Pick the Best Identity Access Management (IAM) Tools for Your Cloud

7 mins to read

Traditional IT security must be reimagined when approaching cloud security, and that includes the strategy around IAM tools. Defining an “identity” in the cloud goes beyond users to pieces of compute, serverless functions, machines, and more. We’re seeing a renewed focus on IAM due to the rise of cloud services and the recent wave of high-profile data breaches. A robust security approach largely comes down to one very important factor – – identity, and it is the new perimeter. 

With the responsibility of protecting sensitive data weighing on your shoulders and with misconfiguration and vulnerabilities knocking on your door every day, we wanted to share how you can select the best IAM tools for your organization.

What are Identity Access Management (IAM) Tools?

According to Gartner Research, Identity and Access Management (IAM) is the security principle that enables the proper identities to access the right resources at the right times for the right reasons. IAM addresses the mission critical need to ensure appropriate access to resources across your technology environments.

Identity and Access Management (IAM) tools are designed to meet your management of identities (users) and access (authentication and authorization). The goal of IAM tools is to streamline the management of user accounts and privileges from all aspects to meet getting the proper access to the correct identity at the right time. 

According to Gartner, “It is critical for security and risk management leaders to architect more flexible IAM infrastructure and for IAM teams to partner with other functions to meet changing organizational requirements.”

They recommend that organizations evolve IAM deployments to better fit the changing needs of the organization, including your IAM tools.

Why Do Businesses Invest in Them?

To keep up with ever-changing demands, organizations must evolve their identity and access management (IAM) infrastructure to be more secure, resilient, composable, and distributed. Below see the top reasons businesses rely on an IAM tool:

Privilege Access Management. Organizations create IAM policies to follow the standard security advice of granting least privilege, in other words, only the minimum amount of permissions required to complete a task.

Mitigate Insider Threats. IAM can limit the blast radius of incidents caused by malicious bad actors inside an organization by ensuring identities (people) only have access to the resources they work with and cannot escalate privileges without supervision.

Meet Compliance. An organization’s compliance responsibility varies on the sensitivity of your data, your company’s compliance objectives, and applicable laws and regulations. Due to the complex nature and high regulations, most organizations utilize an IAM to meet compliance requirements.

Minimize risks. Enhanced control over user accounts’ accesses and privileges should help reduce risk. Access control allows you to drill down to individual applications, APIs, and services to help policy enforcement, reducing your overall risks.

Increase Productivity. Organizations believe that an IAM tool can help with time saving, which increases productivity. The process is seamless and secure, saving time on faster logins and fewer password resets. 

Streamline Administration. Many organizations have teams that need to tackle administrative tasks like keeping up with servers; purchasing, upgrading, and installing software; backing up data regularly; monitoring the additional on-premises for network security, setting up VPNs, and other basics. With cloud IAM tools, costs drop to the subscription fee and the administration work streamlining administration.

What Cloud Problems Do IAM Tools Solve?

Managing a large number of privileged identities with access to an evolving set of services from CSPs is challenging. Adding to this complexity, managing separate IAM roles and groups for people identities and non-people identities adds another level of complexity. Given the growing complexity of IAM, what problems should top IAM tools solve?

Privilege Escalation

Privilege escalation is one of the many dangers of managing identities in the cloud. Identity is the new stepping stone for bad actors to exploit and use to move throughout your environment. Highly privileged identities can ‘delete’ your infrastructure, data, and backups in the public cloud. Your tool should lockdown a workload at least privilege, including any trust roles linked to the workloads. Where manual efforts reach their threshold, solutions and tools can step in. A tool with Cloud Infrastructure Entitlements Management (CIEM) is the answer to your privilege escalation troubles. 

Misconfigured Identities

As multi-cloud environments become more complex, human error increases, and misconfigurations become more prevalent. Covert privilege risks, like toxic combinations and excessive privilege, can easily appear in complex environments and be hard to see from the human eye. Your IAM tool needs to manage and analyze data from thousands of identities, roles, and policies to detect misconfigured identity settings.. 

Prioritization & Remediation of Privilege Risk

Building off of the last problem, frequently, incorrect configurations can lead to alert fatigue if the alert is not correctly detecting and prioritizing risks. Your IAM tool should have the ability to prioritize privilege and configuration risks with context to ensure the proper alert goes to the right team at the right time.

Enforcement of Compliance Processes

A frequent problem is that permissions are granted based on an identity’s need to complete a task, but then entitlements are not revoked when they are no longer necessary, thus creating unnecessary privileges and lack of compliance. Compliance can be a tremendous resource drain as your organization grows. An IAM solution should leverage automation to discover and route risks to the teams and individuals responsible for remediation, in the case of compliance IT, Security and Audit teams can be involved. Effective automation means automatically identifying, classifying, and prioritizing problems with machine learning and graph analytics to meet security and compliance processes.

Enforcement of Policies and Controls

Complex infrastructure and the speed of cloud development make it challenging to enforce granular, least-privilege access policies where it counts the most. A Security team needs to define an overarching set of policies across an entire organization and manage these policies. Policies are an effective way to exert global control and restrict services and sandbox-type accounts. Your tool should easily report on and enforce policies and rules through automation.

