Cloud computing is becoming popular for applications across the technology spectrum, from storing user data to hosting web applications. However, cloud environments are frequent targets for cybercriminals, meaning organizations must implement cloud identity access management to safeguard their cloud-based assets. Read on to learn how it works and its benefits for your organization.
Your Guide to Cloud Identity Access Management
Cloud identity access management is one of the most robust access controls available to organizations with cloud-based digital assets.
For a deep dive into identity and access management in cloud computing, this blog will cover:
- An overview of identity and access management
- A breakdown of cloud security identity and access management
- Cloud identity access management best practices
A secure cloud environment starts with applying cloud identity access management controls across your applications, networks, and other critical system components. And you can further optimize your cloud security posture with the guidance of a cloud security services provider.
What is Identity and Access Management (IAM)?
Identity and access management refers to the processes that safeguard access to sensitive data environments. Identity and access management is necessary for organizations where multiple users spread throughout the organization access IT assets such as systems, networks, or applications.
Whether your assets are based on-premise or on the cloud, identity access management is critical to keeping protected data environments safe in the short and long term.
Identity and access management (IAM) functions via two essential principles:
- Authentication – When users attempt to log into a digital environment, IAM systems must confirm their identity using predefined criteria such as:
- Key tokens
- Authorization – Upon confirming a user’s identity using authentication mechanisms, authorization means an IAM system provides that user access to a digital environment.
Every IAM system is designed along these core principles, even when the specific authentication or authorization processes vary across networks, systems, or applications.
Examples of IAM controls include:
- Multi-factor authentication (MFA) – Organizations that use MFA require users to authenticate their access requests using two or more authentication factors (e.g., passwords, token keys).
- Role-based access controls (RBAC) – With the help of RBACs, companies can restrict which users access digital environments by virtue of their role(s) in the company.
- Single sign-on (SSO) – Some organizations may choose to secure their users’ accounts using cryptographic tools like hashing, which enable users to authenticate and authorize their identities across multiple assets.
Choosing the right cloud identity access management solution will reduce the risks of cybercriminals exploiting access control vulnerabilities in your infrastructure.
Benefits of Identity and Access Management
As a security tool, identity and access management helps
- Verify the authenticity of internal and external user access requests
- Designate role-based user privileges
- Remove dormant accounts belonging to inactive users
- Identify weak authentication protocols
- Meet the regulatory compliance requirements
Implementing identity and access management in cloud computing will help you optimize your cloud security posture, mitigating the risks of cybersecurity threats originating within or outside of the cloud.
How Does Cloud IAM Work?
Although IAM is similar when protecting on-premise and cloud assets, the risks affecting cloud computing assets are unique to cloud environments.
Let’s review the main factors required for authentication and authorization when successfully implementing cloud identity access management:
Management of User Access Credentials
On-premise access control systems require users to provide unique credentials before they can authenticate the users’ identities and authorize access to digital environments. The same principle applies to cloud-based assets.
Password-based IAM systems are the most common types of user access control systems. They manage access to protected cloud environments by requiring users to enter a username and password combination. This combination is then cross-referenced with the one stored in an IAM database for verification.
Longer and more complex passwords are much harder to decipher than short and easy-to-memorize ones.
As such, you can significantly minimize access control risks by implementing strong password use policies, which require individuals in your organization to use stronger, harder-to-bypass passwords.
Strong Authentication Processes
Although password strength helps secure access to protected data environments, it is not solely sufficient to safeguard against cybersecurity threats. For instance, cybercriminals can access an unsuspecting user’s credentials via a successful phishing attack.
Increasing the number of authentication factors required to access these environments can significantly increase the effectiveness of cloud security identity and access management.
Authentication factors typically include:
- A set of characters only the user would know (e.g., passwords)
- A physical object the user owns (e.g., a key card, secondary device)
- An attribute unique to the user (e.g., fingerprints)
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) IAM systems for the cloud require users to provide two or more authentication factors before they can be granted access to these environments.
Protection of User Sessions
Another critical component of cloud identity access management is user access session security. Even controls like strong password use practices or multi-factor authentication can be prone to security risks if a cybercriminal breaks the authentication safeguards.
For instance, leaving a computer unattended puts a user’s cloud session at risk of being compromised if a cybercriminal can bypass the existing primary access controls. Additionally, flagging unusual user session activity on the cloud (e.g., unusually high web traffic) can point to a compromised account.
Implementing controls like timeouts or user lockouts ensures these cloud environments remain safe from cybersecurity threats.
Cloud Identity Access Management Best Practices
Effective cloud identity access management depends on the number and complexity of hurdles cybercriminals face when attempting to breach your cloud security infrastructure.
Rather than implementing a blanket security approach to cloud-based access management, you must account for the unique risks to your cloud environment.
Cloud identity access management best practices include:
- Using multi-factor authentication (MFA) – Implementing MFA minimizes the reliance on a single authentication factor, making it harder for cybercriminals to access your cloud environments by bypassing primary access controls like passwords.
- Establishing a strong password-use policy – By requiring all the cloud users in your organization (e.g., employees, vendors, third parties) to use strong passwords, you limit the chances of perpetrators deciphering these passwords.
- Limiting the use of privileged accounts – Having too many users with special account privileges increases the risk of insider attacks, especially if these accounts are used for daily operations. If using these accounts is critical for fulfilling business objectives, their use must be monitored—and limited if deemed a security risk.
- Creating authorization groups – Companies with large numbers of employees can manage access to cloud environments by placing users into smaller, distinct authorization groups for access monitoring.
- Reviewing access control management – Cloud security administrators must also consistently monitor cloud-based access management to identify potential risks and vulnerabilities before they can develop into full-blown threats. These administrators must routinely review tools like access logs to detect unusual patterns in user access activity.
Incorporating these best practices into your cloud security infrastructure will help you safeguard against cybersecurity threats, keeping your organization’s protected data environments safe on the cloud.
However, implementing any cloud identity access management solution will likely require optimization over time to ensure it meets industry standards and safeguards sensitive data year-round. Working with a cloud security specialist will help you identify the right solutions to protect your cloud environments.
Secure Your Cloud Computing Assets
Organizations with an active cloud identity access management infrastructure will lower the chances of cloud cyber attacks and data breaches. With the help of a trusted cloud security partner like RSI Security, you will secure your cloud-based assets from high-impact threat risks.
Contact RSI Security today to learn more!