Adaptive IAM: On the Front Lines of Cyber Security

Categories: Trusted Identity

Like most technologies, Identity and Access Management (IAM) has been challenged by new business and IT trends that are causing serious disruptions in how we approach information security.  The exponential growth of digital identities coupled with the increasing use of software as a service and mobile and cloud platforms have made the traditional perimeter all but disappear.  As a result, legacy IAM tools that have been a security mainstay for decades are simply failing to keep up.

So how exactly do we protect the borderless enterprise?  As the saying goes, “Nothing Endures but Change” and to help navigate the current threat landscape, IAM solutions need to adapt as fast as the rapidly-changing threat scenarios.  Identities are at the front lines of the everyday battle for cyber security and IAM systems must become the front line of defense.

Next-Generation IAM

We’ve been talking a lot this year about the notion of an “anti-fragile” security system – the idea that security solutions must become stronger and smarter with each attack or disorder.  These solutions must be adaptable and intelligent to make detecting and responding to both current and future attacks a much quicker process.

In a recently released technology brief called “Adaptive IAM: Defending the Borderless Enterprise,” we examine this concept for IAM.  The brief discusses how IAM must be reinvented to be more intelligent and adaptable in order to stay relevant in today’s hyper-extended IT environments.

Instead of guarding stationary perimeters, Adaptive IAM patrols a dynamic “situational perimeter” to help enforce security whenever and wherever users interact with corporate data and resources. With the rise of Advanced Threats and multi-vector attacks, gone are the days where trust can be established by a single successful log-on; trust must be continually verified and re-checked with each interaction between user and protected resource.

Adaptive IAM Principles

Adaptive IAM includes 4 guiding principles:

  1. Identity is established via a rich user profile that helps spot significant deviations from “normal” behavior, which can often signal security problems.
  2. Identity and access controls must be risk-based to verify users while adjusting access controls based on the risk levels of each transaction/activity.
  3. Real-time analytics must be used to assess risk creating the intelligence needed to distinguish good behavior from bad. This will require Big Data analytics to analyze vast amounts of data, assess risk, detect problems and interrupt users attempting unsafe activities.
  4. Consumer-level convenience must be the norm by making identity controls and analytics invisible to corporate end users.  Users are only disrupted if unacceptable activities or levels of risk are detected.

Journey to Adaptive IAM

Going from the current state of IAM to this next-generation will certainly be a journey – not only for customers, but for the vendor community as well.  We need to pave a smooth migration path for our customers and while no one is 100% of the way there yet, advances are being made toward this IAM ideal.  Our recent launch of RSA Authentication Manager 8 was a big first step, and we’ve been hard at work evolving other parts of the RSA Identity and Access Management portfolio.  Today we announced several of updates and critical integrations that can help drive the journey for our customers:

  • Rich User Profile:  RSA’s market-leading risk-based engine, delivered in the recently launched RSA Authentication Manager 8 software as well as RSA Adaptive Authentication software, is designed to transparently absorb information from a variety of device, user and environmental factors to determine normal user behavior. To make even more secure authentication and authorization decisions, the latest version of RSA Adaptive Directory 6.1 software is designed to allow organizations to aggregate and centrally manage identity information across both on-premise identity data stores as well as cloud applications to create rich user profiles.
  • Real-time Analytics to Assess Risk and Integrate with Risk-based Access Controls: Deeper integration between RSA Access Manager 6.2  software and RSA Adaptive Authentication software as well as with RSA Authentication Manager 8  software can help customers blend risk analytics to determine deviations from the norm in the user’s profile  with stronger authentication and access controls.

IAM solutions need to adapt as fast as the rapidly changing threat scenarios.  This is security’s “new normal” and we must evolve.  By creating an IAM solution that embodies the anti-fragile concept – one that is adaptable and dynamic – we can create ‘situational perimeters’ around the borderless enterprise and arm ourselves for the front lines of this cyber security battle.


Sam Curry

Sam Curry is Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Technologist at RSA, The Security Division of EMC. Mr. Curry has more than 20 years of experience in security product management, development, marketing, engineering, quality assurance, customer support and sales. Prior to his current role, Mr. Curry held positions as CTO, VP Data Protection, VP of Product Management and General Manager at RSA and, prior to that, was VP of Product Management and Marketing for a broad information security management portfolio at both CA and was VP Product Management and Chief Security Architect at McAfee. He is a frequent speaker at industry events and has been quoted in Forbes, Bloomberg, CNET, Technology Review, PC World and Computerworld. He has also appeared on Tech TV, CNN and MSNBC. Mr. Curry holds degrees in English and Physics. Subscribe to Sam's RSS feed