As we increasingly store applications and data files which contain personal and confidential information in the cloud, it is important that we take all measures to secure cloud assets in order to prevent system breaches and data loss. Identity and Access Management (IAM) is considered one of the most effective ways to provide cloud security. This article will analyze why the Identity and Access Management domain is the most significant control for data security in cloud environments.
The operational areas of Identity and Access Management include authentication management, authorization management, federated identity management, and compliance management. This comprehensive approach ensures that only authorized users are effectively incorporated into the cloud environments.
Authentication is crucial for cloud security, as it allows to verify and prove the identity of a user. A similar process exists in the real world in the form of presenting an ID card or other identification documents. IAM systems provide a high level of cloud security by a number of secure authentication mechanisms.
The common authentication mechanisms in a cloud system include “log-on credentials, multi-factor authentication, third party authentication, simple text passwords, 3D password objects, graphical passwords, biometric authentication, and digital device authentication”. In order to enhance the security check, some cloud service providers (CSPs) use physical security mechanisms, for instance, access cards or biometrics denying unauthorized access through authentication. In addition, Identity and Access Management may include some digital mechanisms, ensuring security in cloud environments.
The concept of authorization ensures that the identified entities have the capability to perform only the tasks they are permitted to perform. Authorization allows to verify what access an entity is entitled to. In order to avoid data security compromise, cloud environments determine the levels of authorization for different entities. After successful authentication, authorization management determines whether the authenticated entity is allowed to perform any function within a given application.
Federated Identity Management
In Federated Identity Management, cloud services authenticate by using the organization’s identity provider. Federated identity management ensures the trust between a web-based application and the identity provider through Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and by exchanging certified public keys.
GRC and Compliance
In order to ensure credentials are managed securely by means of access control policies or access right delegations, cloud service providers create special policies to control access for guaranteeing that only valid users are able to access the protected resources and services.
Therefore, CSPs provide three essential characteristics, which are Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance (GRC) for efficient IAM and effective reporting in organizations.
The last operational area of identity and access management is compliance management. This ensures that an organization’s resources are secure and accessed only according to the policies and regulations.
To sum up, IAM systems are essential in providing security in the cloud environment through elaborated mechanisms of authentication and authorization management. These mechanisms may include physical methods or digital methods such as Public Key Infrastructure. Privacy is regarded as a vital issue in the cloud environment protection and can be attained through Identity and Access Management, which ensures the highest level of data security.