The modernization in technology and natural disaster like COVID-19 has transformed the business landscape. Working on-premises and using corporate devices is no more compulsion in many firms. Many small and big organizations offer a flexible working environment for the staff. Twitter and Microsoft have made legislation in their policies to allow employees to work permanently from home. However, working off-premises, using non-corporate gadgets, or adopting similar legacy approaches can create Identity and Access Management (IAM) challenges for many organizations, especially those dealing with a large volume of customers and employees. Though there are a number of traditional IAM solutions available to manage these issues, the emerging IDaaS concept is believed to handle the problems more efficiently. This article explains IDaaS and its core components in detail to help organizations understand the concept and scope of IDaaS technology.
What is IDaaS?
Identity as a Service (IDaaS) is a third-party Identity and Access Management (IAM) solution that offers Cloud-based authentication services. There are a number of applications that require user authentication to proceed or perform certain actions. Since IAM is a complex subject, many enterprises prefer a ready-to-use authentication and user management solution instead of building everything from scratch. The IDaaS is a similar out of the box solution that can be integrated into business applications.
IDaaS VS SaaS: The Cloud computing is known for its three core services namely (i) Software as a Service (SaaS), (ii) Platform as a Service (PaaS), and (iii) Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). The SaaS delivery model provides desired services to customers through subscription/API methods. The basic IDaaS is also a SaaS service (SaaS-delivered IAM) hosted and offered through the SaaS delivery model. Some vendors offer IDaaS as Platform as a Service (PaaS) through private Cloud/on-premises datacenters.
IDaaS User Groups: The main role of IDaaS is to validate users (authentication) and grant access (authorization) according to the defined privileges. The IDaaS users can be classified into the following two groups.
(i) Employees (Workforce)
(ii) End-Users (Customers)
The IDaaS for employees can be referred to as Workforce IAM (W-IAM). The W-IAM is responsible for managing employees’ access to internal business applications. The End-users IDaaS services are commonly known as Customer IAM (C-IAM). The C-IAM takes care of end-users accessing external business applications. There is also a concept of Business to Business IAM (B2B-IAM) that handles identity and access management challenges related to business partners.
IDaaS Core Features
The majority of the IDaaS solutions offer the following security and management features.
Zero Trust Security
Security is the main attraction in any IDaaS solution. Organizations are encouraged to shift from traditional IAM tools due to stronger security features offered by the IDaaS solutions. The Multifactor Authentication (MFA) and Single Sign-On (SSO) are the two well-known security (authentication) mechanisms offered by the majority of IDaaS service providers.
Multifactor Authentication: The traditional credentials verification method involves only username-password validation by the intended applications. However, the traditional authentication method is not secure. There are a number of attacks associated with the traditional authentication (username-password) method, such as Bruteforce, dictionary, and man in the middle attacks. The IDaaS offers Multifactor Authentication (MFA) to greatly reduce the authentication attacks. The MFA uses more than one of the following authentication features.
- Secret Information (passwords, pins, etc.)
- Possession (smart cards, login keys, etc.)
- Inherited features (fingerprints, retina, etc.)
Some organizations require a custom authentication solution to add an extra layer of security for specific data. The IDaaS can offer customized security mechanisms through features like step-up authentication. The step-up authentication allows organizations to classify the resources at different levels and setup unique credentials for each level. This adaptive approach prompts users for more credentials as they try to access sensitive or privileged resources.
Single Sign-On (SSO): The IDaaS offers an SSO authentication mechanism where multiple applications share a single sign-on option. The SSO concept can be seen in the context of YouTube and Gmail services by Google. Users having Gmail credentials can access the YouTube account without additional login requirements. The IDaaS offers a similar SSO functionality to provide seamless access to users without risking the security of the applications.
User management is one of the tiresome jobs for enterprises. The user management systems are deployed to manage users’ access based on their roles and privileges. IDaaS can manage these tasks as a standalone entity through its universal directory feature. IDaaS can store users and attributes from multiple applications and sources through a centralized approach.
Data analytics is another important feature associated with IDaaS solutions. IDaaS analytics allows enterprises to monitor traffic and report any anomalies related to data and user activities.
Data Protection Laws Compliance
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) are some of the well-known data protection laws in Europe and United States to protect users’ private information. The IDaaS solutions can help organizations to comply with these laws through data analytics and intelligence features.
The performance of traditional IAM solutions depends on the availability of the deployed resources. Any error in the hardware or software can halt the business activities until the problem is rectified. Scalability is another challenge in infrastructure-based IAM services. The IDaaS handles the rectification and scalability issues without any problems. Since Cloud is responsible for providing seamless IDaaS services, organizations don’t have to spend time and effort to manage the hardware or software problems occurring in the Cloud. Cloud computing is known for its ubiquitous and scalable services. Therefore, scalability is never a problem in IDaaS solutions.
Developing an identity and access management solution from scratch is a time-consuming and complex job. However, developers are bound to focus on security while developing data-sensitive applications. The IDaaS integration into these applications reduces the developers’ workload while allowing them more time and resources to enhance the functionalities and productivity of the enterprise applications.
The IDaaS solutions are cost-effective as compared to traditional IAM solutions that require the purchase and maintenance of bundles of hardware and software. The IDaaS services can be availed through a subscription.
Identity as a Service (IDaaS) has rich features and the potential to convince organizations to consider and prefer the offerings over traditional IAM services. Faster implementation, easy integration, and seamless data migration are some of the core IDaaS benefits. However, some organizations are hesitant to adopt IDaaS, considering it a single point of failure and data breach. Since Cloud computing is also vulnerable to Cyber-attacks, many organizations trust on-premise data security measures despite the benefits offered by IDaaS solutions.