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Identity and Access Management (IAM) is a discipline within cybersecurity that seeks to ensure that only the right people can access the appropriate data and resources, at the right times and for the right reasons. The ultimate goal for hackers is to appear like legitimate users within an organisation – a task that’s much easier to do if an organisation doesn’t really know who their legitimate users are. For companies looking to better manage who has access to what, mastering the art of digital identity is a critical first step in every IAM strategy.

A small minority of people are digitally excluded, they have no (or a very low level) digital identity. The rest of the population has a high level digital identity, which includes work, social web and mobile. The centre of these digital identities is currently our email addresses and we use them to cross borders at home and at work. But the digital universe is now vast and agile, and as employees traverse platforms and devices, organisations face new and evolving challenges from on-premises, cloud and hybrid environments. There’s also an increasing amount of data security and compliance to govern.

Managing Digital Identity

The process of identity verification touches almost every aspect of our lives, from interacting with government organisations to shopping online, making digital identity an essential element in almost every transaction and industry. It’s a way of a person asserting that “they are who they say they are” online, but more often than not people use these digital identities across multiple services and sectors. Your employees’ footprints appear all over the digital universe and sooner or later someone will try to follow those footprints home – not to their home but to yours, in order to do bad things like steal your companies data. Sharing is also commonplace with many people sharing account details and social profiles with partners and family members, therefore compounding your vulnerability.

Our perception of security is not the same as what is actually deemed to be secure and do you really know who you’re trusting with your companies crown jewels? For many organisations their current state of identity management consists of inefficient manual processes and as the number of digital services, transactions and entities grows, it will be increasingly difficult to ensure a secure and trusted network, where each entity can be confidently identified and authenticated.

Our digital and physical selves are here to stay, but in a fractured identity landscape identifying an entity through electronic means requires mastering the art of digital identity. As we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Gartner estimates the number of connected things in use worldwide will reach 20.4 billion by 2020. Smart devices are becoming integral to our daily lives with everything from mobile phones to wearables, smart home assistants, connected vehicles, healthcare devices and even some refrigerators now connected to the internet.

The complexity and number of connected devices transacting in the digital space will rise and rise and digital identity mechanisms will be of ever increasing importance for enabling trusted and secure transactions through and between these devices.

Digital identity is an area of knowledge that’s fast emerging as a critical one, and Identity Management, combined with Access Management, may be one of the most important security initiatives an organisation can implement in the fight against cybercrime. Every enterprise needs to know with certainty that identities are being used by the correct person and only to access the data they need at the time they need it.

The question still remains (and will always remain) “are you really who you claim to be?” but the methods of authenticating that claim have changed over time. Mastering digital identity as part of your access management strategy has never been more important to the success of your organisation than it is today.

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