Get the perfect blend of security & efficiency with a solid identity management strategy

Alma Evans

Apr 7, 2021

14 min read

The year 2020 was one heck of a tough year for all of us. Virtually all stayed indoors almost all year round to get away from the clutches of the global pandemic. But while everyone was busy dealing with the novel coronavirus in their own sphere, cyber attackers were out in full force doing well out of the situation. With this, the global population in general, and businesses the world over in particular, are literally hit with a catastrophic double whammy, the scale of which over time is scarcely imaginable.
Now, the year has somehow redeemed itself from the havoc wreaked by the virus. But as we head deeper into 2021, the shockingly surprising statistics of cyberattacks amid COVID-19 and the potential impacts they have on the digital landscape are yet to be analyzed.
While we look through some latest stats that quantify our cyber plight, we could find that the US Federal Trade Commission has reported double the number of identity theft cases in 2020 compared to the preceding year’s figure. This clearly stipulates that identity management is a category of cybersecurity that does need than ever before a deeper dive for the months and years to come.

Enforce identity-based security with Hexnode’s IAM solution

The basic concept of identity

What is identity?
Identity is the base for all online interactions

What exactly is identity? Simple matter, yet hard to explain. Well, we generate our own identity through every interaction we make.
What the term identity refers to can be any data, attributes or characteristics related to a single individual. The concept of identity varies according to the context solely based on the behavior of the person. However, when left behind anywhere, this information builds the profile of the person/object concerned.
When it comes to the digital realm, identity acts as the basis for all online interactions. The digital identity acts as a label that essentially explains who a person is, what all privileges can be allowed to the person, how the person is connected to other entities and so on, altogether defining how the person is expected to behave in each given environment.
And now, the most interesting part is that identity need not always be associated with a person itself. All resources, organizations, processes, policies, and any entity can have their own individual identity. In all these cases, the attributes or identifiers make a clear distinction between these entities while granting access rights or entitlements.

What is identity management?

Identity management is the key to security
Managing identities is the key to online security

Despite being fundamental to any levels of communication and collaboration between entities, identities always come with the challenge of threatening an individual’s privacy if when lost or stolen. Besides, granting access to entities in some environments based on their authorization rights and discerning between individuals having access to one area or other is also a demanding task. This is where managing identities has its relevance.
Identity management is a broad term that refers to the administration of identities within a system, an organization, a country or a network. It deals with establishing and managing rights and access privileges. The process handles identities or attributes to coordinate engagements across every channel and authenticates individual entities to determine whether they are allowed access to particular systems in particular situations. In simple terms, identity management ensures that the entities are exactly what they say they are.

Why does identity management matter for businesses?

Organizations often need very strong assurance that identity is accurate and trustworthy, whether it be of an employee, client, partner, device, app, sensor, or anything joined to the corporate network. Organizations also need to constantly track and manage all these identities to sort out the best ways to handle or interact with these entities. So, the value of establishing identity management for organizations cannot be overstated as it comes down to providing the right access to the right individuals substantially at the right time for the right reasons. There are many other factors out there that explain why identity management is even important for organizations:

  • Security – Proper identity management is one of the first steps to creating an airtight security strategy. Identity management provides many of the safety controls defined by general security standards to enhance the organization’s security profile and act instrumentally in organizational compliance efforts.
    Authentication is the key element of identity management. Identifying the required access level and allowing only the privileges required to fulfill the assigned responsibilities goes a long way in maintaining reliable security hygiene for businesses. Identity management not only makes sure that those who need access are getting it right but also looks after the sensitive corporate resources to prevent unauthorized third-party access.
    Nowadays, any size organization is more or less a fair game for cyber attackers, and any organization could be easily targeted. As insecure identities are one of the root causes of data breaches, efficient identity management really makes sense here. Briefly, identity management is meant mostly to subsume utter cybersecurity for the organization.
  • Efficiency – The centralized approach towards consolidating individual information contributes greatly towards effective IT management. With identity management, the enterprise IT forces no longer have to work hard to connect users with resources, and this indeed saves their time, effort and money.
    The auditing and reporting process also gets simplified, as in the case of a data breach, it would be easy for the IT team to detect which user, device or data was compromised.
  • Productivity – With the idea of providing just-in-time access to devices, databases, applications, networks and other critical data and resources to support their strategic goals, there is no doubt that workforce productivity will shoot up when effective identity management is in place. Employees also get a better user experience with features like SSO where they enjoy streamlined logins every time they switch between systems and services.

