Future Trends in Digital Identity Management

Digital identities provide access to systems and services in a variety of use cases. A single identity may represent a person, device or organization, and access permissions must be managed properly to minimize the risk of cyberattacks. Efficient identity management is also required for streamlined workflows, regulatory compliance and reliable security. 

As digital access becomes more complex, businesses must look into the future to prepare for the unique challenges posed by the entrance of more devices into systems and the increasing sophistication of hackers. New trends in digital identity management provide the tools IT professionals and cybersecurity experts need to secure networks against fraud. 

Zero Trust Takes Center Stage 

Traditional access management falls short when it comes to the level of security necessary to protect modern networks. It assumes all users granted access to the network are trustworthy, and therefore every action and permission associated with their identities can safely be performed without further verification. However, this approach has a fatal flaw: Hackers using stolen credentials are given the same level of trust as legitimate users and may be able to penetrate deep into a network before the deception is discovered. 

This has given rise to the trend of the “zero trust” model, in which network insiders and outsiders are treated as posing equal levels of risk. Instead of relying only on preset permissions, rules or roles, zero trust systems monitor user behaviors and allow access based on perceived risk levels. Information is compartmentalized into “microsegments,” and as a user moves within the system, his or her behaviors generate a risk score. If the score is too high, further access requires re-authentication using multiple identifying factors. 

In addition to microsegmentation, companies opting for zero trust access can set additional restrictions based on location, IP addresses and specific permissions. Doing so ensures users aren’t allowed more access than is necessary to do their jobs, an identity management best practice known as the principle of least privilege (POLP) designed to minimize how much hackers can get away with using a single set of stolen credentials. 

Blockchain Leads to Decentralized Identities

Maintaining a centralized database of user identities is time-consuming for businesses and can pose a major security risk if the information is ever compromised. The rise of blockchain technology may make it possible to move to a decentralized model in which users create their own identities, register authenticating factors and have the information verified by a trusted third party before being stored in the blockchain. 

Each block in the blockchain contains digital information, such as an identity, and carries a unique identifying code called a “hash.” By adding identities to the blockchain instead of a central database, users make themselves part of what Gartner refers to as the identity trust fabric (ITF). The ITF technology is still being developed and will require better management of accessibility, privacy and security before it can be implemented on a broad scale, but it may be available as early as 2020. 

The shift to decentralized identities parallels the predicted demise of single-factor, password-based authentication. With 81 percent of data breaches attributed to weak or compromised login credentials, it’s necessary to adopt a system in which access requires stronger authentication credentials. Identities stored in the blockchain can be used to access applications from a variety of service providers without creating the points of vulnerability associated with password access. 

Advanced Analytics Allow Adaptive Access 

Rule-based access control relies on rules established by a network administrator to determine if requests within the system should be approved or denied. This allows for a measure of control over who can access specific data and applications, when access is to be granted and whether any restrictions are created based on location or other attributes. However, it’s impossible to foresee every scenario in which a user or group of users may require access. Restrictive rules can create bottlenecks in workflows, and liberal rules increase security risks. 

Adaptive access offers a smarter alternative. Adaptive environments use a combination of advanced analytics information and machine learning technology to learn users’ behavioral patterns and grant or deny access based on whether or not behaviors are perceived as normal. This creates a more “risk-aware” system with an inherent ability to detect anomalies and trigger security actions as necessary. 

Intelligent digital identity management is a crucial factor in the fight against cybercrime. To prevent networks from falling victim to attacks, businesses must look forward and prepare to implement new security technologies. Adapting to the latest technologies means being able to use the tools available to establish proactive responses and protect systems from a growing number of threats. Businesses ready to evolve with these changes will be better able to manage risks and maintain the strong security required to protect networks in the modern technological era.

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