Identity and Access Management Tools and Examples

An employee uses a key card to enter their office.

The average cost of a single data breach reached $4.45 million in 2023, according to a report from IBM. Organizations can use identity and access management (IAM) tools to help them secure their networks and prevent data breaches.

A key component of information security, IAM tools are continuously changing as security threats evolve.

What is identity and access management? How does IAM improve information security? And what tools do cybersecurity professionals use to authenticate and authorize users?

Leveraging identity and access management tools gives organizations an edge. And managing their complex authentication and authorization needs requires specialized expertise.

What Is Identity and Access Management?

Organizations need to protect their sensitive networks and files from unauthorized access. At the same time, strict security protocols can harm their employees’ productivity.

Identity and access management focuses on authenticating users and authorizing their access.

At its core, IAM involves two steps:

  1. Authentication: IAM systems determine the identity of users trying to access organizations’ systems and then authenticate only authorized users.
  2. Authorization: After authenticating users, IAM systems grant the users permission to access particular files, networks or systems. The process of granting permission is known as authorization.

Without both authentication and authorization, organizations cannot secure their data and systems. Cybersecurity professionals use several different approaches to authenticate and authorize users.

Common IAM systems include multifactor authentication and single sign-on authentication. These software solutions strengthen an organization’s authentication process to prevent unauthorized access to its systems.

Benefits of Identity and Access Management Tools

Organizations that invest in identity and access management tools benefit in several ways including the following:

  • Information Security: Data breaches can cost companies millions. Identity and access management tools help secure systems and prevent credential theft. Authentication procedures create added barriers for cyberattackers attempting to access secure systems.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Many organizations must comply with state, national or international data protection laws. By setting access and authorization requirements, IAM systems help organizations comply with these regulations.
  • Cost Savings: Centralizing security management protocols with IAM tools can save organizations money. Rather than having to manually oversee security systems, IAM tools centralize and automate the process.
  • User Experience: IAM tools can improve the experience for users. Instead of requiring users to enter multiple passwords to access its systems, organizations can streamline security procedures with approaches like single sign-on authentication, which requires one login to access multiple networks.

Other advantages of effective IAM systems include that they boost the security requirements for remote access to an organization’s systems, allow information to be shared securely and reduce the risk of human error in causing data breaches.

5 Examples of Identity and Access Management

Here are five examples of the diverse approaches cybersecurity professionals employ to verify users and secure systems.

1. Identity Management

Identity management is about verifying the identity of users. When a user logs into a secure system, identity management tools check the person’s credentials to determine whether they should gain access.

Identity management databases track names, job titles and personal identifying information such as email addresses and phone numbers. They can also contain information on managers, direct reports and other relevant data.

By verifying login information against the database, organizations authenticate users.

2. Access Management

Successfully logging into an organization’s system should not give users access to all secure data. Instead, organizations need to limit what each user can access for security reasons.

Access management tools focus on the second step in the authenticate and authorize process. After identity management tools authenticate users, access management tools authorize them to access resources.

Organizations maintain records of who should have access to which records based on factors such as their:

  • Employment status with the organization
  • Job role and responsibilities
  • Security clearance

Together, identity management tools and access management tools secure networks and systems.

3. Conditional Access

With conditional access, flexible limits are placed on users’ access to an organization’s systems. To reduce the risk of breaches, system administrators create complex parameters to either grant or deny access to users, even verified and authorized users, depending on specific circumstances.

For example, a user authorized to access financial records might not be able to edit those records from a personal device. Similarly, access restrictions could be triggered if that user attempts to access data from a particular location.

Organizations with the strictest conditional access policies may only grant access to on-site employees using company-owned devices at particular hours of the day. By assessing the threat level of each access request, conditional access boosts security.

4. Zero Trust

The strictest IAM approach uses a zero trust framework. Rather than automatically trusting users or devices, zero trust requires authentication and authorization for every access attempt.

Early approaches to cybersecurity protected systems from external threats. However, many cybersecurity threats target internal devices. For example, a phishing scam might trick an employee into downloading malware that provides access to sensitive files.

Instead of providing unfettered access to internal users and devices, zero trust implements stricter verification procedures.

5. Adaptive Authentication

One of the newer IAM frameworks takes a context-based approach to security. Adaptive authentication changes the authentication requirements based on real-time risk assessments.