Identity management vs. Access management

While identity management deals with managing, monitoring, maintaining identities, access management takes decisions on providing access to these identities in different areas. Identity management makes sure that employees are getting the right permission, and access management ensures that the right employees are allowed, and others are blocked from accessing all corporate resources and data. Simply put, authentication and authorization mark the difference between identity management and access management. Authentication determines who the user is based on some identifiers, and authorization evaluates based on his identity whether the user is allowed to access something. Both are important when it comes to critical data security, and together, they come as a single solution called Identity and Access Management which is a key component of any mobility management strategy.

The ways and means to take care of identities in the workplace

Taking care of identities in the workplace
Taking care of identities in the workplace

Regardless of the industry and size, the growing importance of building trust across people, services and things, makes identity management an exceptional requirement for any business. There are different approaches to identity management though all, in general, encompass the methods and technologies to accurately deliver secure access to systems, apps, and data at any time from any device.

Centralized vs. Decentralized identity management

In a centralized approach, the employees need to sign into a single space to get access to everything required. In contrast to this, decentralized identity management requires the users to sign in separately to each app, tool and resource they need. Though a centralized environment is always preferred in a workplace setting, decentralization also has its own merits.
Decentralization is believed to bring a higher level of security as there is no single point of failure. If compromised, they won’t provide extensive access to all corporate resources, and some part hopefully remains protected in such cases. However, it is the centralized approach that saves more reducing bottlenecks for the enterprise IT with quick deployment options and high visibility into the systems from a central console.
The fragmented systems are hard to scale, hindering easy push of policies across the organization entities, and manually accessing resources being prone to error can stifle workforce productivity. So, we can infer that centralized identity management is the better way to go.

Cloud vs. On-premises identity management

All initial identity management infrastructure was on-prem as identity was mostly housed on-premises at that time. But now, cloud-based solutions are becoming an integral part of identity management. Though cloud identity management is a contemporary concept, some cloud-based approaches still share DNA with the traditional on-premises identity management systems. Both approaches have their own merits and demerits, so the organizations can choose one which is best suited for them.
On-premises identity management systems are potentially more customizable but can cause faults that open doors to security risks and therefore require constant surveillance as well as maintenance. So, for organizations looking for a maintenance-free approach, cloud-based identity management would be the best choice. On-premises identity management is good to interweave a network of people and resources all housed under the roof of the office itself. To equip a remote workforce, cloud identity management itself would be the better option.

Some technologies brought forth by identity management

Many enabling technologies and concepts are out there behind various facets of identity management; the most familiar terms among them are MFA and SSO.

What is Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)?

In Multi-Factor Authentication, an authentication protocol different from the legacy management is taken. Instead of a single authentication factor like username and password, more than one piece of information would be evaluated before allowing access to any service. The more factors aked for authentication, the more will be the security. The additional authentication factors used during Multi-Factor Authentication often include biometric signature, SMS, email, OTPs, hard tokens, network and location indicators.

What is Single Sign-On (SSO)?

Single Sign-On is a great way to get some extra peace of mind for the enterprise IT as it relieves the frustration of having to remember more than one password to access different systems. Only a single set of credentials are needed to generate the authentication token, which is used across all systems for login. As only a single interface is needed to manage multiple services, this helps in reducing the administrative overhead to a great extend along with streamlining the login experience for the users. From the security perspective, this is not a risky authentication-less process as credentials would be asked each time a user logs in to each of the platforms; the only thing is that the same set of credentials can be used over the course for all required platforms.

What is Federated Identity Management (FIM)?

Federated Identity Management is a way of sharing identities between trusted partners and authenticate users, which increases the workforce’s ability to work from anywhere and from any device using any services. It shares a concept similar to Single Sign-On, or Single Sign-On can be considered a part of Federated Identity Management, and it gives users the option to sign on once and gain access to all services across federated domains. Although known as Federated SSO and interchangeably used with SSO, Federated Identity Management is not synonymous with SSO but different in the aspect that it works across multiple domains or organizations.

