Updated on September 27, 2023.
Identity and Access Management (IAM) is a framework of policies and business processes that ensure authorized users have necessary access to the technological resources they need to perform their jobs. IT and security administrators use IAM solutions to administer user identities and control access to enterprise resources, particularly sensitive organizational systems and data.
Keep reading to learn more about identity and access management and why it’s important for organizations to implement.
IAM vs PAM: What’s the Difference?
Identity and Access Management (IAM) and Privileged Access Management (PAM) are often used interchangeably. However, these concepts focus on different areas within an organization. The main difference between IAM and PAM is that IAM focuses on authorizing users who need access to general systems and data, whereas PAM limits access rights to highly sensitive systems and data.
How Does Identity and Access Management Work?
IAM works through the implementation of policies and processes aimed to restrict user access based on the Principle of Least Privilege (PoLP), also called “least-privilege access.” The idea is that any user – whether that user is human, machine or application – should have the minimum amount of system privileges necessary to do their job, and no more. Implementing PoLP is important because it removes unnecessary privileges from employees which reduces an organization’s attack surface and prevents threat actors from moving laterally throughout the network if a breach occurs.
Least-privilege access enhances security by protecting against both insider threats and external threat actors. Company insiders can’t access systems and data they aren’t authorized to view – whether on purpose or by accident. Meanwhile, external threat actors who breach a system by stealing login credentials are also limited to what they can access through the breached account.
The Importance of IAM for Organizations
IAM solutions are important for organizations because they enhance security, support compliance efforts and optimize employee productivity.
Identity and access management solutions strengthen an organization’s security across the data environment by making it more difficult for threat actors to compromise employee credentials. Additionally, even if a threat actor manages to compromise a set of working credentials, IAM solutions make it more difficult or even impossible to use them. For example, if Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is enabled, a stolen password is useless without the additional authentication factor(s). IAM solutions also make it more difficult for threat actors to escalate privileges within a compromised system.
IAM supports compliance efforts by allowing organizations to demonstrate that only authorized personnel can access their sensitive data. Identity management compliance requires documentation for audits. This means that if your organization happens to be audited, having a strong and solid IAM program can demonstrate that you have a solution in place to help mitigate any risk of misuse or theft of sensitive data. An example of this would be HIPAA compliance.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that created standards to protect patients’ sensitive information from being shared without the patients’ consent or knowledge. Organizations that deal with patient information must have security measures in place and follow them to ensure HIPAA compliance. HIPAA compliance ensures that patient information is only available to those who require access to help the patient or those whom the patient has authorized to share it with.
IAM tools help optimize productivity by making it simple for employees to access the resources they need to do their jobs. For example, enabling Single Sign-On (SSO) for your entire network frees employees from having to re-enter their login credentials every time they need to access an application or system. Additionally, SSO minimizes help desk tickets for resetting forgotten passwords, freeing up IT administrators and staff to focus on other priorities.
IAM solutions optimize the productivity of IT staff by allowing them to automate many IAM processes. This leaves them with more time to help users solve issues and work on other internal projects.
How Can My Business Get Started With IAM?
There are many IAM solutions available. Before diving in, take these steps to get started with IAM:
Audit your business: Determine your organization’s IT priorities for the year and identify gaps. Focusing on how your company operates will help IT managers identify the best solutions for their team and determine the organization’s pain points. Find out which areas need improvement and brainstorm ways to solve those problems.
Standardize processes: Employees may be using multiple applications for their roles. Assess what is necessary and adjust strategies accordingly. Deploying an enterprise password management solution can standardize password management practices across all teams, improving both security and compliance.
Evaluate IAM solutions: After auditing your business, you should have an idea of what your risks are. Focus on the biggest risks and start mapping solutions that can address them. Only then can you begin to look for an IAM solution that will help you. If you have multiple risks, it’s better to get a comprehensive solution that can address most, if not all, of them. For example, a comprehensive solution may offer enterprise password management, privileged access management and SSO solutions– all in one unified platform.
How To Choose the Right IAM Solution
Organizations looking to build their identity and access management strategy have many solutions to consider. Examples of popular IAM tools include SSO, privileged access management and enterprise password management. Let’s take a closer look at each of these tools.
Single sign-on is an authentication and authorization solution that allows users to log in to multiple systems and applications with a single ID. A common example of SSO in action is when a user logs in to a third-party website using their Google, Twitter or Facebook credentials.
One of the main advantages of SSO is convenience. Users aren’t required to memorize different usernames and passwords. However, not all sites and apps support SSO, and that’s where a password manager is incredibly beneficial. Similar to SSO, password managers require users to memorize only one master password, which is used to access a digital password vault containing all of the user’s other passwords.
Privileged access management
Privileged access management provides control over elevated (“privileged”) access and permissions for users, accounts and systems across an IT environment. PAM is used to restrict and monitor access to an organization’s most sensitive information and systems.
While SSO focuses on general user access, PAM is more concerned about permissions, Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) and other tools to prevent the misuse of high-level credentials.
Enterprise password management
Enterprise password management refers to the secure storage of credentials for organizational accounts, services, systems, applications and more. An enterprise password manager helps businesses monitor employee password usage, set role-based access controls, reset and update passwords and manage shared accounts.
Businesses do not have to choose one solution over the other, and in fact, they should not. A comprehensive IAM solution combines SSO with PAM and EPM.
Keep Your Organization Protected With IAM
Having an effective IAM strategy and solution in place can help keep your organization safe from cyber attacks and data breaches. Keeper Security can play a leading role in your organization’s identity and access management strategy.
Our KeeperPAM™ solution enables a zero-trust environment and provides your organization with zero-knowledge security. KeeperPAM unifies Keeper’s Enterprise Password Manager (EPM), Keeper Secrets Manager (KSM) and Keeper Connection Manager (KCM)- all in one unified platform- so you don’t have to invest in multiple, disparate tools.
Interested in learning more about how Keeper can help your organization with its IAM strategy? Request a demo of KeeperPAM today.