Wed | Nov 4, 2020 | 3:42 AM PST

Planning and supporting identity management growth with reliable and sustainable infrastructure is in some ways like working with an iceberg. What you see above the water line is the level of systems integrated into the identity and access management, or IAM, which drives your business. Underneath the water are all the systems and applications, manual tasks, configurations, and processes that can put organizations at risk. These "unseen" factors can reduce productivity and add potential errors into the systems.

From an IAM standpoint, the massive underwater part of the iceberg represents an organization's ability to monitor and ensure that identities and security rights are precise, and managed effectively and securely, to reduce risk. It is also a vital aspect for cybersecurity management to reduce the risks associated with users with unnecessary access privileges. Just as it is difficult to plan for, and navigate around the unseen part of an iceberg, the IAM technology requirements, policies, and processes to support a growing enterprise present their own challenges.

Napster Founder Shawn Fanning observed, "I think the most difficult thing had been scaling the infrastructure. Trying to support the response we had received from our users and the number of people that were interested in using the software." Organizations with hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of employees must effectively and efficiently scale secure access to their systems and applications. Using manual processes, procedures, and configurations inhibits growth, adds complexity, and causes errors that can leave systems vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks. The cloud and mobility have created additional challenges, where users, applications, and systems are increasingly remote and distributed.

IAM in a nutshell

Organizations rely upon IAM to protect their corporate systems and applications, by ensuring employees, customers, and partners are who they say they are, and allowing them to only access the resources they need. It protects against cybersecurity breaches by centralizing and automating user account management tasks. IAM is utilized to control and enforce policies that govern user access, authorization, and privileges to systems and applications. It also provides data access governance and privacy management for regulatory compliance, providing an audit trail through access controls and monitoring.

IAM automates and controls the access of users and devices across the organization, as well as third-party cloud and SaaS providers. Identity access management removes the notion of anonymity by mapping user identities through a framework that applies policies and consistent standards across myriad and diverse and distributed systems and applications.

Are you in the business of doing business, or protecting business?

Let's face it, if a business is not 100% focused on its core competencies, it can become at risk of losing its competitive edge. That's one of the reasons why cloud and SaaS have been so successful and pervasive. When it comes to managing and monitoring identity infrastructure, a dedicated managed security provider is able to provide all the benefits of a dedicated team of security and identity professionals, with cloud economies of scale, and without the headaches and overhead costs.

Digitally-enabled organizations need multi-layered security

In order for organizations to protect themselves, they rely upon three primary forms of security: physical, network, and identity. Without IAM, a hacker doesn't need to be too concerned about an organization's physical and network security. They can get in by phishing employees, and then move laterally within the organization to gain access to business systems or critical privileged accounts. Once in, they have carte blanche to do whatever they want.

Security and protected access also apply to internal users. IAM prohibits employees and third-parties from having unauthorized access to critical business systems, and streamlines the on-boarding and off-boarding of users. It also manages privileged credentials for users with elevated access and permissions for admin accounts, applications, and systems.

When an organization is completely focused on its core business, it becomes impossible to effectively plan and support identity management with a reliable and sustainable secure infrastructure and expert internal resources. They're lucky if they can even see the tip of the identity iceberg, let alone have visibility into what's underneath the water that creates risk.