Click here to close now.


Cloud Security Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Jim Scott, Liz McMillan, Kevin Jackson

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog, Cloud Security

@CloudExpo: Article

Identity and Access Management in the Cloud

Many companies are beginning to realize that cloud services can often be more secure than in-house data centers

In today's business world, data is the lifeblood of most organizations. As such, it has become a prime target for both external and internal threats. Data breaches made plenty of headlines in 2011 and don't show any signs of slowing down. In fact, a recent report from Privacy Rights Clearinghouse found that there were 535 data breaches reported last year alone. Whether it is for a Fortune 500 business, a university or a midmarket company, the protection of sensitive information is not only important for daily business functions, but is now a security measure required by law. As organizations of all sizes - not just large enterprises - struggle to keep up with evolving security and compliance requirements, many are turning to identity and access management (IAM) solutions to meet their needs.

Unlike traditional IT security technologies, which focus on perimeter and end-point threats, IAM solutions focus on identity lifecycles and access controls, as well as provisioning, authentication, certification and other identity-based processes. Previously seen as a luxury only available to the largest of organizations, cloud computing has increased the accessibility of IAM solutions for businesses of all sizes at a time when they are needed most. In addition, cloud computing provides the opportunity for security vendors to bring mature IAM technology to smaller businesses via a new deployment model - without starting from scratch and losing years of successful development.

Bringing SaaS into the IAM Fold
Originally hesitant to put sensitive data in the cloud, many companies are beginning to realize that cloud services can often be more secure than in-house data centers, as they are held to service level agreements (SLAs) and other third-party regulations. As such, more organizations are now readily adopting Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and cloud solutions to maximize efficiencies, lower total cost of ownership and ultimately "do more with less." How? Cloud-based IAM solutions can be deployed at a fraction of the time and cost of on-premise infrastructure. In addition, because cloud-based solutions are often much easier to use and manage, IT managers can focus on tasks that are more central to business goals rather than spending their resources trying to manage complex on-premise infrastructure.

For many organizations, the strategy for growth over the next couple of years will be heavily focused on expanding and optimizing their extranet community - SaaS providers, cloud service providers, supply chain partners, resellers, integrators and other business partners. The question now becomes how to secure these SaaS-based applications, cloud services and other third-party systems. Having a strategy for external audiences' identities and entitlements - in addition to internal employees - as well as visibility into all identity data is critical to a business's future success. Enter federation.

Federation, which enables companies to extend IAM capabilities to third-party applications and securely share identity information with external audiences, is becoming an increasingly strategic business tool. Two of the most common federated IAM capabilities are Federated Single Sign-On (FSSO) and federated user provisioning.

  • Federated Single Sign-On (FSSO): FSSO capabilities allow a company's user base to access applications while avoiding the need to transmit shared secrets, such as passwords, to third parties - mitigating the risk of important credentials being compromised. FSSO also allows the user to log in to all applications in a uniform way regardless of whether they are housed internally or hosted by an external partner. The flip side of this capability is that the business can also safely provide authorized third parties with access to their applications. Using an industry-proven means of providing SSO capabilities to third parties - rather than using an in-house grown solution that hasn't been vetted or tested - can help companies strengthen security and increase compliance while improving productivity by eliminating password reset requests and other associated help desk calls.
  • Federated User Provisioning: Federated user provisioning allows third-party applications to be included in the same identity and lifecycle process as internal applications. With the use of secure and open-standard protocols, organizations can seamlessly exchange identity data with partners and SaaS providers as well as provision users, roles and entitlements to external applications. Equally as important, using federated user provisioning, companies can also ensure that user role and entitlement information found on third-party systems is timely and accurate, mitigating the risk of important data being accessed by unauthorized users.

At the onset of widespread SaaS adoption, many companies did not consider external applications part of their network infrastructure - and so provisioning and other IAM capabilities were focused on on-premise systems only. As more and more critical data and applications become housed in the cloud, eschewing security liability for systems and information residing outside a company's four walls is a critical and common mistake.

Provisioning encompasses managing role data and access rights throughout a user's life cycle - from onboarding, transfers and promotions to the day they leave the company - and must be applied to both on- and off-premise systems in a timely and accurate manner in order to ensure proper access to important data. Otherwise, companies open themselves up to a variety of dangers, including data breaches, increased IT costs and compliance risks.

