Identity management and access control is the discipline of managing access to enterprise resources to keep systems and data secure. As a key component of your security architecture, it can help verify your users’ identities before granting them the right level of access to workplace systems and information. While people might use the terms identity management, authentication, and access control interchangeably, each of these individually serves as a distinct layer for enterprise security processes.
Identity Management, Authentication, and Access Control
So what is identity management? Identity management—also referred to as identity and access management (IAM)—is the overarching discipline for verifying a user’s identity and their level of access to a particular system. Within that scope, both authentication and access control—which regulates each user’s level of access to a given system—play vital roles in securing user data.
We interact with authentication mechanisms every day. When you enter a username and password, use a PIN, scan your fingerprint, or tap your bank card, your identity is being verified for authentication purposes. Once your identity is verified by the identity management system, access control is implemented to determine your level of access. This is important for applications and services that have different levels of authorisation for different users. Access control, for instance, will allow software administrators to add users or edit profiles while also barring lower-tier users from accessing certain features and information.
How to Mitigate Risk with Modern Identity Management and Access Control
According to Okta’s Business at Work 2019 report, nearly 40% of employees use the same two to four passwords to access over 100 apps on average. In the workplace, this means corporate IT administrators have their hands full managing user credentials for multiple systems. As organisations embrace cloud-based tools for a mix of on-prem and online services, IT admins have become responsible for securing access to many platforms with varying identity management and access control solutions. This can be challenging for IT teams, and can also lead to a frustrated user base that needs to stay on top of multiple logins.
Where IAM can be particularly effective is in supporting your IT team in tracking, monitoring, and controlling accounts that have access to sensitive data, while protecting that data with secure authentication solutions. As employees are often guilty of not using best practices for their passwords, admins should add layers of authentication protection, such as single sign-on, to prevent an unauthorised intrusion to their company’s systems.
By pairing SSO with adaptive multi-factor authentication (Adaptive MFA), administrators can protect their organisations from single-password related threats by having users provide additional factors during the authentication process. It also enables administrators to set conditional access that checks the user's device, location, and network, assigning a risk rating in real-time. With adaptive MFA, you can even configure a passwordless experience. Using their smartphone or physical token, users can access all their applications seamlessly through a single authentication experience, further reducing the risk posed by weak password practices. Implementing these tools and other key security measures, will protect and benefit both IT teams and employees alike.
IAM also requires effective lifecycle management, particularly as organisations continually see people enter, change, or leave their roles. In dealing with role changes, administrators need to either allow, modify, or revoke employees’ access to various applications in an effective way. By implementing a lifecycle management solution, companies can automate this task and help mitigate the risks associated with it. Implementing these tools and other key security measures, will protect and benefit both IT teams and employees alike.