Identity management software 101
Identity management software, sometimes referred to as an identity and access management (IAM) system, is a framework comprised of policies, functionalities, and governance processes purpose-built to manage and secure digital identities within an organization. Effective identity management solution facilitates the administration and control of user identities, authentication, authorization, and the management of user privileges and access to resources and systems such as applications, databases, and hardware.
The principal purpose of identity management software is to ensure that the appropriate users can gain access to the resources they need when they need them to execute mission-critical tasks. Identity management software must be able to fulfill this purpose without impacting performance or being a constant bottleneck to important business processes. To accomplish this goal consistently, your identity management platform must help your organization maintain control over user identities, streamline access control processes, improve security, and enhance overall productivity. In this post, we will articulate the key features of an effective identity management tool and explain where it can break down and why. Finally, we will provide some guidance on how your identity governance managers and IT security administration can mitigate the chances of failure and keep your system operating at optimal efficiency.
8 key features of identity management software
1. User provisioning. Good identity management software performs seamless account management; automatically creating, modifying, and deleting user accounts as required across the enterprise infrastructure.
2. Authentication and single sign-on (SSO). The system verifies user identities by employing authentication methods such as passwords, biometrics, or multi-factor authentication (MFA). SSO enables users to log in once and access systems to which they have access without the need for repeated authentication.
3. Authorization and access control. Identity management products perform identity lifecycle management; defining and dynamically managing user privileges, roles, and permissions in real time to ensure that users have appropriate access rights based on their roles and responsibilities within the organization.
4. Directory services. The system maintains a centralized directory or user repository that stores and manages user identities, attributes, and other relevant information.
5. Password management. Identity management software enforces password policies, provides password reset functionalities, and promotes secure password practices.
6. Auditing and compliance. Logging and monitoring user activities establishes what is “normal user behavior” for security and compliance purposes. The system should also be able to generate audit reports and play a critical part in the carrying out of audits.
7. Self-service capabilities. Identity management platform should allow users to manage their own identities, passwords, and access rights through self-service portals.
8. Federation and external identity management. Identity management products should integrate seamlessly with external identity providers or federated identity systems to enable secure access to resources across organizational boundaries.
9 ways identity management software can fail
As we have seen, an identity management solution has many moving parts. As with all systems comprised of many moving parts, there are many points of failure. As an organization becomes bigger, it onboards new employees, applications, databases, and hardware and works with more external service providers. Identity management products that were once sufficient usually become less so as enterprises introduce new complexities to their IT infrastructures. Bearing this in mind, here are some common areas where an identity management platform may encounter challenges or fail:
1. Ineffective user provisioning and de-provisioning. Failures may occur when the system does not grant users the right access privileges or when accounts that should be deleted are not promptly deactivated. Insufficient provisioning is a principal cause of unauthorized access or worse, data breaches in an organization.
2. Inadequate authentication. When authentication mechanisms are weak, the security of your identity management software can be more easily compromised. Unauthorized individuals can gain access to sensitive systems or information. Weak passwords, lack of MFA, or outdated authentication protocols make your system more vulnerable.
3. Poor access control. Improperly configured access permissions and excessive user privileges are fertile ground for security failures; enabling unauthorized users to gain access and risking data leakage and misuse of resources.
4. Integration challenges. Identity management software often needs to integrate with various applications, systems, and databases within an organization’s IT infrastructure. When integration is not seamless, there is greater risk of data inconsistencies, synchronization issues, or disruptions in user access.
5. Lack of scalability. If your system struggles to accommodate growth in scale, you may face performance degradation, slow response times, or even system failures.
6. User experience and adoption. Overly complex or unintuitive identity management products or applications that require excessive manual effort can undermine their effectiveness and security.
7. Insider threats. While the purpose of identity management products is to manage user access, they may overlook internal threats posed by malicious insiders or compromised accounts and fail to mitigate their impact.
8. Lack of robust monitoring and auditing. Identity management tool that cannot effectively monitor and audit user activities, detect anomalies, and generate meaningful logs are far less likely to be able to identify and respond to security incidents, data breaches, or policy violations.
9. Inadequate compliance and governance. If an identity management software application cannot enforce access controls, collect audit logs, or provide reporting capabilities, it may fail to demonstrate compliance, resulting in legal or regulatory consequences.
Get the most from your identity management software
While all the points of failure described here are serious, they are not insurmountable challenges. Here is a summary of the functionality your system must provide to ensure your identity management software can do its job:
- Your access management software must demonstrate it can manage user access automatically; granting sufficient access privileges and deactivating accounts when a user leaves an organization without manual intervention.
- Your cybersecurity team must use password management solutions that require password changes every 90 days and offer effective authentication methods such as multi-factor authentication (MFA).
- The identity management software must provide robust access control mechanisms and support the principle of least privilege to ensure that users have appropriate levels of access based on their roles and responsibilities.
- Your system must show that it integrates easily with other applications, systems, and databases within your IT environment.
- Get proof that your identity management tool will handle growing user populations and increasing complexity.
- Secure buy-in from your user community that your identity management software is user-friendly and intuitive.
- Ensure your identity management solution provides functionality to detect internal threats posed by malicious insiders or compromised accounts.
- Your identity management tool must have monitoring and auditing capabilities to track user activities, detect anomalies, and generate meaningful logs for analysis.
- Prove that your identity management software can enforce the controls, collect audit logs, and provide the reporting capabilities needed to demonstrate compliance.
Implementing enterprise-grade identity management platform helps improve security, enhances user experience, streamlines user administration processes, and helps meet regulatory compliance requirements. This is especially important in larger organizations where managing user identities and access rights is constantly complex and challenging and cannot be accomplished without reliable identity management software in place. It is important to note that while identity management systems can encounter failures, many of these challenges can be mitigated or addressed through proper design, implementation, ongoing maintenance, and user education.
Modern identity management solution as a cloud based service enables organizations to achieve a 360-degree view of all identities and access rights across hybrid systems and any cloud application, ensuring that users have appropriate access in compliance with policies and regulations. Learn more.