Identity and Access Management Glossary

Identity Glossary A

Access Management – The process of configuring the level of access for each user and group within a software system. Through this process, system administrators grant access to authorised users and restrict access to unauthorised users. This may be done hierarchically through the use of user groups. Access management requires periodic auditing and maintenance to keep up with evolving business needs and employee roles.

Further Resources: An Overview of Identity and Access Management (IAM)
IAM (Identity and Access Management): A guide to keeping the identity of your business in check

Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) – A federated authentication system for Microsoft-centric networks that use Microsoft Active Directory as their directory services system. ADFS aims to provide seamless authentication and single sign-on functionality across a very large organisation, while supporting autonomy for each organisational group to manage their own access control needs.

Further Resources: Microsoft Active Directory and Active Directory Federation Services
Single Sign-On: The Difference Between ADFS vs. LDAP

Adaptive Authentication – Adaptive authentication refers to authentication policies that are triggered  based on device, user, or location context.  Authentication requirements may be determined by static parameters, such as the type of user, their current location, type of device, and so on. 
It may also be determined using dynamic parameters, in which the system continually analyses access patterns, and adjusts authentication policies accordingly. For example, a user who only ever logs in from a single location may be blocked if they attempt to log in from a different location.

Further Resources: Okta Adaptive Multi-factor Authentication Product Page

Adaptive Multi-Factor Authentication – Adaptive authentication is all about dynamically adjusting login parameters based on unique scenarios. One of the parameters that adaptive authentication can adjust is the requirement for an additional factor of authentication, or step-up authentication. For example, if the system detects an unusual access pattern, it challenges the user for an additional authentication factor (e.g. a code sent via SMS) to establish identity assurance rather than blocking the user altogether.

Further Resources: Learn About Adaptive Multi-factor Authentication

API Access Management – Application programming interfaces (APIs) have unique authentication challenges because the user is typically another software system rather than a person. Okta’s API Access Management system provides functionality to assist with this challenge by ensuring that API services are well-integrated with the rest of the user management system.

Further Resources: API Access Management Demo
API Access Management Product Page
Securing Digital Business with API Access Management

Application Network – The current trend of moving away from monolithic enterprise IT systems toward a system of of smaller applications from multiple vendors, which are integrated using open APIs and standards. This allows vendors to focus on a specialised niche, and enterprise customers to have more flexibility in choosing their functionality à la carte.

Further Resources: Getting Started Guide: Okta Integration Network

Attack Surface – The sum total of an enterprise’s abstract “surface area” that can be targeted by attackers. Bugs, vulnerabilities, and insecure policies can all comprise part of the attack surface. The goal of strong identity access management is to limit the attack surface to reduce overall risk through security best practices such as automated user provisioning and deprovisioning, patching, and least privileged access control.

Further Resources: Solution Brief: Protect Against Data Breaches

Attribute-based access control (ABAC) – An approach to access control that assigns access and actions based upon the user, resource attributes, environment, and other factors.

Authentication – The process of determining that the party with which you are communicating is indeed who they claim to be. In other words, the process of determining a user’s identity.

Further Resources: Authentication: Achieve scale and security with innovative authentication solutions for your team
Authentication Product Page
The Okta Authentication Guide

Authentication Factors – This refers to three mutually reinforcing categories of authentication schemes:
1. Something you are (e.g. your retina, thumbprint, voice characteristics)
2. Something you have (e.g. a specific device, a fob)
3. Something you know (e.g. a password, a secret code)

Further Resources: Demo: Multi-factor Authentication
MFA for Your Apps

Authorisation – The process of determining whether a given identity is allowed to access a given resource or function.

Further Resources: What is an Authorisation Server?


Identity Glossary B

BeyondCorp – Refers to type of a zero trust security model that focuses on individual users and devices instead of network perimeters. BeyondCorp is guided by the principles of perimeterless design, context-awareness, and contextual access management. 

