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The Pitfalls of Traditional Identity and Access Management Solutions

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Organizations are rapidly adopting new application infrastructures required to create new business models and customer and partner connectivity. While these technological advancements are providing a multitude of opportunities for innovation among businesses, they have also increased cyberthreats and risks introduced by the distribution of modern cloud apps, growing application programming interface (API) usage and serverless computing. Traditional identity and access management (IAM) solutions, which were originally built solely for on-premises workspaces, require human interaction at every level and are unable to support the influx of new connections and the corresponding data flowing through microservices, functions, APIs, and applications. While developers are rapidly adopting new application standards like kubernetes and DevOps to deliver services faster, their outdated identity tools are hampering productivity and placing sensitive corporate and consumer data at risk. Legacy IAM is holding digital transformation efforts hostage and has forced developers to build, adopt, or ignore identity, authorization, and consent requirements to meet business timelines. It is time for organizations to leave traditional IAM solutions behind, for the following reasons.

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APIs Are Fundamental

Modern organizations are API-first and often API only. Applications are being assembled and exchanging data with external authenticators like Okta or Auth0, using Salesforce for customer or partner data, and pushing business processes into ServiceNow. APIs dictate data exchange with SaaS platforms, partners, and even customer applications. The problem is, traditional IAM solutions scale horrendously, wrap API facades on top of monolithic stacks and slow development, and create massive debilitating security holes.

Organizations Need Scalability

Outdated IAM technologies are unable to provide modern apps with the availability, global scale, and cost-control functions necessary for their dynamic needs. The demands of modern apps require horizontal auto-scaling and global distribution for identity services. Trying to leverage existing identity platforms requires large teams of administrators and multi-year projects to push out more instances to more areas, thus increasing infrastructure and administration costs, while slowing development. In contrast, pairing modern identity platforms with modern applications accelerates developer adoption, simplifies integration, and lets the business scale dynamically to new clouds.

The Cloud Requires Stronger Security

The cloud serves as a valuable resource to developers who are finding new ways to build, manage, and deploy cloud-native apps to the market. It has also rapidly become the prime method of data storage, bringing convenience to organizations who have shifted to remote. According to recent research, 92% of organizations are leveraging the cloud to some extent, and this number will continue to grow as businesses maintain remote operations – or, at the very least, hybrid operations. However, working across a multi-cloud infrastructure requires strong authorization controls that can ensure identities and data are well-managed and secured. Legacy IAM solutions built for on-premises workspaces can’t support the transactional authorization influx of APIs, microservices, and functions created by developers, as they take up loads of storage space, impede upgrades, cannot be scaled, and keep sessions open for far too long. To secure these resources, identity platforms must perform in concert with the APIs.

The Attack Surface Is Growing

Traditional IAM was originally built to determine who is connecting to an app and what permissions this user has to access it. For example, a corporate file only authorized for those at the management level will grant access only to managers. Service-to-service communication, such as a Spotify app requesting to confirm a user’s identity through another app like Facebook, demands further context rather than simply authorizing a user based on a single assumption. Cyberattacks have increased in frequency and sophistication, and organizations must continuously adapt to the changing state of cybersecurity with modern solutions to secure their data. Since criminals can impersonate users to access app resources, such as APIs or individual data, risks must be continuously analyzed and dynamically updated to mitigate emerging threats in real time.

Organizations are working in a distributed environment, using various devices both on-premises and in the cloud, while connecting with users within their own and external networks. As such, the perimeter has disappeared and the attack surface has grown. Companies need IAM capabilities that offer continuous, context- and risk-based authorization to assess and mitigate risks at the fine-grained, API level. This includes determining whether a user is logging in from an unknown device or location, or if they are attempting to connect to an API through an unsecured VPN network.

Data Regulations Are Becoming a Global Standard

Data regulations, such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), enforced in 2018, and the recently enacted California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), have introduced new obligations for businesses to secure consumer data, ensure data transparency, and give users control over their personal information. To remain compliant with data privacy laws, organizations and app developers must understand how they grant, manage, and enforce consent to their users as they continue to share more data with partners and third parties. Legacy IAM offers only role-based access to resources that depends upon manual operation and monitoring, causing significant latency issues. These platforms can’t manage the various interservice interactions that constantly require user authorization from one app to another. Without automated tools to manage, enforce, and report consent, organizations will need to leverage additional third-party tools and establish their own authentication methods.

Moving Forward with a Modern IAM Solution

As technology advances, it’s imperative that secure IAM solutions are implemented to protect identities and sensitive data at the API level. Businesses must leverage tools that consist of dynamic authorization (who, what, where, when, why) along with a zero-trust approach to provide them with continuous, contextual authentication at every transaction – critical capabilities that can’t be seamlessly performed with legacy IAM. Replacing outdated platforms with modern solutions is no longer optional for today’s digitized businesses, services, and apps. In doing so, organizations will achieve considerable cost savings, accelerated productivity, and assurance that sensitive data is secure.

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