What Is Customer Identity Access Management (CIAM)?

With increasing cyberattacks and risks, there is a need to implement technologies that could beat hackers and prevent them from stealing your data and posing your risks in terms of security, privacy, and customer trust. One such technology is CIAM. Although IAM is an effective strategy, when it comes to securing user data, we now have another advanced strategy - CIAM. This article will discuss CIAM and how it can help you.

Table of Contents

What’s CIAM?

Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) is an identity and access management (IAM) technology that focuses on managing customer identities when accessing corporate sites, web stores, and portals. It allows an organization to effectively manage, store, analyze, and secure its customer data.  

CIAM helps a company in three dimensions – security, analytics, and customer experience. It offers a hassle-free and effortless onboarding and log-in process for users, protects sensitive data from intrusions, takes preventive steps against data breaches, and compiles user data into one source of truth. 

All these help drive conversions, build customer loyalty and maintain compliance and security laws. 

So, if you want to implement CIAM in your organization, there are two ways of doing it – build an in-house CIAM software or buy one. Building the software from scratch comes with complexities, costs, and resources, which is hectic for small businesses. This is why organizations are now buying the software from an Identity-as-a-Service (IDaaS) provider

Components of CIAM

Various components of CIAM are:

Single Sign-On

Single sign-on (SSO) is an excellent authentication technique that allows users to verify themselves by logging in to a system and automatically access other systems or applications securely. 

For example, when you log in to your Google account, you can log in automatically to various other products by Google such as Gmail, Doc, etc. 

Most CIAM services support SSO to enable users to access various online services and applications using their social media credentials like Google, Facebook, etc. This way, users can easily access systems instead of filling in the email address and password they would have to remember. It reduces hassles and improves their user experience. 

Major CIAM providers use standard-based federated IAM protocols like SAML, OpenID Connect, and more. 

Multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is another authentication method that goes one step ahead of traditional username and password usage. It adds layers of security by asking for more credentials to verify their identity, such as one-time passwords (OTPs), biometrics, security questions, etc. 

Username and passwords can easily be hacked or guessed as most people use easy password combinations or one password for all accounts in order to make it easy to access the accounts. So, the hackers can steal or guess their passwords easily. 

But if you use MFA, their difficulty level increases, and they may not even be able to hack your account. It could also take a substantial time to hack, within which you can secure your account. 

So, many CIAM solutions utilize MFA to increase the accounts’ security. However, it must be implemented so that it does not increase users’ hassles. It must also be used where necessary, such as during a risk, new signs ins from a diffident device or location, suspicious transaction, etc. 

Customer Directory

Maintaining a customer directory with all the vital information about your users is beneficial. It must contain accurate information organized in such a way that makes it easy for you to access the data whenever you want. It will help you understand your customers better, gauge their pain points, and provide suitable solutions. 

CIAM solutions offer centralized user management and APIs to access and manage all the insights about your customers. It can compile user data from various components and applications and consolidate them in a single place. You can also share data across your marketing, sales, and other business systems. 

This centralized user directory helps reduce data duplication and silos and helps admins make better decisions quickly about who should get access to your applications and systems. It also reduces their effort and saves them time. In addition, the streamlined user data helps you with audits, analytics, and compliance requirements. 


Scalability is an essential feature of a CIAM solution. It serves thousands or millions of users worldwide. Hence, to offer a consistent and excellent user experience to a broad user base, the CIAM solution must scale up and down based on the requirements. 

It is evident, especially during peak seasons or holidays and events, that a larger audience might use your applications and systems than usual days. At this time, you must offer an undisturbed experience to all your users to keep them hooked and keep considering your solution over others. 

Developer Tools

Many CIAM solutions come with developer tools like APIs, REST APIs, SDKs, widgets, etc., to help developers and businesses embed user authorization and authentication functionalities into their online applications and websites. It helps you deliver a personalized customer experience and add customized branded log-in pages while enabling users to log in using their social credentials.

User Self-Service

CIAM solutions can have account management and self-service options for users. These services will allow the users to sign up for different services, manage their account and data, manage security, modify their settings, and opt-in or out any time they want from terms. 

In addition, they can also use these self-service portals to reset their passwords, change preferences, and more by themselves without requiring your support team’s help. It saves time on both sides- for you and the user.

Benefits of CIAM to Businesses

Some of the main benefits of using a CIAM solution are:

Data Security

Data is crucial. It’s your asset that you need to preserve and protect because if it falls into the wrong hands, it could tarnish your reputation, pose compliance risks, lead to penalties, and may cost you millions. 

But if you can protect your data and put it to use, you can take your business to great heights. You can organize and analyze your data to get valuable business insights, which helps improve your offerings and increase user satisfaction levels. 

A CIAM solution can help you achieve that by protecting your user data from hacks, misuse, frauds, and other cybersecurity issues like credential stuffing, malicious log-in attempts, and so on. It comes with technologies like MFA, brute force prevention, etc.

  • MFA prevents attackers from accessing users’ accounts even if their usernames and passwords are stolen. Hackers would still have to face other security layers, which increases their difficulties. 
  • Brute force prevention restricts a hacker from crashing your application or site by flooding it with a series of log-in attempts.
  • CIAM solutions have capabilities to protect your user data during a data breach by letting you anonymize and encrypt user data. 

So, when you choose a CIAM solution, make sure it has the latest encryption technologies and protocols to provide you with superior protection. 

  • A CIAM solution can also track who has access to what data. Upon detecting any suspicion, it can immediately alert admins so they can take prompt actions and prevent mishaps. 

Maintains Compliance

With the increased data privacy risks floating across the web, regulatory bodies like GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, PCI DSS, etc., are becoming more stringent with their rules and regulations on how an organization should collect, store, and use user data. And every organization must adhere to the data privacy rules and laws applicable in their respective area or country. 

Using a CIAM tool with a centralized customer directory lets you organize and streamline your user data. It helps you fulfill the data privacy regulatory needs with thorough reporting, analytics, and how user data is being used. 

This way, you won’t face trouble during audits and have all the information and documents handy for compliance. 

Customer Experience

Apart from staying compliant with the regulatory bodies, you must also assure your customer that their data is safe with you by using a CIAM solution

And when they know this, it gives an impression that you care about them. Ultimately, your customers are going to love this about your organization, which builds trust and customer loyalty. 

In addition, features like SSO help them access applications and sites easily. It helps them work quickly with ease, which enhances their user experience. 

Strong Identity Management

In addition to offering users a safe, secure, and effortless way to access your application and systems, CIAM solutions help you strengthen your IAM capabilities. It is an advanced form of identity management with higher stakes than the traditional IAM. The reason is IAM deals with securing the identity and data of people who need access to a certain application or system. 

For example, employees of an organization can access their official network by verifying their identity through an IAM solution. The challenges are less here with limited information or private data to store.

On the other hand, the risks are much higher when securing customers’ sensitive data in terms of their personal information, payment data, and other credentials. 

Hence, CIAM solutions are more robust and meet stringent rules and regulations. Implementing a CIAM solution in your organization makes your identity management automatically stronger than before. 


Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) is indeed an effective way to secure data, maintain compliance, and provide an outstanding customer experience. 

Thus, implement CIAM in your organization and make your identity management more robust.