The Importance of Centralized Identity Management

Personal data is everywhere—whether that’s carefully segregated email addresses for newsletter signups and promo codes or a social security number handed out like gold to trusted partners.

Given how many organizations handle sensitive data on a daily basis, security hygiene is paramount—for both individuals and organizations. And the first and most important step in reliable security hygiene for businesses? Consolidation of information via a centralized identity management system.

Centralized vs. decentralized identity management

With the rise of blockchain technology, decentralization has become a buzzword. But what are the actual differences between centralized and decentralized (sometimes called distributed) identity and access management (IAM)?

  • Centralized identity management means IAM all happens in one environment. In a workplace setting, this looks like the user signing into a single workspace to access all the applications and tools they need.
  • Decentralized identity management means IAM is spread out across multiple environments. In this instance, a user would sign into a single workspace, then continue on to sign in to each individual application and tool separately. 

Proponents of decentralized identity argue for tighter security

Because each application has its own sign-in, proponents of decentralization argue it brings a greater level of security. However, high friction sign-ons create security fatigue, and trusting users to keep up-to-date on best security practices across an organization is unrealistic. 

There is hope that blockchain will be used to simplify this process with an identity trust fabric and identity wallet software; however, this technology is still in its infancy.

Benefits of a centralized identity management system

An intelligent centralized IAM system is a gamechanger; not only from a security perspective, but also a cost-savings one.

Quick deployment in response to threats

Security breaches are embarrassing and costly. Just look at the 2017 Equifax network hack, which resulted in the company being hit with the UK’s maximum penalty. A centralized ID management system empowers teams with visibility so they can detect and respond to threats swiftly and efficiently, saving companies face and budget.

Automated lifecycle management and unified profiles

Say goodbye to tediously granting and revoking user permissions on a case-by-case basis. With centralized ID and access management, provisioning and deprovisioning all happens in one place, while unified profiles provide real-time visibility into exactly which users have access to what (and how much access). It’s easier to create reports on individual users, teams, and applications. As a result, IT can stay on top of stale and outdated accounts and conduct thorough audits in a fraction of the time. 

Ease of single sign-on

As users sign up for more and more services, they’re forced to create and remember more passwords. As a result, users tend to reuse the same password across multiple platforms, or choose easy-to-remember passwords which can be easily compromised. Single sign-on removes this burden by allowing users to create a single, secure password to access all of their applications and assets. Not only is it a better user experience, it also encourages better security hygiene, so it’s a win-win for your organization. 

Lack of bottlenecks

In many organizations, IT ends up being a bottleneck. Whether it’s reducing the time it takes to onboard a new employee or empowering individual users with password reset flows, a centralized ID management system helps reduce IT workload and intervention, thereby reducing bottlenecks.

Power up with intelligent centralized identity management

One downside of centralized identity management is that it results in a single point of failure. If a user’s credentials are exploited, the attacker gains access to everything that user has access to. 

Fortunately, you can mitigate that risk by choosing a provider that is built to protect against even the most sophisticated threats. When considering options for centralized IAM systems, look for the ability to layer on multi-factor authentication, as well as real-time threat detection. Logins are protected at the source, and security is taken out of the hands of the user and put into the hands of experts.

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Interested in leveraging Okta for sophisticated and centralized identity and access management?