Identity and access management (IAM) is the set of policies, frameworks, and technologies enterprises use to manage digital identities and accesses. The purpose of IAM is to provide the right access to the right individual at the right time. It encompasses the creation and management of singular digital identities, provisioning and de-provisioning of rights & privileges, and authentication and authorization of identities to access enterprise resources to perform tasks.

There are 3 key attributes in any IAM solution: user profile management (or identity), authorization, and authentication:

User profile management refers to the creation, modification, management, and deletion of users and user accesses. It serves to create a singular digital identity for an user. It is used to manage the entire life-cycle of the user, from provisioning till de-provisioning. User profile management uses role and privileges policies to grant permissions to various tools and resources within the enterprise network.

Authentication is the validation of an identity that requests access to a resource in a network. It is the verification of the user through login credentials or technologies such as two-factor authentication (2FA), multi-factor authentication (MFA), onetime pins (OTPs), etc. depending on security protocols.

Authorization determines the extent and type of rights/privileges of an identity, once the user is authenticated. It restricts access of the user only to its requirement/role for that specific session.

According to a 2019 MidYear QuickView Data Breach Report, there were 3800 publicly disclosed breaches exposing 4.1 million compromised records in just the first 6 months of 2019. Various factors are responsible for the growing importance of IAM in companies, such as:
1. Rising demand for employee mobility in global companies
2. Surge in remote workforce population
3. Regulatory frameworks and policies like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) focussing on data security and protection
4. Adoption of new technologies such as bring-your-own-device (BYOD), internet-of-things (IoT), etc.
These factors have made it incumbent for enterprises to invest in robust IAM programs which provides the right access to the right user and delivers a slew of other benefits including but not limited to:

  1. Improved data security and protection against threat of breach or misuse
  2. Better compliance with regulatory requirements
  3. Reduction in overall IT costs and effort 
  4. Tracking and recording a complete history of logins and system accesses, thus ensuring accountability and enabling easy audits
  5. Enhancement in business value by strengthening data security
  6. Improved employee productivity

The need of the hour is to ensure protection against cyber-crime with the help of dedicated experts and specialized tools. We live in the age of data snooping and big data colonization. Cyber criminals, armed with complex and powerful technologies, are getting more adept at hacking and breaching enterprise data. Enterprise data security cannot be the responsibility of the IT team alone. The entire organization must be accountable for data protection and be committed to following security protocols to the T. It is a process that requires the setting up of a robust IAM protocol in place, regular testing of the system, communicating value to all stakeholders, ensuring adherence to policies, continuous reviews and revisions of existing protocols, and adapting to the constantly mutating security threats. It is not a choice but a necessity of the times we live in.