This means employees might need to use multiple authentication factors to access networks on a new device. Similarly, if the adaptive authentication system flags an attempted access as high risk, the user may be denied access.

Types of Identity and Access Management Software

Cybersecurity professionals use several methods to authenticate and authorize users. Passwords are one of the most widely used identity and access management tools. However, a password alone often does not provide enough protection to keep systems secure.

As cybersecurity threats continue to grow more complex, IAM professionals are using different types of software to protect their networks and data.

Multifactor Identification

Many organizations operate networks with countless access points, including company hardware, mobile devices and personal devices. As companies increasingly rely on employees to remotely access their secure networks, unauthorized access is becoming a significant threat.

In the past, authorized users entered a single password to access systems. Today, the best practice in identity management is to require users to authenticate their identity with multiple factors.

Multifactor authentication (MFA) and two-factor authentication (2FA) require additional verification beyond a single password.

Common MFA tools include the following:

  • A security code texted to a phone
  • Biometric data like a fingerprint or facial recognition
  • A one-time password (OTP) generated by an authenticator
  • Physical tokens that act as a security key

Several companies offer MFA software, including Microsoft, Google and Salesforce.

Role-Based Access Control

Limiting access to systems based on users’ job responsibilities can help strengthen an organization’s security. Rather than giving every employee access to all internal files, role-based access control (RBAC) tools place limits on what each user can access.

For example, a project manager would be able to access internal documents relevant to their project, but their login would not provide access to the organization’s payroll systems.

When implementing an RBAC system, organizations assign access privileges based on each employee’s needs. IAM software offers many tools to set restrictions based on job responsibilities, seniority and other factors.

Single Sign-On Authentication

Identity and access management tools are critical for maintaining security. Yet burdensome authentication processes can hamper employees’ ability to work. Single sign-on (SSO) tools simplify the process by allowing users to use a single login to gain access to multiple networks.

SSO systems first authenticate the user. Then they create a token that allows the user access to additional resources. SSO eliminates the need to log in to each portal, service or site individually, streamlining the work process.

Examples of SSO software include Microsoft Entra ID, Okta Workforce Identity and IBM Security Verify.

Federated Identity Management

Human error is at the root of many information security breaches. The strain on users from having to secure and update dozens of passwords contributes to the problem. The federated identity management (FIM) framework builds on SSO to allow users to verify their identity a single time and then move among multiple platforms.

With FIM, users can even access secure sites without a password.

For example, a site might allow users to log in using another verified account, such as their Google account. Behind the scenes, the sites verify the users’ credentials and create tokens to grant them access.

Roles and Responsibilities in Identity and Access Management

A number of different jobs are available for cybersecurity professionals who specialize in identity and access management. The job responsibilities of IAM specialists center on securing the authentication and authorization processes for organizations.

Responsibilities of IAM Professionals

Information and access management professionals are responsible for an organization’s authentication and authorization processes.

As part of their role, they implement new tools, train users on security procedures and create reports on security incidents.

IAM analysts and other front-line cybersecurity professionals handle the following tasks:

  • Maintain the identity management system, including managing users’ accounts and permissions
  • Train users on IAM requirements and cybersecurity
  • Report system activity to information security managers
  • Troubleshoot identity and access management problems
  • Document IAM activities for audits and compliance reviews
  • Enforce the organization’s information and access management policies

Analysts typically hold at least a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity or a closely related field. After gaining experience, analysts can move into roles with greater responsibilities.

At the management level, IAM professionals are responsible for the following tasks:

  • Develop IAM policies and procedures
  • Monitor the organization’s compliance with regulations
  • Oversee IAM analysts and other technology professionals
  • Conduct risk assessments and security audits
  • Identify security incidents and design response plans
  • Analyze incident reports and devise plans to improve security

IAM administrators and managers generally bring several years of experience working in identity and access management to their jobs. Earning a master’s degree can help professionals move into management roles.

In addition, all IAM professionals at every level need to have a solid understanding of cybersecurity ethics.

IAM Jobs

Within the broad field of identity and access management, cybersecurity professionals have several different roles.

An entry-level IAM analyst job can lead to a job with increased duties, such as that of an IAM administrator. Engineers and architects also play a key role in maintaining IAM systems.

