In the current digital landscape, businesses are increasingly relying on the cloud to store, access, and manage their data. The cloud platforms offer scalability, flexibility, and accessibility like never before. However, as organizations embrace multi-cloud environments to meet their diverse needs, a critical challenge emerges. The effective management of identity and access policies across various cloud platforms is becoming difficult.
What is Identity and Access Management?
Identity and Access Management (IAM) is the process of managing user identities and their access to resources. In a multi-cloud environment, IAM can be complex and challenging. Organizations need to manage identities across multiple cloud platforms, and that can get difficult without a streamlined process.
To study this issue in depth, the identity orchestration company Strata Identity has conducted a comprehensive study in which they surveyed 308 IT leaders and decision-makers at North American organizations with annual revenues of $100 million or more.
The report of this study was recently published in its third annual State of Multi-Cloud Identity Report, conducted in collaboration with Osterman Research. The report sheds light on the challenges and priorities that organizations face in managing identity within multi-cloud environments.
The Shifting Landscape of Multi-Cloud Identity
One of the standout findings of the report is the shift in the way organizations manage identity within their multi-cloud environments. In the previous year (2022), 30% of organizations used a single cloud identity provider (IDP). However, this number has now (2023) decreased to 20%. This indicates a growing preference for multiple IDPs to manage enterprise identity.
Security concerns with multiple IDPs
While this shift allows organizations to tailor their identity management approach to specific cloud services, it also introduces a new set of challenges. With multiple IDPs in play, enterprises find themselves grappling with the following top cloud security concerns:
- Lack of Visibility into Access Policies (67%): A significant worry for organizations is the lack of visibility into access policies. They struggle to gain insights into who has access to what resources and how those access policies are enforced. This could lead to a breach of critical information that the company doesn’t want to make public.
- Identity-Based Threats (65%): As the number of identity systems increases, so does the risk of identity-based threats. Attackers pose as one of your many IDPs and extract crucial information, leading to a security breach. Cybercriminals are quick to exploit any weaknesses in identity management to gain unauthorized access.
- Meeting Data Privacy Regulations (56%): Data privacy regulations like GDPR & CCPA, impose stringent requirements on organizations. Ensuring compliance becomes challenging when managing identities across multiple clouds. Each platform has its own set of regulations, and failing to comply with even one of them could lead to devastating effects.
Complexity Overload: A Growing Concern
Michael Sampson, the Principal Analyst for Osterman Research, highlights a concerning trend. While organizations aim to enhance their cybersecurity posture through improved identity infrastructure, they often unintentionally create complexity overload. This complexity arises from poor visibility into existing access policies. This leaves organizations in the dark about where their applications are hosted and who has access to their data.
Sampson states, “Poor visibility of existing access policies means enterprises are flying blind—they do not know where apps are hosted, nor who has access to their data. In our opinion, the rapid adoption of multi-cloud is elevating this problem to critical status.”
Key Findings from the State of Multi-Cloud Identity Report 2023
The State of Multi-Cloud Identity Report 2023 delves deep into the challenges posed by multiple cloud and identity platforms. It explores how these challenges impact identity and access policy management and create security and operational problems. It also addresses why a talent gap in identity professionals hinders organizations from effectively addressing these issues. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key findings:
- Limited Visibility into Access Policies (76%): A staggering 76% of organizations lack complete visibility into access policies and applications across multiple cloud platforms. This lack of visibility extends to not knowing the existence of access policies, where applications are deployed, and who does or doesn’t have access.
- Identity Duplication Concerns (56%): More than half (56%) of enterprises do not maintain a single version of the truth for identities and their associated attributes. This situation raises concerns about identity duplication and the increased likelihood of unauthorized access and credential breaches.
- Declining Access Policy Enforcement (41%): Only 41% of the companies surveyed indicated that they can enforce consistent access policies to reduce identity and security risks. This marks a worrisome 25% year-on-year decline from the previous report, indicating a growing struggle to maintain robust access controls.
