What Is Identity And Access Management?

Content Writer

If you asked an IT expert for a definition of identity and access management, also known as simply “IAM,” they would probably tell you that it is a cybersecurity discipline that, when followed, can help a given organization provide their employees with access to the IT tools that they need to perform their jobs efficiently.

In other words, IAM is a framework that allows companies to significantly boost their cybersecurity. This is done by restricting access to organizational resources to only those people whose identity has been confirmed and who have been assigned specific access privileges.

How does IAM work?

By definition, the goal of today’s IAM systems is to perform two core tasks: authentication and authorization. Both of these play a part in making sure that the right person will get access to the right resources for the right reasons. The process usually goes as follows:

  1. An IAM system confirms the identity of a given user by authenticating their credentials against a database that contains all users’ identities and access privileges.

  2. The IAM system provides that user with access to only those resources to which they were assigned.

An IAM system usually includes a series of dedicated tools which operators can use to easily create, monitor, modify, and delete access privileges for all members of the organization.

The role IAM plays in security

If you’re still asking yourself the question “What is IAM in cybersecurity?”, we are here to tell you that IAM is considered a critical part of cybersecurity these days and that every organization should incorporate it into its cybersecurity strategy. Why? Because IAM security is concerned with reducing identity-related access risks, improving legal compliance, and improving business performance across the entire organization.

What is more, by helping companies manage digital identities and user access to company data, IAM tools make it very hard for non-authorized parties to hack into business networks and cause problems that could lead to big financial losses.

Enterprise identity and access management

As you can probably guess, “enterprise identity and access management” is a phrase that refers to all of the IAM policies, processes, and tools that large-scale businesses can use to manage access to their data and resources more securely and effectively.

Many of today’s enterprise-like organizations have massive IT infrastructures that consist of a vast range of servers, databases, applications, and cloud environments — to which dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of their employees must have easy access. Enterprise IAM solutions are, therefore, a way for those big enterprises to make their resources available to a large number of employees without making any compromises in regard to cybersecurity.

So, even if your business is a global one — that is, you have thousands of employees and run multiple projects around the world — many of the IAM solutions available today are powerful and flexible enough to give you the ability to manage user permissions and prevent unauthorized access with ease.

What is the difference between identity management and access management?

The difference between identity management and access management essentially boils down to the part each of these two frameworks plays in the process of providing users with access to company resources.

Identity management is about (as its name suggests) user identities and the many ways they can be recognized and verified. Access management, on the other hand, deals with giving or withdrawing permissions and access privileges.

IAM regulatory compliance

Many of today’s lawmakers around the world are striving towards creating and introducing new policies that will help protect the digital lives of their citizens. As a result, many of today’s data privacy regulations (including HIPAA, SOC2, and PCI DSS) require businesses to follow strict IAM policies, which means they are obligated to manage access to data very carefully.

Luckily, identity and access management solutions can be used to meet some of the compliance requirements — which is also one of the reasons why enterprises are interested in making them part of their IT environments.

Let us provide you with an example. To comply with the already-mentioned information security standard called PCI DSS, a vendor is required to establish strict IAM policies (including rules that clearly define user identities, authentication, and authorization methods), and processes that restrict access to environments where cardholder data is stored. Only with such IAM policies in place can a vendor become fully compliant with the PCI DSS standard.

Identity and access management benefits

Implementing IAM solutions offers numerous benefits for businesses, regardless of their size or location. These include:

  1. Enhanced cybersecurity – IAM solutions can help all businesses - no matter their size or location - prevent data breaches and protect themselves against malware, identity theft, and phishing attacks.

  2. Simplified work for IT administrators — With the use of IAM tools, IT administrators can develop new, advanced security policies and processes and implement them across the entire organization in a blink of an eye.

  3. Real-time monitoring of company data access — IAM solutions allow you to remain in control of who can access what at your organization.

  4. Ensuring compliance with data privacy regulations — IAM systems are designed to help users comply with legal requirements such as HIPAA, SOC2, and PCI DSS.

  5. Minimizing financial and reputational losses — By allowing you to prevent fraudulent activities and unauthorized use of company resources, IAM solutions can help you maintain business continuity and avoid costly downtime.

Enterprise identity and access management with NordPass

NordPass Enterprise, an encrypted password, and passkey management platform, can be used as an IAM tool to securely provide members of your organization with access to company data, systems, and applications. How so?

First of all, when you use the Business version of the NordPass platform, you can share an unlimited number of digital entry points that you can assign to different departments or teams. This means that you can fully control access to shared credentials, payment information, and other sensitive data across the entire organization. Moreover, thanks to features such as the Activity Log, you can easily monitor all company logins to know exactly who accessed what and when.

Second, NordPass uses multi-factor authentication (MFA), as well as the single sign-on (SSO) authentication method, to identify and verify each and every user once they try to access one of the company accounts. The platform is equipped with three MFA options — an authenticator app, a security key, and backup codes — so that you can provide your team members with a few options in regard to how they can gain access to company resources.

Third, NordPass can help you achieve regulatory compliance. As mentioned, some standards (e.g., HIPAA and NIST) require organizations to implement secure access management solutions. With NordPass, not only can you easily manage access privileges, but you can also establish rules, procedures, and policies that will allow your company to meet certain specifications.

Of course, the fact that NordPass is an encrypted password management solution also means that you and your team members can use it to securely and easily generate, store, manage, and share company credentials. This is something that IAM tools cannot do — just as they cannot run password health check-ups or scan for data breaches to see if any of the credentials, payment information, or emails have been compromised – but NordPass can.

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