IAM Analyst

IAM analysts are responsible for overseeing the daily identity and access management processes and procedures. They maintain IAM databases, ensuring that users’ records are up to date and comply with their organization’s policies. IAM analysts work closely with other cybersecurity professionals to improve their organization’s information security.

IAM analysts had a median annual salary of around $73,700 as of October 2023, according to the compensation website Payscale.

IAM Engineer

IAM engineers design identity and access management systems. They develop protocols, test their security and implement new IAM tools. IAM engineers must monitor evolving threats and ensure their organization’s systems are adequately protected.

IAM engineers had a median annual salary of about $102,500 as of December 2023, according to Payscale.

IAM Administrator

Also known as IAM managers, IAM administrators manage identity and access management systems. They plan and implement new procedures, monitor system reports and oversee IAM analysts. IAM administrators also create system reports and recommend security improvements.

Payscale reports the median annual salary for IAM administrators was around $80,100 as of November 2023.

IAM Architect

IAM architects audit their organization’s security procedures and needs to design custom IAM software solutions. They identify the vulnerabilities in their organization’s systems and implement tools to increase their security. IAM architects also conduct frequent tests of security systems to ensure that they work as intended.

IAM architects had a median annual salary of around $129,300 as of January 2023, according to Payscale.

Types of Identity and Access Management Reports

Identity and access management specialists create detailed reports to ensure their organization maintains its security and minimizes its risk. These reports help organizations invest their security resources efficiently and effectively.

Common IAM reports include:

  • Access Request Report: An access request report details every login attempt made throughout the organization. These automated reports track each user’s identity, their access request and the system’s response to the request.
  • User Authentication Report: A user authentication report lists all authentication activities throughout the organization. Tracking and investigating failed authentication attempts can improve security.
  • IAM Strategy Report: Management-level professionals create strategy reports that outline the organization’s IAM goals and the specific tools and software solutions needed to achieve those goals. Strategy reports may also include a timeline for implementing new procedures.
  • Security Incident Report: Managers create regular reports on security incidents that typically include a description of the incident and recommendations for stronger security procedures to prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future.

Other examples of IAM reports include password reset reports and authorization reports. Identity and access management specialists use these reports to document their job duties and monitor potential security threats.

Benefits of Earning a Master’s in Information Security Management

Earning a master’s degree in information security management can prepare individuals for advanced roles in identity and access management. For example, graduates can pursue opportunities as IAM administrators, IAM architects or IAM directors.

In a master’s program, students gain hands-on experience with cybersecurity software and tools. They learn how to implement cybersecurity strategies and conduct security audits.

Information security management master’s programs also emphasize topics like the best practices in authentication, cloud architecture security and cybersecurity compliance requirements.

Cybersecurity Career Paths

In addition to preparing individuals for identity and access management roles, earning a master’s degree in information security management can also lead to other cybersecurity career paths.

Growing demand and six-figure median salaries make information security roles attractive to many job seekers.

Information security analysts had a median annual salary of $112,000 in May 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employment of these professionals is projected to grow 32 percent from 2022 to 2032.

Earn a Master’s in Information Security Management at Augusta University Online

Ready to prepare for a career in identity and access management? The online MS in Information Security Management program at Augusta University Online emphasizes the technical and managerial skills needed for decision-making roles in identity and access management.

At Augusta, graduate students in the information security management program explore cutting-edge cybersecurity threats and the best practices in information protection. Learners explore the human factor in information security, deploying security policies and risk management.

Learn more about how a master’s in information security management can launch your cybersecurity career by contacting AU Online today.

Recommended Readings
6 In-Demand Cybersecurity Skills
Cybersecurity Career Paths
How to Make a Career Change to Cybersecurity

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IBM, “Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023”
IBM, “What Is Identity and Access Management (IAM)?”
IBM, “What Is Single Sign-On Authentication?”
Identity Management Institute, “IAM Analyst Job Description”
Microsoft, “What Is Identity and Access Management (IAM)?”
Okta, “What Is Federated Identity?”
Okta, “What Is Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)?”
Payscale, Average Identity and Access Management (IAM) Administrator Salary
Payscale, Average Identity and Access Management (IAM) Analyst Salary
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