Threat-Aware Identity and Access Management: Marketing Hype or the Real Deal?

July 11, 2014
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2 min read

During a recent visit to a Global 1000 company in Europe, the chief information security officer (CISO) asked me this question: “Is threat-aware identity and access management (IAM) all marketing hype?” My first instinct was to defend my presentation. Instead, I asked him to let me share the following market and customer observations and then be the judge himself.

Identity Must Become a Security Control

If you think like an attacker, compromising an authorized user’s access and intruding upon that session with common vulnerabilities and attacks gives you the quickest path to business-critical data and enterprise resources. Today’s Web access management systems authenticate and authorize user access while letting all the content flow through without security checks. In order to defend the enterprise against targeted attacks and session takeovers, Web access management systems will need to evolve to become aware of security threats and vulnerabilities rather than turn a blind eye to them.

Context Is Essential for Identity and Access Management

The rapid transformations spurred by cloud, mobile and social platforms are continuing to erode the traditional enterprise security perimeter as we know it. This results in multiple perimeters around the enterprise resources, business partner interactions and cloud-based services. For example, mobile employees’ Internet access resembles that of an end consumer’s access; outsourced IT employees administer business-critical assets with privileged identity and access from remote locations. Traditional, static access definitions will need to evolve to use identity context, such as user-, device- and transaction-based attributes to help improve the assurance of legitimate user access and prevent fraudulent activities.

Identity Analytics Are a Required Element

Back in the ’90s, first-generation identity and access controls focused on demonstrating regulatory compliance while organizations hoped that departing employees didn’t retain access to key assets. Over the next decade, organizations introduced customized identity management to govern their employees’, contractors’ and partners’ access. This offered opportunities for the users to be productive (“do good”) while introducing even more ways to take advantage (“do bad”). Audit and risk teams alike continue to demand answers to seemingly simple questions: Who is doing what, where and from how many points of access? Real-time identity and access analytics can help answer these questions while enabling better decision-making and detecting anomalous behavior to audit and enable enterprise-wide security risk management.

Identity and Access Management Buyer’s Guide – Assistance evaluating IAM solutions

A threat-aware identity and access management approach offers fundamental security control to manage security and risks in order to meet the business demands regardless of where the data, applications and users reside. Organizations of all sizes can use this identity and access management approach to:

  • Safeguard mobile, cloud and social access;
  • Prevent advanced insider threats;
  • Simplify cloud integration and identity silos;
  • Deliver actionable identity intelligence.

As I wrapped up the discussion, the CISO looked at his team and said, “This doesn’t seem to be marketing hype after all.” What do you think? I would like to hear from you in the comments below.

IDC Review of Threat-Aware and Identity Life-Cycle Management for Mobile, Cloud, and Enterprise

Ravi Srinivasan
Director, Strategy and Product Management

Ravi directs the IBM identity, access and cloud security strategy and product management based in Austin, Texas. He has over 16 years of experience in produc...
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