IT experts face the onerous task of providing a safe environment for employees to access the cloud. At the same time, they have to keep sensitive company data safe from hackers and malware. Advances in technology mean hackers grow bolder every day, and hacking methods get more complex. As an IT expert, you have to stay on top of your game, continuously updating your systems and your knowledge.

Identity federation, the other common term for Federated Identity Management (FIM), is one or more systems that allow the login of users based on the authentication of one of the systems. Putting personal information on a computer used by more than one person is risky. It needs authentication of an identity to prevent information from falling into the wrong hands. Every person who logs in has to input a special set of credentials in order to access the information needed.

Many businesses are yet to make use of cloud computing, and making cloud application access a reality can be difficult and expensive. This is where a comprehensive identity management solution comes in. Identity is an important factor in computer security systems. Access depends on the identification of users, and devices allowed to view information.

Identifiers

Names are an important part of gaining access to resources within a defined network. A username is required to log in to a computer with restricted access. However, different people may share the same name. Numeric or other identifiers are used alongside the name.

In IT, it is imperative a user identifies themselves. Passwords and PINs are easy to forget, so better authentication is needed. In addition to a PIN, a user may be required to use a token or smart card.

Biometrics is the best method for authentication. It hinges on physiological characteristics such as fingerprints or retinal patterns, which are almost impossible to duplicate. Digital signatures have been around since the 1970s and, just like physical signatures, are legally binding. The key for the digital signature stays a secret at all times.

Identity management is just as important as identity authentication. Today, EaaS (Everything as a Service) is the way to go. The identity management system (IMS) must deliver services when demanded, and it determines who gets authorization, and what level of authorization.

As an example, parental control systems in homes are a form of IMS. They regulate the degree of access children get to online sites, the amount of time they can spend online and the types of games they can play.

The four concepts attached to federated identity management are:

  • The more information is attached to a user, the more valuable that identity is to business associates.

  • Single sign on (SSO)

  • Identity mapping: How to tell users who share the same name apart.

  • Management: The various tools and policies that are used to maintain FIM

There are means of selecting an identity management solution.

1.     Different solutions for different situations

The FIM solution aims to make sure only authorized users gain access to sensitive data. The best-federated management solution automates everything, and allows users to alter the login details at any time they choose, and from any place.

There are various FIM solutions from various vendors. They all possess a range of features and at different prices. The most important factor to keep in mind is that there is no blanket solution for all organizations. Every organization has individual dynamics, thus every FIM should fit. For you to choose the right solution, you should consider:

  • Features - do you want a simple or complex solution?

  • Ability - is the solution able to manage all the identities in the organization?

  • How easy to use is it?

  • Quantifiability of the solution

  • Your budget size

An organization must spell out what it requires of the system. This enables them to mold a solution that fits their needs.

2.     FIM Features

You need to be clear on the type of features you want for your FIM. Do you want an all-inclusive and more complex system, compatible with different operating systems (OS), directories and applications? Decide on the type of authentication method to be applied: will you require biometrics or tokens, or will passwords be sufficient?

It may be difficult getting funding for FIM projects. This is because they do not necessarily increase the functionality or profitability of a company. However, lack of security does spell bad news if there is a security lapse. Hundreds of sensitive documents could fall into the hands of unscrupulous individuals.

The FIM solution you choose will require the following standard features:

  • Password synchronization

  • Enterprise-wide single sign on

  • User account management at every level

  • Automated access for management

  • Reporting and monitoring

  • Management based on policies

  • Data leak prevention (DLP)

If the feature that sets a solution is complex, the more complex the deployment and solution administration becomes. Therefore, you have to recruit experienced people to run the solution. All the solutions should provide a central point where they store identity information.

When audited, the company may find it impossible to show that company data is safe and not at risk of being misused by hackers.

3.     Federated Identity Management infrastructure

The access to important information such as users, their roles in an organization, levels of accessibility and policies defining identity rules is critical. You need customized architecture for information processing.

The FIM infrastructure should let users perform tasks on their own, without any difficulty, from anywhere they choose. It should also let administrators manage the systems by remote means. Good system availability, information reliability, and the overall performance are important for the avoidance of slowing down business, and frustrating users.

Continue here on freelancer.com, and engage an administrator to manage the system online.

4.     The right vendor choice

There are many vendors in the market. You will want to discover whether the company is an established and qualified vendor, with proven FIM solutions. The solution to your organisation's identity management is not just buying what is trending, or what is the most expensive, but what will work for you. You need to compare what your company needs against what the FIM solution offers. Decide if it really is the most appropriate for your needs and budget.

Look out for the following when choosing the right vendor:

  • Compatibility and quantifiability

  • Ease of customization

  • Interface

  • Single sign on

  • Thorough reporting and auditing

A complex authentication system must ask for more than just a name and a password. Websites of late ask for more identifiers than these two things. Some will ask you a secret question, to which only you know the answer. They might ask you to identify people in several photographs, and other methods.

Choosing an identity management solution (IdM) solution needs careful consideration of the company’s security, work patterns, role of the users, etc. Consider present and future plans, such as transfer to cloud applications. Standard IdM architecture hinges on reliability, quantifiability, and availability for crucial functions such as access management, authentication, and authorization. Federated identity is more complex than just a technological solution. There are things considered aside from the technical factors. They involve:

  • Identity vetting: do the business partners trust each other enough to use credentials in a responsible manner?

  • How to ensure the identity integrity maintenance in the system

  • Who is the responsible party when,and if, the wrong individuals gain authentication into the system?

The benefits of FIM:

  • It gives organizations increased ability to cooperate with different business partners and supply management, bringing new services that generate income and reduce costs by protecting resources.

  • End users benefit by getting more convenience and protection of crucial information. They also get more access to information.

Do you have any questions or comments to add? Please feel free to post them in the comment section below.

Posted 9 November, 2017

LucyKarinsky

Software Developer

Lucy is the Development & Programming Correspondent for Freelancer.com. She is currently based in Sydney.

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