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Identity Management vs. Identity Security

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Time to read: 5 mins

Identity Management vs. Identity Security

Identity-related data breaches are a rising problem, with 84% of organizations experiencing an identity-based cyber incident last year, according to a study by the Identity Defined Security Alliance. This number shouldn’t be surprising, as the same study shows that nearly every organization is seeing an explosion in the number of identities with a wide array of access permissions. This increase is due to not only human users requiring access – particularly through third-party contractors – but because of digital transformation and the adoption of IoT, AI and cloud applications.

Too many organizations struggle to manage all the identities attached to their infrastructure, and that’s leading to credential theft and compromised identities. Deploying identity management solutions and investing in identity security tools will address this growing security issue.

What is identity management?

Identity management, also known as identity and access management (IAM), is a combination of policies and technologies that allows only authorized access to organizational resources, including networks, applications, and data, that are necessary for the user to perform and complete job functions. It’s about ensuring that all identities have the proper access to the right resources.

Identity management centers on identity and its roles—recognizing what identities are active or what identities are orphaned—and then determining the best technologies to protect those identities. This is most often done with passwords, but other options include biometrics and multi-factor authentication setups.

Identity management systems are built around three primary responsibilities: identification, authentication, and authorization of each identity—human and machine—that could have access to the organization’s infrastructure. Each step verifies the identity and its permission to perform specific tasks.

What is identity security?

Identity security is a component of the security system meant to protect human and non-human identities across the organization. The solution should work in tandem with other tools within the security platform and with IAM tools. The point of identity security is to prevent identities from becoming the gateway for data breaches and other cyber incidents.

While traditional IAM solutions do the identification and authentication part really well, the authorization part is the weak link, yet a necessary component for identity security. IAM and other access management programs, like MFA, aren’t enough. Because authorization determines what access permissions the identity has, deploying the principle of least privilege will help to address IAM’s authorization gap.

The emphasis of identity security is to allow access but to strictly control that access and enforce privileges. Identity security also adds a layer of protection to the DevOps process by securing credentials.

Why identity management is necessary

Unauthorized access is a leading cause of data breaches, with just under half caused by stolen or compromised credentials. Breaches due to misuse of usernames and passwords is up by more than 400%.

As the saying goes, you can’t protect what you can’t see. Many organizations continue to lack full visibility of digital identities and access permissions, especially when identities are frequently changing. People change jobs; machines have limited functions.

The role of identity management is to track those changes throughout the entire lifecycle of the identity, adding and subtracting permissions as required. It not only tracks all identities, but identity management solutions give administrators the privileges to update access rights as needed. Identity management is about control: control over authorizing permissions to the right identities, control over deactivating identities that are no longer authenticated, and control over which components of a system any given identity has permission to access.

Why identity security is necessary

Passwords, biometrics, and MFA are there to verify the authenticity of an identity to gain access. Identity security protects not only the identity, but everything the identity has access to. But it also goes a step further in helping to detect legitimate access versus a compromised access.

Good identity security solutions enable organizations to realize the principle of least privilege. The principle of least privilege focuses on access control and setting up minimal access privileges for every user and identity. By doing so, organizations can lower the risk of an unauthorized user accessing company or customer data.

Identity security is designed to monitor and provide visibility into the behaviors of digital identities. With the right tools, identity security will be able to identify anything from keystroke patterns and outlier time-of-day access entries to rogue authentication from long-dormant accounts. Identity security monitors identities that move across multiple cloud applications and devices and those accessing from unusual remote locations. It is sometimes seen as the last line of defense within the security system, especially for insider threats.

Bringing it all together

Where identity management is about control, identity security starts with visibility into what identities have what levels of access within the organization. This visibility enables security teams to focus their time and effort on mitigating the impact of abnormal behavior from users and accounts with admin rights or those that can access critical infrastructure applications.

Identity management and identity security don’t work against each other. Good identity management systems include elements of any security system, and will also add layers of confidentiality to data and will help organizations meet stringent compliance regulations. By requiring only authorized access to resources, identity management by itself provides a standard of security. Identity security tools complement IAM solutions with real-time threat detection and prevention with policies often designed around least privilege principles. Identity security adds the authorization factor to identity management.

“Businesses need to evolve their identity management program to enable the right individuals to access the right resources at the right times for the right reasons,” Gartner stated. Identity security offers that balance.

Each can stand alone, but you are better able to address risk management around credentials when the two solutions work together.