Risks and Benefits of Identity and Access Management (IAM)May 18, 2022 No Comments
Featured article by Norv Leong, Head of Product Marketing at strongDM
When we use devices, software, and applications, we’re often required to provide our identities to achieve a result, such as logging in or signing up for something. On the other end of the spectrum, we have those that require our identities for these. Those who request us to supply our information have every right to be concerned with who, or what is trying to access their system, which is why a third-party framework is often used as an added security measure.
Queue IAM (Identity and access management). IAM can save people a lot of time and headaches by streamlining processes which require other people’s information or data, while ensuring their content is secure from unauthorized users or unwanted, malicious persons.
You may be unaware of just how many IAM benefits there are, or how prevalent it actually is in the virtual world, but it’s incredible how many businesses utilize it. From password management to regulatory compliance, login systems to API security, IAM works its magic in many ways.
In this article, we’ll take a deeper look into some of the incentives that often draw people towards IAM; as well as some of the potential risks involved. Though not every business is required to use IAM, certain businesses should definitely consider it, at least for the peace of mind it provides, knowing you have a safe and secure system on your hands. Let’s get started.
What is IAM?
IAM is a critical framework that any organization must use if they wish to have everything secure when it comes to a user’s identity; controlled access to company information, resources, and devices; and audit user access across the company’s IT infrastructure.
The reason this framework is recommended for every company is because its primary purpose is allowing the right people to gain access to the right resources and data when the need arises. If a business chooses not to implement IAM, it may greatly compromise security measures, such as stolen passwords or user credentials. Though other issues may arise from not implementing IAM, these are likely the most common concerns for many organizations.
Another serious issue that can arise when IAM isn’t present are potential gaps in security, which can lead to malicious activities, especially if company data is not encrypted. Bad actors—if experienced enough—can plant ransomware and even steal data. Simply implementing IAM is one of the best ways to reduce this possibility while keeping users’ data safe from prying eyes.
Benefits of IAM
IAM—in many businesses—plays an extremely important role of an internet security software as it helps in protecting the data of users, clients, or company information in general. Not only does it allow us to pick and choose who can see what, it also provides a business with the means to secure back-end technology such as APIs while reducing business costs in multiple ways. Just like using a data pipeline allows access to data from multiple sources, IAM allows specific users to access data across multiple sources securely when they are authorized to do so.
Any business that aims to scale should be taking advantage of the benefits of identity and access management. Undoubtedly, risk may be involved, though the positives certainly outweigh the negatives in typical scenarios. Let’s take a look at a few benefits a business may reap once IAM has been deployed.
Peace of mind
Virtually any business that wishes to keep their content safe requires an IAM system. A primary benefit of implementing it is simply peace of mind. When the relevant people know precisely who can access a business’s data, when they can access it, and how much of it they can access, a great sense of security is achieved.
With IAM’s ability to provide a business with authentication authority, that business has strict control over who can access information, or data. Access may be granted to employees, partners and even customers.
Boost in productivity
Believe it or not, by simply implementing IAM into any business, productivity trends upwards by a fairly significant amount. This can be traced back to IAM’s ability to simplify sign-ins, signups, or processes related to user management for end-users, systems administrators, and app owners themselves.
With this comes faster processing times for any identity or access changes, which may take place within the business.
Reduced IT costs
There’s no denying that IT, when it comes to expenditures, can be one of the most financially demanding areas of any business. Most companies look for any means to reduce these costs; believe it or not, IAM is a great way to do so.
By utilizing IAM to free up time spent on role changes or employee onboarding/offboarding, businesses can slash costs by a surprising amount. Not only this, with the inclusion of SSO (Single Sign-On), IT resources are freed up due to a reduction in help desk calls and service tickets.
Information or data sharing
By providing a platform for any information related to access and ID management, businesses are able to apply preset, customized security policies across all the company’s devices, which ensures no differentiation arises from one to the other (unless of course the business wants this).
In doing this, a streamlined, effortlessly secure policy can cover every aspect of user authentication, validation, and permissions among employees and clients.
As the possibilities of remote work among businesses become more common, employees and/or clients need access to certain information, databases, webpages, etc., regardless of their physical location. SSO is a key feature in making this happen.
Large-scale organizations that conduct their business globally benefit massively from the ease of access to clients, employees, or business partners that IAM provides.
Risks of IAM
Though so many critical benefits come with including IAM in a business model, companies also need to consider some identity and access management risks that may arise when implementing the framework or after it’s been deployed. These risks won’t be a concern for every business, but it’s important to keep them in mind regardless.
The massive growth of remote work over recent years has forced many businesses to implement cloud storage and cloud computing to store data and conduct business. With this, IAM has become a necessity for many businesses to function due to the abundant concerns of using the cloud.
Let’s take a look at some of these potential risks businesses may encounter with IAM.
Cloud security breaches
If a business is committed to the cloud, access management and user identities must be secure to ensure minimal risk to the company’s and clients’ data. If a company’s IAM is unsecure, it has the potential to result in serious damage, which could be detrimental to the business.
Those responsible for dealing with the cloud and IAM within the business must make certain that they cover their bases to ensure a seamless, secure IAM.
While IAM makes business policy implementation a simple, streamline process, we must not forget about updating audit practices so they pertain to the access policies currently in place. It’s advised that businesses continue to schedule regular audits to allow for the potential discovery of vulnerabilities as well as for defining what can and should be automated.
Not only that, audits also help businesses gain insights as to where they could tighten up security by removing unnecessary access.
Business scaling issues
With the possibility of new technologies, staff, policies, or other elements businesses may add as they grow, the IAM framework must scale to keep up with any of these changes. IAM, in some scenarios, can limit how these implementations scale.
This is not always the case, but for many businesses that wish to scale as fast as possible, this is certainly something to consider.
Incorrect definition of roles or attributes
With somewhat of a vague idea of what access is required for certain user groups, many businesses often include too many users in a single group. Based on how permissions are defined, whether it’s by roles or attributes, business leaders must take into account why a person needs access to a particular resource.
Doing so ensures access permissions are not too vague or broad or and that nonew access requests are granted than are necessary.
Offboarding of staff
Believe it or not, offboarding employees can, at times, pose serious threats to a business in the long run. Though this is rarely a concern and only in some cases amounts to anything serious, the chance for a former employee to utilize their old business permissions with malicious intent always exists.
The reason this is a concern is that SSO and IAM, if they are not entirely secure, can have gaps that allow for entry points or data accessibility points to ex-employees. This, of course, is a great concern, which further proves just how important it is to have a secure IAM structure.
By utilizing anIAM framework, companies are able to open up a whole new level of security in all aspects of their business. For many, peace of mind is simply enough of an incentive to use IAM, while others are more interested in the in-depth, customizable security benefits it provides them.
Though there are some risks when using IAM, they’re often few and far between. It’s important whoever is responsible for IAM knows the ins and outs and learns all that’s necessary to prepare for scaling while ensuring the right people are granted the right permissions.
Once IAM is up and running and the business starts reaping the security benefits, a significant amount of time, resources, and money will be freed up. With this newfound freedom, business goals may become more ambitious, which may in turn lead to a more valuable company in the future.DATA PRIVACY, DATA SECURITY