Current and Future State of Identity Access Management (IAM)

It is a proven fact that maintaining excellent customer experience results in increased revenue growth for a company. However, to achieve such an experience, a business must invest in new technologies, processes, and systems. The current era necessitates the implementation of disruptive technologies to retain, serve, and win new customers. Identity and Access Management (IAM) is one of the most vital technologies today. Despite its beginning as a platform for acquiring technologies, it has grown to become an essential tool for enabling companies to engage with and understand customers.

Why your Business Needs IAM

1. Manage Customer Preferences, Identities, and Profiles

Customers value relevant, consistent, and personalized experiences in all engagements with a business. An enterprise can only achieve this by accurately enrolling, identifying, and verifying customers. The company should also remember the client’s preferences, interactions, and understand how they behave. All this can only become feasible by implementing a central platform for managing customer identities. Such includes a website to inform clients of acceptable payment methods, subscription expiration, email lists, among other offers.

2. Offer Secure, Adaptive Access to Protected Information

Most businesses today provide digitized products and processes. As a result, they tend to generate more data every day. Also, most companies work in partnerships with many other third parties, such as contractors, suppliers, and outsourcers.

For this to happen, an organization must ensure that the right and authorized data owners can access the information, and ensure there are not any instances of unauthorized access or data usage. This is irrespective of the hosting model or location. Besides, the company must ascertain that authorization processes consider the context. As such, IAM needs to tie business partners, customer data, and employees. They can achieve this by implementing and managing IAM technologies.

3. Enhance Customer Relationships Through Leveraging Identity Data

IAM deployments offer identity patterns and rich context regarding how end-users interact with a website, corporate applications, mobile applications, and call centers. Also, security personnel analyze the data and use the results to implement defensive measures to protect against attacks and to investigate security events.

More importantly, analyzing the data provides companies with information on how clients browse through a website, and where they experience challenges in authentication, self-services such as password reset, and registration. Also, the information enables an organization to redesign its website to provide users with more-targeted experiences and to speed up vital processes like registration.

4. Maintain Privacy Preferences

Most customers are increasingly becoming concerned and sensitive to how companies collect personal information, the purpose of collection, and storage procedures. This is due to the implementation of various legislations that provide data owners with more control over how businesses can use their information.

To ensure conformance, an enterprise must manage the user identities such that the users can log in to their accounts and customize their privacy preferences.

Furthermore, businesses must ascertain that when storing, copying, or transmitting data, they have protected it when at rest, in use, or transit. They must also enforce a client’s privacy preferences, but without overlooking the possible value, they can extract from the collected information.

5. Support Zero-Trust Processes

Zero-trust models are increasingly becoming the de facto and necessary standard governing information security principles. Businesses also apply these models in other areas such as network security, application security, data protection, and cloud security.

Implementing IAM systems assists in adherence to zero-trust models. They provide the least privilege controls to ensure users only access what they need to accomplish their objectives. More so, IAM enables companies to easily transit to new and identity-based perimeters. IAM also ensures the prevention of over privileging users. It provides avenues for pre-integration with other components and domains in an organization’s IT environment.

Current and Future IAM Trends

Security professionals expect IAM to become more integral in both business and individual lives, largely influenced by a continuously changing societal and technological landscapes. Despite the human inability to accurately predict new evolutions beyond the near future, it is certain new technologies will emerge, most of which might require more secure approaches in regards to IAM. This is especially so considering that employee inability to manage and protect their access credentials such as passwords cause 90% of successful attacks.

The current IAM strategies might be incapable of meeting future requirements, especially with the increasing levels of devices and systems interconnection and automation.

1. Smart Device and Robotics Identification

Based on the future prediction, IAM techniques will go beyond the current authentication criterion such as pets, humans, and biometrics, to include smart device and robotics identification. Businesses and individuals will accomplish this through interconnecting systems with automated tasks and data sharing capabilities, thus facilitating a collaborative and easier IAM environment.

Furthermore, interconnected and distributed technologies will increase in number, thus providing accurate, continuous, and seamless resource access. This will, in turn, require the development and implementation of advanced IAM strategies focused on artificial intelligence, sophisticated biometrics, machine learning, and any other disruptive technologies.

Subsequently, enterprises will no longer rely on the currently used IAM methods, including passwords, for accessing secured resources and physical facilities. Instead, they will substitute them with smart systems configured to continually learn distinct personal characters and features to further strengthen access control.

2. IAM as a Utility

Professionals regard IAM to be the center of current and future digital transformations. As such, businesses will use it as the epicenter of securing IT infrastructures in all organizations, governmental agencies, higher learning institutions, among others. IAM also extends to all substantive applications or systems deployed within an organization.

Organizations will, therefore, apply IAM as a utility identity in the near future. To achieve this, tech companies will first need to devise consistent and reliable data collection, processing and organizing, and dissemination techniques.

