What is Cloud Identity and Access Management (Cloud IAM)?

Advancements in cloud IAM have drastically changed the way businesses operate worldwide. Integrating the cloud into organizational operations has numerous benefits, such as ease of accessibility and increased collaboration.

Due to such benefits, businesses are beginning to transition to the cloud like never before. In fact, recent forecasts have shown that the global cloud application market size is expected to cross $165 billion in the coming years. The benefits of shifting to the cloud are endless. However, ensuring secure and effective user identity management within the cloud remains challenging. To address this challenge, businesses must understand identity and access management (IAM) in the cloud.

What Is Cloud IAM?

In simple terms, you can use cloud IAM to secure business and customer information on the cloud. On-premise access management solutions allow businesses to authorize or deauthorize access to their network and resources. On the other hand, cloud IAM solutions allow them to implement access management protocols and secure access across the cloud. 

These solutions also allow organizations to determine which cloud applications and resources employees may access. In addition, they help ensure that access privileges and permissions are always up-to-date and can quickly spot suspicious logins. Always ensure security beyond your network with flexible, scalable cloud IAM solutions.

Cloud IAM
Cloud IAM

What Are The 4 A’s Of Cloud IAM? 

Cloud IAM solutions are developed based on four core components referred to as the 4 A’s. Businesses must thoroughly understand the component as it allows them to ensure safe and effective user identity management in the cloud. These components include: 

  • Authentication – the process of confirming user identities using passwords, one-time passwords, or biometrics. 
  • Authorization – determines what the user can and cannot do using various attributions such as job title or level of clearance. 
  • Account Management – refers to the protocols and standards used to ensure synchronization among cloud accounts and on-premise organizational systems. 
  • Audit – helps ensure that a central gateway used for accessing, auditing, and reporting is available to users regardless of their device or location. 

What Are Common Cloud IAM Challenges?

Using cloud IAM solutions provides businesses with sufficient security against cyber threats. However, there are a few challenges that most businesses face when undergoing and adapting to the transition. 

  • Onboarding – initial challenge due to the number of new roles and access privileges that need to be defined. 
  • Integration – seen as a challenge because it requires reviewing accounts and identities for each user across every application. 
  • Management – managing user identities across the cloud is often seen as a challenge due to the number of configurations and the need for designated team roles.  

Addressing these challenges often requires time that businesses do not have and expertise that costs too much. If you want to ensure secure and effective management, try the IAM solution that NordLayer has to offer.

Cloud computing

How to manage user identities in the cloud IAM?

Cloud IAM solutions allow businesses to limit, in most cases, eliminate unauthorized access to cloud resources and apps. Managing user identities and ensuring secure access in the cloud can be challenging due to various issues centered around configuration, integration, or lack of capabilities. However, some of the many ways to securely and effectively manage user identities include:

#1 – Principle of Least Privilege 

The principle of least privilege allows users minimum privileges necessary to their organizational roles. Implementing these privileges allows businesses to reduce the attack surface if the login credentials are compromised. In other words, privileges linked to the compromised account are exploited and lateral movements are prevented. Implementing this principle is essential for businesses if they want to secure user identities within the cloud.

#2 – Categorize Identity Management 

The organization is essential for effective user identity management. Ideally, user identities are split into groups and roles. Users can be put into these groups in accordance with their functions and assigned privileges. This will allow organizations to apply policies to the entire group as opposed to individual users. In addition, it will also help reduce misconfiguration errors that result from individual configuration protocols applied to individual users.

#3 – Centralized Management 

Ensuring centralized management is essential for businesses that want to effectively manage user identities in the cloud. It allows businesses to gain the maximum visibility necessary for overseeing user access. The security team must ensure centralized management for all users and their permissions. This helps businesses deploy access policies that are in line with the organization’s governance framework. Doing so will help them manage and deploy privileges that help meet the business requirements.

#4 – Multi-factor Authentication 

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a major step toward the secure management of user identities. You should implement multiple authentication protocols for suspicious logins to gain access for your business. In turn, you can prevent compromised login exploitation by keeping vulnerabilities at bay. MFA solutions use various authentication measures to verify a user’s identity. Some protocols include biometrics, one-time login tokens, or authenticator applications.

#5 – Separation of Duties

This is another way businesses can securely and effectively manage user identities. It requires businesses to separate responsibilities and access privileges among multiple users. Separation of duties aims at preventing a conflict of interest and detecting control failures. It’s essential to effective management because it helps ensure that all identities, human or not, don’t have clashing responsibilities. It also helps ensure that these identities are not leaving organizations vulnerable to exploitation.

#6 – Continuous Monitoring

Another thing businesses can do to ensure the secure and effective management of user identities in the cloud is continuous monitoring. This will allow businesses to observe user behavior and record resource utilization to ensure that no user identity has more access privileges than needed. In addition, this practice helps organizations ensure that a logged-in user is the same person. This will help identify unknown identities with unauthorized access.

#7 – Standard Accounts 

Cloud platforms are often a priority target among cybercriminals due to the lack of visibility that organizations have over them. Hackers use this vulnerability to acquire login credentials and gain unauthorized access. Therefore businesses must avoid using or keeping, at a minimum, the user of administrator credentials. These credentials have unlimited access to an organization’s cloud resources, data, and applications. In fact, prevent significant damage by using standard credentials daily to avoid unauthorized acquisition.


Key Takeaways 

Cloud technologies have drastically changed business operations throughout the world. Organizations are shifting to the cloud now more than ever before. However, the lack of visibility organizations have over cloud platforms is a significant vulnerability that hackers exploit. 

In fact, you can safeguard cloud resources, data, and applications with numerous cyber security solutions. However, using a cloud IAM remains the most relied-upon option worldwide. It allows organizations to ensure authorization and verification protocols and limit their access to resources and applications.

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