As we mentioned in our previous articles, the pandemic has strongly affected the way we work. It forced the almost instantaneous implementation of efficient remote access to a company’s assets and popularized distributed work models to such an extent that, in the current reality, we cannot imagine functioning without this possibility.
This global occurrence triggered the need to efficiently manage remote access to company resources. This includes verification, authentication, and strict control of users’ permissions to work with all business assets.
And this is where access management systems, such as IAM and PAM, come in handy.
Both are used to manage and secure users’ access to company resources, but their scope of operation differs. The main difference is that Identity and Access Management (IAM) identifies and authorizes every user in the organization, while Privileged Access Management (PAM) focuses on securing and restricting access for privileged employees who work with more sensitive data.
Now let’s discuss IAM and PAM functionalities and why they matter for businesses.
What is IAM?
Identity and Access Management (IAM) is a combination of policies, services, and technologies for verifying the identity and authentication of users. It may include solutions like Single Sign-On or Multi-Factor Authentication, but also Privileged Access Management (!), which we will describe later in the article. IAM is primarily concerned with managing the identities of users, such as employees, contractors, partners, and customers, and their access to various resources, such as applications, databases, networks, and files.
What is PAM?
Privileged Access Management (PAM) can be a subset of a broader IAM solution, and it focuses on managing the access of privileged users to sensitive systems and data. This includes employees who have elevated access rights and work with sensitive data, such as system administrators, network administrators, DevOps, or human resources. These users have access to critical assets, which makes them prime targets for cyberattacks.
PAM provides a set of tools and processes to manage the access of privileged users, including password management, session monitoring, access control, and audit logging. PAM also helps enforce the principle of Zero Trust, which means that users are granted only the minimum access necessary to perform their job functions.
Cutting-edge PAM systems can offer a wide range of unique solutions, like AI-Powered Prevention or OCR Processing features. All these functionalities can help to maintain high levels of security for a company’s assets and provide a powerful set of tools that help to pinpoint any traces or evidence of a crime in case of data breaches. If you want to learn more about market-leading PAM solutions, please check out Fudo Enterprise.
PAM vs IAM: What’s the Difference
Both technologies’ goal is to ensure that the right people have access to the right resources at the right time, but there are significant differences between them.
First of all, IAM is concerned with managing the convenient access of all users to all resources, while PAM is focused on managing the auditable access of privileged users to sensitive systems and data. Next, the main purpose of IAM systems is to manage user identities, attributes, and access rights across multiple systems and applications, while the role of PAM is to manage the access of privileged users to specific systems and data. Finally, IAM provides role-based access control to users based on their job functions and responsibilities. At the same time, PAM implements access control in accordance with the Zero Trust philosophy. In conclusion, we have to think about PAM systems as an additional layer of security for privileged access, while IAM is a more general concept.
Below you will find a comparison table that compares the functionalities of the mentioned management systems.
IAM focuses on:
PAM focuses on:
Both IAM and PAM are important for an organization’s security, but they focus on different security areas.
IAM provides a centralized platform for managing user identities and access rights across multiple systems and applications, helping businesses to streamline access management, improve user productivity, and reduce the risk of data breaches caused by unauthorized access.
At the same time, PAM provides an additional layer of security for privileged access, which is critical for protecting sensitive data and systems from cyberattacks. It helps businesses enforce the principle of Zero Trust approach, monitor privileged user activities, and comply with regulatory requirements. PAM can actually be a part of IAM as it is aimed directly at privileged accounts and users.
As you can see, IAM and PAM provide complementary tools and processes to help modern organizations manage access control effectively, which is critical to protect their IT infrastructure and sensitive assets from cyberattacks and data breaches. To learn more about PAM, you might also like to read about “The Importance of PAM for Modern Organizations”.