Consumer Identity and Access Management (CIAM): Reducing Friction Without Reducing Security

May 12, 2020
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2 min read

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Who’s there? It’s a critical question for enterprises, and identity and access management (IAM) solutions help ensure the right employees are accessing the right applications for the right reasons.

But what about consumers? On this week’s Security Intelligence podcast, hosts Pam Cobb and David Moulton search for consumer identity and access management (CIAM) answers with the help of Sean Brown, program director for the IBM IAM team, and Martijn Loderus, global CIAM lead for IBM.

Control vs. Capture

According to Loderus, what sets IAM and CIAM apart “isn’t the technology, it’s the use case.” While IAM tools are designed for access control, CIAM solutions are built for data capture. “Think about IAM as a vault,” says Loderus. “CIAM is like the entry to Disneyland. The goal is to get everyone through the gate as quickly as possible.”

Where IAM solutions require employees to authenticate their identity before gaining access, CIAM services rely on self sign-up. Consumers provide specific information in exchange for specific outcomes. Rather than regulation, the goal is to build a relationship.

As noted by Brown, however, there’s a growing need for organizations to ensure the data they capture is protected. “What we see across the board in every market is that new regulations are taking hold,” he says. “Companies need to protect customer data or there’s financial impact.”

Fighting Friction Burns

Friction frustrates customers. “We’ve all tried to go into an application and need to get to it quickly and are then prompted for additional authentication factors,” notes Brown. In turn, we often see “cart abandonment and brand dissatisfaction caused by friction when users are asked for too much information or to re-verify information.” In other words, consumers begin to lose confidence.

To fight friction burns, companies need collaborative efforts. CIAM touches multiple lines of business, according to Loderus. The CMO and CIO need to devise how it looks and how it works, while the CISO needs to make sure that capturing consumer information is done effectively and securely. For Brown, this means striking a balance — giving consumers control of their data without compromising corporate networks. Put simply, “CIAM should deliver frictionless access without reducing security.”

Smooth Operators

Trust forms the foundation of effective CIAM experiences. But from a corporate perspective, “there is no trust,” says Loderus. “And from a consumer perspective, they don’t have trust either. You need to create it on both sides.” This requires what Loderus calls “progressive trust” — information requests that are relevant to current use cases.

For example, customers simply visiting a website shouldn’t be subject to CIAM. If customers want to download a brochure, asking for an email address is reasonable. Creating an on-site account might require email verification, and Loderus notes that “during a financial transaction it’s normal to have step-up authentication, while high-level transactions may require a Social Security or passport number.”

From a consumer perspective, effective CIAM solutions reduce friction while building a relationship based on reciprocal trust. For companies, this means recognizing the “shift of privacy and control back to the individual user,” according to Brown. This requires an approach that relies on decentralized identity and a blockchain-style structure to protect consumer data, along with a consolidation of existing identities across siloed CIAM solutions to ensure users aren’t forced to continually verify data.

The bottom line is that CIAM must be a reciprocal relationship. By prioritizing progressive trust and fighting friction, enterprises can enhance the consumer experience without sacrificing security.

Douglas Bonderud
Freelance Writer

A freelance writer for three years, Doug Bonderud is a Western Canadian with expertise in the fields of technology and innovation. In addition to working for...
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