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IAM for the Remote Workforce: Challenges and Best Practices

Identity and access management (IAM) is getting popular because of its simplified and uniform identity management solutions. The goal of IAM is to ensure only the right people have access to the company’s resources. IAM becomes even more vital for organizations having remote workforce as it causes unique security challenges and risks. IAM adds a strong security layer to your remote network and securely connects remote employees with the right resources at the right time.

This secure digital access gives valuable insight to the IT department about the users accessing their resources, thus strengthening your business network. However, there are some challenges associated with implementing IAM to manage a remote workforce. Let’s dig out some of the most pressing challenges and best practices of implementing IAM. Are you wondering what is IAM? and why is it imperative for managing a remote workforce? Let’s get to know about the role of IAM in managing remote workforce first.

IAM: Importance for Remote Workforce

Identity and access management (IAM) leverages tools, techniques, and procedures (TTP) to secure your valuable data by controlling who can access business resources. This includes both on-premises and cloud data access.

The proliferation of remote work has raised the need for a secure platform that ensures the safety of your valuable assets while giving seamless access to remote employees. According to a 2022 Report, the role of users in data breach incidents is significant. About 82% of breaches involved users, including stolen credentials, misuse, phishing, and simple human errors. This means that businesses must adopt a secure system to guarantee safe access to the data. 

Without an in-house IT team, who will verify the credentials of the remote workforce? Who will audit the activities of remote workers? Who will protect your data from security breaches and cyberattacks? The simplest answer is a robust IAM. With an effective IAM system in place, organizations can ensure that only authorized users have access to the right resources. This not only protects data and customer information but also reduces compliance issues and improves productivity. 

IAM Implementation Challenges & Mitigation Practices

Today’s business requires a hybrid cloud environment to operate. These changes have brought new challenges for IT admins. Though these changes are minimal, IT professionals who want to control user access to secure their corporate resources still come across some daunting challenges.

No clear perspective

One of the common mistakes that many organizations make is taking IAM adoption as a one-time project. This is a major pitfall that leads to IAM implementation failure. IAM implementation should be considered an ongoing program to ensure its proper implementation and regulation. 

According to experts, IAM should be viewed as a comprehensive project that spans for at least two or more years. This should contain a series of implementation projects that may run consecutively, if not parallel. One of the best practices to avoid such pitfalls is to assign the responsibility of IAM to someone for its entire lifecycle for ensuring effective communication between stakeholders and the team.

Organizational Politics

IAM implementation failure is inevitable if one member prioritizes his security needs over the interests of the organization. When an organization falls victim to organization politics, there is a great chance that the resources needed for a successful IAS implementation will be pulled off.

To encounter this problem, organizations must come up with a proper IAM strategy and roadmap that involve leadership across the organization. The IAS roadmap should be created on the basis of shared ownership and a common understanding of the plan. Moreover, a strong executive sponsor to lead the initiative will increase inter-departmental collaboration, improve decision-making, and reduce the likelihood of organizational politics.

Decentralized Identity Management

Many companies have transitioned to cloud-hosted data to facilitate the remote workforce. As a result, the centralized on-premises data has become decentralized. Where it provides significant autonomy to different departments, it poses plenty of risks in IAS implementation

When the system is centralized, only a single user identity is used throughout the organization to access the needed resources. Conversely, every department has its own user identity system in the case of a decentralized system, which means the responsibilities of centralized admins become distributed to each department, which makes IAM challenging for many businesses. 

However, by incorporating a systematic approach and automating IAM identification and authorization processes, companies can take off the burden from the centralized admins. Moreover, their IAM should leverage Microsoft Active Directory (AD) which governs access to IT applications and services. Their remote employees should use their AD credentials to access a particular SaaS Application.

End-User Challenge

Many organizations invest in a robust identity and access management solution but fail to guide their remote workforce about the best practices. New solutions are often seen as hard to use which reduces user acceptance. This is a common challenge while implementing an authentication solution. 

For instance, if an authentication system demands a token sensor or biometric and it doesn’t suit user needs, this may result in a production bottleneck, leading to management and user dissatisfaction. An ideal authentication system should be fully transparent but it is not always possible. Therefore, stakeholders should guide their remote workforce about the authentication requirements for a specific resource and the level of intrusion undergone in their activities, including potential risks.

Poor Role Access Management

IAM leverages business role assignments to evaluate who can access what. IAM focuses on role-based access control which means the role of a specific employee will decide their level of access. If the role of an employee changes, IAM automatically repeals previous permissions and grants new permissions based on their existing role. However, if there is a poor role design, the whole IAS system can disturb and become ineffective. Therefore, organizations should come up with a precise role assignment design that should be regularly reviewed. 

Moreover, the Role Based Access control should be integrated with Attribute Based Access Control to add some additional access attributes to user authentication decisions of IAM. Besides, your IAS system should also support Multi-Factor Authentication because password-only solutions to secure highly classified resources is not the right decision.

Slow Manual Deprovisioning System

When a new in-house or remote employee joins an organization, they are permitted to access the company’s corporate network, email accounts, file servers, and more. Poor manual provisioning and the de-provisioning system can halt the company’s processes and can put data at risk.

This becomes even more troublesome if an employee leaves your company and you would have to rely on the application administrator to revoke access of the employee from each Saas Application. This slow de-provisioning system can give your former and potentially disgruntled employee a chance to exploit your corporate resources. Therefore, businesses should adopt an IAS solution that supports automated provisioning and de-provisioning across all applications.

Final Words

In response to the increasing inclusion of remote workforce in most organizations, companies should come up with effective security planning and implement identity and access management solutions as an essential part of their business processes. Where some businesses still rely on on-premises storage of data, other businesses have successfully shifted to cloud-based data storage to facilitate a remote workforce. 

Therefore, the role of IAS solutions in business applications has become important more than ever. Understanding various challenges associated with access control solutions and following the best practices to avoid them is part of comprehensive planning for a successful IAS deployment.

Ron Harold

It has been a long time since I joined Research Snipers. Though I have been working as a part-time tech-news writer, it feels good to be part of the team. Besides that, I am building a finance-based blog, working as a freelance content writer/blogger, and a video editor.

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