Brute Force – A method of attack whereby an attacker systematically attempts all possible combinations of inputs, usually by automating the process with a script.


Identity Glossary C

Cloud Identity Management – A service such as Okta that is hosted in the cloud, offering identity, authentication, and authorisation functions for other cloud-hosted software services. A cloud identity management system is an alternative to traditional directory service systems, which typically manage identity for on-premises monolithic enterprise applications. These often leave cloud services with siloed identity services that must be managed individually, thus complicating lifecycle management.

Further Resources: The Okta Identity Cloud

Continuous Authentication – Continuous authentication enforces security policies after the first login. It dynamically assesses risk throughout active sessions and adapts how much or how often a user needs to authenticate based on their behavior and context.

Customer Identity Access Management (CIAM) – Customer Identity Access Management (CIAM) is a software solution that allows an organisation to control customer access to applications; determine customer identity by linking with databases, online profiles, and other available information; and securely capture and manage customer profile information.

CIAM supports organisations in conducting targeted marketing, providing seamless authentication for customer support, and gathering business intelligence analytics to better serve customers with new product features and updates. 

Further Resources: Creating a Secure, Seamless Customer Experiences with Customer Identity and Access Management


Identity Glossary D

Data Breach – Refers to an incident whereby data is accessed by an unauthorised individual or software system.

Further Resources: Protect Against Data Breaches
CIO eGuide: Preventing Data Breaches

Data Breach Prevention – Includes technology, people, and process considerations — all of which work together to protect an organisation. From a technology perspective, this includes well-maintained user authentication and authorisation configuration, systems that scan and block network activity in real time based on content filtering policies, or “circuit breakers” that detect potential exfiltration based on an abnormally high outbound data rate.

Further Resources: Protect Against Data Breaches
CIO eGuide: Preventing Data Breaches

Deprovisioning – The process of removing access for a particular user from software systems. For example, when an employee leaves the organisation, their user profile must be deprovisioned. 

Deprovisioning is generally more complicated than simply deleting the account, because it’s often desirable to retain and accurately attribute the user’s previous contributions, so the account must remain in some type of disabled state.

Further Resources: Provisioning and Deprovisioning
Preparing Your Organisation for the GDPR: What You Need to Know


Identity Glossary E

Employee Identity Management – The process of cataloguing employees in a software system. Employee identity management often includes representing the organisational structure of functional groups.

Employee identity management requires ongoing maintenance, such as when employees are hired or leave the organisation. It also often includes an authentication scheme, such as having the employee set their account password.

Further Resources: Lifecycle Management
Provisioning and Deprovisioning


Identity Glossary F

Federated Identity – In a federated identity system, multiple software systems can share identity data from a larger centralized system. For example, an application for consumers may allow its users to log in using a Google or Facebook account.

An enterprise network may use a federated system so that branch offices can manage their own identity system, while connecting systems from each branch through a system at head office. This would allow employees traveling to a different branch office to use the computer systems, but different access policies would likely still apply.

Further Resources: Enterprise Federation for Your Service

Federation – A method used to link a user's identity across multiple separate Identity management systems, allowing for seamless authentication and access control across different platforms and applications.

Fine-grained authorization (FGA) –  goes beyond RBAC and ABAC to enable greater flexibility for enterprises with complex permission models. FGA allows organizations to centralize access control across every application they build or acquire, and makes it easy for app developers to implement advanced permissions and sharing strategies.



Identity Glossary I

Identity as a Service (IDaaS) – This is a variant on the concept of Software as a Service (SaaS), indicating that identity management can be outsourced and purchased as a cloud-based service instead of either purchasing the software and operating it in-house or building the functionality from scratch in-house.

Further Resources: What is IDaaS? Understanding Identity as a Service and Its Applications
Modernising the IT Infrastructure in Government with IDaaS

Identity and Access Management (IAM) – The process of codifying not only users and groups in a software system, but also what resources they are each able to access and what functions they are each able to perform. IAM addresses authentication, authorisation, and access control.