Identity management alongside Mobile Device Management

As traditional identity management platforms were designed as on-premises solutions for specific static events, they fall short of the flexible, secure, fast and streamlined experience modern businesses look for. When the solutions fail to respond to user events promptly, the organizations have to suffer materially. In addition, the traditional solutions don’t integrate well with third-party systems, multi-generation workforce and endpoints, changing regulatory environments, cloud adoptions, and new trends like BYOD, remote work, IoT, etc. So, attempting to adapt the traditional identity management tools, which are not flexible enough to handle the modern workplace requirements, can be a pitfall for organizations. This drives the need for fast, dynamic and perimeter less identity management solutions essential for the new digital normal.
The overall enterprise dilemma resulting from the tension, frustration and latency in the management processes can be efficiently addressed with a unified solution that manages identities alongside other enterprise assets. Modern identity management alongside MDM can be the right solution for businesses managing diverse networks in the constantly fluctuating technology landscape.

Managing identities alongside MDM is the modern approach
Managing identities alongside MDM is the modern approach

Mobile Device Management is an inevitable tool for most organizations these days. When identity management works hand-in-hand with MDM, a useful administrative interface could be established, with Identity management acting as the hub for overall decision making all along the management process. That is, Identity management accord MDM the power of making wise decisions on critical matters like when to deploy a device, when to de-provision a device, what all apps should be allocated to which all devices, when to enable users to access certain features, and so on.

Hexnode solves identity management challenges

Hexnode provides a comprehensive identity management solution that works in tandem with endpoint management features to offer a secured workplace experience for the end users. Binding with all commonly used core identity technologies, Hexnode allows its users to use a single identity to leverage quick access to everything they need to stay productive wherever and whenever they are working. The best part is that with Hexnode, the idea of identity management alongside MDM can be implemented as an all-encompassing solution that works across organizations for all use cases for all entities, be it employees, devices, applications, data or virtually anything.
Hexnode, one of the global leaders in Unified Endpoint Management, in the identity management perspective allows organizations to:

  • Control and manage corporate identities and data.
  • Decrease the strain of the IT team.
  • Consolidate all the identities to enable a 360-degree view from a single window.
  • Facilitate inventory management, data collection, and analytics.
  • Support and adhere to regulations like GDPR and HIPAA.
  • Find a sweet spot between privacy and security.
  • Quickly adapt and scale to meet specialized requirements.
  • Deliver frictionless omnichannel log in experiences to the employees.
  • Give employees an appropriate level of access to systems and resources, constantly verifying that access.
  • Continuously gather information about the devices and users in a non-intrusive way for assuring compliance.

Besides acting as a gatekeeper to the business resources, Hexnode also bridge the gap between the legacy identity systems and newer management technologies. Designed from the ground up as an integrated, cohesive stack, Hexnode seamlessly join with existing identity management systems like Microsoft Active Directory, Azure AD, Okta, G Suite to allow organizations to leverage the UEM features to ensure secured user access. With this, organizations can synchronize, migrate and manage identities across their systems.
Along with enforcing passwords and other authentication policies for securing identities, Hexnode also provides options to enforce Two-Factor Authentication and Single Sign-On for added protection against identity theft. Multi-level security can be ensured by configuring access privileges to Wi-Fi, VPN and other networks from the Hexnode portal itself. Man-in-the-middle mess is sorted out using certificate-based authentication. Finally, any endpoint found non-complaint is blocked from accessing corporate resources and networks for additional assurance. All of these capabilities and many more translate into a unified experience for businesses as well as employees. With the increased opportunities offered by Hexnode to augment security, privacy and compliance, businesses can daringly retire from disparate legacy identity management systems.

Final Thoughts

With Hexnode, you can unify security policies and identity management needed to improve business agility today and long into the future. Planning the strategy right for your organization in advance can make a difference between a successful and wasted effort. With the real world, at the moment, is still reeling from the pandemic, this is the right time to tap into this modern solution to amp up your identity management efforts.


Alma Evans

Product Evangelist @ Hexnode. Already lost up in the whole crazy world of tech... Looking to codify my thoughts for now...

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