These days, most businesses take cybersecurity seriously. They are aware of the consequences of sloppy cybersecurity: a devastating data breach; a drop in customer confidence; damage to the brand. However, taking cybersecurity seriously is just the first step. Taking action is the second. Identity and Access Management (IAM) is a key component of strong cybersecurity policies that will protect your company from devastating consequences.
What is IAM?
Identity and Access Management protects valuable company data by assigning different levels of access to it, based on a carefully defined hierarchy. A good IAM implementation identifies users and grants them access to only the appropriate information, according to predefined internal approvals. Access levels can be quite complex, because so many parties—internal and external—have legitimate claims to access which must be carefully limited, to prevent unauthorized users from getting into areas they should be barred from.
In many industries, IAM is required.
Protection of sensitive data is so important that regulatory agencies enforce compliance through a formal auditing process. Even in industries where IAM is not legally required, companies often face compelling motives to implement a strong IAM system. For example, in many industries IAM is a required must to earn accreditation and membership in trade groups.
Why IAM is a really good idea.
Properly implemented, IAM policies and technologies efficiently automate access permissions. Automation reduces risk and saves time. A good IAM framework makes it easier to enforce user authentication and privileges, which prevents “privilege creep” that can create security vulnerabilities. Also, with so many regulations to follow, an IAM system helps companies stay compliant. In the case of an audit, the system enables companies to respond to requests for data.
Good IAM provides a competitive edge.
Companies with strong IAM systems can grant (limited, defined) access to users outside the organization—customers, partners, vendors—via mobile apps, software-as-a-service apps, and other channels, without compromising security. This allows easier collaboration, increased efficiency and enhanced productivity.
A guide to IAM implementation for small to medium-sized businesses.
Defining and implementing access levels can get complicated, and many small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) struggle to devote the necessary resources (and time) to do a thorough job. Their internal IT teams are typically booked solid into the next decade.
ELEMENTS TO CONSIDER
Employees who use both company equipment and their own. An effective IAM strategy defines a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, and keeps track of all devices, including their storage and transmission capabilities.
Employees who work remotely. This trend has recently skyrocketed. A complete cybersecurity plan must keep track of employees and their access, wherever they are working.
Multiple information access points. Wherever they are, your IAM plan must keep track of them and make sure they are properly secured.
Encryption for cloud computing. Cloud migration is another trend that has exploded in the past few years. With data flying back and forth from devices to the cloud, ironclad encryption is crucial.
Where to go for IAM guidance and tools.
Most companies don’t have the resources to develop their own tools—which is fine, because dedicated IAM providers are likely to do it better anyway. Available products include various cloud-enabled models, including Identity as a Service, hybrid cloud, and the microservice model.
Like to know more about current IAM technology and best practices?
For today’s businesses, cybersecurity has to be a topic that stays top-of-mind, and investment in data security is less a choice and more a necessity in today’s digitally-driven global marketplace. Organizations that are unable to properly secure their data go one of two ways – either forced out of business due to inability to keep up with competition or swallowed up by competitors, or fall prey to data breaches – whether criminal or unintentional – which erode client trust and legitimacy as a sound player in the market. Sadly, the most common culprit of data breaches has come from inside company ranks, with insider misuse or accidental data breach taking top spot for the cause of failures in data security. Given this human access-basis for data breaches, one of the key ways you can mitigate leaks of this sort is with sound and effective Identity and Access Management (IAM).
Identity and Access Management (IAM) governs the proper handling and use of information by identifying users (both internal employees and external customers or vendors) and verifying their identities so that each can access only the appropriate information according to need and internal approval. As you might expect, regulating information access of your “friendlies” inside your company carries with it all the headaches and complexities that come with clearance – variances across personnel to some but not all access levels, etc. It tends to be far more complex than the much simplified access levels typically setup for external parties.
IAM is not just smart practice – in many industries a sound IAM system is a requirement. In many industries, compliance and regulatory policies legally require companies to have regularly audited IAM systems in place in order to meet industry compliance standards. In other industries, inter-organizational accreditation and key commerce-related memberships require a minimum level of data security often accomplished by having a baseline IAM system in place.
Planning and developing a credible and effective IAM strategy can be very difficult especially for small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) since the overhead and complexities involved with establishing an IAM system often exceed the bandwidth and capabilities of internal IT teams. In addition, the following elements make accomplishing the setup and management of an IAM system even more challenging:
There are four steps that your company can follow when it’s time implement an IAM system.
If businesses keep pace with current trends, most will have fully converted to the cloud within the decade. Identity and Access Management for cloud services will require the same oversight and attention as traditional systems. Organizations have the option of employing advanced access management tools such as Identity-as-a-Service (IDaaS) solutions that will keep up with your users’ passwords, permissions and access levels across all connected systems. IDaaS providers can save your company a good bit of time and trouble managing user identities, with added bonuses of reduced capital and overhead expenditures, leading to lower operational costs.
There are three qualities an IAM solution must possess to ensure that it can provide the maximum benefit to your organization.
Identity and Access Management, just like any business process that leads to better cybersecurity, should be made a priority consideration but should also be approached planfully to ensure IAM onboarding and roll-out is seamless and painless. If you have any questions regarding IAM systems, whether it might be time for your company to setup an IAM, or have any other technology or tech-biz questions, we’re here to help. Just click the button below to submit a question or request, and we’ll get right back to you with an answer.