Digital transformation technology strategy, digitization and digitalization of business processes and data, optimize and automate operations, customer service management, internet and cloud computing

Why businesses need identity and access management

In today’s digital age, businesses heavily depend on technology to simplify operations, increase efficiency and enhance customer experiences. 

However, with advancement in technology comes unprecedented opportunities for malicious actors and cybercriminals to exploit security vulnerabilities for financial gain, steal confidential information and inflict costly brand damage to a business. As cyber threats and data breaches increase in intensity, it’s essential for businesses to prioritise the security of their digital assets.

What is identity and access management? 

Identity access management (IAM) is an area of cybersecurity that manages user identities and access permissions on a computer network. Systems used for IAM include single sign-on systems, two-factor authentication, multi-factor authentication and privileged access management.  

While IAM policies, processes, and technologies differ between companies, any IAM framework aims to ensure that the right users and devices can access the right resources for the right reasons and at the right time.

What are the benefits of identity and access management?

Enhanced security

One of the primary reasons why businesses need IAM is to protect their valuable data from unauthorised access. With the increasing sophistication of cyber-attacks, traditional security measures such as passwords and firewalls are no longer sufficient by themselves.

IAM provides businesses with a comprehensive framework to manage user identities, enforce strong authentication methods, and control critical systems and data access. By implementing identity and access management solutions, companies can significantly reduce the risk of data breaches and protect their reputation.

Improves regulatory compliance

Sectors such as healthcare, finance, and government have strict regulations regarding the handling and storing of sensitive information. Businesses can avoid significant fines and legal consequences by demonstrating compliance. 

IAM is crucial in ensuring compliance with industry regulations and data protection laws, while ensuring businesses meet these compliance requirements by providing robust access controls, audit trails and user provisioning/deprovisioning processes. 

Simplified operations

IAM enhances operational efficiency by simplifying user management processes. With a centralised IAM system, businesses can automate user provisioning, password resets, and access requests, reducing the burden on IT departments. Automation saves time and resources and improves user experience by providing seamless access to resources across different platforms and devices.

Adopt emerging technologies

IAM enables businesses to securely adopt emerging technologies like cloud computing and mobile applications. As businesses increasingly rely on cloud-based services and mobile devices, managing user identities and access becomes more complex. An IAM framework provides businesses the tools to securely authenticate users, manage their access privileges, and enforce security policies across various platforms and devices.

Why do we need identity and access Management?

When the EU passed the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018, companies worldwide scrambled to prepare for the new era of cybersecurity compliance. IAM is one of the most critical components of any organisation’s security and a prominent aspect of GDPR. Furthermore, the traditional approach to IAM was no longer adequate to handle a mobile workforce, cloud-based networks and applications and a distributed workforce at scale. Therefore, regardless of whether a business operates in the EU, a modern and robust IAM system is required to safeguard a business’s critical assets.

All businesses have security needs, but here are six key features for an identity and access management system fit for the 21st century.

User Provisioning/deprovisioning. Creating and managing user accounts are the cornerstone of any IAM system. IAM enables businesses to automate the process of creating and managing user accounts, which includes:

  • creating new accounts
  • assigning roles and access privileges
  • deactivating or deleting accounts(deprovisioning).

User provisioning and deprovisioning helps streamline the onboarding and offboarding processes, ensuring users have the appropriate access rights to resources based on their roles and responsibilities. 

Authentication and Single Sign-On (SSO). Whenever a user logs in to a new application, it’s an opportunity for hackers. IAM provides authentication mechanisms to verify users’ identity, which include traditional methods such as username and password and more advanced methods like multi-factor authentication (MFA) or biometric authentication. IAM also supports single sign-on, allowing users to access multiple applications and systems with a single set of credentials, improving user experience and reducing the need for multiple passwords.

Access Control. It’s vital that the right employees can access the data they need and have the correct security clearances for the job they perform. With an IAM framework in place, businesses can enforce access controls based on user roles and permissions and ensure that users only have access to the resources they need to perform their job functions, reducing the risk of unauthorised access. Importantly, access control can be granular, allowing businesses to define specific permissions for different resources or groups of users.

Identity Lifecycle Management. A strong approach to identity lifecycle management is essential to keeping an organisation running smoothly and its data and systems secure. IAM helps manage the entire lifecycle of user identities, from creation to retirement, which includes:

  • user registration
  • account activation
  • password resets
  • account deactivation.

Additionally, IAM provides self-service capabilities that enable users to manage their profiles and passwords, reducing IT department workloads.

Auditing and Reporting. Proactively tracking how data is used can help detect anomalies before they become catastrophes. IAM generates audit logs and reports to track user activities and access events. Audit logs and reporting help businesses monitor and analyse user behaviour, detect suspicious activities, and ensure compliance with regulations. Furthermore, auditing and reporting capabilities provide visibility into who accessed what resources and support businesses in identifying and mitigating security risks.

Integration and Federation. IAM integration and federation are essential for managing access and identity across multiple cloud platforms and applications. IAM can integrate with other systems and applications, allowing businesses to centralise user management and access control. In addition, IAM supports federation protocols such as Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) or OAuth, enabling users to access resources across different domains or organisations without needing multiple login credentials.

Increase cybersecurity resilience to protect your organisation’s assets

Want to learn how to handle different types of cyber-attacks and get the most out of security systems?

Develop expertise across a wide range of core cybersecurity topics and gain an in-depth understanding of the broader computer science field with the University of York’s online MSc Computer Science with Cybersecurity programme.

Our programme has been developed for career-changers considering moving into the exciting computer science industry – no prior knowledge of computing is required. You’ll explore topics such as database management, network infrastructure, data science, programming, software engineering, artificial intelligence and computer architecture, and specialist cybersecurity and information security subjects. 

You’ll also gain key skills and knowledge to safeguard against cyber threats, including cryptography, threat intelligence, risk management, and application and network security.