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What Identity and Access Management (IAM) Means for Your Business

[SECURITY | 5 MIN READ] With an identity and access management (IAM) system, MSPs are able to protect their network with an identity-focused solution that eliminates unnecessary access.

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The vast majority of organizations today rely heavily on technology and IT software to manage business operations. This means that, across industries, taking the proper steps to secure your IT environment is of critical importance. Identity and access management (IAM) is a crucial part of securing your network by limiting access to information to only those individuals who need to be able to view said information. For managed services providers (MSPs), IAM is even more important in the context of sensitive client information.

What Is an identity and access management (IAM) system?

IAM refers to establishing and managing the access rights and roles of the individuals using your network. It involves defining which circumstances allow each user to access certain files or system components. For example, you could assign specific permissions based on roles, which might mean that only individuals at the manager level can gain access to certain system elements. This also allows you to limit what various roles can access, eliminating unauthorized or unnecessary access. IAM doesn’t necessarily just apply to employees, either—you might control the access rights of both technicians and customers to maximize security.

The main goal of IAM is to establish a single digital identity for each person on your network. This identity must be maintained, monitored, and adjusted when appropriate. It is important to remember that user access rights may change over time (for example, if a technician is promoted) and that each individual will have their own user access lifecycle. Keeping track of this lifecycle is key to preventing vulnerabilities from emerging. For instance, if a user were to leave your organization, it would be critical for their access permissions to be updated so they could no longer obtain sensitive information.

IAM is as much about access as it is about limitation—you should always endeavor to restrict access as much as possible without compromising productivity. This will help keep your network secure by mitigating exposure to risk. An effective IAM solution should give you the ability to administer user access across your entire organization. It should also assist with ensuring compliance with government regulations and corporate policies.

An IAM solution allows administrators to perform the following functions:  

  • Alter a user’s role
  • Monitor user activities and behavior
  • Generate reports on user activities and behavior
  • Enforce access policies

IAM cloud solutions

Traditionally, businesses have used on-premises IAM systems to deliver on their identity and access management strategy. In recent years, however, as the utilization of cloud services has increased, identity management has become more complicated. For many MSPs and other security-minded businesses, adopting a cloud-based IAM solution is the natural next step.

Cloud IAM solutions offer numerous benefits, including the ability to work from any location and device, multi-factor authentication (MFA) to add an extra layer of security to your applications, and single sign-on to simplify application access.

Creating a framework of policies

When you’re implementing an IAM strategy within your MSP, the following three areas should be considered carefully:  

  • Policy
  • Identity management
  • Privileged user management

Policy refers to the strategy and guidelines governing how access rights are managed, how access can be requested, and when access should be revoked. Identity management involves the establishment of specific digital identities for each person. Finally, privileged user management refers to the additional controls and processes that should be implemented to protect the most critical and sensitive system operations. To support the goals of the three key elements of an IAM strategy, there are also several features and capabilities you should seek out in the software you choose to employ.

1. Biometric authentication

Many of us interact with biometric authentication multiple times a day via our mobile devices. Modern mobile devices often use biometric authentication to allow users to unlock the device with characteristics unique to that user. For example, biometric authentication might work in the form of a fingerprint sensor, facial recognition technology, or iris and retina scanning capabilities.

2. Multi-factor authentication (MFA)

MFA goes a step further than a standard username and password, requiring at least one additional authentication step. For example, this might involve the user being sent a code in the form of an SMS, which they would have to input in order to gain access.

3. Context-aware access control

This is a method of granting access that is policy-based—access is granted not only based on the user’s identity and role, but also the user’s current context. For instance, a user trying to authenticate an IP address that has not been whitelisted would immediately garner suspicion in the IAM system. The user would be prevented from doing so and blocked to ensure no malicious activity gets through.

4. Revoke access

This step involves removing an identity from an ID repository and eliminating user access rights. Deprovisioning policies are triggered by a user retiring or leaving an organization and must be automated to shut down access immediately when someone leaves.

5. Risk-based authentication

Like context-aware access control, risk-based authentication adapts according to the user’s current situation. If, for example, a user attempts to authenticate from a location not previously affiliated with them or their account, they may face extra authentication measures to ensure it is indeed the correct user trying to access the account.   

The identity and access management capabilities your msp needs

SolarWinds® Passportal is a centralized, cloud-based password management solution with robust IAM features to ensure your sensitive client information is always protected. It is an extremely versatile tool that affords you granular access control, MFA, temporary access rights, and integrated access with password management capabilities.

With a password change automation feature and easy reporting, this tool is intuitive and built for MSPs’ needs. It features audit history, relationship mapping between items, streamlined client incident resolution, and much more. As an IAM tool, Passportal is scalable, sophisticated, and highly comprehensive. To start better managing permissions and limiting access within your MSP, schedule a demo today.

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