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IAM, PAM, and IGA: How Are They Different?

Posted on August 6, 2021 by IDMEdge

Cybersecurity space is evolving as the attacks continue to advance. IAM, PAM, and IGA are three crucial concepts in modern security practices that people often confuse with each other.

Although they can be similar in ways, they are not the same. And it’s important to understand what they are and their significance to decide the best security for your organization based on your requirements.

This article aims to clear the confusion between these concepts.

Let’s begin!

What’s IAM?

Identity Access Management (IAM) is a set of technologies, programs, and policies to ensure only the right users can have the right access to data, resources, and systems in an organization. It’s also called identity management (IdM) and has now become an important concept in the cybersecurity, data management, and privacy field.

To ensure IT security, IAM identifies, authenticates, and controls access for people using IT resources. It also secures applications and hardware that employees access. This not only establishes secure resource access across an organization but also helps meet compliance requirements.

Identity and access management resolve issues concerning user identity, their roles in an organization, their permissions to access what resources, protecting their identity, and technologies (digital certificates, network protocols, passwords, etc.) enabling that protection.

If you want to implement IAM in your organization, many service providers offer IAM solutions. IAM systems, applications, platforms, and products manage and control the identities of every individual and computer software and hardware resources and how individuals access those resources. For this, they assign and change users’ roles, generate activity reports, track activities, and enforce security policies.

Components

Identity and Access Management (IAM) consists of two main components:

  • Access control: It involves user authentication and authorization to ensure the right users have the right level of access according to the context, i.e., location, device, role, and more.
  • Lifecycle management: It involves correlating a user’s job role, location, device, etc., to their approved privileges. It automates system access deprovisioning and provisioning in case of new joiners, resigning employees, and employees moved to different roles or departments within the organization.

What does it do?

IAM performs some of the primary functions, including:

  • Pure Identity: Pure identity means all identities are unique in an organization having a specific relationship with other entities so that they are easy to identify. For this, IAM solutions create, manage, and delete the identities of individuals and systems.
  • User access: It involves a process to authenticate and authorize an individual so they can access a system or resources. IAM solutions manage user identifies and grant them appropriate access permissions.
  • Service: It’s a system delivering personalized, online, on-demand, role-based, presence-based services to individuals and devices to help organizations manage their customers and employees.

For internal users, IAM offers access control to digital assets like servers, content, applications, products, devices, etc. For customers, organizations need services to control access and enable data privacy by gathering user information, such as email ids, contact numbers, preferences, etc.

  • Identity Federation: It’s a system that depends on federated identity to perform user authentication without requiring their password. It consists of systems sharing user access and logging in after authenticating against participating systems in the federation.

Why do you need IAM?

IAM provides many benefits to organizations, such as:

  • Securing their systems, devices, and resources from unauthorized users and attackers
  • Monitoring all the IT resources and individuals
  • Maintaining compliance regulations across the organization
  • Protecting business and customer data
  • Reducing costs and penalty risks
  • Building reputation among the user base and industry by safeguarding data and maintaining increasing security.

What’s PAM?

Privileged Access Management (PAM) is a crucial security measure that allows organizations to define, manage, and monitor privileged access throughout their IT infrastructure, systems, and applications.

Now, the term “privileged access” means designating special entitlements or access to an individual or system beyond a standard user. So, if they are monitored and managed well, security loopholes might arise.

PAM solutions manage administrator and other privileged profiles and enforce least privilege access to ensure users get only the required amount of access to fulfill their job roles. This helps mitigate cybersecurity risks to protect assets and data while ensuring compliance.

Components

There are three main components of PAM:

  • Managed Privileged Access: It refers to the access type and backend systems the administrators should be granted. PAM solutions manage their credentials and monitor their sessions.
  • Password management and vaulting: It enables the users to manage backend systems without special privileges or administrative credentials. An effective PAM solution can rotate user passwords and inject a one-time password and username that it wipes off after each use.
  • Session monitoring: It manages and tracks privileged users’ activities, generates session records, logs keystrokes, and more. You can integrate it with a SIEM tool to correlate PAM audits with key security events to enable netter incident response and centralized reporting.

