Zero Trust is a key paradigm for cybersecurity today, used well beyond the security circles. The goal is building cybersecurity that “never (blindly) trusts”, but “always verifies.” This traditionally meant verifying Who has access to What resource. In the past, the Who typically meant a human with a digital identity being given access to an application within an organisation. Once the individual was given access to the application, that individual would be verified via an Identity Source and authorised based on policy and permissions while logging the transaction in preparation for an audit. 


Identity Governance and Administration (IGA) sits in the middle of identities and resources. IGA/IAM solutions take care of the ever-growing list of different types of Who, regardless of where the What resides. With identities on one side and resources on the other side, IAM/IGA sits in the middle handling the Identity Lifecycle Management and Access Governance to resources. Identity Lifecycle Management addresses the joiner/leaver/mover processes and the ability to provision identities, access entitlements, and other identity-related information in the target systems. Access Governance supports the auditing and ensures compliance, such as the review and disposition of user access requests, certification campaigns, and access remediation when violations are found. Access Governance also handles Segregation of Duty (SoD) controls and role and policy management capabilities.

Key Factors of IAM

IAM serves as the foundation for protecting sensitive information, mitigating cybersecurity risks, and streamlining operational processes. Although IAM policies, processes, and technologies can differ between companies, it is an essential part of cybersecurity for organisations of all sizes. It enables them to manage the digital identities of individuals and control their access to resources.

At its core, IAM revolves around the concepts of identity, authentication, authorisation, and accountability. Together, these can be used to mitigate cybersecurity risks by reducing or restricting user access to sensitive data.

IAM systems consist of several interconnected components that work together like a well-oiled machine to ensure secure and efficient access to resources.

These key factors include:

Identity Management

Checks a login attempt against an identity management database, which is an ongoing record of everyone who should have access.


Verifying the identity of users, services, and applications.


Assigning users with specific roles and ensuring they have the right level of access to resources.

Access management

Granting authenticated users access to specific resources or functions.


Tracking and monitoring user activity to detect and respond to suspicious behavior in real-time.

Identity governance

Identity governance is the process of tracking what users do with their resource access. IAM systems monitor users to ensure they don't abuse their privileges—and to catch hackers who may have snuck into the network.

Identity lifecycle management

Identity lifecycle management is the process of creating and maintaining a digital identity for every human or non-human entity on a network.

Threats to Identity Access Management (IAM)
Having access to data and systems is essential for the smooth functioning and resilience of business operations. Simultaneously,however, it exposes organisations to significant risks. If IAM is not implemented correctly or neglected, organisations may face various threats and vulnerabilities that can compromise their security and operational integrity. Some of these key threats include (but are not limited to):

Unauthorised Access

This threat involves attackers gaining unauthorised access to systems, applications, or sensitive data by exploiting vulnerabilities in IAM processes or bypassing authentication mechanisms. It can result in data breaches, unauthorised modifications, and the compromise of critical resources.

Insider Threats

This refers to malicious or negligent actions by individuals who have authorised access to systems and data. This threat can include disgruntled employees or contractors intentionally abusing their privileges, stealing sensitive information, or causing disruptions to operations.

Weak Authentication

Using weak passwords or failing to implement multi-factor authentication can make it easier for attackers to gain unauthorised access to systems or user accounts. This threat exposes organisations to credentials-based attacks and identity theft.

Inadequate Access Controls

This can lead to excessive privileges or improper authorisation. This threat includes scenarios where users have access to resources beyond their job requirements. Or where access control policies are not properly enforced, increasing the risk of unauthorised access and potential data breaches.

Poor IAM Governance

Weak governance practices, such as ineffective user provisioning, insufficient role management, or lack of regular access reviews, can create vulnerabilities in IAM processes. This threat can result in inconsistent access rights, unmonitored accounts, and difficulties in tracking and managing user identities.

IAM is a critical component of an organisation's overall security strategy. Failing to implement IAM correctly exposes organisations to these threats and vulnerabilities. In addition, addressing these threats requires a comprehensive IAM strategy that is tailored to the needs of the organisation. 

Safeguarding User Identities and Access Controls
Thus, implementing IAM is an important strategy for reducing the risk of cybersecurity threats. To mitigate these threats effectively, organisations can implement the following strategies:
Implement Strong Authentication Mechanisms

Utilise Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) to strengthen the authentication process. Require users to provide multiple forms of identification, such as passwords, biometrics, or hardware tokens, to verify their identities. This reduces the risk of unauthorised access even if passwords are compromised.

Enforce Least Privilege

Implement the principle of least privilege, granting users the minimum necessary access rights to perform their job functions. Regularly review and update access privileges to ensure they align with user roles and responsibilities. This reduces the risk of unauthorised access and limits the potential damage caused by insider threats.

Conduct Security Awareness Training

Provide regular security awareness training to educate users about IAM best practices, password hygiene, and common threats like phishing and social engineering. Empowering users with knowledge helps them make informed decisions, and reduces the likelihood of falling victim to identity-related threats.

Conduct Regular Audits and Assessments

Perform regular audits and assessments of IAM infrastructure, policies, and processes. This helps identify vulnerabilities, gaps, and areas for improvement. Maintain comprehensive logs and audit trails to track user activities for forensic analysis and compliance purposes.

Engage in Third-Party Security Assessments

Consider engaging independent third-party security professionals to conduct periodic security assessments and penetration testing. This helps identify potential weaknesses in IAM systems, and provides valuable insights for remediation.

How can Ensign help?
The critical success factors that Ensign implements are:

Programme Approach

Involving the right stakeholders in the programme


Understand the risk of this programme and dependencies upfront


Acceptance of the programme at the organisational level


Initiate change management well in advance


Product selection strategy


Various testing phases


Well- defined IAM processes


Identification of crown jewels

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