9 Identity & Access Management (IAM) Best Practices

Chaithanya Yambari

29th February, 2024


Managing identity and access is crucial in preventing cyber threats, leading many organizations to adopt IAM solutions. Yet, ensuring the effective implementation of these solutions is vital for maximizing their security benefits. By adhering to IAM best practices, your IT team can adeptly attain precise control over access to sensitive data and applications.

Identity and Access Management (IAM) has evolved into a pivotal component of security strategies for numerous organizations. Maximizing the security benefits hinges on properly setting up IAM tools and processes. This article will outline 9 IAM best practices your company should embrace to fortify its security posture. By the conclusion of this article, you will be equipped with the insights needed to integrate IAM best practices seamlessly into your overarching security strategy.

Before we explore the identity and access management best practices, let's first briefly understand the concept of identity and access management and why it's important.

Identity And Access Management: An Overview

In cybersecurity, Identity and Access Management (IAM) stands as a critical discipline, employing diverse technologies and procedures to fortify an organization's security posture. According to Gartner, IAM is a security practice designed to empower IT teams in ensuring that only authorized individuals or machines can access specific assets—ranging from cloud applications and data to systems—at the appropriate time and for the intended purpose. This proactive approach is instrumental in preventing unauthorized access and mitigating fraud risks.

IAM serves as a multifaceted solution, encompassing a range of technologies and practices to manage user identities, control access permissions, and safeguard sensitive information. By strategically implementing IAM protocols, organizations can establish a robust framework that bolsters security and enhances operational efficiency.

As technology advances, IAM evolves to provide a crucial layer of defense against the constantly changing threats in the digital landscape. Embracing the IAM best practices goes beyond a mere security measure. It becomes a proactive strategy empowering IT teams to confidently navigate the intricacies of modern cybersecurity, ensuring a robust defense against potential threats.

Key Components Of Identity and Access Management

IAM best practices comprise essential elements that form the foundation of a robust identity and access management framework:

1. Identity Management and Authentication Distinction:

Clearly distinguish between identity management and authentication processes to cultivate a comprehensive understanding of how individuals are identified within the system.

2. Role Definition and Assignment:

Explicitly define distinct roles within the system and assign these roles to individuals based on their responsibilities and specific access requirements, ensuring a precise alignment of roles with organizational needs.

3. Role Lifecycle Management:

Streamline the addition, modification, and suspension of roles for individuals within the system. This ensures a dynamic and continually updated access structure that adapts to evolving organizational requirements.

4. Granular Access Control:

Implement a sophisticated access control system, allowing precise granting of varied access levels to specific individuals or groups based on their designated roles and responsibilities. This enhances security by providing access tailored to individual needs.

5. Data Protection:

Emphasize the safeguarding of sensitive data within the system through the implementation of robust measures. This proactive approach ensures overall security, effectively mitigating the risk of unauthorized access or potential breaches and maintaining the integrity of critical information.

Importance Of IAM Best Practices For Enterprises

IAM plays a pivotal role in organizations by ensuring robust user authentication, authorization, and audit processes, yielding several key advantages.

  1. Enhanced Security and Compliance: IAM ensures that access privileges align with established policies, facilitating proper authentication, authorization, and audit of individuals and services. This commitment to policies aids in meeting regulatory standards like GDPR and PCI-DSS, reducing the likelihood of data breaches and showcasing compliance during audits.

  2. Efficiency and Cost Savings: By automating IAM processes, businesses streamline user access management, reducing manual efforts, time, and costs. This heightened efficiency directs resources toward core activities rather than access management.

  3. Reduced Data Breach Risk: IAM serves as a potent strategy for preventing data loss due to both internal and external threats. Through additional layers of authentication beyond passwords and the enforcement of policies restricting unauthorized lateral movement, IAM effectively thwarts potential threats, reducing the risk of data breaches.

  4. Facilitation of Digital Transformation: IAM takes center stage in the evolving landscape of remote work, multi-cloud environments, and IoT devices. By centralizing access management for diverse user types and resources, IAM ensures secure access without compromising the user experience, actively supporting and facilitating digital transformation efforts.

Identity and Access Management Risks & Challenges

Effectively managing identity and access within an organization has inherent risks and challenges. Understanding and addressing these concerns is crucial for ensuring the security and efficiency of Identity and Access Management (IAM) systems.

  1. Cybersecurity Threats: IAM systems can be susceptible to cybersecurity threats, including phishing attacks, malware, and other malicious activities that compromise user identities and access controls. Constant vigilance and robust cybersecurity measures are essential to detect and mitigate evolving threats, requiring organizations to stay ahead of potential risks.

