always searching for the latest proven ways to keep their data secure. Identity and access management (IAM) is the result of the combined quest of IT professionals and business entities to find modern solutions for the emerging trends in the world of technology.

The primary goal of Identity and access management (IAM) is to ensure privacy by allowing access to limited members within your organization. IAM provides system administrators the authority to provide access to members according to their roles within the organization. The limited access to data mitigates the probability of data theft.

Why there is the need for IAM systems in the first place?

Besides the growing complexity of technology-driven business climate, the compliance with the stringent IT regulations is another aspect administrators have to worry about. These regulations require a business organization to keep its data secure keeping data breaches at bay. In order to accomplish compliance, adopting the IAM strategies and frameworks becomes crucial as these strategies ensure secure access to IT resources and services.

The elementary goal of IAM is to link all the activities being carried out within an IT environment to a specific user. For an organization to retain its position as a successful competitive organization, it needs to combine the IAM governance with IAM strategies. Using an effective and holistic IAM strategy can strengthen the system, making the organizational operations less time-consuming. Consequently, it enhances the overall performance of the organization.

While devising an IAM system or strategy three basic aspects should never be ignored.

1.    The user experience should be smooth and effort-free. This encourages the employees to accept the system protocol, render them the peace of mind which eventually boosts their productivity to meet the organization’s goals. If the process of signing in and accessing the data is too long and complex, the user will get disinterested and may try to find quicker alternatives. An all-inclusive IA strategy would offer solutions for such challenges posed by the IAM system.

2.    The permissions to access the data should be allotted without mistakes. The IAM system must be flexible enough to allow the varied access levels to different employees. Consider the fact that the needs to access the data for specific employees will keep changing over time. This is why the IAM system must have the feature of automated removal which denies access to the data once there is no longer need to access the data.

3.    To achieve the consistency within your IAM system, good governance must be conducted. It ensures that compliance is being carried out consistently and shows ways to set the bigger goals associated with the organization. Understanding the existing policies and actions give way to the creation of better policies which can benefit an organization in better ways.

What an Effective IAM System Must be Capable of Providing

An efficient identity and access management system provides a centralized directory service that can be viewed/inspected in a quick look, it also provides a detailed view of the company database from all categories. It simplifies the login setup process and makes these processes less time-consuming. In other words, users will have quick access to the account and the administrators will have the convenience to view or change the access privileges within less time. 

The Active Dynamism of IAM Trends

The trends related to Identity and Access Management are evolving at an exponential rate. Managing these trends is a formidable challenge for IT operators. It’s not before long that when employees become acquainted with the current IAM trends and practices, the new trends would start emerging to take place of the current ones.

Such as the most prevalent IAM trend nowadays is 2FA or two-factor authentication. But this method of authentication doesn’t provide enough strong barrier against the data breaches and cyber attacks. This is why it is expected that soon it will be replaced with the multi-factor authentication (MFA). Multi-factor authentication is more reliable as it calculates the risks by using machine learning and also quickly determine a security response as a remedy to these risks.

Another method of authentication called knowledge-based authentication (KBA) was widely used across the digital business world but eventually, it was discovered that this method doesn’t render the desired results as it is easily hackable. Those organizations who chose data as their first priority will no longer rely on this method of authentication.

Everyone in the IT world is wondering what ways the future trends of IAM systems would adopt and they are equally curious and obsessed to figure out how they can evolve their IAM systems in response to the endless evolving process. 

Is Decentralized Identity the Future?

A Decentralized Identity is an approach which uses black chain method to allow the users to create their own identity. These identities will first be approved from the trusted third parties. This approach benefits the business organizations in financial terms by eradicating the need to create replicated data depositories. It is estimated by IT experts that Decentralized Identity approach is going to be the best possible solution to handle the broad production scenarios in 2020.

How Effective is Privileged Access Management (PAM)?

Business man pressing security code on virtual keypad

No one can deny the fact that PAM keeps the attack surface of the organization as small as possible which mitigates the cyber-attacks. But that does not mean that the problem has been eradicated as system/service-, administrative- accounts, devices, containers, and codes have the privileges hidden within. Do not think to manage the privileged access as you manage the regular access. Instead, you must implement a new PAM operational strategy considering the five W’s; Who, When, Where, Why, and What. These W’s determine that the privileged access will only be allowed on the basis of need and will be removed after the need expires. 

What is a Cloud Based Solution?