Currently, enterprise data resides in multiple disparate silos. This has resulted in organizations deploying data sharing and modification orchestration as the cornerstone for providing solutions to existing IAM challenges, among them being account provisioning. For example, event triggers like making changes to authoritative data sources like HR systems might lead to automatic creation of user accounts, along with IAM aspects. Such include assigning access privileges and defining user attributes used to determine the access levels.

As a result, such identity abstraction can be termed as an IAM architecture that is service-oriented. It currently targets to be a ubiquitous service seeking to provide identity information to network, application, and people services. The future of IAM contrasts since it will be developed based on highly accessible and flexible foundations to ensure data integration from diverse environments. As such, it will provide numerous consumers with a secure IAM method before allowing access to protected resources.

Despite the obvious benefits, the main challenge to achieving IAM as a utility is that a large percentage of organizations contain numerous processes and environments which first require cohesive integration and normalization. The lack of standardized methods for integrating the various capabilities of available procedures and processes further increase the challenges.

In more cases than not, application or system vendors tend to ignore recommended efforts for integrating standards such as SCIM (System for Cross-domain Identity Management). Instead, they develop proprietary interfaces only to turn out to be a cumbersome process when integrating with other IAM deployments. Additionally, some IAM vendors do not have a sufficient portfolio consisting of connectors needed for seamless integration with other IAM systems. Organizations should fill these existing gaps to ensure a cohesive foundation in anticipation of future IAM requirements.

Besides, almost all IAM share the same philosophy; that each deployment type is unique and hence needs unique customized processes and policies. As a result, there has been a proliferation of costly, brittle, typically challenging to upgrade, and highly customized deployments. Subsequently, vendors have resorted to recycling various IAM deployment. Businesses replace older implementations once they have fully met the organizational security needs and substituted with new ones. Other instances of IAM deployments include if further integration and increased expansion prove to be too expensive.

However, instead of ensuring full access control, recycled IAM deployments might be insufficient in protecting numerous applications as they might not be inclusive of the scope of automated provisioning/de-provisioning, or proper access governance control processes. This is because the continuous recycling might cause a company to end up with specific systems such as SAP, Oracle, and Active Directory. Hence, current IAM deployments may be insignificant in ensuring the security of each application or system in a given environment, exposing them to untold risk.

This does not necessarily mean that the broader IAM objectives are unachievable. To meet the goals, organizations need to avoid getting caught up in pitfalls brought about by custom one-off IAM deployments. IAM requirements across companies are similar as only their capabilities align with select patterns. All future IAM deployments need to reference from an IAM architecture template to ensure they apply to all connected applications and systems. The following attributes describe the capabilities that enterprises should include in future IAM deployments.

Interactive: All application developers and end-users should be able to interact with a deployed IAM platform.

Accessible: Future IAM vendors should include processes and policies capable of uniquely identifying different actors. They should also define the permission levels of an actor, which are based on factors such as obligations, entitlement, assigned rights, and roles.

Adaptable to change: An IAM platform must feature capabilities for defining and managing the continuous changes brought about by changing relationships between enterprise resources and identities. The ability to adapt should be consistent throughout the IAM lifecycle.

Manageable: These are the capabilities needed for a company to easily manage, upgrade, and configure a deployed IAM solution.

Measurable: An IAM deployment should contain capabilities to be used in inspections, audits, improving, and gaining a deeper insight into all the IAM activities.

Storage: Vendors need to equip future IAM solutions with capabilities needed to ensure secure storage and maintenance of identity information, as well as their relationships. The solutions should enable a company to easily retrieve the information.

3. Identity Normalization, Federation, and Virtualization

Future IAM solutions will further consist of identity normalization, federation, and virtualization. Virtualization and federation are based on the premise that no single agency, organization, government, or company can only be the final authoritative source relating to objects and their interactions.

Future identity management will include identity federation as a core component since it will extend to lower frictions, especially where the number of objects keeps growing exponentially. Through federation, organizations will manage to grant access to shared resources or applications without requiring to adopt the same technologies to be used in security, directory services, and authentication. As such, it is worth noting that federation will be beneficial since companies will manage to retain directory control, and at the same time, extend their reach beyond the local authentication.

Also, identity federation will eliminate the need for developing proprietary solutions. As a result, organizations will enjoy reduced costs when developing and deploying IAM solutions. The main aim of all IAM deployments is to authenticate and identify users, enhance security, and lower the risks which result from using identity information for multiple authentications. Also, implementing federated IAM solutions will enable companies to strengthen their privacy compliance efforts. This is because they will provide centralized and effective control of user access to identity stores and information sharing. It will further facilitate an improved user experience since it will also eliminate the need for registering new accounts.

Despite the advantages brought by federated IAM systems, there is the possibility of losing the centralized control. The obstacle results from the need to accept identity credentials from sources not within the confines of an organization. Where the authorization risks are restricted to low-value data, a company might accept them. However, high-risk or high-value information might require direct authentication and management. The main problem of accepting authentication from outside sources is brought by trust issues. Is the federated user being truthful that he is who he claims to be?

4. Blockchain-Based IAM

Other technologies are also influencing the future of IAM. These include identity systems based on blockchain technology. The main focus of the systems is to provide access to requested services and resources through gaining explicit consent to share given information with specific entities.

