Identity & Access Management
Identity and Access Management strengthens your security posture by granting remote access to the right people at the appropriate level, while keeping unauthorized users out.
What Is Identity & Access Management?
Identity and Access Management (IAM) is a set of policies and procedures that, when used in combination with specialized software, allows a business to carefully control remote access to its network and data. IAM is consistent with zero trust security principles because it facilitates explicit verification of users while granting least-privilege access. As the name implies, IAM is a combination of identity management and access management:
- Identity Management: The identity management component of IAM refers to a business’ ability to reliably authenticate the identities of people such as employees, partners, or contractors, each time they attempt to log into the company’s systems.
- Access Management: The access management component of IAM refers to a business’ ability to control each individual user’s level of access to specific applications, databases, or data. Access management also means that a company has control over what functions each individual user can perform once logged into the company’s system.
Benefits of Identity & Access Management
A carefully configured IAM system is of paramount importance in securing infrastructure that supports any form of remote access, including remote and hybrid workforces, contractor or partner portals, and even remote devices like sensors or routers. Remote and cloud-based IT infrastructure has expanded the attack surface for cybercriminals, giving them more points of potential attack and making it easier for them to escape detection. Benefits of using an IAM system include:
- Control over who gets into your business systems
- Greater visibility of users that are logged in
- Can help block attacks from compromised accounts or credentials
- Prevents ransomware and malware infections
- Safeguards against data and financial loss
NexusTek Identity & Access Management services include:
Identity verification involves matching any user attempting to log into your system against a complete database of authorized users. To provide maximum security benefit, the database needs to be updated constantly as employees, partners, contractors, etc., join or leave the group.
Multifactor authentication (MFA) is an important element of IAM, as it requires anyone attempting to log into your system to provide at least two independent credentials. A common combination is (a) username and password, plus (b) a numerical code sent to the user’s cell phone. If a threat actor somehow obtains an employee’s credentials (e.g., phishing, purchasing on dark web, brute force attack), MFA protects your system because it is highly unlikely that the threat actor would also have that employee’s cell phone.
Access management gives your business control over not only the segments of your system different users can access, but also the types of functions they can perform once logged in. This strengthens your cybersecurity posture by slowing down any hackers who do gain access to your system, by preventing them from gaining administrative privileges and making it harder for them to access your most sensitive data. Access permissions must also be constantly updated in the IAM database as employees’ and other users’ roles and responsibilities change.
Why NexusTek for Identity & Access Management?
Configuring an IAM system requires a solid understanding of the intersection between a company’s IT infrastructure and its business processes as they relate to user access. With over 25 years of experience supporting small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to align IT infrastructure with business needs, NexusTek brings the knowledge and insight you need to set up and maintain an IAM system that consistently grants the right access to the right people, while keeping the wrong people out.
Conditional Access is a solution that is specific to Microsoft Azure Active Directory, and its functions are consistent with the objectives of IAM. With Conditional Access, businesses are empowered to establish “signals” such as user and device status as conditions for access to different portions of the organization’s network. Conditional Access allows a business to create authentication and access policies using “if-then” statements that grant access, stipulate levels of authentication, or block access based on pre-established conditions. Conditional Access setup can be complex, but as a Microsoft Solutions Partner for Modern Work, NexusTek has the expertise to guide customers through the process to ensure that policies are restrictive enough to keep unwanted users out while also not unduly burdening or inconveniencing employees.
It’s true that the extra step required to authenticate your identity with MFA can be frustrating for some employees. Routine cybersecurity awareness training can help to ease some of that frustration, as it helps employees to understand how much harder it is for cybercriminals to hack their accounts if they use MFA. But from the enforcement angle, you can simply institute a policy requiring that employees use MFA, and then have your IT team limit employees’ administrative access so that they do not have the option to disable MFA.
Zero trust is a security model that has arisen in response to the growing complexity of securing infrastructure in the age of cloud computing and remote network access. Because business IT infrastructure and users are now less likely to be fully contained within a designated office or worksite that can be secured by a firewall, new security methods are needed to separate a company’s authorized users from unauthorized actors. And this is where zero trust comes in—with a zero trust approach, a business denies access to its systems by default, assumes that threats are ever-present, and requires explicit verification of authorized users at every step. The identity management aspect of IAM clearly aligns with these aims of the zero trust model, placing stringent authentication requirements in place to keep unauthorized parties from logging in from remote locations. The access management aspect of IAM aligns with the least-privilege access principle of zero trust, which stipulates that each authorized user should have specifically defined levels of access to system functionality and data. Adhering to a least-privilege policy means that each user is given only the level of access they require to do their jobs, and no more.
This is important for a variety of reasons. For one, you clearly would not want users such as partners or contractors to have access to applications like customer relationship management software or your human resources database. But there are also cybersecurity advantages of limiting employees’ access to specific segments of the system. For example, most employees have no need to access financial information, such as payroll, taxes, and accounting records. Using access management to limit employee access to such sensitive information enhances cybersecurity because, if a threat actor should circumvent the identity authentication system and gain access to, say, a customer service representative’s account, they would not be able to easily get their hands on the types of sensitive information they are likely looking for. Although skilled threat actors might be able continue to hack their way into different portions of a company’s network once they breach one user’s account, the barrier created by IAM’s access management capacities have the effect of slowing them down. This gives other components of the company’s cybersecurity program time to identify and contain the threat. In this example, a company using Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solutions would be well-positioned to spot the aberrant behavior and contain the hacker’s activity, effectively ending the security incident.