Implementing identity and access management and associated best practices can give you a significant competitive advantage in several ways. Nowadays, most businesses need to give users outside the organization access to internal systems. Opening your network to customers, partners, suppliers, contractors and, of course, employees can increase efficiency and lower operating costs.
Identity management systems can allow a company to extend access to its information systems across a variety of on-premises applications, mobile apps, and SaaS tools without compromising security. By providing greater access to outsiders, you can drive collaboration throughout your organization, enhancing productivity, employee satisfaction, research and development, and, ultimately, revenue.
Identity management can decrease the number of help-desk calls to IT support teams regarding password resets. Identity management systems allow administrators to automate these and other time-consuming, costly tasks.
An identity management system can be a cornerstone of a secure network, because managing user identity is an essential piece of the access-control picture. An identity management system all but requires companies to define their access policies, specifically outlining who has access to which data resources and under which conditions they have access.
Consequently, well-managed identities mean greater control of user access, which translates into a reduced risk of internal and external breaches. This is important because, along with the rising threats of external threats, internal attacks are all too frequent. Approximately 60 percent of all data breaches are caused by an organization’s own employees, according to IBM’s 2016 Cyber Security Intelligence Index. Of those, 75 percent were malicious in intent; 25 percent were accidental.
As mentioned previously, IAM system can bolster regulatory compliance by providing the tools to implement comprehensive security, audit and access policies. Many systems now provide features designed to ensure that an organization is in compliance.
How do IAM systems work?
In years past, a typical identity management system comprised four basic elements: a directory of the personal data the system uses to define individual users (think of it as an identity repository); a set of tools for adding, modifying and deleting that data (related to access lifecycle management); a system that regulates user access (enforcement of security policies and access privileges); and an auditing and reporting system (to verify what’s happening on your system).
Regulating user access has traditionally involved a number of authentication methods for verifying the identity of a user, including passwords, digital certificates, tokens and smart cards. Hardware tokens and credit-card-sized smart cards served as one component in two-factor authentication, which combines something you know (your password) with something you have (the token or the card) to verify your identity. A smart card carries an embedded integrated circuit chip that can be either a secure microcontroller or equivalent intelligence with internal memory or a memory chip alone. Software tokens, which can exist on any device with storage capability, from a USB drive to a cell phone, emerged in 2005.
In today’s complex compute environments, along with heightened security threats, a strong user name and password doesn’t cut it anymore. Today, identity management systems often incorporate elements of biometrics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, and risk-based authentication.
At the user level, recent user authentication methods are helping to better protect identities. For example, the popularity of Touch ID-enabled iPhones has familiarized many people with using their fingerprints as an authentication method. Newer Windows 10 computers offer fingerprint sensors or iris scanning for biometric user authentication. The next iPhone, due out later this year, is rumored to include iris scanning or facial recognition to authenticate users instead of fingerprint scanning.
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