Identity Management vs. Access Management: Understanding The Difference

    Identity management and access management are often merged into identity and access management (IAM). The main idea behind IAM solutions is to improve security by ensuring that only authorized entities, such as users, devices, and applications, have access to critical business resources. These solutions also ensure users only access the information relevant to their roles, further delivering a secure business environment. 

    Difference between identity management and access management
    Exploring Access Management vs. Identity Management

    But it’s worth exploring each of the two components of identity and access management separately. In this blog, we will learn about the key differences between identity management and access management.

    Understanding Identity Management

    Identity management revolves around the creation and control of digital identities within an enterprise. It allows businesses to establish a framework for regulating resource access by specifying who is authorized to access what based on their roles, responsibilities, and organizational policies.

    Identity management comes with two key components:

    1. Identity lifecycle management: Also known as user lifecycle management, this process involves creating a single identity for each user, device, or other entity, including defining its attributes and roles. It also includes keeping identity data precise throughout the identity’s lifecycle, from onboarding a new user through any role changes and project transfers to offboarding when the user leaves the organization.

    2. Authentication: In the authentication process, IT admins verify the identity of the user before granting them access to sensitive business information. This usually happens during the login process and involves providing information specific to the user. While a user ID and password are widely used authentication methods, there are other notable options that can be used. Some of those are listed below:

    • Biometric authentication: This type of authentication uses retinal scans, facial recognition, voice recognition, fingerprints, and similar information to authenticate users.
    • Device-based authentication: As devices become more portable and secure, they are also becoming a common means of identification. The ideal example of device authentication is sending a one-time passcode through SMS.
    • Token-based authentication: This process requires the user to supply a code from a physical token device. The code is normally only valid for a short period.
    • Certificate-based authentication: A user identity can also be authenticated using a digital certificate. A digital certificate is an electronic document that contains a user’s identity, a public key, and a digital signature from a certification authority.

    For fortified security, all these methods are combined in a process called multi-factor authentication (MFA). For instance, a user might be required to provide both their credentials and biometric data, such as a retinal scan or fingerprint.

    Understanding Access Management

    Access management is an extensive process that involves granting, modifying, or revoking a user permission to access specific business data or resources. The decision to either grant or remove access is determined by the user’s attributes. During the authentication process, users provide their attributes, which are examined for access authorization. To authorize a resource, one must authenticate user identity. It is essential to understand that authentication identifies the user, while authorization determines whether the user is entitled to access the resources.

    Furthermore, within an organization, individuals are usually assigned access privileges based on their positions, roles, and responsibilities, which can be challenging to keep track of, and there are also multiple access points. By applying access control policies, businesses can mitigate these challenges and empower IT teams to effectively regulate and limit authorization for company resources according to a user’s digital identity.

    Identity Management vs. Access Management: A Comparative Analysis

    Understanding the key differences between identity management and access management is crucial for ensuring strong digital security in organizations.

    1. Operational scope

    This aspect of identity and access management is crucial for understanding their differences.

    Identity management: Focuses on creating and overseeing digital identities for individuals and business resources. It involves lifecycle identity management for user profiles, including creation, modification, and deletion, ensuring accurate and secure information throughout the identity’s existence.

    Access management: Controls and regulates permissions and privileges linked to established digital identities. It specifies who can access particular data or functionalities within a system, ensuring only authorized users can access critical resources.

    2. Control specificity

    This identity management vs access management comparison highlights their distinct control aspects.

    Identity management: Involves broader controls with user profiles, roles, and groups. It defines overarching roles such as Administrator or Employee, providing a specified framework for use categorization.

    Access management: Takes a more detailed approach, specifying premise permissions and access restrictions for individual users or groups based on their roles. It ensures individuals have the exact access needed for their specific tasks.

    3. Focus approach

    Comparing identity management vs. access management here shows the detailed approach to security posture.

    Identity management: Takes a user-centric approach, establishing and maintaining accurate digital profiles. It ensures personal and professional information is accurately represented in the system.

    Access management: Combines user and resource-centric approaches, ensuring the right individuals have access to the right resources. It controls and monitors user access to prevent unauthorized use and internal security threats.

    4. Authentication and Authorization

    In identity management vs. access management, the comparison shows how access management safeguards data.

    Identity management: Creates digital profiles for users, contributing to a comprehensive and secure user database. This results in streamlined authentication processes and an enhanced user experience.

    Access management: Ensures authorized users have tailored access to necessary resources, minimizing security gaps. It maintains data integrity and prevents unauthorized access, improving overall data security and compliance.

    5. Tools and technologies

    Let’s examine the various tools used in access management and identity management.

    Tools used in identity management:

    • Single sign-on (SSO) solutions: SSO enables users to access multiple applications with a single set of login credentials.
    • Identity verification platforms: These platforms employ multi-factor authentication methods to verify the legitimacy of user identities.
    • User provisioning systems: These systems automate the process of granting or revoking access to enterprise resources based on predefined roles and policies.

    Tools used in access management:

    • Role-based access control (RBAC): RBAC systems assign access rights and permissions to users based on their roles within an organization.
    • Privileged access management (PAM): PAM solutions manage and monitor privileged access to critical systems and data, especially for privileged users.
    • Access governance platforms: Platforms that ensure access policies align with business objectives and regulatory standards and requirements.

    Identity Management vs. Access Management: A Tabular Comparison

    This table provides a concise overview of the key differences between identity management and access management.

    FeaturesIdentity ManagementAccess Management
    DefinitionManages the lifecycle of digital identities, including creation, modification, and deletion.Controls and governs access to resources and information based on user identities and permissions.
    FocusManaging user identities and their dynamic attributes.Regulating user access to systems, applications, and data.
    ObjectiveEnsures the right individuals have appropriate access throughout their identity lifecycle.Safeguards resources by permitting or restricting user access based on predefined rules.
    AuthenticationVerifies and validates user identities through methods like passwords, biometric authentication, etc.Enforces authentication mechanisms to confirm the user’s identity before granting access.
    AuthorizationConcerned with creating, modifying, or deleting identities.Defines and enforces access policies to ensure users have authorized permissions.
    Use CaseEmployee onboarding, offboarding, and managing user profiles.Secure access to applications, systems, and data, preventing unauthorized user entry.
    SecurityEnhances security by managing user identities and their associated attributes.Strengthens security by controlling and monitoring user access to prevent unauthorized entry.

    Why a Unified IAM Solution is Essential

    Using separate identity management and access management systems can lead to several challenges, including inconsistent user data and inefficient access controls. A unified IAM solution streamlines these processes, ensuring cohesive management of identities and access permissions. This integration enhances security, improves compliance, and boosts operational efficiency by providing a single, centralized platform for managing user identities and access rights across the organization.

    Discover OneIdP, a UEM-integrated IAM solution by Scalefusion. Schedule a demo with our team of experts. 

    Aditya Gosavi
    Aditya Gosavi
    Aditya Gosavi is a SaaS Content writer who loves cooking and adores his dogs. He crafts jargon-free content by day and whips up delicious dishes in his kitchen, all while cherishing the company of his furry friends.

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