Although Identity and Access Management (IAM) may appear to encompass both identity management and access management, there are differences. While identity management will authenticate a user’s identity on the system, it can’t tell if a user has access permission. Access management can take the user’s data and determine if they have the required attributes to gain access to different areas of the system.
Identity Management varies a lot depending on the application and what security features are present. New users are assigned a digital identity as soon as they are added to the system. This identity is managed by comparing a user’s details in the database against the provided log-in information.
Levels of authentication can vary greatly. Online sites such as Facebook will only ask you to enter your username and password to gain access. But a more secure company may need extra verification, such as fingerprint or retina identification.
Basic-level identity management works well for small companies. But as the number of users increases with larger businesses, using a modified version that assigns identities based on groups is more efficient. This solution prevents the system from slowing down when checking thousands of identities.
In simple terms, access management deals with Yes/No decisions. If you want to access a particular area of the system, you will need to enter your log-in details. Then the access management will check your credentials. If you meet the criteria to enter this section of the system, it will grant you access.
Access management checks to see if you are a registered identity, but it does not manage this data.
With over 1000 data breaches in the US in 2020, both management systems are necessary to create a robust security protocol. Those who are monitoring the two systems must know what is the difference between identity management and access management.
Because as a user, you will only enter your log-in information, so you may not realise that there is a whole other system that checks your permission to enter a particular area.
It is critical that the information about a user's details and access information is entered accurately to ensure the security of the company. If the access information is not clearly defined, this becomes an exploit that cybercriminals can use to gain access to the company’s data.
The identity management system must also make sure all the information about its users is comprehensive to prevent hackers from accessing log-in details.
In essence, identity management is the key letting you in the house, while access management controls which rooms you can go into, once you’re inside. Using IAM can give you and your company the best of both worlds while maintaining a solid security barrier to stop unwanted data breaches.
Understanding how these two protocols work and the purpose of identity and access management is essential to effectively securing company data and access.
For further reading, check out our other articles like What is Okta Verify.