What Is Customer Identity And Access Management: Guide|2024

Rohit Rao

28th December, 2023


Customer identity and access management (CIAM) enables users to access digital platforms while ensuring their data remains secure. This further improves customer interactions and delivers a streamlined digital experience to your clientele.

In this article, we'll understand the basics of CIAM and how it enables your IT team to govern, analyze, and protect user information. 

Before diving into details about how customer identity and access management works and why it's important, let's start with the basics.

What is Customer Identity And Access Management?

Customer identity and access Management (CIAM) is about how your IT team engages with customers digitally. It includes tools and technologies that allow customers/users to sign up, sign in, and access applications, web portals, or digital services offered by the organization. 

CIAM is the digital identity layer added to customer-facing applications, empowering users to manage their preferences and privacy settings.  

For instance, the sign-up and login processes must be seamless and user-friendly while maintaining high security to establish and nurture customer trust. CIAM assists in identifying customers, creating personalized experiences, and determining the appropriate access they require for customer-facing applications and services. 

Additionally, a CIAM solution aids organizations in meeting regulatory requirements aligned with various industry regulatory standards and frameworks.

In brief, customer identity access management mainly does these three things:

  • It improves customer satisfaction by making it easier for them to sign up and log in while reducing the risk of others taking over their accounts due to reused passwords.

  • Creates personalized and unique experiences for individuals, businesses, and large companies. 

  • Can handle a massive number of customers without any issues.

What Are The Core Capabilities Of Customer Identity And Access Management?

Customer identity and access management offers three core capabilities designed to help your IT team effectively manage user/customer identities and access while ensuring the security of your organization's SaaS app data. 

  1. Identity administration: CIAM solutions manage user identities by creating and maintaining accounts, controlling access, and managing user profiles.

  2. User privacy and consent management: CIAM solutions ensure compliance with privacy regulations, allowing users to control their data and manage consent for data usage and communication preferences.

  3. Fraud prevention capabilities: CIAM systems employ security measures such as multi-factor authentication, anomaly detection, and fraud analytics to protect customer accounts and prevent unauthorized access and fraudulent activities.

Now that you understand the basics of customer identity and access management, let's move forward and learn why it is important to implement CIAM in your organization.

Why Is Customer Identity And Access Management Important?

You must be wondering if it's about simply managing a customer profile and access to customer-facing SaaS apps; IT teams can do it manually as well. Why is there even a need for a CIAM solution? Well, implementing a customer identity & access management solution brings numerous benefits that enhance the security and overall experience for your customers, which are the topmost concerns of most organizations. 

Furthermore, the initial sign-up or sign-in interaction is crucial as it sets the tone for customer relationships with your product or service. By prioritizing customer identity, your team can attract customers effectively.

As in today's digital landscape, customers expect seamless, personalized, and secure interactions with your application or service at every touchpoint. Customer identity and access management solutions are pivotal in meeting these demands and enhancing customer experiences. They enable your team to adapt to customers' preferred devices- smartphones, computers, TVs, or smart home devices. 

For instance, CIAM solutions enable your IT team to gain deeper insights into customers' identities, enabling a better understanding of their behaviors and preferences. This valuable information helps improve customer service and build personalized experiences that foster stronger customer loyalty and trust. Implementing customer identity and access management can ultimately result in higher customer retention rates, increased revenue, and more satisfied and happy customers.

In brief, given below are the key pillars that the CIAM solution covers:

  • Improved customer experience: CIAM helps your IT team enhance the overall customer experience that impresses them and turns their interactions into revenue.

  • Unified brand experience: CIAM lets your team connect with customers across different digital channels, ensuring a unified brand experience and seamless information sharing.

  • Personalization: CIAM enables your team to deliver personalized and targeted digital experiences, tailoring interactions based on individual preferences and interests.

  • Operational cost reduction: CIAM helps your team lower the expenses associated with acquiring and maintaining customers, particularly by reducing customer support costs. This enhances operational efficiency and saves resources.

But how do customer identity and access management make it all possible? Here's a quick brief.

How Do CIAM Capabilities Improve The Online Experience For Customers?

Given below are the ways customer identity and access management's capabilities enhance overall customer experience:

  • Effortless registration: Customer identity and access management simplifies registration through social login and progressive profiling. This reduces the amount of information customers need to provide upfront, making the registration experience smoother and more enticing.