Further Resources: An Overview of Identity and Access Management (IAM)
IAM (Identity and Access Management): A guide to keeping the identity of your business in check
Identity and Access Management Strategy

Identity Management – The process of codifying users and groups, as well as the metadata related to each of these entities, such as contact details, location, photo, etc. Includes mechanisms for authentication of these entities.

Further Resources: Identity Management: An Evolving Landscape

Incident Response Planning – The practice of documenting a planned reaction to a security incident. This is not necessarily a breach, rather the investigation is part of the process of determining whether there was an attack, who/what was involved, and if there was any data exfiltration. Having an incident response plan in place allows companies to react quickly and decisively if a security incident occurs. Elements of the plan may involve revoking widespread access temporarily, shutting down systems, notifying stakeholders, and establishing processes for re-establishing access, re-evaluating policy and process, remediation, backup, and recovery.

Further Resources: Automate Security Incident Response with Okta
Okta Incident Response Guide

Identity security posture management (ISPM) – continuously prevents, detects, and responds to Identity infrastructure security risks.

Identity sprawl – When users have different identities, consisting of different login credentials, for different applications and platforms that are not synchronized with each other.

Identity Threat Detection and Response (ITDR)  – A collection of tools and best practices to protect Identity management infrastructure from threats.


Identity Glossary J

JSON Web Token (JWT) – A token representing some number of claims, most typically the claim that the holder is authenticated and authorised to access a resource. These tokens are stored in a JSON format with standardised fields for issuer, subject, and expiry. Web applications often employ a refresh token to automatically generate new access tokens indefinitely.

JSON web tokens are standardised as RFC 7519

Further Resources: JWT Validation Guide
Validating Access Tokens
REST Service Authorisation with JWTs


Identity Glossary L

Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) – Lightweight Directory Access Protocol refers to a protocol for interacting with a hierarchical directory service database, particularly for authentication and authorisation. 

However, the term LDAP has also come to represent a wide range of directory system implementations, including OpenLDAP, Apache Directory, and FreeIPA.

Further Resources: Single Sign-On: The Difference Between ADFS vs. LDAP

Least Privileged Access Control – The process of codifying not only users and groups in a software system, but also what resources they are each able to access and what functions they are each able to perform. IAM addresses authentication, authorisation, and access control.

Further Resources: How Companies Need to Set Up Privileged Access Management
The Risks ​of ​Privileged Access ​Management ​– and How to Protect Your Company

Lifecycle Management – This term recognises that many entities represented in a software system will be at a certain stage in a lifecycle, and their access needs to be managed accordingly. For instance, an employee may start off as a “candidate,” then become a “full employee” with one or more positions over their tenure, and ultimately cease to be an employee and be deprovisioned entirely.

Lifecycle management can also apply to other things. For instance, devices may be purchased, provisioned for a particular user, reprovisioned for a different user, and ultimately deprovisioned and sold or discarded.

Further Resources: Okta Lifecycle Management Vision and Overview
Identity and Lifecycle Management
Lifecycle Management: There’s an API for That


Identity Glossary M

Mobility Management – The practice of configuring security policies, monitoring usage and location, and enabling the functionality for provisioning and deprovisioning. This includes remotely wiping data from devices, whether company-owned or employee-owned.

Further Resources: Adopting Your Mobility Management Solution

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) – An added layer of security that asks users to provide different types of information or “factors” to gain access to an account or application.


Identity Glossary O

OAuth 2.0 – OAuth is an open standard for allowing delegated access to user information in web applications. OAuth 2.0 is the second major revision to the standard, which completely overhauls the specification. As a result, it is not backwards compatible with OAuth 1.0.

Further Resources: OAuth 2.0
Demystifying OAuth

Okta Integration Network (OIN) – The Okta Integration Network is a directory of pre-built integrations with cloud, on-prem, and mobile applications that are linked with Okta’s suite of directory and identity tools. This enables features like Single Sign-On (SSO) and Lifecycle Management across a wide number of otherwise disparate applications, improving adoption, user onboarding, and security for both vendors and customers.

