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Issue of October 2004 

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Track 7: identity management

A matter of getting the identity right

Identity management is an essential part of enterprise security. It is essential for organisations to have an IT infrastructure where all applications are identity aware

When an employee tells your IT system that he is authorised to access the system, how far would the system trust him? Technically, he should be able to access only the files pertaining to his area of work. However, due to the lack of single sign on solutions, the employee may end up getting access to confidential R&D files stored on the network. Most often, organizations without strict identity management in place could find themselves under attack from disgruntled ex-employees who use their old passwords to get into the company's IT systems. In most cases, this is due to the lack of a single sign on to multiple IT systems.

For organizations having multiple IT systems, a single sign on solution is necessary to manage multiple user identities across several applications and computing systems. Implementing a single sign on solution helps an enterprise manage user rights more effectively as it is easier for users to log into all the applications using a single user name and password. In the future, most organisations will have an identity based IT infrastructure where all applications are identity aware.

Bring down IT management costs

While the term 'identity management' is still not very prevalent, many progressive organisations have already implemented comprehensive identity management solutions or are in the midst of evaluating identity management software as a strategic tool. Another key driver for identity management is the savings it brings in terms of operational costs due to a spurt in the efficiency of data management. Traditionally companies evaluate their solutions on various parameters, especially when there are overlapping features across products. For instance, many databases and directories have their own access-control features. As identity management tools or single sign-on tools can be used to provide access to applications—they help reduce IT management costs. Typically, identity management tasks are under the purview of several departments in an enterprise. As a single sign on solution enables access to many applications across the network, it saves time—both the user's and the administrator's.

Before buying a single sign on solution, organisations have to ensure that an identity infrastructure based on open standards is enabled across all its systems to be effective. A single sign-on solution has to tie together authentication, directory services, provisioning, user and access management.

regulatory compliances

In the future, the identity management infrastructure could be embedded even in devices such as telephones. For example, provisioning telephone services for new employees could be simplified using an embedded identity infrastructure. The same identity management infrastructure could be also be used for helping customers comply with regulations like the Sarbanes-Oxley act and HIPAA.

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