Skip to main content

Identity Management: Data or Security?

I was having a discussion this week with a colleague, regarding identity management transformation projects and how organisations get from the often deep quagmire of complexity, low re-usability and low project success, to something resembling an effective identity and access management (IAM) environment.  Most projects start off with a detailed analytics phase, outlining the current 'as-is' state, before identifying the 'to-be' (or not to be) framework.  The difference is wrapped up in a gap analysis package, with work streams that help to implement fixes to the identified gaps.  Simples right?

IAM Complexity

IAM is renowned for being complex, costly and effort consuming from a project implementation perspective.  Why?  The biggest difference to for example, large IT transformation projects (thinking enterprise desktop refresh, operating system roll-outs, network changes and so on), is that IAM tends to have stake holders from many different aspects of the business.  A new desktop refresh will be ultimately decided by technicians.  Business approvers will help govern things like roll out plans and high level use cases, but not the low level implementation decisions.  IAM is somewhat different.  It impacts not only technical administration of managed resources, but also business processes for things like access requests, new joiners, team changes and so on.

IAM Becomes A Security Issue When It Doesn't Work

IAM is often seen as part of the security architecture framework.  This makes total sense.  The management of subjects and their access to data objects is all well understood, with loads of different access control mechanisms to choose from (MAC, ABAC, RBAC etc).  However, IAM should really be seen more as a business enabler.  I always like to pitch IAM as the interface between non-technical business users and the underlying IT systems they need in order to do their jobs.  10-15 years ago, when IAM started to become a major agenda, it was all about directories, (meta, virtual, physical, partial, synced, any more terms..?) and technical integration.  "Developing a new app?  Whack some groups in an LDAP for your authentication and authorization and you're done".  The next step was to develop another layer that could connect multiple directories and databases together and perform multiple account creations (and hopefully removals) simultaneously.  Today IAM is more than just technical integration and provisioning speed.  It's more about aligning with business processes, organisational team requirements, roles based access control, reporting, compliance and attestation.  All of these functional areas have use cases that touch business users more than technical users.  However, if those IAM services fail (access misuse, insider threat, hacked privilege account) a security incident occurs.

Think of IAM As Building Data Routes

During the continued discussion with my colleague, he brought up the notion that IAM is really just about data management.  The movement of data between silos, in order to get it to it's destination in the most effective and efficient path.  IAM data could originate from an authoritative source such as an HR database, before ultimately being transformed into a system account within an LDAP or database.  The transformation process will require business understanding (what will the account look like, which roles, permissions, what approvals are required etc) but none-the-less a new piece of data will be created, which requires classification, auditing and reporting.  Just the same as a file on a share.  By breaking down the entire IAM elephant into bite sized chunks of data creation, transformation and output, you can start to make the implementation process a lot more effective, with re-usable chunks of process and project machinery.

Like with any large scale project, it's often the smallest footprints that make the biggest impact.  In the case of IAM, taking small, but smart data management style steps, could be the most effective.


Popular posts from this blog

2020: Machine Learning, Post Quantum Crypto & Zero Trust

Welcome to a digital identity project in 2020! You'll be expected to have a plan for post-quantum cryptography.  Your network will be littered with "zero trust" buzz words, that will make you suspect everyone, everything and every transaction.  Add to that, “machines” will be learning everything, from how you like your coffee, through to every network, authentication and authorisation decision. OK, are you ready?

Machine Learning I'm not going to do an entire blog on machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI).  Firstly I'm not qualified enough on the topic and secondly I want to focus on the security implications.  Needless to say, within 3 years, most organisations will have relatively experienced teams who are handling big data capture from an and identity, access management and network perspective.

That data will be being fed into ML platforms, either on-premise, or via cloud services.  Leveraging either structured or unstructured learning, data fr…

Customer Data: Convenience versus Security

Organisations in both the public and private sector are initiating programmes of work to convert previously physical or offline services, into more digital, on line and automated offerings.  This could include things like automated car tax purchase, through to insurance policy management and electricity meter reading submission and reporting.

Digitization versus Security

This move towards a more on line user experience, brings together several differing forces.  Firstly the driver for end user convenience and service improvement, against the requirements of data security and privacy.  Which should win?  There clearly needs to be a balance of security against service improvement.  Excessive and prohibitive security controls would result in a complex and often poor user experience, ultimately resulting in fewer users.  On the other hand, poorly defined security architectures, lead to data loss, with the impact for personal exposure and brand damage.

Top 5 Security Predictions for 2016

It's that time of year again, when the retrospective and predictive blogs come out of the closet, just before the Christmas festivities begin.  This time last year, the 2015 predictions were an interesting selection of both consumer and enterprise challenges, with a focus on:

Customer Identity ManagementThe start of IoT security awarenessReduced Passwords on MobileConsumer PrivacyCloud Single Sign On
In retrospect, a pretty accurate and ongoing list.  Consumer related identity (cIAM) is hot on most organisation's lips, and whilst the password hasn't died (and probably never will) there are more people using things like swipe login and finger print authentication than ever before.

But what will 2016 bring?

Mobile Payments to be Default for Consumers

2015 has seen the rise in things like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay hitting the consumer high street with venom.  Many retail outlets now provide the ability to "tap and pay" using a mobile device, with many banks also offer…