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What is IAM Architecture?

What is the best way to give access to your resources without exposing your organization to the inherent risks involved? A solid IAM architecture is the foundation to an ironclad security solution for access management. Every week there are major cybersecurity breaches reported in the news. The number of significant incidents rises every year, and cyber warfare is one of the most grievous threats we face in modern times. It is now more important than ever to protect your organization’s information with a failsafe IAM solution.

When we think about identity security, we often think about protecting our customers’ private information, so we don’t lose their trust and comply with federal regulations. These are fundamental reasons to invest in a solid security solution. But there is even more at stake—we have all witnessed the devastation to a company that has had a major security breach—it can take a company under.

So before we dig any deeper, we should outline the separate components that make up an effective IAM architecture:

  • User access lifecycle and access governance
  • Single Sign-on (SSO)
  • Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)
  • Network Access Control (NAC)
  • Privileged Account Management (PAM)

These security components are in their own regard effective strategies to enhancing a security posture. When brought together, these security components build an effective and modernized IAM architecture that can help keep organizations protected and enforces advanced access control parameters. Let’s dedicate some time to address each component that makes up an effective security model.

Access lifecycle and access governance
Building an effective IAM architecture is dependent on the access and management of digital identity. A digital identity is a concept that defines an entity – such as people, organizations, applications, or devices – allowing management of how these digital identities interact with computing resources such as applications or operating systems. Now, with digital identity defined, lifecycle dictates the policies and processes that define how digital identities operate within an organization. Further governance provides policies that dictate what digital identities have access to insuring reliability in how digital identities interact in the given environment.

Single Sign-On (SSO)
Single Sign-On is a session and user authentication service that allows a user to log in to a single platform (with a single set of login credentials) and access a variety of different services or applications that are accessible via this single platform. The major benefit here in implementing an SSO solution as part of an effective IAM architecture is that it reduces the number of credentials a user must manage to gain access to various services within an organization.

Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)
Multi-factor authentication is a security authentication solution that requires a user to validate their log-in through multiple authentication channels. For example, when a user first logs onto a single sign-on platform they may be instructed to validate their login request by responding to an SMS text message or approve the log-in via an authentication application on their phone. This added layer of authentication security allows organizations to reduce their risk posture and increase the likelihood that the user logging on is indeed the verified employee rather than a malicious user.

Network Access Control (NAC)
Network access control is a security policy put in place at the network layer to control how devices gain access to a protected network. This NAC policy can deny non-authenticated devices from accessing a protected network and also control access to certain segments of the network that are reserved for certain authorized users.

Privileged Account Management (PAM)
Privileged account management (PAM) is one of the 5 key components of an effective IAM architecture that addresses the protection of privileged accounts in an organization. These privileged accounts could be any digital entity on the network including network-connected devices, virtual machines, operating systems, databases, and applications. Typically, these privileged accounts can be thought of as super users that are tasked with building the IT infrastructure and IAM architecture.

Why Do Organizations Need More Effective Identify Access Management?

Identity Access Management is the screening of users or entities attempting to gain access so that only the entities that are both authenticated and authorized can gain access. Your IAM solution is crucial in preventing bad actors from breaching your organization. Authentication is proving that a person (or entity) is who they say they are. Authorization is a check on what access has been given to the authenticated entity. An entity can be an individual, account, or computer application. Think of it as authorization to access a restricted area.

Many organizations use roles for defining what access is allowed. For example, there can be a read-only role, a read and write role, and an administrative role. The administrative role might set up new access permissions and access the monitoring logs. When discussing authorization, it’s always important to note authorization that the rule of least privilege should always be used. The best practice is to give the minimal amount of access necessary.

Why Do Organizations Struggle with IAM Development?

Configuring the architecture, policies, authentication, and authorization is a complex human-resource-intensive endeavor. If you don’t want to reinvent the wheel, or you don’t want to risk getting it wrong, you should consider leveraging a trusted partner to help in this process. What’s become apparent is that oftentimes organizations attempt to build their own IAM architecture and in doing so turn that straightforward IAM deployment into a yearlong process. This is where organizations can fall into trouble. Carrying the weight of developing an effective IAM architecture internally that influences the overall security posture of one’s organization can either cause continual procrastination around tackling the project or extend the development process greatly.

Next Steps

As organizations look to build out effective IAM architectures, it is important to leverage the resources of a trusted partner. Here, an organization can benefit from the extended resources or a trusted expert in the field of developing and deploying effective IAM architectures.

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