What does it do?

A PAM solution can perform these functions:

  • A PAM solution helps prevent privileged employees and users from accessing actual passwords to critical resources and systems by keeping the passwords in a secure vault.
  • It lets you control and automate the complete process of permitting passwords and access to privileged users.
  • Enables multi-factor authentication for user requests
  • Provides smooth access to third-party users, your remote employees, and remote devices by consolidating identities.
  • Manages privileged user sessions
  • Real-time monitoring, visibility, and alerting
  • Report generation and auditing

Why do you need PAM?

PAM offers these benefits:

  • It protects from internal and external threats, both by enabling monitoring and access controls.
  • It helps reduce the vulnerabilities in your systems, apps, and devices that reduce the risk of malware and its propagation.
  • PAM solutions help reduce incompatibility issues in systems and their related downtime, which increases operational efficiency.
  • You can enable an audit-friendly and compliant environment in your organization.

What’s IGA?

Identity Governance and Administration (IGA) is a set of cybersecurity solutions and a security policy framework that allows organizations to mitigate identity-related risks effectively in their business.

IGA can automate the creation, certification, and management of user accounts, access rights, and roles in an organization. This way, it helps companies streamline policy management, user provisioning, access governance, password management, and monitoring user access. It not only provides security from inside and outside threats but enables compliance.

Components

IGA offers deeper visibility into a company’s full identity landscape and security posture to help them take immediate steps towards maintaining security and compliance. It comprises two key components:

  • Lifecycle management: It correlates a user’s role, location, and business unit to their privilege level. This enables them to better provision and deprovision access for new joiners, leavers, and movers.
  • Identity governance: It allows you to monitor access and certify the authenticity of a user. You can also identify why a user can access what and upon whose approval. In addition, you can segregate duties involving task allocation to enable multiple users to access and complete the task.

What does it do?

IGA lets you perform these functions:

  • To implement intuitive role management by leveraging role-based access
  • Improve security while reducing identity-related risks
  • Enhance operational efficiencies so they can carry out tasks without worrying all the time about the security posture
  • Streamline certification procedures and help in smooth audits
  • Ensure regulatory compliance with government and industry standards

Why do you need IGA?

Organizations need IGA to achieve a number of benefits, including:

  • IGA offers secure access for users to applications and systems with lower friction so they can stay more productive
  • By automating the operational process, IGA helps reduce costs on IT staff for access requests, certification, and provision/deprovisioning.
  • With centralized visibility, IGA helps reduce cyber threats by detecting risky users, policy violations, authorized access, etc.
  • IGA ensures that organizations adhere to compliance requirements strictly, which protects them from getting penalized and offers easy audit processes

What’s the Difference?

The above information explains what IAM, PAM, and IGA are and their requirements in an organization to help you differentiate between them. Let’s summarize them quickly by comparing them against each other.

IAM vs PAM

They are quite similar as they deal with users, roles, and access. Although IAM is essential, it doesn’t provide a complete security solution to modern environments.

IAM aims to manage standard users and their access level and experience with a system or application. On the other hand, PAM focuses on managing privileged and administrative users by controlling and defining their roles and access. While IAM allows users to enter through the front door (low-risk surface), PAM does it through the back door (high-risk surface).

So, if you want a complete security solution, enable both IAM and PAM to ensure the right people with the right access levels (using IAM) can use the right resources (governed by PAM).

IAM vs IGA

IGA is an important part of the evolving IAM concept. It allows companies to define IAM policies and enforce them. In addition, it also connects IAM features and functions to ensure compliance and audit requirements.

IGA vs PAM

It’s similar to the IAM vs IGA comparison. IGA offers an excellent way to mitigate identity-related risks by enforcing policies within an organization regarding access. But PAM is a concept that manages privileged users and how they access organizational resources.

When IGA is used with PAM, you can enable a broader security perimeter, strengthen it, and reap their maximum effectiveness together.

Conclusion

Enabling stronger security technologies and systems like IAM, PAM, and OGA can help organizations mitigate potential risks, reduce risk surfaces, and meet compliance requirements.