IAM systems are often customizable and scalable, so depending on your specific business needs and circumstances, a number of different components might go into the makeup of your IAM system. Let’s take a look at some of these IAM functions and processes and explore how they can enhance the security and efficiency of your operations.

User Repository

A user repository lies at the heart of an IAM system, serving as a vital holding place for detailed user information and credentials. Think of it as the master record, the ultimate go-to resource for all things related to user identity within your organization. It’s not just data storage, it’s a structured and accessible way to manage who’s who in your company’s digital space.

Authentication Services

Authentication services act as the first line of defense in an IAM system. They can employ several techniques to authenticate user identities: From the more familiar password inputs to cutting-edge biometric checks, an authentication service is crucial to ensuring only verified individuals gain access to your system.

Multifactor Authentication (MFA)

MFA increases security within your IAM system by layering multiple checkpoints which must be passed before access is granted. MFA is similar to having multiple locks on your door: Each lock gives you an additional layer of security. Rather than a single means of authentication, MFA provides a comprehensive approach by requiring a combination of verification methods.

Step-Up Authentication

Step-up authentication in an IAM system is context-based: An extra layer of security kicks in when a pre-defined situation demanding more vigilance occurs. For example, when a user tries to access particularly sensitive resources or performs unusual transactions—activities which suggest a higher security risk—step-up authentication will adjust the authentication strength and require additional verification.

Authorization and Access Control

Remember how IAM systems manage who gets access to what? This is where authorization and access control come into play. Like a rule enforcer, once a user has been authenticated, this function decides the extent of the access the user is granted. It’s much like a digital traffic control system that directs users to the areas and resources they have permission to use, based on specific criteria such as job function or department.

User Provisioning and Deprovisioning

Employees don’t remain in static roles: Some will join your company, some will leave your company, and some will change to different roles. From the moment a new employee joins to when they leave or change roles, user provisioning and deprovisioning takes care of the process of granting, modifying and revoking user access—ensuring the right people have the right access at the right times.

Single Sign-On (SSO)

If you’ve ever experienced the frustration of having to enter your password every time you switch to a new application while working on a project, you’ll appreciate the streamlined simplicity that single sign-on (SSO) brings. With SSO, once users authenticate their identity, they can access all resources connected to their access privilege without needing to log in again for each one.

Identity Federation

Identity federation takes the concept of SSO a step further by enabling a user’s identity to be recognized across multiple independent systems, both within and outside your organization, (for example, suppliers or other external entities). You’re essentially creating a trusted network that uses one set of login credentials to grant access across a range of systems—a useful approach, for example, for businesses using a variety of cloud services and applications.

Audit and Compliance Reporting

When it comes to maintaining transparency and meeting regulatory standards, it’s crucial to have a detailed record of user activities. Audit and compliance reporting in IAM systems is the feature that tracks who accessed what resources, when, and for what purpose—giving you the clear audit trail you require for compliance with various legislative requirements. A bonus: This record also helps you understand user behavior and spot potential security issues.

Password Management

Passwords may be old school, but they’re nowhere near obsolete yet, which makes password management a fundamental aspect of IAM. This critical security component includes enforcing the creation of strong passwords, making sure passwords are changed regularly and ensuring they’re recovered securely—all fortifications of your first line of defense against cyberattacks.

Privileged Access Management (PAM)

From system administrators to your top-level executives, most businesses have certain users in need of elevated privileges. PAM manages these high-level access rights, adding an extra layer of security where it’s most needed and protecting critical systems and data from data breaches and system disruptions.

Last Update: June 19, 2024

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