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Identity Access Management – IAM


Identity Access Management refers to the process by which access to technology resources and services is granted or denied. It’s crucial to information security and ensures that only authorized users can access specific resources, applications, or data.  

Identity and Access Management has become even more crucial in modern IT environments due to the rise in cybersecurity threats and the increased regulatory scrutiny organizations face.

Properly implemented identity access management ensures that resources are only available to those with the proper authorization, thus safeguarding critical data and systems.  

IAM builds on a core of Access Control components into an overarching capability. Here are the key elements of an IAM system:

Identification

This is the initial step where a user claims an identity (e.g., username) within the system. It is the process of recognizing a user by specific information that uniquely distinguishes them from others.

Authentication

Once identification is established, authentication is the process of verifying the claimed identity. This is typically done through passwords, biometric data, security tokens, or a combination of these methods (multi-factor authentication, MFA). Authentication ensures that the individual is who they claim to be.

Authorization

After a user is authenticated, the authorization process determines which resources the user can access and what actions they can perform (e.g., read, write, delete). Authorization is governed by policies and rules set by the organization, often relying on the user’s role (role-based access control, RBAC) or attributes (attribute-based access control, ABAC).

User Management

This involves creating, maintaining, and removing user accounts and their access rights within the system. User management handles the lifecycle of user identities, from onboarding new users and managing their access rights throughout their tenure to offboarding them when access is no longer required.

Access Management

Closely related to authorization, access management controls the access to systems and resources. It includes mechanisms to enforce security policies that dictate who can access what resources, under what conditions, and how access can be securely managed and monitored.

Directory Services

Directory services provide a central repository to store and manage information about users, including their identity information, roles, and access privileges. Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) and Microsoft’s Active Directory are common examples.

Audit and Reporting

IAM systems also include auditing and reporting capabilities to analyze and ensure compliance with internal policies and external regulations. These features track and log user activities, access changes, and system modifications, providing transparency and accountability for security audits and forensic analysis.

Conclusion

Together, these components work in concert to protect the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of sensitive information and systems. IAM systems help organizations mitigate risks, comply with regulatory requirements, and streamline IT processes by effectively managing identities and access rights.

Identity & Access Management (IAM) – 3 mins  

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