  • Seamless authentication: CIAM offers a wide range of robust authentication options, including mobile authentication, single sign-on (SSO), usernames and passwordless login, and federation. These features create a seamless customer experience, allowing users to move between trusted partner organizations without repeated authentication.

  • Dynamic authorization: CIAM continuously authorizes access using adaptive authentication. It considers factors such as location, device, and behavior to determine the appropriate level of security. When the risk is low, customers enjoy a streamlined experience, even if they leave and return later. As risk factors change, additional layers of security are applied.

  • Convenient self-service: With CIAM, customers can easily manage their profile data and preferences and perform tasks like password resets and help requests. CIAM empowers users to take control of their accounts and reduces reliance on customer support, promoting self-sufficiency.

  • Privacy compliance: CIAM helps organizations comply with privacy laws such as GDPR, CCPA, etc. It fosters customer trust by offering a centralized portal for customers to manage their personal data, account profiles, and privacy settings. CIAM ensures that customers have control over their information, enhancing privacy and data protection.

Also, customer identity and access management prioritize data security, as it safeguards your company's most valuable asset: customer data. Implementing a robust CIAM solution protects you against fraud, hacks, and data misuse on multiple fronts.

For example, in recent years, with advanced technology, hackers are able to steal weak passwords or guess user credentials and gain unauthorized access to your SaaS apps, systems, or sites. This method exploits people's tendency to reuse passwords, and billions of stolen passwords are currently circulating on the dark web. According to a 2019 study by the Ponemon Institute, credential-stuffing attacks alone cost businesses an average of $4 million annually.

The most effective defense against credential stuffing and similar authentication-based attacks lies in a CIAM solution equipped with multi-factor authentication (MFA) and brute force protection. Brute force protection prevents bad actors from crashing your sites and flooding your application with login attempts. Meanwhile, MFA ensures that even if a credential is stolen, hackers cannot gain automatic access to your users' accounts.

Additionally, CIAM systems track access to customer data within your organization and alert your IT team on any suspicious activity. This ensures that neither employees nor malicious actors can abscond with your most valuable and sensitive asset-customer data.

Now, let's find out how customer identity and access management protects customer data in different scenarios. 

How Does CIAM Protect Customer Data In Different Scenarios?

Throughout every step of the user journey, CIAM ensures the protection and security of customer data. The distinctive features of customer identity management enhance security while reducing the risk of data breaches and fraudulent activities.

Scenario 1: 

Data Breaches typically involve a malicious actor gaining unauthorized access to numerous customer records. These records may include sensitive information like passwords, and usernames, phone numbers, credit card details, or other personally identifiable information (PII). Attempting to breach large amounts of data by posing as a customer is usually unsuccessful since customers lack access to the data of other customers. Instead, insiders commonly carry out these attacks or result from unintentional errors made by IT or development teams.

How CIAM Mitigates This Challenge?

Customer identity management system plays a crucial role in preventing breaches through various measures:

  • It encrypts or tokenize data, making it extremely difficult or impossible for hackers to use even if they gain access.

  • It alerts administrators to suspicious activities, such as an admin account gaining unauthorized access to customer data.

  • It highlights log tampering, making it evident when an insider attempts to cover their tracks while trying to breach data.

  • It restricts the number of records an administrator can download, preventing quick actions and providing more time to detect and respond to suspicious activities.

Scenario 2:  

Unlike security breaches, fraudulent activities are typically targeted at individual customers. In a common scenario, fraudsters may acquire customer credentials through phishing attacks or exploiting breached sites. Subsequently, they use these credentials to target high-value platforms like banking websites. Unfortunately, due to customers often using the same credentials across multiple sites, fraudsters often find success in their endeavors.

How CIAM Mitigates This Challenge?

To counteract fraudulent activity, customer identity and access management implement several preventive measures:

  1. Implements multi-factor authentication to add an extra layer of security 

  • MFA provides a robust defense against fraud by requiring an additional layer of authentication beyond usernames and passwords. This often involves sending a push notification to a device linked to the customer's account.

  • Implementing adaptive multi-factor authentication through a customer identity mobile SDK and sending push notifications via a mobile app is the most secure and convenient method. However, alternative MFA methods should be offered to accommodate customers who may not use the mobile app.

  1. Enforces adaptive authentication

  • Adaptive authentication addresses the risk of MFA fatigue, where users might unknowingly approve a fraudster's request due to frequent authentication prompts. It evaluates customer behavior, device information, and contextual factors in real-time to assess the risk level and introduces MFA only when necessary.

