How to select an Identity and Access Management system in 2021

In a previous blog, I took a look at ‘what are Identity and Access Management solutions?’. As businesses focus on cybersecurity Identity and Access Management…

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Dennis McDermott

March 20, 20207 minutes read

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In a previous blog, I took a look at ‘what are Identity and Access Management solutions?’. As businesses focus on cybersecurity Identity and Access Management (IAM) software is more and more important to enable digital business. The role of IAM extended beyond traditional authentication and authorization to a whole range of new identity services. So, in this blog, I’m going to examine what you should expect from the best IAM solutions.

When thinking about IAM solutions, it’s easy to concentrate on the world of hackers and bad actors trying to gain access to your corporate network. After all, enterprise IAM software worldwide is under attack – hackers made 30 billion login attempts and,  and, on average, 82 million times a day.

As crazy as it sounds in this day and age, 78% of CSOs and 65% of CEOs admit clicking on a link they shouldn’t have! The digital Identity and Access Management solution you choose must be able to deal with both internal and external threats effectively on a single IAM platform.

Identity and Access Management (IAM) definition

Let’s take a step back for a second and start with an IAM definition.

In my last blog, I said: “Although there are different Identity and access management concepts, it’s relatively simple to provide an IAM definition. Ensuring that the right people, systems and things have access to the right resources at the right times for the right reasons are the Identity and Access Management basics. The best IAM solutions manage both employee identities within an organization and across an extended business ecosystem of customers, suppliers, contractors and partners.”

I’d like to add a few more points that are pertinent when you’re selecting the best IAM solution.

First, this isn’t all about people. It’s also about systems, applications and things. In our hyper-connected world, the best Identity and Access Management software has to protect everything – systems, users, device and data – that connect to your network, whether on-premise or cloud-based. You have to remember that the IAM solution you choose has to be able to cope with instances where IoT devices and systems communicate and share data with each other without any human intervention.

Secondly, we’re not just talking about IAM technology. When you start to evaluate IAM products, you need to look past the IAM software or IAM platform to examine the range of IAM services that the best IAM providers bundle with their solutions. You should look at the Identity and Access Management principles and methods that are applied. For some, the best IAM strategy is to deploy IAM managed services that are built on Identity and Access Management best practices and a sound, flexible IAM policy framework and governance model.

Selecting an Identity and Access Management System

It is not such a simple process to select the best Identity and Access Management software. Today’s market has become flooded with many IAM products and solutions that all offer different features. You must take time to work out the IAM capabilities that are essential to your business before making a final decision. However, there are some common IAM characteristics to look out for:

Advanced multi-factor authentication

Weak or compromised passwords still account for 80% of all data breaches. That’s why multi-factor authentication is a must-have element for any enterprise IAM solution or extended enterprise IAM solution. Traditional IAM systems relied on simple user name and password authentication and have been increasingly augmented by single sign-on where users demand speed and convenience when accessing all their network services. While providing a central security feature, single sign-on still represents a point of vulnerability for typical IAM tools. For example, the combination of stolen credentials and single sign-on is a Chief Information Security Officer’s worst nightmare – simple and easy UNAUTHORIZED access. Multi-factor authentication helps avoid this scenario by requiring users to provide additional authentication factors beyond a password before access is granted. Biometrics, strong security tokens (e.g., FIDO) and one-time codes sent to out-of-band devices are commonly used factors to increase trust that the user is who they claim to be.

Third-party access management

Providing contractors, customers, partners, vendors, suppliers, and other third-parties with access to your corporate network and systems can create serious risk to your business yet is essential for growth and operational efficiency. The IAM solution you choose has to be built to secure external user access across diverse IT environments, scale to manage millions of identities across thousands of organizations and do so with the same degree of security as employee-centric IAM systems. Third-party life cycle management (event-based provisioning and deprovisioning), governance, strong authentication, audit and compliance reporting are all core requirements.

Identity intelligence

Intelligence is an important part of your IAM solution or IAM platform. You have to respond quickly to security threats and that requires near real-time monitoring and response. The best IAM systems will notify you of user authorization issues and suspicious behaviors in addition to taking immediate action to step-up trust levels or suspend accounts where appropriate. It’s also important that the intelligence gathered from network endpoints is available so that information governance can be embedded into the IAM architecture to help minimize data breaches and comply with the latest data protection and privacy regulations.

Mobile IAM

Today’s enterprise IAM platforms should have features to enable the mobile environment. Look for a solution that has IAM components for secure mobile business and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies. For example, devices need identities just like people. With mobile access to internal information, it’s critical to ensure that only valid devices can connect to the enterprise and control what data the device is authorized to receive and transmit. Doing so also provides an additional data point to improve remote authentication decisions and reduce friction.

Application and directory integration

The best IAM solutions provide comprehensive directory services and the ability to flexibly integrate and synchronize directories and identity-related data across known and unknown applications and systems. This is especially important in B2B scenarios where business processes span unpredictable IT environments. Ensure that the IAM solution you choose is compatible with multiple network architectures, authentication and authorization protocols, operating systems, and business systems used inside and outside your organization. Look for IAM solutions that increase interoperability between systems while lightening the administrative load, such as robust sets of restful APIs and advanced integration capabilities automatically transform, secure and deliver data in the expected format.

The latest trends in IAM software

It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see the future of Identity and Access Management is bright. The use of an IAM solution is an essential component of every modern IT infrastructure. Automatically enforcing who can access your sensitive data and how and when they access it is critical to mitigating threats and improving the security of your organization against attacks.

In addition, we’re seeing advanced Customer Identity and Access Management and Business-to-Business Identity and Access Management being used to accelerate digital transformation growth initiatives. Enterprise IAM has done a great job reducing internal costs and improving security posture. But DX projects are moving on, looking to increase revenue by delivering new value to customers. Partnerships, collaborative ecosystems and content-rich customer services are all on the rise – as is the demand for robust IAM solutions built to secure third-party access to enterprise and cloud systems.

Visit our website to find out more about our Identity and Access Management platform.

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Dennis McDermott

Dennis McDermott heads product marketing for OpenText Identity and Access Management and Supplier Portal solutions. Formally trained in human-centered design and research, Dennis has over 25 years of experience in aligning technology product offerings with core buyer needs and preferences and has led marketing and sales organizations in identity and access management for the past 15 years.

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