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Decoding the Expanding Acronyms in Identity and Access Management (IAM)

What do the different types of Identity solutions provide?

In the ever-evolving world of technology, acronyms seem to multiply faster than ever before! From AI to IoT to CRM and SaaS, it cab be tricky to keep up to speed and make sense of what they all mean. One area that is no exception to this acronym explosion is Identity and Access Management IAM. As businesses increasingly prioritize data security and user privacy, IAM has become a crucial component of their overall digital strategy. However, navigating the complex world of IDAM can be overwhelming, especially when confronted with a myriad of acronyms like IDAM, IDaaS, SSO, MFA, and more. So, if you don’t know your IGA from your MFA, read our quick guide to help demystify some of the more common Identity and Access Management acronyms and their definitions.


IDAM/IAM/IDM: All three acronyms expand to ‘Identity & Access Management.’ With the staggering number of high-profile data breaches, companies are coming under increasing pressure to protect sensitive customer and business data. When companies utilize Identity and Access Management solutions, their users have access to the right data and applications, at the right time and for the right reasons, mitigating potential threats. While the specific terminology may vary, the core objective remains the same – ensuing that users have appropriate access to data and applications, at all times.

IdP: Identity Provider. An IdP is a trusted software platform or service that acts as a clearinghouse for identity information, authentication, and auditing. IdPs are typically cloud-hosted services, and often work with Single Sign-On (SSO) providers to authenticate users.

IDaaS: Identity as a Service. Identity as a Service, or IDaaS is cloud-based authentication built and operated by a third-party provider.

IGA: Identity Governance & Administration. This acronym emphasises the importance of governance and administrative controls within IAM. IGA solutions focus on managing user lifecycles, defining access policies, and ensuring compliance with regulations and internal policies. In summary managing and governing access rights.

UD: Universal Directory. One directory for all your users, groups, and devices.

UM: User Management. UM refers to the management of user identities and their associated attributes, such as account creation, modification, and deletion. User Management solutions handle the administrative aspects of user accounts.

MFA: Multi-factor Authentication. MFA is an authentication process requiring users to provide two or more factors to an authentication server (or another system). It verifies the identity of user access cloud platforms or applications with additional factors such as a phone call, email, or mobile push notification. Just as on-premises apps, using MFA provides an additional level of security for access to applications and sensitive resources.

SSO: Single Sign On. SSO is a system where one set of credentials is used to gain access to multiple systems, apps or networks without asking for the credentials to be submitted more than once.

AM: Access Management. AM concentrates on controlling and securing access to resources. It encompasses authentication, authorisation, and enforcement of access policies to protect sensitive information and prevent unauthorised access.

AD: Active Directory. Active Directory. It is a crucial part of a Microsoft based IAM solution but can also be integrated with other software vendors and solutions.

RBAC: Role-Based Access Control enables organizations to streamline access control by assigning specific roles to users based on their job responsibilities or functions within their organization. With RBAC, access rights are granted based on these predefined roles, making it easier to manage and enforce security policies. This approach enhances security, simplifies user provisioning, and ensures that users only have access to the resources they need to perform their tasks, reducing the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches.

ABAC: Attribute-Based Access Control. ABAC focuses on granting access to resources based on specific attributes assigned to users, such as job title, department, or location. This approach allows for more fine-grained control over access permissions, as access decisions are based on multiple attributes rather than predefined roles.

LDAP: Lightweight Directory Access Protocol. LDAP serves as a standard protocol for accessing and managing directory services, such as user databases and organizational structures. It provides a simplified and efficient way to store, search, and retrieve information about users, groups, and resources within a network. Organizations can establish a centralized directory service that enables secure and seamless authentication, authorization, and user management.

SAML: Security Assertion Markup Language. SAML provides a standardized framework for secure communication and exchange of authentication and authorization data between different systems. It enables seamless and trustworthy single sign-on (SSO) experiences, allowing users to access multiple applications with a single set of login credentials.

OAuth: Open Authorization. OAuth provides a standardized protocol for secure and delegated authorization, enabling users to grant limited access to their protected resources to other applications or services. It simplifies the process of accessing and sharing user data without disclosing sensitive credentials. OAuth facilitates seamless integration between different systems by allowing users to authenticate with one service and then authorize access to their data by another.

