The way companies conduct and manage their business is changing. Nowadays storing data in the cloud is becoming the norm. With cloud computing, consumers and companies can scale up to massive capacities in an instant without having any investment in new infrastructure or they can even shrink to a desktop within a second. As enterprises increasingly store applications and data files that contain personal and confidential information in the cloud, they need to take all measures to secure cloud assets to prevent system breaches and data theft. This is the reason why Identity and Access Management is considered the most effective way to ensure cloud security.

More safety in the cloud with IAM

Managing access control and governance within IAM, to meet today’s business needs in the cloud environment, remains one of the major hurdles for enterprises’ adoption of cloud services. Today’s aggressive adoption of immature cloud computing services by enterprises creates extreme thrust to have a strong cloud-based IAM system which provides support for business needs. It ranges from secure collaborations with global partners to secure access for global employees consuming sensitive information, from any location and using any device at any time.

Cloud Identity and Access Management tools allow security administrators to authorise who can access specific resources at specific times by giving the enterprise administrator full control and visibility to handle their cloud resources. In some cases IAM can offer control for Software as a Service based applications for even more management. With any IAM tool, enterprises could provide a unified view into security policy across the organisation and have built-in auditing to ease compliance processes.

In this article we will discuss several major IAM functions that are essential for successful and effective management of identities in the cloud:

– Identity provisioning/deprovisioning

– Authentication and federation

– Authorisation and user profile management

– Support for compliance

  • Identity provisioning

One of the major challenges for organisations adopting cloud computing services is the secure and timely management of on-boarding (provisioning) and off-boarding (deprovisioning) of users in the cloud. Further, enterprises that have invested in user management processes within an enterprise will seek to extend those processes to cloud services.

Identity provisioning practice within an organisation deals with the provisioning and de-provisioning of various types of user accounts (end-user, application administrator, IT administrator, supervisor, developer, billing administrator) to cloud services. It is very common for cloud services to rely on a registry of users, each representing either an individual or an organisation, maintained by the cloud service provider to support billing, authentication, authorisation, federation, and auditing processes.

  • Authentication

When organisations utilise cloud services, authenticating users in a trustworthy and manageable manner is a vital requirement. Organisations must address authentication-related challenges such as credential management, strong authentication, delegated authentication, and managing trust across all types of cloud services.

Authentication is the process of validating or confirming that access credentials provided by a user (for instance, a user ID and password) are valid. A user in this case could be a person, another application, or a service; all should be required to authenticate.

Many enterprise applications require that users authenticate before allowing access. Authorisation, the process of granting access to requested resources, is pointless without suitable authentication. When organisations begin to utilise applications in the cloud, authenticating users in a trustworthy and manageable manner becomes an additional challenge. Organisations must address authentication-related challenges such as credential management, strong authentication, delegated authentication, and trust across all types of cloud delivery models.

  • Federation

In the cloud computing environment, Federated Identity Management plays a vital role in enabling organisations to authenticate their users of cloud services using the organisation’s chosen identity provider (IdP). In that context, exchanging identity attributes between the service provider (SP) and the IdP securely is also a requirement. Organisations considering federated identity management in the cloud should understand the various challenges and possible solutions to address those challenges with respect to identity lifecycle management, available authentication methods to protect confidentiality, and integrity, while supporting non-repudiation.

  • Compliance

For customers who rely on cloud services, it is important to understand how identity management can enable compliance with internal or regulatory requirements. Well designed identity management can ensure that information about accounts, access grants, and segregation of duty enforcement at cloud providers, can all be pulled together to satisfy an enterprise’s audit and compliance reporting requirements.

By deploying IAM tools and following related best practices, a company can gain a competitive edge. IAM technologies enable the business to give users outside the organisation, like partners, customers, contractors and suppliers, access to its network across mobile applications, on-premise apps, and software-as-a-service apps without compromising security. This allows better collaboration, improved productivity, increased efficiency and reduced operating costs. Privacy is considered a vital issue in the cloud environment protection and can be gained through identity and Access Management, ensuring the highest level of data security.