What is IAM? Identity and Access Management Explained

Matthew George | Thursday, May 27, 2021

What is IAM? Identity and Access Management Explained

It should come as no surprise that prioritizing security for your business is essential to facilitate long-term success. One of the most prominent ways entrepreneurs choose to do so is through incorporating identity and access management (IAM).

But, not everybody knows as much as they should about it or how they can implement it within their Organization.

What is IAM? Let's get started with the basics.

What Is IAM, Exactly?

As the name suggests, IAM revolves around properly regulating permissions and access that individuals have within your Organization. More specifically, it aims to ensure that it's only the appropriate users are able to use specific devices or networks.

This could include servers, computers, smartphones, and routers. In general, the term "user" is defined as either an employee or customer but could also include upper-level executives.

IAM aims to not only boost overall security but also make it far more convenient for users to access sensitive information. For example, having a large number of different passwords can be challenging to keep up with.

But, it wouldn't be practical to use the same password for multiple devices, as this could easily lead to a data breach.

How Does It Work?

There are four primary components of identity and access management. These include:

  • A data repository that defines users
  • Tools that add, remove, and modify data accordingly
  • An established system that enforces access protocol
  • A system dedicated to auditing and reporting

In practice, an established IAM system would first aggregate data that is used to define different users and their levels of access properly. For instance, users may be grouped according to seniority, experience within the Organization, etc.

Regardless of the criteria that are considered, IAM systems would utilize this information in order to provide or deny access to specific devices or data.

The type of information that is collected is up to the Organization. Typically, however, identity and access management systems make use of biometrics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning in order to provide satisfactory results.

In some cases, the system may leverage multiple factors at once in order to provide the highest level of security. This is commonly seen within organizations that work with highly sensitive data, such as government agencies.

How Can It Benefit My Organization?

The primary benefit of implementing an IAM system is the level of control you have over the access to certain information. But, there are numerous other benefits it can provide to your company. Let's explore a few of the most notable.

Protection From Data Loss

As you might expect, a properly integrated identity and access management system will serve as a powerful form of protection against data loss.

Not only will it prevent unauthorized individuals within the Organization from accessing certain information, but it can also safeguard against cyber attacks. Since the cybercrime industry is projected to be worth over $10 trillion by the end of the year 2021, this is something to keep in mind.

It is essential, however, that IAM is appropriately implemented within your company. This means that all access points to sensitive data must be secured adequately through IAM systems.

To elaborate, let's assume that a particular file folder contains information that only high-level executives should see. If an unauthorized user attempts to access this information, they will be prevented from doing so.

In this case, the actual file itself needs to be properly safeguarded, meaning that only specified users should be able to open it. If unauthorized users are unable to download the file from the Organization's servers but can open it if someone else sends it to them, this is a potentially serious security concern.

Industry Compliance

Regardless of what industry your company operates within, there are industry standards that you will need to adhere to. Some are more involved than others, such as companies that work within the healthcare space.

Failure to comply with these regulations could result in numerous complications, such as fines and similar penalties. In some cases, another party may even take legal action against your Organization. In many scenarios, this could be a situation that is highly difficult or even impossible for your company to recover from.

So, be sure to consider this factor if you are on the fence about whether or not your company could benefit from introducing an identity and access management system.

Getting Started Is Straightforward

Although many of these concepts might seem complicated (especially for smaller organizations), getting started is relatively easy. In fact, IAM is a straightforward process when you think of it in terms of implementing additional levels of security.

Get started with IAM training for your Organization. We recommend these popular IAM training courses: