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Identity and Access Management is now a core security focus. One of the best gauges of the current threat environment is to look at aggregated sources such as cyber insurance providers.

Cyber Insurance isn’t what it used to be. Over the past decade, insurance providers have increased premiums, prerequisites, and deductibles at an extremely fast rate. Their adjusters deal with claims and attacks every day and have an inside perspective on the current threat ecosystem. When rates and requirements increase, we can only assume that attacks and threats have increased as well.

Our team has never been shy about emphasizing the extreme importance of multi-factor authentication and single sign-on. That’s why we thought it was important to create a post that helps demystify the exact terminology, concepts, and benefits of several key concepts in the Identity Access Management realm.

If you want to know (in the simplest terms possible) about Identity Access Management, Single Sign-On, Multi-Factor Authentication, 2FA, SAML, and why cyber insurance is requiring some of these as a bare minimum then you are in the right place. Keep reading for a concise look into these advanced concepts.

What is Identity Access Management (IAM)?

Identity Access Management is a comprehensive, modern way of managing and securing access through measures much greater than standard passwords. Basically, instead of using a username and password for logins, users would be funneled through a central platform that completely manages all aspects of their login process. The users get a seamless experience where they login and memorize one password to login to their work apps. This gives your IT team full control and monitoring over your most vulnerable assets – the users accounts.

Why You Should Care.

IAM solutions have an associated cost that can be hard for organizational leadership to swallow. However, these solutions cover the most vulnerable portion of your IT assets and are one of the only security solutions that provide an improved user experience. Less login headaches, less vulnerable accounts, and less overall stress around accounts can help save sanity and money in the long run.

Why Cyber Insurance Providers Care.

Identity and access attacks are at an all-time high. IAM solutions are increasingly required for top-tier policies due to the sheer number of attacks in this area. IAM solutions are much more secure and foster good login habits amongst users.


What is Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)?

When you login by username and password, this is known as “single-factor authentication.” A factor is a login method that falls under these broad categories: something you know, something you have, something you are, somewhere you are, etc. In order to have true “multi-factor” authentication, you need at least two different examples of these when logging in.

The most common and easily implemented second factor (with the first being something you know i.e., password) is something you have. This is generally a smart or cell phone and commonly is implemented via MFA apps or text message codes for logins.

Why You Should Care.

Multi-factor authentication is critical. Passwords are not nearly enough anymore. Most breaches that our team deals with are due to single-factor account compromises. MFA provides an extremely high level of account security.  

We believe that username + password alone without utilizing MFA is equivalent to leaving the key to the front door under the mat. It might feel secure, but even a slightly dedicated attacker will get in.

Why Cyber Insurance Providers Care.

For the exact same reasons you should care – MFA works. MFA works so well that it has become a core requirement for nearly all policies.

What is Single Sign-On (SSO?

Single sign-on is a technology that enables a single, central login to act as the hub for other applications. Instead of having a separate login for all your apps, you have one sign-in that works for everything. Basically, you sign in once per day and everything is unlocked.

Why You Should Care.

Let’s face it - passwords are outdated and everyone hates memorizing 40 different passwords. They are a relic of the past in the world of the internet. Rising cybercrime trends and advanced tactics such as machine learning-password attacks mean that standard login techniques can no longer provide enough protection for businesses.

Implementing a Single Sign-On (SSO) solution can reduce the opportunities for cybercriminals to breach your sensitive data and accounts.

Why Cyber Insurance Providers Care.

Single sign-on means less password sprawl. Less passwords mean more security. Insurance providers have seen the real-world results that reduced password sprawl can have on an organization’s security.

What is SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language)?

SAML is a technology that application developers implement in order to provide the Single sign-on experience outlined above. In simplified terms, this technology takes some legwork to implement but it enables SSO to work with the app.

SAML vs “Password Manager”

If the app doesn’t support SAML, IAM solutions will instead use a password manager solution. This means that the central login will store and forward the login information. It’s still more secure than the old-fashioned way, but SAML support is the real goal of modern apps, and you should evaluate whether vendors offer it when searching for apps.

Why You Should Care.

SAML support is absolutely vital for modern cloud applications. Without SAML support, a cloud app cannot utilize the core Single sign-on security features from an IAM solution. When an app you utilize has SAML, you are able to “plug-in” to the SSO ecosystem and easily provide a seamless login experience for your users.

Why Cyber Insurance Providers Care.

SAML support is usually a sign of a well-developed, security-conscious application. It is now becoming the norm, and apps that don’t support SAML are becoming an increasing security risk.

Using IAM, SSO, MFA, & SAML Together

IAM, SSO, MFA, SAML – lots of letters and lots of advanced concepts. However, these are crucial components in the world of managing your organization’s user accounts and logins. Hopefully this post helps clarify some of the confusion around these terms and gives you some insight into why cyber insurance providers are increasingly looking for organizations to check these boxes before providing a policy.

Remember – your user’s accounts are the gateway into your network. If these are compromised, attackers have near limitless access into your systems.

These concepts are no longer “cutting-edge” – they are the new standard.

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