As the workforce becomes increasingly mobile and dispersed,identity and access management becomes more important in ensuringorganisational security. While managing user identities andcontrolling access are separate tasks, they are closely related.Identity and access management (IAM) needs to be a key part ofbusiness security strategy, particularly as organisations grow andIT architectures become more complex. Here are five things toconsider when planning your IAM strategy. 1. Identity data infrastructure It is not possible to manage user identities without having anappropriate data infrastructure in place to store user information.This generally involves the use of directory and metadirectorysystems, usually based on lightweight directory access protocol(LDAP), industry standard for accessing directory data. |
Decision makers should consider federated identity as part of theunderlying data structure. This allows systems to automaticallygrant access to users of other systems. Federated identity systemsassign permissions to each other, creating a secure web of trustedapplications. However, enterprises need to tread carefully whendesigning these systems complexity can create more headaches thannecessary and increase management overhead, while also limiting theflexibility to change application specifications or relationships. While federated identity can be used to integrate disparate systemstogether (including those inside a single organisation), it is alsonecessary to assign the appropriate level of expertise to thedesign and maintenance of such a solution.
2. Define roles and entitlements Two important, but still nascent, techniques that have asignificant effect on access control are entitlement management androle-based access control. Systems that carry out these functionsallow administrators to define multiple roles in an organisation,along with a granular set of entitlements to allow system access.When combined, they allow for very tight control of user access.For example, someone in a junior accounting role could access aparticular database, but only until 6pm. Defining and maintaining these roles and entitlements requiressignificant input from business management, which can potentiallylead to complications if organisational requirements change.Business management needs to carefully monitor entitlements androles in order to ensure operational security.
3. Automate the provisioning process Identity management helps improve company-wide productivity andsecurity, while also lowering the cost of managing users and theiridentities, attributes and credentials. This requires automation,but it also contains hidden challenges, as just setting up a username and a password is often simply not enough. Instead, multiplesteps must be included in the provisioning process. For example,users might be assigned a sales region, enrolled into a differentnumber of organisational teams or given a list of company resourcesto which they have access.
4. Simplify access control Controlling access to systems is a separate but related task tomanaging identity. The user can only be authenticated if theiridentity is in the system, but the task of authentication posesanother challenge. Users must be able to access the systemrelatively easily to avoid illicit circumvention of securitysettings, and yet their credentials must be secure enough to stopattackers simply waltzing through the gate. Enterprise sign-onsystems can provide users with access to multiple enterpriseapplications using just one set of credentials.
For added security,hardware-based tokens can also be issued as part of a two-stepauthentication process. 5. Audit Any identity and access management system is not complete without arobust reporting capability to meet the needs of auditors facingcompliance regulations. Organisations should be able to provideaudit trails showing which users had access to what resources, andwhat was done with those resources. With increasing levels ofcompliance required from organisations, it is wise to ensure thatevidence can be provided when needed.
Summary Any comprehensive IAM effort is complex, but cloud-based servicescan help to reduce deployment times. A competent and experienced IToperator can not only host the infrastructure necessary formanaging both identity and access control, but can also provideconsulting services to help integrate it effectively into acustomer s existing IT architecture. When the time and dueconsideration is taken, IAM can prove to be a valuable asset to anyorganisation.
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