The future of such IAM deployments includes a self-sovereign, distributed identity approach designed to empower individuals as well as risk mitigation efforts for companies collecting the information. It can be likened to micro-services but for identity management. It can be viewed as a self-sovereign entity where the owner can control it in multiple ways.

Blockchain is an integral part of future identity models. It will also play a key role in developing and supporting IAM systems based on self-sovereign identity. Blockchain consists of distributed ledgers that can be used to provide enhanced discoverability of the identity and provide secure connections to required data for a transaction to be complete. Blockchain technology will also support future IAM deployments through anchored identifiers, which will be linked to identify various hubs encoded with the semantic data.

5. Passwordless Authentication

With the adoption of authentication services such as Windows Hello and Trusona, as well as the proliferation of connected tokens and smartphone-based authentications, it is now possible for security personnel to migrate away from password-based only authentication.

Alternatives that will influence future IAM processes are biometrics (fingerprints, voice, and face), push notifications which users can access through mobile devices, risk-based authentication, and behavioral biometrics, risk-based authentication, and FIDO WebAuthN. Such forms of passwordless authentication will enable companies to direct their attention to device registration and initial onboarding processes to enhance them.

6. Multimodal and Multitarget IAM Services to Support All Workloads

Despite cloud adoption rates increasing every year, some organizations still rely on on-premise applications, processes, user directories, and legacy systems. The traditional systems still might not go away in the next coming years, and this might lead to the development of hybrid IAM deployments or architectures. These will support both the on-premise and cloud workloads. Such architectures will be capable of supporting the IAM security needs of legacy and on-premise applications such as ERP and HRIS. This will nevertheless require the use of connectors and the integration of SSO (single-sign-on).

Moreover, some businesses remain reluctant to store PII and user information in cloud storage services. Hybrid IAM deployments will serve to support hybrid environments and applications by integrating SaaS and on-premise apps, and through supporting IAM deployments in many configurations. These include managed services, cloud IDaaS, or on-premise offerings.

7. Behavioral Biometrics to Perform Identity Verification

Companies will increase the use of biometrics in performing identification verification to ensure a continuous process of user authentication. Currently, cyber adversaries no longer require targeting system endpoints to harvest passwords and other identity or authentication credentials. They can easily hack an Active Directory or password vault and access all stored passwords. As such, it is no longer sufficient to make a single authentication decision using passwords only, especially where a business uses a single-sign-on approach.

Companies hence need to include multifactor or behavioral device profiling. For example, organizations can deploy behavioral biometrics to assess a user’s behavior as a means of identity verification when customers respond to fill out forms when enrolling. Future IAM will hence consist of an expanded authorization and authentication processes, which will shift from the current one-time decision to a continuous process of monitoring and establishing user-profiles and corresponding activities.

Future IAM Architecture Requirements for Operational Efficiency and Security

1. Data Encapsulation and Protecting its Identity

Organizations must track the data identity to protect their availability or integrity. Data identity means the metadata used to describe the data itself, which can provide information such as the owner who created it, individuals that can access the data, and users with authorized permissions for deleting it. Systems embed data identity within the data asset, which makes it a crucial component of realizing a secure and zero-trust environment.

More so, the data identity can provide information regarding its usage patterns. As a result, cyber adversaries can leverage the metadata, irrespective of whether systems encrypt it or not, to learn more about a specific user’s activities.

To counter this, it is essential to manage and tie data identity to the employee access permissions, effectively protecting data theft and reducing threat surfaces. IAM solutions need to be capable of assigning access privileges to users in their entire identity lifecycle.

2. Leverage Machine Learning Capabilities

Future IAM solutions should leverage machine learning (ML) capabilities as a means of intercepting anomalous patterns and access requests. In the current IMG (identity management and governance) solutions that utilize user data stored in a directory, businesses can identify and enforce specific user access privileges. Nevertheless, organizations cannot use such strategies to establish threats presented when user access permissions spike more than normal. Including machine learning in IMG tools can, therefore, equip them with analytic capabilities for providing a deeper insight into user requests, entitlements, and obtained permissions.

3. Feed Identity and Cyber Threat Intelligence in IAM Platforms

The current methods used to secure against cyber threats in siloed environments usually provide insufficient and partial defenses. However, IAM vendors need to devise measures that can provide optimized protection. The measures include developing IAM solutions capable of analyzing and integrating different types of identity data, which include device fingerprints, IP addresses, password and username combinations, as well as sites targeted by hackers.

4. Tweak Authorization to be Based on Activity and Context

Although access certification procedures minimize violations in the separation of duties and enhance an organization’s security posture, most employees perceive it as a nuisance in their productivity.

IAM vendors need to minimize the burden on IMG procedures through developing externalized authorization deployments capable of dynamically tuning authorization decisions in running applications. This is through basing IAM on the context like geolocation or device fingerprint during device access, and activities such as resource user access in the application. Other techniques are creating point values for resource access, which mandates whether the running tally of a user matches the accessed resources.

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