Further Resources: Okta Integration Network
Directories and Systems of Record
Okta + F5 Networks = Greater scale, reliability for Pitney Bowes’ global e-commerce platform
ServiceNow + Okta

OpenID Connect (OIDC) – OpenID Connect is a RESTful authentication system that uses OAuth 2.0 for authorisation. It uses JSON web tokens (JWTs) and effectively provides single sign-on across multiple applications.

Further Resources: Identity, Claims, & Tokens — An OpenID Connect Primer, Part 1 of 3 
OIDC in Action — An OpenID Connect Primer, Part 2 of 3
What’s in a Token? — An OpenID Connect Primer, Part 3 of 3
OAuth 2.0 and OpenID Connect


Identity Glossary P

Password sprawl – The state of having too many passwords, usually as a result of having multiple independent IAM systems.

Password Spray – A type of brute force password attack whereby a single common password (e.g.: password1) is tried in combination with many usernames, rather than the other way around. Many systems can detect a brute force attack against a single user and will lock the account after a number of failed attempts. By executing a brute force attack along a different axis, the attacker often goes unnoticed.

Further Resources: Best Practices: Password Management for the App Explosion
Moving Beyond User Name & Password

Passwordless Authentication – General term that applies to a range of techniques that allow a user to authenticate without the use of a password; effective passwordless systems decrease user friction but preserve — or even enhance — security.

Phishing – A type of socially engineered attack whereby a user is presented with a seemingly plausible and often mundane request, and is tricked into divulging their authentication credentials to a facade.

One common phishing attempt is an email that appears to be from the user’s IT department, claiming their account requires verification, with a link directing them to a lookalike website. When they log in to the fake website, their credentials are sent to the attacker, which the attacker can then use to impersonate the user on the real site. 

Further Resources: Password Management 
Moving Beyond User Name & Password
Build a Strategy for Password Management

Phishing-resistant authentication – Phishing-resistant authentication is designed to prevent attackers from bypassing MFA. Phishing-resistant authentication eliminates shared secrets, like passwords or security questions, and prevents users from entering credentials into fake domains that attackers set up.

Provisioning – The process of establishing an identity and associated access configuration in a software system. An example is when a new user signs up for a service, or a new employee begins at an organisation. Provisioning requires establishing a method for subsequent authentication (e.g. receiving user login credentials, choosing a password, etc.).

Further Resources: Provisioning and Deprovisioning
Okta Incident Response Guide

Public-Key Cryptography – An application of asymmetric cryptography, where one key is private and the other is public. Asymmetric cryptography means a message encrypted with one key can only be decrypted by the other. The public one is widely distributed, so that anyone wishing to send the owner of the private key a message can do so knowing that only the intended recipient will be able to decrypt it. 


Identity Glossary S

Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) – This is a standardised protocol used to integrate authentication and authorisation functions between multiple systems. It is most often used to gain single sign-on functionality between multiple applications from different vendors.

SAML implementations act as an “identity provider,” which handle authentication and authorisation on behalf of one or more applications.

Further Resources: Beginner's Guide to SAML

System for Cross-domain Identity Management (SCIM) – SCIM is a standard for modelling identity data through resources such as users and groups. It defines standard operations through a REST-based system for manipulating the resources as JSON objects.

Further Resources: What is SCIM?
SCIM: Provisioning with Okta’s Lifecycle Management

Secure Web Authentication (SWA) – A compatibility layer provided by Okta’s Single Sign-On product, allowing the integration of legacy applications that don’t support federated authentication and would not otherwise be able to take advantage of organisation-wide single sign-on. The feature stores a unique password for each application, and securely posts the credentials directly to the application’s authentication handler, resulting in a near-seamless SSO user experience.

