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The Role of Identity and Access Management in Zero Trust Network Access

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The Role of Identity and Access Management in Zero Trust Network Access

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With remote work and cloud-based apps becoming more commonplace, employees need secure access to company resources from any location. IAM makes that possible by verifying users and granting access to only what they need to do their jobs.

IAM systems perform three essential tasks: identity, authenticate, and authorize. These functions often fall under the umbrella of identity governance, which monitors user activities for compliance and security.

Least Privilege

The principle of least privilege is one of the core pillars in Zero Trust strategies. Organizations must verify everything and everyone—users, devices, software systems, and other resources—before granting access to sensitive data, applications, or tools. This approach narrows the impact of a breach or attack by decreasing the number of vulnerable areas a hacker could exploit.

Identity and access management (IAM) is the critical component of least privilege. It verifies a user’s identity at sign-in by comparing credentials against an authoritative directory, ensuring that the person trying to log in is the correct individual. It also enables just-in-time access elevation, granting users privileged access to applications as needed. This reduces the risk of a rogue administrator account being compromised by hackers and allows businesses to comply with security regulations such as PCI-DSS.

IAM solutions can help you discover privileged accounts, and they can help you define policies that support the principle of least privilege. These policies should be dynamic so that the system can adjust to the risk level of a particular environment. They should also be updated as new employees join the business or the needs of a specific project change. This is critical because hackers are constantly evolving their methods, requiring continuous attention to identify and mitigate the risks of cyberattacks.

Single Sign-On

Unlike legacy systems, where security is managed by creating a perimeter around the network, zero-trust network access architecture eliminates that boundary. It uses the principle of least privilege, ensuring nothing has more access to data than it needs to complete its work. To do this, it is necessary to have a way to recognize and verify identities across different platforms. That’s where single sign-on comes in.

Single sign-on (SSO) allows users to log in to multiple applications with the same login credentials. This simplifies the user experience and reduces the risk of a hacker being able to use compromised passwords from one system to another. It’s a strong identity and access management (IAM) system component.

To enable SSO, your Zero Trust solution should integrate with existing IDPs (Identity Providers) and SAML-based applications. These are called “relying parties” in the federated IAM model. When a user signs in to an integrated platform, the IDP sends a token or assertion back to the application, indicating that the user has been authenticated.

In a Zero Trust environment, authentication is a continuous process. Rather than having to be verified once during the initial login, an ongoing authentication process will closely monitor a device’s behavior, ensuring it matches your company’s standards. It can also add additional layers of security by requiring a second authentication factor to continue using an app, device, or service. This can be a biometric, answering questions, or using an authenticator app.

Privileged Access Management

The security gap created by moving to the cloud and mobile-first work has increased the importance of privileged access management. PAM enables organizations to enforce the Principle of Least Privilege across all users, networks, and devices by requiring the correct permissions at the right time to protect data, applications, and services.

A Zero Trust network access solution is essential to protect your business from attackers gaining unauthorized access via VPNs, firewalls, or other traditional technologies. Instead of relying on a passthrough approach to inspect files after they have been delivered, an effective solution terminates every connection. It uses inline proxy architecture to scan and monitor every aspect of the request from end to end.

This enables your organization to detect anomalous behavior and take action in real-time. It also allows you to enforce the Principle of Least Privilege and ensures that only the correct users get the right level of access to applications, services, and infrastructure.

A Zero Trust solution can also enable you to use granular context-based policies to verify identities, including application context, device context, network connection, location, and other factors. This allows you to step up authentication requirements when required without impacting performance or user experience. This is a critical component of an effective identity and access management strategy that can help you to deliver a seamless and secure work-from-anywhere experience for your workforce.


Traditionally, companies secured their data with firewalls and other security technologies that set up a secure perimeter around their data. The problem is this approach only works in a digital age that has shifted work beyond the office’s four walls and into a diverse range of devices, applications, and network environments.

Zero trust addresses this new reality by changing how organizations access their applications, systems, and resources. Instead of trusting everything that connects to the network, Zero Trust approaches the web as a hostile environment. He validates every workload before it can communicate with the inside of the business.

This is a radical shift from how most businesses manage their networks. IT administrators no longer need to manually recreate their security and authorization policies for every application moved from one environment to another. Instead, a Zero Trust solution can automatically migrate these policies to the following climate so they continue to work as intended, with no interruptions or security gaps.

IAM is central to implementing a Zero Trust strategy to support this dynamic new world. Unifying identities under a single IAM system, along with modern SSO and MFA, helps to resolve security gaps caused by the proliferation of identities that have yet to be integrated or centralized. Zero trust also requires adding contextual access policies to this unified identity platform, including rules for device or app context, encryption, step-up authentication requirements, blocking Tor and other anonymous networks, detecting abnormal behavior, and more.