  2. Complexity of Implementations: Implementing IAM solutions can be complex, especially in large organizations with diverse systems and user types. Organizations must carefully plan and execute IAM implementations, considering the intricacies of their environment and user roles and ensuring seamless integration with existing infrastructure.

  3. User Authentication and Authorization: Inadequate user authentication and authorization processes can lead to unauthorized access, posing a significant security risk. Implementing strong authentication methods and defining precise authorization protocols are critical for preventing unauthorized entry and ensuring data integrity.

  4. Compliance and Regulatory Standards: Failure to adhere to compliance and regulatory standards can result in legal consequences and reputational damage. IAM systems must align with industry-specific regulations like GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI-DSS. Regular audits and updates are necessary to ensure ongoing compliance.

  5. Insider Threats: Insider threats, whether intentional or accidental, can pose a serious risk to IAM systems. Organizations must implement measures to monitor user activity, detect anomalous behavior, and establish protocols for responding to potential insider threats.

  6. Scalability and Adaptability: As organizations grow and evolve, IAM systems may struggle to scale or adapt to changing needs. Designing IAM solutions with scalability in mind and regularly reassessing and updating the system is essential to accommodate organizational growth and evolving technology landscapes.

  7. User Experience: Overly restrictive access controls may hinder user productivity and lead to dissatisfaction. Balancing security with a seamless user experience requires careful consideration. IAM systems should provide secure access without compromising usability.

    Navigating these risks and challenges demands a proactive and strategic approach to IAM, incorporating robust cybersecurity practices, continuous monitoring, and a commitment to staying abreast of industry best practices and regulatory requirements.

    So, let’s proceed further and discuss the best identity and access management best practices to overcome these challenges.

IAM Best Practises For SaaSOps Team

Below is the list of 9 IAM best practices your IT team can implement to manage, control, and effectively govern your access environment.

1. Adopt a Zero-Touch Security Strategy

As part of IAM, the Zero-Touch Security Strategy promotes continuous verification of users' digital identities. This ensures that, regardless of initial access, users' identities are consistently and rigorously authenticated before granting access to resources. The strategy mitigates the risk of unauthorized access through trusted credentials by requiring continuous identity verification. IAM best practices emphasize the importance of mitigating such risks to maintain the integrity of access controls.

Incorporating a zero-touch security strategy is crucial for organizations leveraging SaaS applications with inherent trust features. These applications often grant continuous access without re-verifying user identity, posing a potential security risk in case of unauthorized access using trusted credentials.

IT teams can embrace advanced access management platforms to address this concern. Moreover, these solutions empower you to enforce the least-privilege access (PoLP) principle, a zero-touch security strategy element.

2. Enforce A Strong Password Policy

An integral facet of optimal IAM best practices involves the implementation of a robust password policy. The utilization of strong passwords is paramount in fortifying security measures. Striking a balance between user memorability and resilience against unauthorized access, strong passwords significantly diminish the risk of security breaches stemming from password guessing.

To reinforce this practice, your team can institute a comprehensive password policy, ensuring employees create resilient passwords instead of generic ones. These passwords should encompass combinations of numbers, alphabets, and special symbols, enhancing their complexity and efficacy. Moreover, it is crucial to advocate for the regular rotation of passwords among employees, fostering a secure access environment and aligning with established best practices in identity and access management.

3. Use Multifactor Authentication Methods To Add An Extra Layer Of Security

In identity and access management (IAM), relying solely on login credentials falls short of optimal security standards. An imperative IAM best practice involves the incorporation of multifactor authentication (MFA) methods to introduce an additional layer of robust security.

MFA transcends the limitations of single-factor authentication by necessitating two or more validation methods for authenticating a user's identity. This approach streamlines the authentication process and enhances security through diverse verification methods, including:

  • Biometric Authentication: Utilizing features such as fingerprints or facial recognition to uniquely identify and authenticate users.

  • Possession Authentication: Employing methods like sending a one-time password (OTP) to a user's personal device, such as a phone or laptop, ensuring possession-based verification.

  • Knowledge Authentication: Verifying identity through knowledge-based methods, such as answering security questions and adding an additional layer of cognitive validation.

  • User Location or Time-Based Data Verification: Validating identity through location or time-based data, offering contextual insights into the user's access request.