Further Resources: Help Center: Overview of Adding Apps and SSO

Single Sign-On (SSO) – SSO enables a user to authenticate to multiple software systems with a single authentication session. A common business application of this is an employee enters their credentials once into a company SSO product and gains access to all their business apps without logging into each app separately. This is particularly helpful if the software systems are within the same organisation and managed by the same authority.

From the end user perspective, SSO removes the fatigue of logging in to multiple systems or remembering multiple account passwords.

Okta SSO also includes additional features such as self service password resets, AD and LDAP integration, customisable end user experience, and a central access policy engine.  

From the IT perspective, this enables faster, more secure deployment of business apps, while reducing help desk calls from tasks such as password resets.

Further Resources: Single Sign-On (SSO): A secure entry portal that gives your team exactly what they need


Identity Glossary T

Threat surface  – The different points where an unauthorized user can attempt to gain access into, and move within, an environment.

Time-Based One-Time Password (TOTP) – An algorithmically-generated code that is deterministic based on the current date and time and a secret “seed” value. The server knows the seed, and can easily verify that a given code is valid for the current time period. TOTP can significantly increase security because even if a code is intercepted, it is worthless after the time window has passed (usually less than a minute). This makes the logistics of an attack much more difficult.

TOTP can be implemented on a simple and inexpensive hardware device or on a smartphone. The seed is installed and is made difficult or impossible to recover or duplicate.

Token Authentication – A method of authenticating to an application using a signed cookie containing session state information. A more traditional authentication method is usually used to initially establish user identity, and then a token is generated for re-authentication when the user returns.

Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) – The combination of two out of the three authentication factor categories. Two-factor authentication is a subset of multi-factor authentication, and significantly increases security, because each authentication factor requires a different style of attack to compromise.

Further Resources: Two-Factor Authentication vs. Multi-Factor Authentication: What Are the Risks?
Adaptive Multi-factor Authentication Product Page


Identity Glossary U

Universal Directory – Universal Directory is the name of Okta’s complete, cloud-based directory service. It can act as the main directory to store and authenticate all users types from internal employees to external partners and contractors to even customers. It also can act as a meta-directory, integrating with an existing on-prem directory (such as Active Directory or LDAP) or any other app (such as an HRIS), giving companies a central place to manage all their users, groups, and devices.

Other Okta products can be tied together through Universal Directory, enabling more  advanced use cases. These products include Single Sign-On (SSO), Adaptive Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), and Lifecycle Management.

Further Resources: Tips to Better Leverage Your Active Directory
Using Universal Directory

Universal Authentication Frameworks (UAF) – UAF is an open standard developed by the FIDO Alliance with the goal of enabling a secure passwordless experience for primary authentication, as opposed to a second factor as described in U2F. Under the spec, the user presents a local biometric or PIN and is authenticated into the service. This protocol is not yet embedded in the major browsers, which has limited its adoption.

Universal 2nd Factor (U2F) – U2F is an open standard, whereby a hardware token device can attest the holder’s identity through a challenge and response protocol. The token device is connected via USB or NFC (near-field communication). 

It is the standard maintained by the FIDO Alliance and is supported by Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. 

Further Resources: Should You Choose U2F or Adaptive MFA?


Identity Glossary W

WebAuthn – An evolution of the FIDO U2F and UAF protocols. WebAuthn continues in the FIDO tradition of allowing for using credentials for step up authentication. However, it's biggest innovation is in enabling users to authenticate to services without necessarily needing the user to identify themselves first (through the use of a username and password combination).

Further Resources: WebAuthn: A Developer’s Guide to What’s on the Horizon


Identity Glossary Z

Zero Trust – Zero Trust is a security framework developed by Forrester Research in 2009 that encapsulates three core principles: least privileges, no implicit trust, and continuous monitoring. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) advocates that seven tenets must be satisfied for a Zero Trust framework: policy-driven authentication and authorization, integrity and security of assets, secure communication, access granted per session, access granted per resource, continuous monitoring, and a dynamic observable state.