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What Is IAM and Three IAM Solutions

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By: Nihad Hassan

November 22, 2021

Digital transformation is accelerating rapidly to include all our life aspects; businesses now utilize digital technology to conduct most of their work. Technology has become integrated into people's daily lives to a vast extent. For instance, people are using the internet to study, work and socialize. To protect their online accounts, they need to provide their login credentials, commonly in a username and password.

In the enterprise world, an employee will generally need to have more than one digital account. For example, the average employee will need at least two of them, an email and another, to access the organization's information system. Most employees will need to use more than this, especially with the rise of cloud computing and the increased workload shift to the cloud.

The continual increase in user’s digital accounts requires more efforts to protect them from cyberattacks. According to NordPass, The average internet user has around 100 passwords; this number has increased since the COVID19 pandemic and the increased usage of online services.

Protecting access to digital accounts requires a form of authentication to validate user identity. The most prominent method is providing a username and password; however, as technology advances, more sophisticated authentication schemes, such as biometric and 2FA, are utilized to protect against cyberattacks, such as social engineering and brute-force attacks.

A specialized solution or framework to manage users' digital identities was proposed, called Identity and Access Management (IAM). This article will shed light on the term IAM and mention the most prominent three IAM software solutions.

Defining IAM and its benefits

Identity Management (IdM), also known as Identity and Access Management (IAM), is a solution for controlling access to enterprise networks and other digital assets, such as data, files, systems, and applications. IAM will store all entity's credentials and ensure that only authorized users, systems, devices, or applications can access the protected resources. Itwill also ensure that authenticated entities have the required permission to access the right resources (known as authorization). For example, a user A from the marketing department can only access files belonging to its department and not to other departments, such as the financial department.

I have defined the IAM solution as a software product. However, IAM is a framework composed of organization policies, optimal business processes, and other security technologies. IT administrators use IAM to validate user’s identities and govern their access to enterprise-protected resources, in addition to managing them on a mass scale. The set of IT technologies used within the realm of IAM is broad. For instance, it mainly contains:

1. Password Manager– to store users’ credentials securely. 2. Single Sign-On (SSO)– allows accessing all organization’s accounts and applications using a single credential. 3. Two-factor authentication (2FA) & Multi-factor authentication (MFA)– Most IMA solutions provide 2FA and MFA to strengthen user authentication. A user needs to provide two or more authentication factors to access the protected resources (e.g. a password and biometric info such as a fingerprint, or a one-time password sent to the user's smartphone and a typical password entered). 4. Privilege access management– is a set of tools for managing user access permission across organization networks and systems.

IAM solutions can be deployed using any of the following settings:

  1. On-premise
  2. As a cloud-based service via a trusted third-party provider (also known as Identity as a Service (IDaaS)
  3. Or as a hybrid model

Deploying an IAM solution will bring the following benefits to your organization

1. Fight insiders threats: In recent years, an increased number of data breaches have occurred. According to idwatchdog, 60% of data breaches are caused by insider threats.

2. Eliminate using weak and default passwords: IAM solutions can be configured to enforce users to utilize complex passwords and renew them regularly. Nevertheless, according to Verizon Data Breach Investigations, 81% of all data breaches are caused by weak passwords.

3. Enforce implementing MFA: Deploying an IAM solution allows organizations to enforce MFA authentication, strengthening their authentication scheme.

Top Three IAM solutions

JumpCloud

JumpCloud is a cloud-based solution for managing user identities, devices, and access using a single platform. JumpCloud provides the following principal functions:

1. Unified Identity: Can connect all organization IT resources (IoT devices, servers, endpoint devices, applications, networks, and any cloud IT infrastructure) to a single dashboard. It can integrate with other directory services such as G Suite, Active Directory, HR systems.

2. User management: Provide a single sign-on functionality to access all protected resources using a single identity and credential.

3. MFA: A user can use more than two authentication factors for increased security when accessing networks, applications, and other protected resources.

4. OS support: Can manage devices with different operating systems, such as Windows, Linux, and Mac OS.

5. Policy enforcement: Automate policy enforcement and reporting on all devices on a large scale.

6. Enforce zero trust security: Only trusted devices can gain access to the protected area.

Okta Single Sign-On

Okta is another cloud-based single sign-on solution that can integrate with an organization’s current directory and other identity systems. It has the following features:

1. User auditing: Okta monitors all users accessing your IT systems, whether on-premise or in the cloud, and provides automatic reporting on all users' activities across the IT environment. Its reports can be shared with your current SIEM solution to have a comprehensive view of all user's activities, reducing your time with auditing reports for regulatory compliance.

2. Single credential: is used to access all systems across your IT environment.

3. Universal directory: Most organizations have more than one identity source; hence, there are identities for employees, contractors, sub-contractors, and other third-party vendors. Okta allows integrating all these sources and managing them from a single solution. This minimizes the IT administration time, makes them more efficient, and enhances security.

4. Centralized user management: Manage user identities on a large scale.

5. Enhance security: By providing a central policy engine, each user is assigned a specific policy based on the current context, such as user location, IP, device, group membership, and more.

OpenIAM

The third IAM that we are going to talk about is a cost-effective IAM solution. OpenIAM is a popular IAM solution that comes with rich features:

  1. It can be deployed either on-premise or in the cloud.
  2. Easy to install, and you can begin using it in minutes.
  3. A mature solution, OpenIAM is already running on major enterprises worldwide for a long time with excellent performance.
  4. The low total cost of ownership because OpenIAM uses widely accepted components such as Groovy script, GRAILS, Activiti, and PowerShell. With the OpenIAM solution, it is easy to hire technicians compared with other commercial tools.
  5. Easy to use and manage using a single console.
  6. Low license costs compared with other IAM solutions.

Summary

IMA solutions become an integrated component for any organization that wants to utilize digital technology and safely manage its user’s identities. For instance, having a central location for managing them and tracking their login becomes critical to prevent most data breaches.

Some IT managers still think that IAM solutions are developed for large enterprises; however, this is inaccurate. Organizations of all sizes and across all industries can utilize an IAM solution. Furthermore, if housing an IAM solution on-premise is not an option, using an IDaaS service from a trusted provider remains a cost-effective solution.

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