A Step-by-Step Guide to Cloud Identity Management

A Step-by-Step Guide to Cloud Identity Management


7 min read

Cloud Identity Management empowers organizations to strengthen security, streamline operations, and maintain compliance in the ever-evolving cloud landscape. As your company scales, so do your workloads and services connected to your cloud infrastructure.

Providing open permissions to all may seem efficient and practical. Unfortunately, though, this open-door policy may not be the safest approach. Nearly 99% of IAM policies are considered overly permissive, creating a substantial risk to your organization.

This article will dive deeply into Cloud Identity Management, how it can support your IAM efforts, and how to implement and automate it successfully.

What is Cloud Identity Management?

Identity Access Management, or IAM, is an integral part of cybersecurity. It’s about managing which users, organizations, or machines get access to which resources, apps, and systems across computer networks and the cloud.

At first, when hardware devices were at the center, Cloud Identity Management was done manually. It was time-consuming and geographically limited, but organizations had more control. Now, IAM is done digitally. Organizations can provide and revoke access permissions remotely, worldwide, and across clouds.

Components of Cloud Identity Management

As you start digging into the fascinating world of Cloud Identity Management, it’s essential to understand the key components that this field oversees.

  • Resources are what you grant access to. These can be devices, apps, or data, for example.

  • Roles mean providing access based on organizational functionality, such as corporate positions.

  • Groups are another way to grant permission. Instead of providing data access to everyone who’s a “DevOps manager,” which would be role-based, you might give privileges to the entire DevOps department or all the technical departments in your organization. Alternatively, you might grant permission to all apps relating to the organization’s finances.

  • Members are the users under these “role” or “group” titles. They’re the identities that get the access you provide.

  • Privileges and permissions are what you provide. The safest recommendation is called “Least Privilege.” In other words, give as little access to your infrastructure as possible - just as much as a user or machine needs to perform well, and that’s it.

The Critical Difference Between Human Identities and Machine Identities

Traditionally, companies are much stricter when determining which human user gets access to which resource, app, or data set. But 47% of an enterprise’s identities tend to be human (31% customers, 16% employees), and 43% of identities that access enterprises’ infrastructures are machines. That’s almost an equal number.

Usually, machine identities include devices, phones, computers, and servers. The more privileges you give, the more doors you open so hackers can enter your systems. If hackers break into a machine identity, depending on its permissions, they can easily communicate with your internal applications, create custom applications to retrieve data, or modify files to install malicious code. Managing the permissions of machine identities is a highly acute challenge, so we made it our focus at Slauth.io. We help organizations automate IAM policies for machine identities based on actual activity and let you start within seconds of hitting production.

The Challenges of Implementing IAM in the Cloud

Engineers have a challenging job. They need to decide which machines - such as services, workloads, and devices - can access what is in the organization. However, they don’t have enough data, so they often guess their way to manual policy creation. It takes a long time, and when things change, policies must be updated repeatedly, taking up more time from your team.

Moreover, policies might be disconnected from each other. Even team leads don’t have enough visibility into the policies their engineers create or what machine has access to what. There’s no way to ensure that policies are strong enough and consider every necessary data point - like user activity. The only way is to review each policy manually, then each update, and spend an (additional) endless amount of time analyzing the situation—that, or to digitize.

Why You Need to Automate Cloud Identity Management

Whether you offer free-for-all access or grant identity permission on a case-by-case basis, managing identities manually leaves you vulnerable to much trouble. Often, the transition to an automated Cloud Identity Management system helps you to:

  • Secure your organization. You get visibility, so you know what’s accessing what. You can also implement granular access more efficiently, no matter how many identities or clouds you have—Automate permission granting and revoking policies and necessary alerts to operate more efficiently and safely.

  • Comply with regulatory demands. Organizations must document their IAM policies, KPIs, and how they handle critical risks for SOC, PCI, HIPAA, and GDPR audits. Cloud Identity Management systems like Slauth.io offer 360-degree visibility that gets automatically logged and analyzed.

  • Simplify scalability. When you have a centralized, standard system that’s solid and automated, it’s much easier to scale your operations up and down without revisiting identities’ access manually or adding more pressure on your engineering and security teams.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Automating Cloud Identity Management

1. Analyze your current IAM process

Analyze your system to understand what machines need access to what. Sometimes, it means limiting sensitive access to only specific devices or accounts. For example, there’s no reason to give a field operations machine access to sensitive data about the organization’s global finances. Similarly, you could provide conditional access. Maybe a machine only needs one-time access or access only if certain situations occur. Automatically revoke access when it’s not required.

2. Adopt a Least Privilege Approach

According to Gartner, by 2023, 75% of security failures will result from poor management of identities and permissions. You need to take access control a step further. Give machines as much access as they need to your organization so they perform at their best but don’t provide even an inch more than they absolutely need.

Slauth.io helps companies implement this approach in a way that supports users and doesn’t burden engineering and security teams. To do this, we automatically analyze API calls and machine identity behavior before production. Then, we automatically create and update the Least Privilege policies in real time.

3. Establish Continuous Monitoring

Cloud Identity Management never stops. Even when taking an automated approach, you must constantly monitor identities’ activities and access changes to detect unusual behavior easily. If something happens, you must make changes quickly before an event escalates into a significant security breach. When you use Slauth.io, your logs are placed and saved throughout different SDLC stages. The process is automated so that you can avoid violations with advanced analytics. Then, you can prove data safety in regulatory audits.

4. Integrate Customer Identity and Access Management

Managing customers’ identities has many similarities to employees’ identities, but additional facets must be considered. You should train your customers and external users so they comply with your security policies, which is often more difficult than training your employees. Plus, you need to understand your customers’ security requirements too, which may depend on the industry they work in.

5. Perform Regular Identity Access checks

Don’t wait for regulators to perform audits. Schedule regular internal audits for the aspects that matter to your organization most. Let employees know when these audits will occur so everyone in the organization constantly keeps Cloud Identity Management in mind and gradually learns what it takes. The more committed, experienced partners you have internally, the higher your chances of security success.

Automate and secure IAM policies for machine identities

Engineers are busy people. They don’t have enough time to track machine activity and understand which machines need access to what cloud resources, especially if there are thousands of them. IAM policies are often based on guesswork, and resource access is given freely to avoid silos and friction.

According to a Slauth.io survey, a worrying 25% of companies do not address IAM in their organizations, and 36% only address IAM during the development process.

The best intentions can quickly become security hazards, and investing in a robust yet efficient IAM plan is critical to prevent this. Automating your Cloud Identity Management strategy can save your team valuable time and strengthen security.

Join Slauth.io's waiting list to see how to make IAM policy creation frictionless and secure.