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Understanding everything about identity and access management

January 20, 2023
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A surge in consumer-facing digital interactions makes security assessments increasingly difficult. With user accounts compromised en masse, security teams face difficulties distinguishing between genuine users and attackers.

With the global IAM market projected to reach nearly $34.2 billion by 2028, a 130% growth over $ 26.3 billion in 2022, Identity and Access Management (IAM) solutions will continue to play a key role in enabling security teams manage user identities through controlled access to restricted resources or information. 

Here’s all you need to know about IAM systems.

What is Identity and Access Management?

Identity and Access Management (IAM) encompasses policies, processes, and technologies that together enable security teams to manage user identities – especially in complex, multi-cloud environments – before allowing them further access. An IAM system is a set of solutions that help security teams manage digital identities in a way that ensures only authorized users can access the restricted information.

There are several types of IAM systems available, including role-based access control (RBAC) systems that define access permissions on the basis of users’ roles and privileged access management (PAM) that define permissions for privileged accounts, such as admins. Most IAM systems today feature extra layers of authentication such as multi-factor authentication (MFA), Single sign-on (SSO), adaptive authentication, and identity governance to facilitate more dynamic authentication and authorization.


Why is Identity and Access Management Important? 

As the number of users in the digital realm increase, bad actors have found numerous ways to exploit business resources and consumers. Identity and Access Management plays a pivotal role in helping manage user identities, enhancing security of user accounts, and securing business crown-jewel assets, by limiting unlawful access to restricted resources or information.

By streamlining user access management, IAM systems help businesses accelerate digital transformation efforts, ensure data security, and manage user identities to offer consumers a safe digital environment, while maintaining compliance with the regulatory requirements.


Challenges Associated with Identity and Access Management

In a rapidly evolving digital environment, IAM systems are essential for safeguarding data and optimizing overall security. However, there are several challenges that businesses may face while implementing an IAM system. Some of the common challenges are listed below:

  • Integration with Diverse Systems: Integration with the existing tech stack comprising applications, databases, and systems can create compatibility issues.
  • Complexity and Scalability: Growing businesses need scalable IAM systems that can effectively manage access rights for a greater number of users, applications, and devices.
  • User Lifecycle Management: User account lifecycles are complex to manage. It can be challenging to prevent insider threats or make timely updates to user roles in a dynamic environment.
  • Costs and Resource Allocation: Implementing and maintaining IAM systems require investments of both time and money.
  • Balancing Security and User Experience: Striking a fine balance between strong authentication measures, such as multi-factor authentication, and frictionless user experience.
  • Security Risks: Protecting stored consumer data from theft and IAM systems against evolving attacks, particularly identity theft and unauthorized access.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Keeping pace with evolving regulatory requirements and local compliance standards.
  • Outsourcing: Partnering with a reliable IAM vendor that can deliver future-ready security.

Steps to Follow for Identity and Access Management

To establish a robust IAM framework for greater security of user accounts and compliance to evolving regulatory requirements, organizations may consider the following steps described below:

Define Objectives:

Depending on the unique security and compliance needs, businesses must define the objectives and policies for IAM implementation.

Identify Crown-jewel Assets:

Take stock of all resources to identify critical assets that require access controls.

Manage User Lifecycle:

Define clear processes and policies to centrally manage access rules and make timely updates to roles and permissions, when required.

Implement Strong Authentication Measures:

  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA) and other strong authentication methods, such biometrics, for identity verification.
  • Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) to allow only authorized users to access resources according to their roles and permissions.
  • Privileged Access Management (PAM) to ensure strict access control for crown-jewel and critical assets.
  • Single Sign-On (SSO) to allow users to access multiple resources through single verification.
  • Tokens to replace sensitive data with proxy, stand-in data.

Integrate with Existing Tech Stack:

Use standard integration protocols and APIs to integrate IAM solutions with the existing systems and applications in the organization.

