IAM - the foundation of effective security

November 2007 Access Control & Identity Management

The concept of identity and access management (IAM) has been top of mind in corporations for some time.

The reason for its longevity is not the success companies have experienced in managing their security, but the general failure of IAM solutions in securing corporate information assets.

"One mistake companies make in trying to implement IAM is to assume there is a single, simple solution they can implement," says Fujitsu Services' Ugan Naidoo. "Effective IAM is, in fact, an integral part of a company-wide security architecture that needs to be designed and implemented with due consideration to the specific requirements of the business in question."

The various components that make up an IAM solution within this architecture, whether hardware, software or services, need to be effectively integrated with each other to ensure they all work together to achieve the corporation's security requirements. This is independent of whether the components are from the same supplier or even run on the same platform. Moreover, the implementation team also needs to put the final solution through rigorous testing to discover any weak links in the integrated system and secure them before going live.

"Another mistake often made in designing an IAM solution is to focus on technology," warns Naidoo. "IAM is built from the relevant hardware and software components, but it is first and foremost a business solution designed to assist the organisation in achieving its goals. Technology is simply an enabler."

Furthermore, care must be taken when employing the correct IAM consulting and design team since the solution created will need to be deployed across multiple applications and platforms to seamlessly support the company's business processes. It also needs to be flexible enough to easily accommodate any changes that may occur in the future, without compromising security in any way.

One of the methods of ensuring the solution effectively meets the needs of the company now and into the future is to run regular vulnerability tests, or retain a professional organisation to conduct these exercises regularly. Naturally, these tests will cover the organisation's full security implementation, including the IAM components, which are the foundation successfully securing corporate information assets.

The benefits of IAM

When an IAM project is carried out correctly, the first benefit is that the organisation will end up with a more effective way to control access to systems and data. IAM does not only prevent unauthorised access to sensitive areas, it also provides easier access to applications and data to authorised users. Instead of maintaining the age-old problem of users forgetting their passwords for different applications, the IAM solution simplifies access without compromising security.

Traditional IAM solutions were dispersed over various systems and platforms according to different standards, and were not designed to work together. This increased the management and administration burden considerably as every change to users' details needed to be replicated across all systems. This all at a steep price.

"An efficient design, as we recommend today," says Naidoo, "will ensure the company has a single, accurate resource of personnel information spanning the entire organisation. Any changes that need to be made as people join or leave the company, or are promoted, can be made in a single location. Not only does this save time and effort, it also reduces costs substantially."

Putting the time and effort required into an IAM solution will also result in IT administrators finding their jobs simplified as there will be fewer password and access problems to deal with on a Monday morning (the time most people complain about not remembering their passwords). Users will also be more productive since they are able to get on with their jobs without worrying about access controls.

IAM is obviously something all companies need, but few manage to do effectively. Without this solution, the identity of users accessing corporate assets can never be 100% verified and the integrity of business applications will always be suspect. Putting the right IAM solution in place, on the other hand, lets the right people access the right applications and data at the right time with no fuss. And that is what business needs.

For more information contact Ugan Naidoo, Fujitsu Services, +27 (0)11 233 5911, ugan.naidoo@za.fujitsu.com

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