Some organizations offer the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies to put their employees at ease and boost their level of productivity. Before the prevalence of BYOD, the strategies for network security were different but now the companies need to use IAM systems to manage the identities. The Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) is the answer to the uprising challenges of IAM. Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) provides secure access to the web application/s on multiple devices and in the cloud. Its centralized policy along with the rules ensures that when the digital identities access your sensitive corporate data, your data remains secure.  

Nonetheless, the Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) seems like a perfect solution, counting on it entirely would be a grave mistake. There’s always something additional that you should add to your IAM strategy such as executing some best practices while implementing the modern solutions to your latest IAM operational model.

•    There’s no need to synchronize the high privileged accounts to the Azure Active Directory (Azure AD).

•    Do synchronize your user hashed passwords to the Azure AD. It allows additional security by spotting the synchronized passwords from the compromised passwords. It also detects when the same password and email address is used to connect through unknown services that are not linked to the Azure AD.

•    When developing the new application, prefer to use the Azure AD for authentication. Integrating your on-premises identity and the cloud identity reduces the probability for data breaches.

•    To prevent the horrendous consequences of password spray attacks, block legacy authentication protocols. 

•    Enabling multi-factor authentication creates an extra layer of protection which lessens the likelihood for the data theft attack. Two-step authentication is preferred ubiquitously but it is highly prone to theft attacks among all the multi-factor authentication options.

•    Conduct sheer monitoring to locate any suspicious or threatening activities. Trying to log in anonymously or from several different locations or trying to log in from an infected device are a few examples of the suspicious activities.

How can you Possibly Evolve your IAM System?

IAM is being implemented in the digitized businesses at large but with the increased digitization of everything, the probability of cyber threats have also increased. Because of the excessive identities and the automation processes being implemented, IAM identities are now becoming blur causing even more complications. Following the promising practices can help to adapt and overcome these challenges, such as:

•    The stats for cases of account takeovers only increase and never goes down. To prevent such scenarios, you need to understand and integrate the security and fraud systems more raptly.

•    Diminish the vulnerabilities and introduce DevSecOps into your organization policy. Arrange training sessions for your employees to culture their mindset into using the development of security operations.

•    To meet with customer expectations, implement the policies that favor the customers’ to consent and preferences.

Conclusion

The reason why managing identities has become a challenge is that the employees are hired and fired on a frequent basis in enterprise businesses. The employees access, share and send sensitive data in emails. Some try to access the data which they’re supposed to access which puts the significant data security at risk.

As Equifax data breach incident has proven and the implementation of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have turned the page and there would be new modifications to occur in identity and access management strategies. To overcome these challenges and minimize the associated risks, an organization must find a way to revamp the IAM strategies and the complete IAM infrastructure.

References:

Tech Target 2019, identity and access management (IAM), viewed 10 July 2019, <https://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/definition/identity-access-management-IAM-system>

Inside Small Business 2019, How to create the best identity and access management strategy, viewed 10 July 2019, < https://insidesmallbusiness.com.au/planning-management/how-to-create-the-best-identity-and-access-management-strategy>

Tech Target 2019, Identity and access management strategy: Time to modernize?, viewed 10 July 2019, < https://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/feature/Identity-and-access-management-strategy-Time-to-modernize>

File Cloud 2019, Key Aspects of an Identity Access Management (IAM) Strategy, viewed 10 July 2019, < https://www.getfilecloud.com/blog/2018/11/key-aspects-of-an-iam-strategy/#.XShtCOgzbIV>

Gartner 2019, Next-Generation Trends in Identity and Access Management, viewed 10 July 2019, <https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/next-generation-trends-in-identity-and-access-management/>

Tool Box 2019, 4 Trends in Identity and Access Management, viewed 10 July 2019, < https://it.toolbox.com/blogs/rosedefremery/4-trends-in-identity-and-access-management-101018>

ASB Resources 2019, 3 IDENTITY AND ACCESS MANAGEMENT (IAM) TRENDS IT LEADERS SHOULD ANTICIPATE, viewed 10 July 2019, < https://www.asbresources.com/blog/identity-access-management-iam-trends>

Posted by Dan K Jatau Sr. MSc, PhD, MBCS, MInstLM

Dan K Jatau is a Nottingham, UK-based Information security and technology infrastructure expert and researcher who likes to write about technology subjects from both a business and technical perspective. His current interests are business-driven security architectures, identity and access, the Cloud, virtualization security and all aspects of security. He currently works in security program development and architecture and develops enterprise security programs for SMEs.