OIDC: OpenID Connect. OIDC is an authentication protocol that builds upon OAuth 2.0, providing a standardized framework for secure user authentication. It allows individuals to log in to multiple applications or services using a single set of credentials. OIDC leverages the power of JSON Web Tokens (JWTs) to transmit user identity information securely.

PKI: Public Key Infrastructure. PKI is a framework that enables secure communication and authentication by utilizing public key cryptography. It establishes a trusted infrastructure for generating, managing, and validating digital certificates, which are used to verify the authenticity and integrity of users, devices, and digital resources. PKI provides a robust foundation for secure identity verification, encryption, and digital signatures. It ensures confidentiality, data integrity, and non-repudiation, bolstering the overall security of IDAM systems.

PAM: Privileged Access Management. PAM focuses on managing and controlling access to privileged accounts, which possess elevated privileges and grant extensive access to critical systems and sensitive data. It ensures that only authorized individuals can access and utilize these privileged accounts, reducing the risk of unauthorized access and potential misuse.

PII: Personally Identifiable Information. PII refers to any data that can be used to identify an individual, such as their name, address, contact details, or financial information. Effective IDAM practices prioritize the protection and secure management of PII to safeguard individual privacy and prevent unauthorized access or misuse.

RADIUS: Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service. RADIUS provides a centralized authentication, authorization, and accounting framework for remote access services. It allows organizations to authenticate users who are dialling in or accessing network resources remotely, ensuring secure access to sensitive data and systems.

CAPTCHA: Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. CAPTCHA is designed to distinguish between humans and automated bots attempting to access digital resources. It presents users with a challenge, such as deciphering distorted text, selecting specific images, or solving puzzles, which can be easily completed by humans but are difficult for bots to solve accurately.

SAST: Static Application Security Testing. SAST is a technique used to identify vulnerabilities and security flaws in software applications by analysing the application’s source code or binary files without executing them. It helps organizations proactively identify and mitigate potential security risks in their applications by detecting issues such as code vulnerabilities, insecure coding practices, and potential entry points for unauthorized access.

DLP: Data Loss Prevention. DLP focuses on protecting sensitive information from unauthorized access, loss, or disclosure. It employs a comprehensive set of policies, technologies, and controls to monitor, detect, and prevent data breaches or leaks. DLP solutions analyse data at rest, in motion, and in use, ensuring that confidential information, such as personal data or intellectual property, remains secure.

SIEM: Security Information and Event Management. SIEM systems collect, correlate, and analyze security event logs and information from various sources across an organization’s network, applications, and systems. This comprehensive approach allows businesses to detect and respond to security incidents promptly, mitigate potential threats, and ensure regulatory compliance.

CIAM: Customer Identity Access Management. CIAM focuses on managing and securing the identities and access of customers or users. It allows organizations to provide a seamless and secure digital experience to their customers while protecting their personal information.

Securely Manage User Identities and Access with Xalient

At Xalient, we help companies securely manage their users’ identities and access to services and resources for everyone in their organisation, and we strive to provide clarity and simplify the complex world of IAM (Identity and Access Management). By leveraging our expertise and partnering with industry leaders including Okta, SailPoint, and BeyondTrust, we have the skills required to design, build, and manage your global ID and Access Management solution for you.

Learn more about our Identity and Access Management Solutions HERE

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Portrait of Mark Foulsham, Board Advisor, NED, COO/CIO, Fractional Support, Digital Leadership Coach

Mark Foulsham

Board Advisor, NED, COO/CIO, Fractional Support, Digital Leadership Coach

With a broad background as a COO/CIO/CDO, C-Suite Advisor, NED, Senior Transformation Leader and Coach, Mark tackles multiple fronts from the advantage of diverse experience in business operations, technology, procurement, delivery and risk. With a deep knowledge of business models from multiple sectors and extensive experience in fast-paced digital start-ups.

Mark’s work across extensive business types, functions and countries empowers him with experience to bear across silos. Mark has built a reputation for advocating cross-business collaboration, taking a pragmatic approach and championing transformative change.