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National Identity Management Day

Identity Management Day (second Tuesday of April) highlights an awareness campaign to educate executive leaders and technology professionals about the importance of effective identity access management (IAM) using identity-centric cybersecurity best practices. For consumers, the campaign's focus is on protecting their online identities.


The rise of hybrid work and ever-increasing cyberattacks necessitate IAM strategies for digital organizations. Employees need secure access to resources, like email, shared files, and apps, regardless of where they're working. The goal of IAM is to manage that access, ensuring that employees can get the data they need to work effectively, while unauthorized parties are denied access. This is done by assigning each user a digital ID (identity) and associating privileges (access) with that ID.


Identity - Identity, in the context of cybersecurity, is a set of information and attributes that define a role or user, similar to a passport containing personal characteristics that can be quickly identified and matched. However, it isn’t just you as an individual; in the era of "multiple digital personas," each user’s identity encompasses a wide array of accounts, user IDs and credentials.

Identity is verified through authentication factors that confirm a user is who they claim to be. Authentication factors include (1) something a user knows, like a username and password, (2) something the user has, like a physical or electronic token, and (3) something the user is, including physical factors including fingerprints and facial recognition. Multifactor Authentication (MFA) is the practice of requiring multiple factors to verify identity, and is a cybersecurity best practice.


Threat actors often seek to compromise a user's identity, which brings us to the importance of Access Management…


Access Management - The "Access" portion of IAM refers to what data a user can obtain and what actions they can perform once their Identity is verified. The principle of least privilege access, another cybersecurity best practice, dictates that each user should have access to only what they need to access to perform their job responsibilities, and no more. For example, a Client Support professional requires access to data pertaining to clients, but they likely do not need access to company financials, employee records, or payroll information.


In restricting access to only necessary data and systems, organizations can minimize security risks associated with account takeover. Account takeover is a type of identity theft and is often the goal of cyber-criminals launching phishing attacks, credential stuffing attacks, or mobile trojans. If least privilege access is enforced, the breadth of access a bad actor can take advantage of is minimized. Without proper access management, an intruder can gain access to a much broader swath of an organization's systems and data.


The concept of IAM is straightforward, but in real-world application there is an intricate balance between securing access and optimizing end-user experience. End users are notoriously stubborn when it comes to altering their existing workflows and processes. Too many verification steps and restrictions can impact productivity and inspire unintended workarounds. Other IAM challenges include integration with existing systems and applications, defining user roles and appropriate access, and lack of skills and resources to support IAM.

We all play a role in securing our digital identities and access to data and systems. Visit Identity Defined Security Alliance to learn what actionable steps you can take today to improve identity security.

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