    Organizations fortify their IAM framework by adopting multifactor authentication, elevating security measures beyond traditional password-based systems. This comprehensive approach to authentication aligns with best practices, ensuring a more resilient defense against unauthorized access attempts.

4. Implement Just-In-Time Access for Adaptive Privilege Management

In pursuit of optimal IAM best practices, there arises a need for a nuanced approach that goes beyond the principle of least privilege, especially in situations requiring heightened flexibility. For instance, scenarios where a help desk associate requires temporary privilege escalation to address urgent customer issues may demand a solution that aligns with IAM best practices.

Enter the concept of just-in-time access—a strategic application of temporary, time-limited access permissions. This approach temporarily elevates privileges without compromising security by providing excessive access. These precisely defined permissions are typically facilitated through disposable, one-time-use, or temporary credentials, ensuring the access remains transient and aligns seamlessly with overarching user access provisioning policies.

Particularly beneficial for external users like vendors or partners requiring periodic access, just-in-time access optimizes IAM by balancing the need for temporary privileges and the imperative of maintaining security.

5. Implement Role-Based Access Control

Role-based access control is a security policy implemented to ensure that your employees only have access to those required applications that align with their job role. For example, marketing department employees won't have access to the applications or data that HR or finance department employees have but will only have access to cloud applications like Buffer, Hootsuite, and more, which are required to complete their role tasks.

To ensure the effective enforcement of the RBAC policy, your IT team should adopt the following practices:

  • Regular Audits and Reviews: Conduct periodic audits and reviews of user roles and permissions to identify and rectify any discrepancies or unauthorized access. This helps in maintaining alignment with organizational changes and ensures that access remains relevant to employees' roles.

  • Automated Role Assignment: Utilize automated tools and processes for assigning and managing roles. Automation helps in streamlining the process, reducing the risk of human errors, and ensuring that access permissions are promptly updated when job roles change.

  • Clear Role Definitions: Clearly define and document the roles within your organization, specifying the access privileges associated with each role. This transparency aids in understanding the purpose and scope of each role, facilitating accurate role assignments.

  • Role Hierarchies: Establish role hierarchies to reflect the organizational structure. This ensures that employees with higher roles inherit the access permissions of lower roles, maintaining a logical and efficient access control system.

  • Integration with HR Processes: Integrate RBAC policies seamlessly with HR processes such as onboarding, offboarding, and role changes. This integration ensures that access permissions are promptly adjusted based on employee status or role adjustments.

By incorporating these practices, your IT team can effectively enforce role-based access control, contributing to a robust and secure identity & access management framework.

6. Automate Workflows To Avoid Access Mismanagement

Manually managing repetitive IT tasks, such as provisioning, access modification, and deprovisioning, can be error-prone, inefficient, and potentially affect employee experience and productivity. Additionally, relying on manual user access management processes can introduce security risks, exposing sensitive organizational data to vulnerabilities.

To further elaborate on this IAM best practice, consider the following key points:

  • Efficiency and Productivity Gains: Automation streamlines the provisioning and deprovisioning processes, reducing the time and effort required for repetitive tasks. This efficiency not only enhances overall productivity but also ensures that employees have timely access to the resources they need.

  • Minimized Human Errors: Automated workflows significantly reduce the likelihood of human errors associated with manual processes. By eliminating manual intervention, the risk of misconfigurations or oversight in access management is mitigated, contributing to a more secure IAM environment.

  • Consistency in Access Management: Automation enforces consistency in access management across the organization. Standardized processes ensure that access rights are applied uniformly, reducing the likelihood of discrepancies and ensuring compliance with security policies.

  • Immediate Responses to Changes: Automated workflows enable real-time responses to changes in user roles or access requirements. Whether it's onboarding a new employee, modifying access for an existing user, or deprovisioning access upon employee departure, automation ensures swift and accurate execution of these tasks.

  • Enhanced Security Posture: By minimizing manual intervention, automated workflows reduce the surface area for potential security vulnerabilities. Access modifications are carried out consistently, and the risk of unauthorized access is diminished, contributing to a more robust security posture.

    Incorporating automated workflows into IAM practices not only addresses the challenges of manual access management but also contributes significantly to maintaining a secure, efficient, and scalable access control environment within the organization.

7. Conduct Regular Audits To Stay Complaint & Secure

Access permissions sometimes remain unchanged even when they are no longer needed. This stagnant access creates a potential security risk, as unauthorized individuals might exploit these permissions to gain access to sensitive data and potentially cause a breach.

