How Can Access Management Platforms Improve Cloud Security?

Traditional enterprise access management is rooted on-premises. A centralized access management platform lets security administrators remove authentication and authorization logic from business applications, saving application developers time and increasing security by providing uniformity of access controls.

That works well when employees and customers primarily use applications that are hosted on-premises to interact with the organization. However, a large portion of organizations have now adopted software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, and many have business relationships that require access to partners’ applications outside of their direct control.

The need for secure access in these scenarios has pulled on-premises access management into the cloud security business. Fortunately, the market has evolved to incorporate standards-based identity federation to meet this need.

Simple, Secure Access to the Cloud

When users connect to applications hosted outside of their organization, they need the same level of access security they have inside the enterprise. This includes capabilities like mobile access, risk-based access and strong authentication, as well as single sign-on (SSO) to ensure that any authentication friction is minimized. SSO also eliminates the frustration and often insecurity that results from having to remember and update passwords for multiple applications.

With identity federation, an organization can deliver cloud security and usability benefits by acting as the identity provider for users. This lets users bring their authenticated identity with them when accessing applications outside of their organization. Federation improves security, as well. Since users’ identities are tied to their organization and not the application provider, if they leave the organization or changes roles, their access to third-party applications is simultaneously restricted. Because federation is based on standards like SAML 2.0 and OpenID Connect, access management platforms can provide preintegrated connectors to make federation to SaaS applications quicker and easier for security administrators to configure.

Enable External Users

For business-to-consumer access management, it is important to lower barriers to sharing information. Federation allows businesses to accept an identity already established at a cloud-based third party to authenticate users. For example, a newspaper may allow readers to log in using their Google, Twitter or LinkedIn identities. This saves the reader from having to re-enter their information and increases engagement. It is the newspaper’s access management platform support for federating identity from the third-party provider that lets them deliver this feature.

Deploy Cloud Security Anywhere

Finally, an access management platform needs to be flexible enough to be deployed near the applications they are protecting as part of a broader cloud security strategy. As more applications are developed and deployed on cloud infrastructure, access management platforms need to deploy in these cloud environments, as well.

In sum, a robust access management platform that supports standards-based identity federation can accelerate secure cloud adoption within the enterprise.

IBM recently announced a new version of its access management platform, IBM Security Access Manager. To learn more about this tool, watch the on-demand webinar “One IT, One Identity: Mastering the Security Challenge in the Age of Digital Transformation.”

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Brian T. Mulligan

Offering Manager for Security Access and Directory Products, IBM

Brian Mulligan is the offering manager for IBM Security Access and Directory Products. In this role, Brian works in conjunction with the development, sales, marketing and support organizations to deliver innovative user-centric security solutions. Previously, Brian was a member of the IBM Security strategy team working to create a cross-domain strategy for IBM Security. Much of his work focused on the advantages of an integrated approach to security. Outside of work, he enjoys running, cycling, skiing and trying new beers.