What is the difference between identity management and access management?

Cyber security

Last Updated on April 2, 2021

People are often confused about the difference between identity management and access management. Even though they sound similar, both of these terms depict different levels of cybersecurity.

To put it simply, with identity management, you manage the attributes of a user. While with access management, you manage access allowed to a user based on his/her attributes. Or, identity management is when you authenticate users, and access management is when you authorize users.

People often use authentication and authorization interchangeably too, but the truth is that they serve completely different purposes. Authentication is simply the process of telling ‘who’ you are. And it takes place when a person logs in through a login portal. At the same time, authorization is when a person is authorized to access a certain resource.

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Everyone has an identity in the digital world. These identities are differentiated based on the attributes of each user in the database. When someone registers online, they plug in a lot of different information about themselves. Employers also assign different attributes to their employees, like mentioning the business unit or project that they are part of, their title in the company, or their status in the organization’s hierarchy. 

Unlike social media, these identities are verified, true, and sometimes stored in the database even after an employee retires or resigns. Through identity and access management, each person in the database has only a single well-managed digital identity. 

Let’s look at what both these terms mean.

What is Identity Management

Identity management is the management of your digital identity. When you work for an organization in the digital arena, you have a few attributes assigned to you. These attributes can be things like your designation, your department, and your job requirements. It’s the attributes in the database that give you a unique characteristic. These attributes are usually managed by the company’s IT and HR personnel.

Identity management includes creating, maintaining, and checking these digital identities and attributes of the employees. Through identity management, you can also manage the data of an employee as the years pass. For example, when an employee gets a promotion, shifts to a different project, or even gets married, all of these lead to changes in his/ her attributes.

Identity management allows for the right people to have the right amount of access at the right time. It is extremely crucial to have the right identity management for your company because that later translates into who gets access to your company’s resources and data.

What is Access Management

Like the name itself spells out, access management authorizes a user to access or not access certain company data or resources. It is a yes or no decision that is made based on the attributes of the user. Access management is required when an employee either wants to log in or use some resource. 

There can be more than one access point. Sometimes depending on the attributes, a user isn’t allowed to enter or view the resource. But, there can also be instances where the user is denied access to a certain document or file in the resource. The access points for access management can be on login portals or pages.

When a user logs in (authenticates), his/her attributes are delivered and then checked for access (authorization). If you are trying to authorize for a resource, you first need to be authentic about who you are. However, as stated earlier, authentication identifies the user while authorization checks if a user deserves access to the resource or not.

Different people in the company get different access levels depending on their rank, role, and job. All of this is managed through IAM (identity and access management). Access management requires regular maintenance and monitoring of the employees’ identities to keep their changing needs in check.

Thus, access management lets you control or restrict company resource authorization based on an employee’s digital identity.

Final Thoughts

Identity and access management are different levels of security. With employees working across time zones, these security checks are now more important than ever. These security checks and authorizations are also important for the company if it has lots of suppliers, third-party vendors, etc. Identity and access management is also important to keep your company’s data safe from getting hack, stolen, or manipulated.

To sum it up, identity and access management are important for cybersecurity. Businesses and companies need to be sure that the right person is authenticated and authorized to the right resource at the right time. With identity management, a company manages a user profile based on the user’s attributes. And, with access management, the decision to authorize or access the resources is provided. Identity and access management (IAM) altogether control and monitor all authorization, authentication, and control access.