Monitor Continuously:

Use monitoring tools to track user activity and spot any deviation in user behavior. Maintain audit trails for regulatory compliance.

Review and Update:

In view of the evolving threats, review the IAM processes regularly to spot areas of improvement and take appropriate measures to keep IAM policies and technologies updated.

Plan Incident Response:

Be prepared for any incident with a response and recovery plan to ensure business continuity with minimum downtime.

Manage Vendors:

Regularly assess security measures of partner vendors and follow vendor management best practices.


Identity and Access Management in Action

Dynamic orchestration of processes to secure digital resources within an organization are at the core of Identity and Access Management (IAM). An IAM system can be used to serve various critical functions in an organization, such as managing users’ digital identities, controlling access to digital resources, and enhancing security.

With their ability to audit in-platform user activity, IAM systems help businesses, especially in eCommerce, healthcare, and gaming industries, fight fraud by efficiently managing digital identities. IAM systems safeguard data and user accounts, enabling businesses to maintain a secure and well-managed digital environment, thereby meeting the regulatory obligations.

The most common applications of an IAM system in a business include:

  • Streamlining user onboarding and offboarding
  • Enforcing access controls and permissions
  • Implementing Single Sign-On (SSO) for user convenience
  • Securing passwords through policy enforcement
  • Incorporating Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for heightened security.
  • Compliance with prevailing regulations


How Good Identity and Access Management Drives Revenue

Identity and Access Management (IAM) when deployed effectively can catalyze revenue growth. Some of the ways a good IAM system helps drive revenue are described below:

  • Digital Transformation: By facilitating digital transformation, IAM enables businesses to use innovative methods that promote secure and controlled access to digital services and resources.
  • Operational Efficiency: Businesses can bolster revenue generation by reducing manual interventions and human errors, enhancing operational agility and innovation, and reducing operational costs.
  • Fraud Prevention: IAM systems help businesses ensure transactions and protect user accounts to prevent revenue loss due to fraud.
  • Customer Loyalty: By reducing friction, especially through Single Sign-On (SSO) capabilities, IAM solutions can deliver streamlined user experiences, improve customer confidence, and build customer loyalty for repeat business.
  • Personalization: With the ability to harness and analyze user data, IAM systems enable businesses to personalize customer services, facilitating cross-selling and upselling.
  • Scalability: IAM systems support scalability, enabling businesses to quickly adapt to market demands, onboard new customers, and accelerate time-to-market for new products and services.
  • Regulatory Compliance: By ensuring timely compliance to jurisdiction-specific regulations, IAM systems allow businesses to avoid fines, penalties, and legal liabilities.
  • Vendor Collaboration: An IAM system facilitates streamlined access to external vendors, which helps speed up business processes, optimize supply chain operations, thereby positively impacting the bottom line.


Future of Identity and Access Management

Innovations in emerging technologies such as blockchain, biometrics, facial recognition, and fingerprint scanning will provide IAM systems with advanced threat detection capabilities. Greater cloud adoption will see IAM systems becoming more agile and interoperable in diverse environments to help offer contextualized user journeys and keep pace with the evolving security challenges.

With greater flexibility to allow no- or low-code configuration of workflows, IAM systems of the future will help businesses streamline verification processes for digital identities. Easy workflow orchestration will also enable businesses to ensure consumer legitimacy through continuous monitoring of in-platform user activity.


Identity and Access Management (IAM) empowers organizations to safeguard consumer and business interests through controlled access to sensitive information and critical business assets, while ensuring regulatory compliance. IAM systems enable businesses to streamline user onboarding, fight fraud and improve user experience, thereby enhancing operational efficiency and revenue growth. 

To overcome deployment challenges such as rising technical debt, managing diverse systems, balancing security with user convenience, and ensuring compliance with changing regulations, businesses must adopt the best practices. These include choosing scalable solutions, creating standard and comprehensive policies, and regularly updating the IAM systems.  

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"Understanding everything about identity and access management"