To mitigate this risk, it's essential to conduct regular access review audits. These audits involve reviewing existing access permissions to determine their continued necessity. If a user requires additional access or requests the modification of access, prompt action can be taken to address these requests.

Further, access audits play a crucial role in ensuring compliance with industry regulations and internal policies. Regularly reviewing and updating access permissions helps organizations align with changing compliance requirements, reducing the risk of penalties and legal consequences.

8. Opt For Passwordless Authentication Methods

Passwordless authentication or logins, as the name suggests, authenticates users without requiring them to enter a password. This approach offers several advantages, including enhanced user experience by eliminating the need to remember credentials, time and productivity savings, stronger security against threats like phishing and brute force attacks, and improved ease of access.

Passwordless login can be achieved through various methods, some of which are commonly used:

  • Email-based login: Users can log in by receiving a unique code from their registered email address.

  • SMS-based login: Users can log in by receiving a unique code from their linked phone number.

  • Biometrics-based login: Users can log in using biometric technologies such as fingerprint, facial recognition, or iris scans.

  • Social login: Users can log in through their existing social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, or Google.

9. Adopt A Modern Access Management Tool

Adopting a modern access management tool is a pivotal best practice in contemporary cybersecurity strategies, ensuring organizations have the tools to navigate access control complexities. Modern access management tools offer a sophisticated and centralized approach to managing user permissions, providing organizations with the flexibility and scalability needed to adapt to evolving business requirements and technological advancements.

Additionally, IAM tools often incorporate adaptive access policies, dynamically adjusting security measures based on contextual factors like user location, device type, and behavior. This level of adaptability ensures that security measures are proportionate to the risk level, providing a more nuanced and effective defense against unauthorized access attempts.

Moreover, the integration of user access management tools significantly streamlines administrative tasks with the help of centralized dashboards and automation capabilities. This centralized approach simplifies the intricate processes associated with provisioning and deprovisioning user access, ultimately alleviating the administrative burden on IT teams and mitigating the likelihood of errors. 

Elevate Your IAM Best Practices to New Heights with Zluri

Efficient access management is a pivotal challenge for modern organizations, and Zluri emerges as the ultimate solution, offering a robust platform that puts you in control.


With Zluri's access management platform, you gain precision in governing access to your SaaS apps and tools throughout their lifecycle. Enhance your security protocols and effortlessly meet regulatory requirements, ensuring compliance at every stage. Its ability to streamline access control, strengthen security measures, uphold regulatory compliance, and facilitate self-service access requests stands out. Empower your team to effectively enforce organizational policies by ensuring user access aligns seamlessly with your established protocols.

How Zluri ensures comprehensive and secure access at scale

  • Centralized Access Management:

Zluri provides a centralized platform for access management, offering a unified hub to oversee and control user permissions. This centralized IAM approach simplifies the complex tasks associated with access control, allowing organizations to efficiently manage and monitor user access across various applications and resources.

  • Automated User Onboarding/Offboarding Workflows:

It streamlines the onboarding and offboarding processes through automated workflows, ensuring a seamless experience for employees joining or leaving the organization. This feature eliminates manual tasks, reducing errors, and enhancing overall efficiency in managing user access transitions.

  • Employee App Store (EAS) for access requests & approvals:

Zluri's Employee App Store (EAS) redefines access request management by replacing traditional ticketing systems with a Just-in-Time (JIT) access request solution. As a curated collection of pre-approved SaaS apps, EAS empowers employees to request instant access to specific tools via an intuitive web portal, eliminating delays and ensuring a seamless access experience.

  • Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) Policy Implementation:

Zluri facilitates effortless implementation of Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) policies. It enables the creation of roles aligned with specific job functions, allowing precise definition of access policies for applications, data, and resources. Zluri's automation capabilities enhance RBAC enforcement by adjusting access permissions during employee lifecycle changes, ensuring compliance, and minimizing the risk of errors.

  • Simplified Access Reviews and audits:

Zluri simplifies the process of conducting regular access reviews, aiding in the detection of security policy violations and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements such as ISO 27001. The platform streamlines access review processes, delivering 10x better results than manual methods, and saving IT teams 70% of their efforts.

  • Real-time Alerting for Suspicious Access Attempts:

Zluri's alert feature provides real-time notifications of suspicious access attempts, empowering IT teams to swiftly detect and prevent unauthorized access. This proactive approach enhances security measures by allowing immediate preventative actions, such as restricting access to cloud-based applications or data.

So, don't hesitate to schedule a personalized demo & see how this single solution can effectively implement identity and access management best practices.

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