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If you work in a field related to cybersecurity or you are part of the management team for a medium to large enterprise, then you should know about IAM (identity and access management). IAM technology is a vital part of cybersecurity, and its importance cannot be understated; let’s dive into exactly what it is and how enterprise IT can make the most of it.

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What is IAM?

In order to grasp the specifics of IAM, we first need to understand digital identities. These online or networked identities are how individuals, organizations, or devices can be identified online. Users can project more than one digital identity, which can lead to problems with security and privacy. That’s where IAM (identity and access management) comes in to safeguard the identities of those with user accounts and to protect against invasions from unwanted parties.

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IAM systems manage people and online identities using various policies and tools to make sure that the correct identities have access to specific technical resources within an organization. These policies and tools will usually take place within an IT department or cybersecurity team. In the past, this was more often taken on by an internal team, but with the rise of cloud applications, off-site software is becoming more popular than ever.

What tasks do IAM systems perform?

IAM system tasks largely include authentication and authorization. Authentication means making sure the entity in question is connected to the user account that it should be. For example, when you log in to your work computer using a username and password, you will be authenticated by checking this information against the existing database of usernames and passwords. In recent years, this process has been made even more secure through multi-factor authentication and other advanced security best practices.

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Authorization comes next, which ensures that the identity in question has access to the resources that it is trying to access. There will be some form of directory service in whatever content management system or website the user is trying to access, listing all access rights that are relevant for this user. When the identity management process has confirmed the user access, only then will they be able to access the information.

Why is IAM important?

The IAM role is vital for maintaining access control and ensuring regulatory compliance with a range of data laws. Without authentication and access management, anyone would be able to access sensitive information with ease. A proper IAM solution means that access is easy for those with the correct rights, but difficult for those without the appropriate access. For any company taking access to management and cybersecurity seriously, IAM technology is a must.

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What sort of IAM system is best?

The first IAM solutions were on-premises. As the name would suggest, this access management system was located physically within the organization’s firewall and was often managed internally. Nowadays, many organizations are turning to cloud IAM. On-premise IAM is no longer secure enough to manage identities where so much information and communication takes place on cloud services. To answer the new demand, access management solutions have also taken to the cloud. With cloud services, appropriate access and identity management can all take place online without the need for onsite facilities and hardware. For longer-established companies, this does mean a significant change in moving away from their long-standing systems. For them, there is also the option of hybrid solutions, which combines both cloud and onsite IAM. The services are slowly migrated online and the extra features of cloud IAM are built up gradually. Once completed, the physical directory service and identity management can be shut down at the right time.

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