Meet Audit Requirements

Passing an audit is a challenge, but an audit is integral to an organization’s security program and is a standard operating procedure. Organizations struggle to audit their cloud security controls effectively. The cloud moves much faster than periodic auditing can cover. Your IAM tool should continuously monitor and audit your org, alerting responsible parties of any deviations from your security baseline. With the right IAM tools, your organization can survive a compliance audit, implying that your identity and access management program are reasonable. 

Multi-cloud Complexity

Each CSP has its own approach to IAM security with distinct services supporting roles, permissions, tools, and terminology. If you’re operating in a multi cloud environment, there is no centralized source of identity management. Managing identities and entitlements can become a resource intensive, manual, and error-prone function to manage without a third party tool.

Lack of Visibility

Gaining end-to-end visibility into the complex relationships between identities, identity entitlements, and resources is a critical management function for bringing enhanced security to multi cloud systems. Your tool needs to give your organization end-to-end visibility into these trust relationships across multiple cloud environments.

In summary, Identity and Access Management is one of the most critical security functions and must be proactively managed. As resources and data are added and accessed from people and non-people identities in the cloud, enterprises need to understand the context of who and what has access to them to protect cloud environments effectively.

Types of Identity & Access Tools

Enterprises have changed from monolithic applications to microservices, IT control to DevOps control, data centers to cloud architectures, and person-deployed infrastructure to code. Even the network itself switched from a wired connection to WiFi. These changes and their respective challenges have led IT administrators to look for new age IAM tools to solve their Identity problems. Here are their options:

Traditional IAM Tools

Traditional IAM tools are now called legacy IAM. These systems are an outdated technology that continues to be used by an organization because it continues to perform the functions it was initially intended to do. Generally, legacy systems are limited in terms of growth. However, they cannot easily be replaced in some organizations.

Suppose your IT experts can no longer sustain the demand for integrating the latest technologies into your security and productivity systems. In that case, it’s time to reconsider if you should modernize your identity access solution.

Legacy systems are still perceived as essential within an organization, and that is undoubtedly one of the main reasons legacy systems are still widely used and decide if it is worth maintaining them. Legacy systems are perceived as critical to day-to-day operations, so their replacement must be carefully assessed and planned to minimize potential risks. If you are using AWS, Azure, GCP, or any cloud service, your IAM strategy, and legacy IAM tool is no longer effective.

There are modern solutions that can help by offering better, more affordable, secure, and hassle-free ways of managing identities in your environment. These solutions allow all administrators to effectively control who accesses company information, whether in the cloud or on the premises.

Cloud-Native IAM Tools

IAM cloud-native tools refer to the concept of building and running applications to take advantage of the distributed computing offered by the cloud delivery model. Cloud providers have created their own identity access management (IAM) services to help enterprises authorize identities. However, the built-in IAM service mechanisms won’t work for enterprises operating in a multi-cloud environment. 

The cloud-native IAM controls are commonly called identity management in various cloud environments. The limited controls are good for a less mature organization or one without sensitive data.

Every CSP has its own unique set of IAM features, and they do not operate across other cloud service providers. Your cloud will have different and decentralized IAM programs.

Examples of provider tools: 

These cloud provider tools indicate that cloud providers recognize these access challenges, which is a step in the right direction, but as previously detailed, come with limitations.

AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM)

Google Cloud Identity and Access Management (IAM)

Azure IAM

Oracle IAM

Beyond IAM Solutions

IT and Security teams must go beyond native controls and think about the IAM governance program from a broader, more programmatic perspective. Cloud identity solutions go beyond simple credential management and include technologies such as machine learning, security posture management, and risk-based automation to identify and block anomalous activity.

CIEM has emerged as the leading solution for managing identities in the cloud. The rise of CIEM solutions became necessary as Identity Access Management (IAM) challenges have become more complex in the cloud. CIEM refers to next-generation cloud security technology that grants, resolves, enforces, revokes, and administers access. CIEMs aim to manage entitlements, remediate cloud access risk, and enforce the principle of least privilege across public cloud environments to reduce excessive permissions, access, and cloud infrastructure entitlement concerns.

By leveraging a CIEM tool, enterprise organizations can lock down and secure data at the scale and speed of the cloud. Using the identity inventory and their effective permissions (cloud entitlements) capabilities, organizations can now determine what data identities can access, how they can access the data, and what they can potentially do with the data. With this continuous visibility, teams can effectively determine where they have risks and then, in turn, manage the risks to ensure that the cloud environment and the data within it stay secure.  

Getting the right tool for identity governance matters. It is essential to realize that when using cloud tools, processes that were previously behind a firewall and most likely always inside the network, now become exposed to the Internet for anyone to exploit.

Best Modern Identity Access Management Solution

Experts advise organizations to determine their tolerance for security risks before implementing any changes to IAM tooling. Of all the offerings, your security team needs to review what level of risk it accepts and think carefully about what identities and data are most valuable. The security level addresses resource issues without making your company more vulnerable to risk. 

Organizations must look at IAM as a part of their overall security posture and add an integrated layer of identity and data security across their platform. This is where a comprehensive identity and data cloud security platform such as Sonrai Dig would come in handy. 

As Gamby from Gartner Research warns: “Make sure [you] truly understand the protection of your identities. They are the keys to your kingdom.”