For example, effectively deprovisioning a user when they are no longer authorized to access certain resources is just as important as giving them access at the start of an identity life cycle. Failure to deprovision users who have left a company can result in orphan accounts, opening the organization up to a number of potential issues. Compliance requirements aside, ex-employees who still have access to SaaS or on-premise applications can potentially harvest corporate and client information for nefarious purposes. In other cases, it's important to have up-to-date entitlement information when users simply change position or are given different responsibilities. Otherwise, these events can lead to "entitlement sprawl" wherein users accumulate privileges that are no longer necessary for their jobs. In the age of the data breach, IAM solutions are more than just another add-on for a business's security infrastructure. An effective IAM solution will protect sensitive data, help to avoid complications in daily business operations, minimize potential legal woes and ensure a strong reputation among customers.

As technologies, such as mobile devices and social networking sites, continue to further convolute the security landscape, more and more critical assets are being placed outside a company's four walls. In order to put their security measures closer to these assets, many companies are implementing cloud-based solutions. Proficient cloud-based IAM tools can help companies strengthen security and increase compliance while benefiting from unparalleled savings, quick time-to-deployment and greater business efficiencies - a win-win for all involved.

More Stories By Eric Z. Maass

Eric Maass is the chief technology officer at Lighthouse Security Group, where he’s responsible for the roadmap and technology vision for the company’s flagship product, Lighthouse Gateway, a cloud-based identity and access management platform. Maass was formerly the chief security architect for the U.S. Air Force’s Global Combat Support System, where he was responsible for the architecture and design of its net-centric IAM infrastructure.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Clearly the way forward is to move to cloud be it bare metal, VMs or containers. One aspect of the current public clouds that is slowing this cloud migration is cloud lock-in. Every cloud vendor is trying to make it very difficult to move out once a customer has chosen their cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Naveen Nimmu, CEO of Clouber, Inc., will advocate that making the inter-cloud migration as simple as changing airlines would help the entire industry to quickly adopt the cloud without worrying about any lock-in fears. In fact by having standard APIs for IaaS would help PaaS expl...
As enterprises capture more and more data of all types – structured, semi-structured, and unstructured – data discovery requirements for business intelligence (BI), Big Data, and predictive analytics initiatives grow more complex. A company’s ability to become data-driven and compete on analytics depends on the speed with which it can provision their analytics applications with all relevant information. The task of finding data has traditionally resided with IT, but now organizations increasingly turn towards data source discovery tools to find the right data, in context, for business users, d...
Learn how IoT, cloud, social networks and last but not least, humans, can be integrated into a seamless integration of cooperative organisms both cybernetic and biological. This has been enabled by recent advances in IoT device capabilities, messaging frameworks, presence and collaboration services, where devices can share information and make independent and human assisted decisions based upon social status from other entities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Heydt, founder of Seamless Thingies, will discuss and demonstrate how devices and humans can be integrated from a simple clust...
“The Internet of Things transforms the way organizations leverage machine data and gain insights from it,” noted Splunk’s CTO Snehal Antani, as Splunk announced accelerated momentum in Industrial Data and the IoT. The trend is driven by Splunk’s continued investment in its products and partner ecosystem as well as the creativity of customers and the flexibility to deploy Splunk IoT solutions as software, cloud services or in a hybrid environment. Customers are using Splunk® solutions to collect and correlate data from control systems, sensors, mobile devices and IT systems for a variety of Ind...
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate at IBM Cloud Data Services, will demonstrate techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, faster user experience, both offline and online. The focus of this talk will be on IBM Cloudant, Apa...
As more and more data is generated from a variety of connected devices, the need to get insights from this data and predict future behavior and trends is increasingly essential for businesses. Real-time stream processing is needed in a variety of different industries such as Manufacturing, Oil and Gas, Automobile, Finance, Online Retail, Smart Grids, and Healthcare. Azure Stream Analytics is a fully managed distributed stream computation service that provides low latency, scalable processing of streaming data in the cloud with an enterprise grade SLA. It features built-in integration with Azur...
You have your devices and your data, but what about the rest of your Internet of Things story? Two popular classes of technologies that nicely handle the Big Data analytics for Internet of Things are Apache Hadoop and NoSQL. Hadoop is designed for parallelizing analytical work across many servers and is ideal for the massive data volumes you create with IoT devices. NoSQL databases such as Apache HBase are ideal for storing and retrieving IoT data as “time series data.”