- Resource and Time Constraints (60%): A significant challenge organizations face is the lack of resources or time to rewrite old, outdated applications to support modern identity protocols. This constraint poses difficulties in working with cloud identity systems that provide enhanced security controls like passwordless authentication.
- Limited Access to Source Code (78%): Even more concerning is that 78% of organizations do not have access to the source code necessary to update their applications for modern identity systems. This limitation hampers their ability to adapt to evolving security requirements.
The Way Forward: Identity Orchestration
Eric Olden, CEO of Strata Identity, offers insights into addressing these pressing challenges. He suggests that the combination of adding more identity providers and technology has led to less effective access policy management, ultimately increasing security and compliance risks.
Olden proposes a solution called ‘Identity Orchestration.’ This approach seeks to unify disconnected and disjointed IAM systems, tools, and processes into a cohesive identity fabric. This fabric enables organizations to dynamically add and unify the management of new identity services across multiple cloud and hybrid environments.
Multi-cloud Identity Management with Identity Orchestration
Identity orchestration is a promising solution to the challenges of multi-cloud identity management. It provides a single layer of abstraction that enables organizations to unify and manage identities across multiple cloud platforms and on-premises systems. Here are some specific examples of how identity orchestration can be used to address the challenges of multi-cloud identity management:
Centralized identity management:
Identity orchestration can be used to create a centralized identity store that contains all user identities and their associated attributes. This store can then be used to authenticate and authorize users to access resources across all cloud platforms and on-premises systems.
Identity orchestration can be used to automate the lifecycle of identities, from provisioning to de-provisioning. This includes tasks like creating new user accounts, granting and revoking access privileges, and disabling or deleting inactive accounts.
Access policy enforcement:
Identity orchestration can be used to enforce consistent access policies across all cloud platforms and on-premises systems. This includes fine-grained controls over which user can access which resource and how they can access them.
Identity orchestration can be used to monitor user activity and detect suspicious behavior. This information can then be leveraged to investigate potential security incidents and take corrective action as needed.
Future Trends in Multi-Cloud Identity Management
The future of multi-cloud identity management is focused on providing a more secure, seamless, and intelligent experience for users. Here are some key trends that can be seen in the coming years:
Increased adoption of identity orchestration:
As organizations continue to migrate to multi-cloud environments, they will increasingly adopt identity orchestration solutions to manage their identities and access policies across all cloud platforms. This will help them to improve visibility, security, and compliance.
Rise of zero-trust security:
Zero-trust security is a security model that assumes that no user or device is trusted by default. This requires all users and devices to be authenticated and authorized before accessing resources. Identity orchestration can play a critical role in implementing zero-trust security by providing a centralized view of all identities and their access privileges.
Enhanced use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML):
Adoption of decentralized identity:
Decentralized identity is a new approach to identity management that gives users control over their own identity data. Blockchain technology is used to create a secured and tamper-proof record of user identity. Identity orchestration can be used to bridge the gap between decentralized identity and traditional identity management systems.
As companies keep adapting to the multi-cloud environment, managing identities and access policies across various cloud platforms is becoming harder. Addressing the associated challenges also becomes imperative for safeguarding data, mitigating risks, and ensuring compliance. The State of Multi-Cloud Identity Report 2023 paints a vivid picture of the evolving landscape of identity management in a multi-cloud world. Identity Orchestration emerges as a promising solution to navigate the complexities of multi-cloud identity management effectively.
At VE3, we believe that identity orchestration is the key to achieving a secure and compliant future in the cloud. This is why we embrace this approach in our identity and access management solutions, which provide a centralized view of all identities and access policies across multiple cloud platforms. This visibility and control enables you to identify and respond to cybersecurity threats quickly and effectively. To learn more about how our identity and access management and cybersecurity solutions can help you achieve a secure and compliant cloud future, please contact us today.