What is the difference between IAM and PAM?

Vimal Ramachandran, Director

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    Companies are rethinking the devices employees use to access company infrastructure in light of new remote and hybrid working styles. Many are also investigating options for privileged access management (PAM) and identity access management (IAM). Both are common methods for ensuring high levels of security while allowing access to corporate applications from any location or device.

    However, these terms are frequently used interchangeably, even though there are some significant differences. IAM is used to identify and authorize users throughout the organization, whereas PAM is a subset of IAM focused on privileged users — those who require access to more sensitive data.

    This new working style has prompted businesses to reconsider the devices employees use to access company infrastructure. Privileged access management (PAM) and identity access management (IAM) are popular methods for ensuring high levels of security while allowing access regardless of location or device.

    However, these terms are frequently used interchangeably. Business leaders must understand these approaches as well as the roles that various technologies play in securing access to private and sensitive information.

    What is Identity Access Management (IAM)?

    The process of identifying, authenticating, and authorizing user profiles using unique digital identities is referred to as IAM. The importance of this process is highlighted by the fact that 61 percent of recent data breaches involved the use of credentials of some kind. IAM solutions offer enterprises a set of features that are compatible with a zero-trust approach to cybersecurity, which requires users to verify their identity each time they request access to a server, application, service, or other company information.

    IAM solutions can be implemented both on-premises and in the cloud. SSO and multi-factor authentication are common components of IAM solutions, and these systems work together to prevent unauthorized users from accessing sensitive information. SSO is a login system that makes it easier to access multiple applications after the user’s identity has been verified. MFA is the process of authenticating users using both passwords and another form of verification, such as security tokens or biometric authentication.

    IAM’s Strengths

    • IAM solutions can be delivered on-premises or in the cloud. Access must adapt to the unique needs of an always-connected workforce as more businesses adopt cloud-based solutions to run in hybrid work environments. Cloud-based IAM solutions enable businesses to simplify and secure application access, even as the number of unmanaged devices used to conduct business grows.
    • Modern IAM solutions can assist businesses in automating critical but time-consuming authentication tasks. Previously, IT teams had to create profiles and adjust authentication methods for different users based on their roles and access levels manually. IAM solutions enable IT teams to automate such processes and focus on high-value tasks rather than spending significant time laying the groundwork for employees to access company information.

    IAM’s limitations

    • Service providers frequently offer IAM solutions specifically tailored to their platform. While IAM solutions are fairly common at this point, businesses may find it difficult to manage the multiple IAM products that come with their service subscriptions. The right solution, on the other hand, enables businesses to consolidate IAM processes, resulting in increased visibility and ease of use.
    • Some vendors substitute SSO or MFA for IAM. IAM refers to a group of services and features that includes SSO and MFA. These characteristics work together to make an IAM solution useful. The most advanced solutions can dynamically secure access, routing users to the best authentication mechanism based on user type, risk profile, geolocation, and device health posture.

    What is Privileged Access Management (PAM)?

    PAM is an IAM subset that deals with specific groups of users who share the same profile type. This can refer to employee profiles in HR, legal, or IT teams where users require privileged access to do their jobs effectively. Businesses can use PAM to limit and control user actions and access to sensitive information.

    PAM solutions frequently work in tandem with other solutions, adding a layer of security on top of existing cybersecurity policies. Security information accessed through PAM systems is typically kept separate from general employees and can be secured quickly without affecting access to an organization’s entire technology stack.

    PAM’s Advantages

    • To manage privileged access, businesses can go beyond passwords. Privileged information must be safeguarded. PAM solutions enable businesses to move beyond passwords by managing individual sessions and providing dynamic authentication for each session. This means that there is a dynamic access point that malicious actors will find difficult to locate even if they are successfully authenticated via IAM.
    • Organizations can improve incident response time by granting and revoking access to critical systems. Despite the effectiveness of modern security systems, human error can occasionally result in unanticipated vulnerabilities, necessitating IT teams to respond quickly and efficiently to minimize damage. When an emergency arises, PAM solutions enable businesses to easily provide and revoke access to critical systems. With the right solution, businesses can dynamically grant, and revoke application access based on user risk scores as a trust factor.

    PAM’s Limitations

    • Access is granted based on profile types rather than individual users. PAM solutions necessitate IT teams, to define the level of access each profile type is permitted to have and grant access based on a predefined set of rules. This means that businesses must carefully consider the benefits that each profile type receives.

    Key Distinctions Between IAM and PAM

    Despite the fact that both services are related to cybersecurity and access control, IAM and PAM cater to different audiences. Everyone in an organization has access to IAM solutions. Each user is identified as they access company infrastructure, regardless of the device they use. PAM solutions primarily serve users who require higher levels of access to privileged information. While IAM identifies each user and grants them access to a variety of applications and services, PAM manages access and user actions on highly sensitive systems that are often restricted to those with administrative privileges.

    This distinction also implies that the level of risk managed by each system is vastly different. Typically, businesses do not want unauthorized individuals to have access to any part of their corporate infrastructure. However, the risk of accessing a single source of data is far lower than the threat of accessing entire databases or critical business systems. As a result, the methods used to identify and authorize access vary between the two systems.

    Why Comprehensive Secure Access Solutions Are Critical for Cybersecurity Management in a Challenging Threat Landscape

    The growing popularity of hybrid work arrangements, as well as the widespread use of unmanaged devices, pose new cybersecurity challenges for businesses. The attack surface for malicious actors grows proportionally as a company expands across geographies and devices. Businesses must keep potential attack vectors to a bare minimum. This is especially true in a world where data breaches have a significant impact on business continuity and profitability. The average total cost of a security breach has risen by 10% in the last year — remote work means that a breach can now cost businesses $1 million more than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Identifying and managing an increasing number of security threats, as well as a rapidly expanding attack surface, necessitates the establishment of multiple layers of defense. However, due to the number of areas within a company that require protection, doing so can be frustrating and time-consuming. The number of services and applications used by businesses to conduct daily operations grows with them. Each of these vectors must be protected because they represent potential points of entry into an increasingly interconnected technology stack.

    Therefore, HLB HAMT takes a unified approach to secure access, simplifying cybersecurity management without sacrificing efficiency, effectiveness, or scale. HLB HAMT Secure Private Access enables organizations to easily secure application access through adaptive authentication and contextual policies based on zero-trust principles.

    For the hybrid future of work, a comprehensive cybersecurity system that combines IAM and PAM solutions to deliver protection via the cloud is critical. Check out our resources on securing a remote workforce and our interactive “zero trust” assessment tool to learn more about the importance of access management and cybersecurity.

     

     

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