  • By limiting additional authentication to high-risk scenarios, such as logging in from a new device, adaptive authentication reduces the likelihood of MFA fatigue and streamlines the user experience for low-risk transactions.

  1. Thoroughly verifies identity

  • Certain situations demand complete confidence in a customer's identity, such as when a bank is issuing a large loan. Identity verification allows your IT team to confirm the legitimacy of a user's identity and verify them as the true owner.

  • Identity verification can seamlessly integrate into an organization's user journey at key points, ensuring higher security in critical situations.

  1. Integrates with fraud prevention tools

  • CIAM integrates with various fraud prevention tools to enhance security. This tool involves fraud detection capabilities that further help address fraudulent activities.

  • Customer identity and access management are crucial in protecting against fraud by aggregating context from multiple threat detection sources. This dynamic approach tailors user paths based on the level and type of risk exhibited throughout the entire user journey, not just at the point of authentication.

Now that you understand what exactly CIAM is and how it works, it's time to explore a tool that can effectively streamline your access management process. Well, there are numerous advanced solutions available in the market. However, one solution that stands out among the rest is Zluri. So what is Zluri, and how does it work? Here's a quick read-through.   

Zluri: Your Ultimate Solution To Manage Access Effectively

Is your IT team facing challenges while managing access permissions and ensuring compliance and security? If so, your search for a solution ends here with Zluri. Zluri, a modern autonomous and automated IGA platform, is the ultimate solution to all your access management-related problems. This advanced platform simplifies the authentication and authorization process, access control, access request processes, and access certification workflows. 

iga platform

It offers a wide range of exquisite features, such as a data discovery engine, access certification, automation engine, and more. So, let's have a closer look and explore these remarkable capabilities that help your IT team manage access effortlessly while meeting all compliance needs and ensuring the safety of your user's identities and SaaS app data.

  • Allows Your IT Team To Discover All User Access Data Within The Organization

Zluri's IGA empowers your IT team to effortlessly discover all user access data within the organization, eliminating manual errors and repetitive verifications. With its data discovery engine, Zluri's IGA provides comprehensive insights into user interactions with SaaS applications, saving valuable time and ensuring accuracy. IT teams can easily track user access details, login/logout times, status, department affiliation, access permissions, and more. This granular data enables access patterns and user behavior analysis, ensuring a well-governed and secure environment.

  • Enables Your Team To Effortlessly Manage Employee Access To SaaS App And Other Digital Assets 

Zluri's IGA seamlessly integrates with your organization's HR system, providing real-time employee data to you. This integration automatically fetches and presents all employee information on a centralized dashboard. 

This enhanced visibility allows your team to verify employee details without the need for manual intervention, enabling them to grant, modify, or revoke access as needed upon onboarding and mid-lifecycle change. Also, this helps ensure that each employee has the appropriate level of access to the correct applications at the right time. 

Furthermore, it automatically revokes access when an employee departs, effectively preventing potential security breaches. 

  • Protecting Identities And Data From Potential Security Breaches 

With Zluri's IGA, your IT team can get a 360-degree view of all the access permissions in a centralized dashboard. This further enables them to effortlessly monitor and track employee access to various applications, the assigned permission levels, and recent access revocations. 

Moreover, Zluri provides enhanced visibility, allowing your IT team to easily identify and address suspicious user activities. It detects unauthorized access attempts or unusual behavior and promptly notifies your IT team. 

This proactive alert system enables them to take immediate action to mitigate potential security risks. By swiftly identifying and responding to such incidents, your team can strengthen your organization's overall security posture and safeguard sensitive SaaS app data from potential breaches.

  • Conducts Access Reviews To Adhere To Compliance Standards  

Compliance holds significant importance for every organization, and Zluri recognizes this crucial aspect. That's why Zluri's IGA platform simplifies the access certification process, offering a structured and automated approach to reviewing and validating user entitlements. This ensures regular audits of access privileges, detection of unauthorized access, and adherence to compliance requirements.

access certification process

So what are you waiting for? Book a demo now and check yourself how Zluri can be a game-changing solution for you.


What Is The Difference Between IAM And CIAM?

Identity and access management systems are designed to manage and secure internal users' (employees') identities. Customer identity management systems are designed to manage and secure external identities, such as partners, customers, contractors, and more.  

What Are The Requirements For CIAM?

Organizations should not overlook the five pillars while implementing a customer identity access management system. These pillars are multi-factor and adaptive authentication, scalability and high availability, privacy and compliance, analytics, and APIs.

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