On September 15, 2022, Uber announced that it had fallen victim to a data breach affecting over 57 million users. The ride-sharing company also confirmed that the hackers had applied social engineering techniques to access sensitive company data.
Uber believed that adopting a strong password policy was enough to protect cyber assets, but nothing could be further from the truth. Human error has, time and again, proven its ability to defeat even the most austere security policy and culture. According to Gartner, about 95% of cyber breaches occur following gross human error.
Fortunately, organizations can mitigate the effects of human error by putting in place robust identity and access management tools. Read on to know how you can select the ideal IAM software. By the end of this piece, you will have a deep understanding of what IAM tools do and why you need to employ them.
What is Identity and Access Management?
While working on disparate data systems, it is imperative to ensure that staff personnel only have access to resources per their functions and level of authority. Identity and access management, commonly abbreviated as IAM, is a subset of cyber security that ascertains that only the right people access the right computing assets for the right purpose.
IAM tools are software applications that administer identity management and authorize user access and privilege. These tools manage staff access to digital resources, authenticate connection attempts, and guarantee compliance by tracking user activity.
As organizations grow, IT departments find it incredibly cumbersome to manually administer identity and access management processes. To this end, most companies rely on IAM tools to automate identity and access management procedures as ICT personnel focus on more critical tasks. IAM tools provide other advantages listed hereunder.
- Improve cyber security by reducing the risk of cyber breaches occurring. IAM tools ensure that users strictly adhere to company-wide security policies relating to user authentication and privilege authorization.
- Allow for scalability of data systems. As a system grows in size and users, the need for an automated way of granting access and privileges becomes even more evident.
- Appropriate allocation of resources. IAM tools ensure that valid users have access to the right resources. This benefit reduces wastage and presents a cost-cutting opportunity for most organizations.
- Track user activity. Modern IAM tools include cutting-edge technology, like AI and machine learning, to identify and weed out suspicious activity. An increasing number of breaches occur after a compromised insider shares sensitive information. For this reason, effective IAM applications closely track user activity to ensure that malicious insiders do not access privileges beyond their mandate.
- Improve staff productivity. IAM solutions improve staff productivity by centralizing and automating the identity and access management process. This benefit frees up time for ICT professionals to focus on other tasks. Additionally, authenticating and authorizing users from a centralized repository reduces processing time for new staff members.
Picking the Ideal IAM Software
Selecting the best IAM tool is a stressful undertaking, especially because most solutions offer similar core features. With this in mind, it is utterly important to always put the organization’s security needs at the center of the decision-making process. Indeed, the ideal product should effectively verify accounts, appropriately assign privileges, and monitor user activity to mitigate unnecessary risk.
Features of the Ideal IAM Software
Companies have unique security protocols and needs, but the most effective IAM platforms have a few features in common. Below are a few core features of any modern IAM tool.
1. Identity and Authorization Management
The ideal IAM tool should be able to integrate two or more databases to ensure that user identities are managed from a centralized repository. A centralized approach will allow administrators to delete, create, or modify user identities as needed. Using a centralized user identification approach also rids the need to remember multiple login credentials for different services.
Effective IAM tools make use of multiple authentication mechanisms to double-check user identities. Some companies use two-factor authentication, where the system asks the user to confirm his identity twice before granting access. In this case, the system first prompts the user to input his login credentials. Upon successful clearance of the first stage, the system will challenge the user to click on a push notification or provide a one-time password sent via email or text message.
Indeed, organizations harboring sensitive data should embrace multi-factor authentication, where users seeking access confirm their identities more than once.
Legacy IAM systems relied on manual processes for identity and access management. The systems were slow, labor-intensive, prone to error, and inefficient. Up-to-date IAM solutions solve these problems by relying on scalable and computerized technology to identify large volumes of access requests.
The ideal IAM tool should be compatible with other technologies, such as AWS and Azure, all of which may have different security standards. Without a doubt, the right IAM tool should be flexible enough to accommodate new technologies as soon as they become available.
5. Graphical User Interface
In some companies, the IAM system is not only used by IT managers but also by business executives. In such cases, clear navigation through audit reports and analyses is paramount. Since information presented in a simple way eases the decision-making process, it is important to work with IAM tools that have clear and easy-to-use user interfaces. The right IAM tool should also produce understandable and comprehensible reports.
6. Authorization and Reporting
The best IAM applications strictly follow the principle of least privilege. This security standard warrants that systems should only grant users privileges necessary to perform their duties. In other words, if a user does not need to access a right to perform a function, the user should not enjoy that right. Most importantly, the IAM tool should afford privileges based on the user’s functions and roles.
The IAM tool should also track user activities. Specifically, the tool should record the login time, features accessed, and the authentication type. This information is useful when generating audit reports. Indeed, a well-documented log report can assist cyber security experts in troubleshooting anomalies, avoiding possible security risks, and improving the company’s security policy.
Considerations to Have in Mind When Selecting an IAM Solution
As mentioned earlier, companies have unique IAM requirements, so it is critical to thoroughly evaluate all solutions available before settling on one. When assessing the tools, ensure that your organization’s needs align with the solution’s capabilities. Below are a few considerations that should be of great concern when comparing IAM solutions.
- Is it Scalable?
The IAM tool of choice should be scalable enough to meet future organizational needs. Preferably, work with a vendor who guarantees, via a binding contract, to provide patches and updates as your security needs continue to evolve.
Undeniably, timely software releases will help your company address the needs of a rapidly growing user base and keep up with ever-changing legal regulations.
- Is it Flexible?
The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted how vital it is for businesses to adapt to change. The best IAM solution should be robust, stable, and flexible enough to continue being useful even during unanticipated disruptions.
- Where is the Solution Hosted?
Companies may opt to host IAM solutions on business premises, on the cloud, or both. Each of the three options has its advantages and disadvantages.
On the one hand, hosting the IAM solution on company premises affords the organization greater control than hosting the solution on the cloud. Large businesses, therefore, prefer working with locally hosted IAM tools. On the other hand, a cloud-based IAM tool is easier to scale and deploy as the user base expands. Procuring a cloud-based tool is also cheaper as compared to locally hosted tools.
- What is the Vendor’s Previous Track Record?
Before settling on a vendor, do thorough background research to ascertain the provider’s credentials. While researching, try to figure out more information about the vendor’s deployment process, customer support policy, pricing, and software updates.
Insist on talking to a few referees to learn more about the provider’s work experience. It is always sensible to choose an experienced vendor over a novice.
- What Are the Cost Implications?
Cost is a vital point of contemplation, especially for up-and-coming businesses. Typically, vendors of ICT solutions use complex pricing structures, and IAM solution providers are no different. In most cases, there are three core components of an IAM pricing structure: maintenance costs, installation fees, and the cost of the solution. It is of utmost importance to have a transparent view of each of the three cost implications before signing a binding agreement.
IAM solutions, like NIM by Tools4Ever, are increasingly becoming an integral part of most organizations’ security needs. The traditional way of identity and access management is not robust enough to deal with modern trends, such as a fully remote labor force, numerous cloud-based applications, and an ever-expanding user base. Modern problems require modern solutions, and this is where IAM shines brightest. Certainly, choosing the right IAM tool will ensure that staff members access necessary digital assets without putting sensitive corporate data in danger of exposure to hackers.