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Mobile messaging has been a popular communication channel for more than 20 years. Finnish engineer Matti Makkonen invented the idea for SMS (Short Message Service) in 1984, making his vision a reality on December 3, 1992 by sending the first message ("Happy Christmas") from a PC to a cell phone. Since then, the technology has evolved immensely, from both a technology standpoint, and in our everyday uses for it. Originally used for person-to-person (P2P) communication, i.e., Sally sends a text message to Betty – mobile messaging now offers tremendous value to businesses for customer and empl...
Organizations already struggle with the simple collection of data resulting from the proliferation of IoT, lacking the right infrastructure to manage it. They can't only rely on the cloud to collect and utilize this data because many applications still require dedicated infrastructure for security, redundancy, performance, etc. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Emil Sayegh, CEO of Codero Hosting, will discuss how in order to resolve the inherent issues, companies need to combine dedicated and cloud solutions through hybrid hosting – a sustainable solution for the data required to manage I...
The broad selection of hardware, the rapid evolution of operating systems and the time-to-market for mobile apps has been so rapid that new challenges for developers and engineers arise every day. Security, testing, hosting, and other metrics have to be considered through the process. In his session at Big Data Expo, Walter Maguire, Chief Field Technologist, HP Big Data Group, at Hewlett-Packard, will discuss the challenges faced by developers and a composite Big Data applications builder, focusing on how to help solve the problems that developers are continuously battling.
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev, a software development company, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MobiDev is a software development company with representative offices in Atlanta (US), Sheffield (UK) and Würzburg (Germany); and development centers in Ukraine. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business managers to a full-scale mobile software company with over 150 developers, designers, quality assurance engineers, project manage...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Raxak has been named “Media & Session Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Raxak Protect automates security compliance across private and public clouds. Using the SaaS tool or managed service, developers can deploy cloud apps quickly, cost-effectively, and without error.
SYS-CON Events announced today that ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ProfitBricks is the IaaS provider that offers a painless cloud experience for all IT users, with no learning curve. ProfitBricks boasts flexible cloud servers and networking, an integrated Data Center Designer tool for visual control over the cloud and the best price/performance value available. ProfitBricks was named one of the coolest Clo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM Cloud Data Services has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IBM Cloud Data Services offers a portfolio of integrated, best-of-breed cloud data services for developers focused on mobile computing and analytics use cases.
Who are you? How do you introduce yourself? Do you use a name, or do you greet a friend by the last four digits of his social security number? Assuming you don’t, why are we content to associate our identity with 10 random digits assigned by our phone company? Identity is an issue that affects everyone, but as individuals we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ben Klang, Founder & President of Mojo Lingo, will discuss the impact of technology on identity. Should we federate, or not? How should identity be secured? Who owns the identity? How is identity ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Solgeniakhela will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Solgeniakhela is the global market leader in Cloud Collaboration and Cloud Infrastructure software solutions. Designed to “Bridge the Gap” between Personal and Professional Social, Mobile and Cloud user experiences, our solutions help large and medium-sized organizations dramatically improve productivity, reduce collaboration costs, and increase the overall enterprise value by bringing ...
Sensors and effectors of IoT are solving problems in new ways, but small businesses have been slow to join the quantified world. They’ll need information from IoT using applications as varied as the businesses themselves. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Roger Meike, Distinguished Engineer, Director of Technology Innovation at Intuit, will show how IoT manufacturers can use open standards, public APIs and custom apps to enable the Quantified Small Business. He will use a Raspberry Pi to connect sensors to web services, and cloud integration to connect accounting and data, providing a Bluetooth...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Micron Technology, Inc., a global leader in advanced semiconductor systems, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Micron’s broad portfolio of high-performance memory technologies – including DRAM, NAND and NOR Flash – is the basis for solid state drives, modules, multichip packages and other system solutions. Backed by more than 35 years of technology leadership, Micron's memory solutions enable the world's most innovative computing, consumer,...
Nowadays, a large number of sensors and devices are connected to the network. Leading-edge IoT technologies integrate various types of sensor data to create a new value for several business decision scenarios. The transparent cloud is a model of a new IoT emergence service platform. Many service providers store and access various types of sensor data in order to create and find out new business values by integrating such data.