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Why is identity and access management important?

In some of our recent posts, we have talked extensively about identity and access management – what it is and why it offers an important IT security layer as well as understanding the difference between identity management and access management

But why is identity and access management so important? 

In this post, we are going to take a deeper dive into the importance of IAM systems, both in terms of the control and automation they allow, as well as some of the cost saving benefits of an IAM system which can help to reduce the risks for businesses. 

First up, however, is a quick recap on identity and access management systems and what they are. 

What is Identity Access Management? 

Identity and access management (IAM) is a collective term that covers products, processes, and policies used to manage user identities and regulate user access within an organisation. 

Those users could be employees or customers, but regardless, the goal of an IAM system is to create one digital identity per individual that can then be managed, modified, and monitored throughout each user’s ‘access lifecycle’. 

IAM systems are designed to perform three key tasks. These include: 

  1. Identify 
  1. Authenticate 
  1. Authorise 

Put simply, an IAM system should ensure that only the right people have access to the networks, computers, hardware, software, and IT resources they require to carry out their role. 

Authenticating user access with IAM 

With IAM, enterprises can implement a range of digital authentication methods to prove digital identity and authorise access to corporate resources. These include: 

  • Unique passwords 
  • Pre-shared key (PSK) 
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) 
  • Biometrics 
  • Behavioural 

All these authentication methods allow for single sign-on (SSO) that permits a user to use one set of login credentials to gain access to multiple systems and applications. This way, users do not need to provide their credentials multiple times when they switch between systems. Based on a user’s profile and role definition, once they are logged into a system, they are only given the access allowed to them. 

One of the key elements of an IAM system is the ability to audit user actions and their access for compliance or investigatory purposes. 

Why is identity and access management important? 

An IAM system brings many benefits to businesses, not least the additional layer of IT security that an identity and access management system brings. Being able to track employee activity provides assurances to businesses and helps them to keep track of employee activity. 

Having the ability to know that only certain employees can view programs and applications strengthens both security and operational programmes for an organisation. Parameters can also be set in the system to detect any suspicious user activity, communication, or issues that might otherwise go undetected. 

Managing your staff 

In medium and larger enterprises, managing user information can quickly become a complex issue, especially without a proper control system in place.  

IAM helps protect against security incidents by allowing administrators to automate numerous user account related tasks. This includes the ability to have automated workflow for on-boarding of employees, granting access to systems and applications they are authorised access to, based on their role. It also includes “one button” control to remove employee access from all systems they were granted access to through the IAM platform. 

IAM systems are essential when dealing with a large number of outside agencies requiring access to your systems and databases. The ability to grant access to specific areas of an IT system is an essential security layer and allows IT managers absolute control over who has access to what areas. Time limitations can be placed on access to the system, avoiding potential issues with unauthorised access once a contract job has ended. 

Saving costs 

IAM solutions help businesses to save costs in the long run. Although the upfront costs can be significant, especially if switching to a biometric or behavioural authentication operated system, the cost of implementing an IAM system will often be far outweighed by the benefits and in the long run, deliver a positive ROI. 

Costs savings can be found across different areas of the business including: 

  • IAM solutions help organisations meet industry compliance requirements and help them save costs by minimising the time needed to deal with user account related issues. 
  • Identity management can decrease the number of help-desk calls to IT support teams regarding password resets. 
  • By providing greater access to outsiders, you can drive collaboration throughout your organisation, enhancing productivity, employee satisfaction, research, and development, and, ultimately, revenue. 
  • Identity and access management standardises and even automates critical aspects of managing identities, authentication, and authorisation, saving time and money while reducing risk to the business. 

Security 

IAM is critical to protecting sensitive enterprise systems, assets, and information from unauthorised access or use. An end-to-end IAM implementation will reduce the likelihood and impact of data breaches, and ensure that only legitimate, authenticated users have access.  

IAM is crucial to protect the following areas by only allowing authorised access: 

  • Data and information  
  • Software and applications  
  • Development, testing, staging, and operational platforms.  
  • Devices  
  • Locations  
  • Integrations 

By implementing a robust IAM system, you can mitigate against these risks. An IAM means you can put in place more robust policies around user access and management, all of which can tie back to your cybersecurity framework. 

Summary 

IAM systems offer significant benefits to business and for many, have become a crucial element to manage access to IT systems.  

The security factor is one of the most important elements of an IAM system and the systems have developed to cope with the increasing demands of access and authentication to key IT systems within a business. 

Most organisations need to give access to users outside of the business to internal systems. Opening your network to customers, partners, suppliers, contractors, and of course, employees can increase efficiency and lower operating costs. 

When determining whether an IAM system is right for you, make sure you establish your business requirements by carrying out a full audit followed by the creation of a policy that outlines the roles and access requirements of all individuals connected with your business. For further information, get in touch with one of the team today and visit some of our other posts for more information: 

What is identity and access management and why is it an important IT security layer? 

What is the difference between identity management and access management? 

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