Organizations are moving faster than ever; shifts in work environments, the adoption of hundreds of SaaS apps and cloud services, and the growing sprawl of devices and users have made organizations' cybersecurity environments complex. While managing access and authorization of data was a lot simpler using tools like Active Directory 20 years ago, today, IT teams are not only dealing with the intricacies of on-premise solutions but SaaS software and cloud services synchronously – so understanding who has access to what has gotten a lot more complicated, to say the least.
That’s why, over the next few weeks, we’ll begin to explore the many challenges and approaches to identity management and why the race to win identity management may be closer than ever in our ‘Solving the Identity Management Challenge’ series. To kick it off, we’ll be exploring the world of Identity Access Management (IAM) and Identity Governance and Administration (IGA).
What is Identity Access Management (IAM) and Identity Governance and Administration (IGA)?
Gartner defines IAM as a security and business discipline that includes multiple technologies and business processes to help the right people or machines access the right assets at the right time for the right reasons while keeping unauthorized access and fraud at bay. Similarly, IGA, according to Gartner, is defined as the enterprise solution to manage the digital identity life cycle and govern user access across on-premise and cloud environments.
If that sounds like a mouthful, you're right, and for good reason. IAM and IGA have been a challenge for IT and security teams since the 1980s. But, IAM and IGA remain one of the most crucial components in an organization’s cybersecurity tech stack, according to over 44% of the Gartner Peer Community. And, with identity management increasingly becoming a core component of cybersecurity regulation, companies worldwide are working to tackle it using several approaches to simplify IAM and IGA.
The Identity Challenge
While the initial identity players were built to help organizations manage simpler and smaller corporate environments, those environments no longer exist. Today, thousands of identities are attributed to a much larger workforce, an explosion of devices, and the adoption of SaaS and cloud services – tasking IT teams with overseeing massive amounts of identities that no single solution can provide insight into.
And though SaaS and cloud-based solutions have been beneficial for workplace productivity and efficiency, they've also produced new avenues of entry into an organization's private data and information. In fact, nearly half (49%) of breaches in 2022 derived from stolen credentials.
The rise of new devices and applications has created a shift away from the "perimeter-first" approach to an "identity-first" security approach, which underscores strong authentication and least privilege access, rather than relying on firewalls and other perimeter-based solutions.
Four fundamental elements of an ‘identity-first’ approach or identity management, seeks to validate a user's identity and access rights: authentication, authorization, and audits – commonly referred to as the four A's.
- Administration: "What access do you have?" This component understands the user's specific access rights (or is requesting) and creates the appropriate accounts and permissions they need to do their job.
- Authentication: "Who are you?" Here, a user begins to verify their identity by providing their credentials or login to confirm their identity. As companies seek a robust security posture, multi-factor authentication and single sign-on solutions have helped improve security measures to authenticate identities.
- Authorization: "What are you allowed to access?" Authorization determines and grants the level of access a user has.
- Audits: "Is everything correct?" Auditing is crucial in keeping track of user access logs and has become essential to supporting growing compliance with regulations.
Identity Management Obstacles
The many components of validating identity and access make identity management difficult in and of itself. While different organizations struggle with various identity challenges, a few of the most common identity management obstacles include:
- Lack of a centralized view of devices and users: A centralized view and inventory of every user, device, and application across an organization's digital infrastructure can help IT and security teams view and monitor privilege control while also automatically enforcing policies to revoke permissions for terminated employees or those who no longer need access.
- Password fatigue: Maintaining strong credentials is critical to preventing cyber criminals from entering an organization's front door. But, between the hundreds of SaaS apps and cloud services used daily – keeping up with the numerous passwords can create friction and exhaustion.
- User lifecycle management: Change is inevitable in every organization, but as organizations increase to enterprise levels, user lifecycles churn at faster rates. From onboarding provisioning and shifts in roles to deprovisioning for user offboarding – a user's access varies across their organizational tenure, creating increased complexity for IT and security teams managing thousands of identities.
- Slow provisioning processes: Providing users with the right level of access when needed is essential to keeping operations running smoothly, but provisioning can be a manual and tedious process, which can cause delays or create security risks.
Solving the Identity Management Complexity
As the corporate security environment only increases in complexity, the need for a singular comprehensive identity management solution is imperative. Though there are multiple tools designed to help manage different identity components, to solve the complexity challenge, it’s crucial to have complete, cohesive, and actionable visibility into any application and any identity. This includes in-app permissions, roles, and entitlements across multiple applications. Furthermore, solutions will need to empower access management with resource-level visibility and control over user identities and access rights to help users gain valuable insights into permissions utilization.
Identity management is a critical security element, and its evolution is essential to understanding the solution. Next, in our ‘Solving the Identity Management Challenge’ series, we'll explore identity management in the cloud.