What is Identity and Access Management (IAM)?

Identity and Access Management (IAM) provides central administration of identities and access rights to different systems and applications in companies. Authentication and authorization of users are central functions of IAM.

What is Identity and Access Management (IAM) and How It is Used?

Identity and Access Management (IAM) can be translated as identity and access management. IAM represents a generic term for all processes and applications that are responsible for the administration of identities and the management of access rights to various applications, systems, and resources. In order to provide a simple and centrally administrable solution, special identity and access management architectures are used, which consist of several software components.

The IAM is able to grant users access rights but also to revoke them again. Many systems work almost in real-time when granting access rights and enable real-time rights management without waiting times for the user. As a rule, IAM systems have self-service interfaces that allow users to request the required access rights themselves or to change passwords.

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Rights are approved either automatically on the basis of previously defined rules and existing user and role concepts, or manually by an administrator. For the automated application and approval processes, responsible persons can be integrated for information or for manual intervention.

In many installations, the main identity and access management software operate on dedicated hardware or on an infrastructure provided virtually for IAM. It acts as a kind of broker between the various components of the IAM and can obtain information from different databases and directory services.

The main functions of identity and access management.

The main function of Identity and Access Management is to manage user accounts and access permissions. In order to grant access rights, the system must authenticate and authorize users. During authentication, the user proves to the system that he is who he claims to be. A simple username and password query can be used for this purpose, but also multi-factor procedures with security tokens or biometric characteristics.

Once the user’s identity has been established beyond doubt, the next step is to authorize him or her. Authorization determines which systems or resources the user is granted access to. Authorization is based on more or less complex rules and role concepts, which are usually stored in a database. These rules and roles can be freely defined or depend on the organizational structure of the company and the user’s work area.

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In addition to authentication and authorization of users, identity and access management performs other tasks. It provides user interfaces for self-service and carries out automated release and revocation processes of user rights with extensive information and intervention options. In summary, the most important functions of IAM are as follows

  • Centralized management of identities and access rights
  • Authentication and authorization of users
  • Centralized access control
  • Mapping of complex rule sets for access authorizations and possible alignment with organizational structures
  • Role-based access rights
  • Multifactor authentication
  • Self-services for users such as password change
  • Single sign-on services for access to different systems and resources with a single identity

Advantages of identity and access management

Especially in large enterprises, a large number of identities and access rights need to be managed. IAM is able to do this efficiently and ensure that access permissions comply with internal and external policies. It prevents the overview of identities and access rights from being lost due to many individual, decentralized release and authorization processes. Users and their authorizations are subject to a clear structure and can be managed centrally. This minimizes the risk of unauthorized access by internal and external users such as customers and partners.

The IAM systems simplify the recording and automate the authentication and authorization of users. This ensures that the access rights granted correspond to the user’s actual role in the company. Thanks to self-service interfaces for users and automated processes, the effort required for administration is minimized.