Identity Lifecycle Management (ILM) Explained

Robert MacDonald

Identity-related security is paramount in our modern threat landscape, touching on almost any form of vulnerability related to cybersecurity.

What Is Identity Lifecycle Management? Identity Lifecycle Management (ILM) is the collection of technologies, processes, and policies governing digital identity creation, management, and deletion.

What Is Identity Lifecycle Management?

The Identity Lifecycle is a continuous cycle of managing users’ identities within a system or network, typically in an organization. It involves several stages that ensure the secure and efficient handling of user identities and access controls. The steps of this lifecycle usually include the following:

  1. Provisioning (Onboarding): In this stage, user accounts are created, often when a new employee joins the organization. Each user’s relevant access privileges are defined based on their roles and responsibilities.
  2. Access Governance: This is a continuous process where policies are established and enforced to govern the identity and access management system.
  3. Authentication: At this point, the ILM system includes controls to prevent unauthorized access by requiring login credentials, typically associated with multi-factor authentication.
  4. Authorization: After authentication, authorization rules and controls function as the gatekeeper of access to system resources based on the user’s role, the type of resource in question, and other factors like user location, device, or behavior.
  5. Management: This ongoing process involves managing users’ identities, maintaining their access rights and roles, and keeping track of any changes. This includes changes to the user’s role, changes in their privileges, or removing their access rights.
  6. De-Provisioning (Offboarding): When a user account is no longer required, the ILM process must account for removing the user and their access rights to prevent backdoor access or insider threats.
  7. Reporting: Regular reports and audits are conducted to ensure the identity and access management system functions correctly and securely. This includes checking for any signs of suspicious activity or potential security breaches.

How Does Identity Lifecycle Management Work?

It’s an essential component of an organization’s security strategy, ensuring that individual users only have access to the resources they must and that their interactions with resources are readily observable and documented.

There are various components of any Identity Lifecycle Management, including:

  1. Onboarding and Offboarding: When a new user is added to or removed from the system, users get (or lose) unique credentials and identifiers denoting roles and responsibilities.
  2. Identity and Access Management: This ongoing process involves managing users’ identities, including their access rights and roles. It may include controlling the user’s credentials, setting up multi-factor authentication, managing access to different resources, and other related tasks.
  3. Auditing: Regular reviews and audits ensure access rights and roles are still appropriate for each user. This could involve reviewing logs and reports, conducting access certification campaigns, and other activities to verify that the system functions correctly and securely.
  4. Compliance Reporting: Many organizations need to demonstrate compliance with various regulations or standards related to identity and access management. This can involve generating reports, documenting processes and procedures, and other activities to demonstrate compliance.

ILM provides a structured approach to managing and securing digital identities to improve security and accountability throughout the organization.

What’s the Difference Between ILM and Privileged Access Management?

Identity Lifecycle Management and Privileged Access Management (PAM) overlap in their more generic definitions. However, both are critical to an organization’s Identity and Access Management (IAM) efforts.

The differences between the two include:

  1. Identity Lifecycle Management covers the management of identities for all users within an organization throughout their lifecycle. This includes everything from the initial onboarding of new users (creating accounts, assigning initial roles and permissions), through changes in roles or responsibilities (which may require changes to access rights), to eventual offboarding (disabling or deleting accounts when users leave the organization).
  2. Privileged Access Management, on the other hand, focuses explicitly on managing accounts with elevated privileges. The risks associated with these accounts are significantly higher, so they require additional controls. These include strong multi-factor authentication, session monitoring and recording, detailed logging and auditing, and even advanced features like ‘just-in-time’ access, where the privileged rights are only granted when needed and automatically revoked afterward.

Effective security requires both ILM to manage the broad population of users, and PAM, to provide additional controls for the smaller number of high-risk privileged accounts.

Why Is Identity Lifecycle Management So Important?

Identity Lifecycle Management (ILM) ensures the security and integrity of an organization’s systems and data. Here are several reasons why ILM is so important:

  1. Security: ILM provides a centralized and understandable way to address security based on user resource access. This, in turn, provides more control over these security issues.
  2. Compliance: Many industries are subject to regulations that require them to manage and protect digital identities in specific ways. By providing a structured approach to managing these identities, ILM helps organizations to comply with these regulations and avoid potential penalties.
  3. Cost Reduction: Automation and centralization (mainly through IDaaS systems) can reduce costs related to the maintenance of identity systems in terms of money spent on software and work hours dedicated to related tasks.
  4. Auditability: ILM provides a clear record of who has access to what resources and when making it easier to audit access and identify any potential issues. This is important for organizations that need to demonstrate compliance with specific regulations.
  5. Risk Mitigation: ILM helps prevent internal threats by ensuring that access rights are granted based on the principle of least privilege, giving users the minimum levels of access they need to perform their jobs. Also, when employees leave or change roles, ILM ensures their access rights are updated promptly to prevent potential security risks.

By managing the entire lifecycle of digital identities within an organization, from creation to termination, ILM provides a comprehensive approach to identity and access management. This helps ensure that the right people have access at the right time, improving security, efficiency, and compliance.

Integrate into ILM Best Practices with 1Kosmos

ILM involves several critical steps, from onboarding to security and management. With 1Kosmos, you can streamline onboarding for your enterprise users with mobile enrollment and IAL2-compliant identity verification. That, along with blockchain-powered identity management and strong authentication, make 1Kosmos BlockID an important part of any ILM strategy.

With 1Kosmos, you get the following features:

  • Identity-Based Authentication: We push biometrics and authentication into a new “who you are” paradigm. BlockID uses biometrics to identify individuals, not devices, through credential triangulation and identity verification.
  • Cloud-Native Architecture: Flexible and scalable cloud architecture makes it simple to build applications using our standard API and SDK.
  • Identity Proofing: BlockID verifies identity anywhere, anytime and on any device with over 99% accuracy.
  • Privacy by Design: Embedding privacy into the design of our ecosystem is a core principle of 1Kosmos. We protect personally identifiable information in a distributed identity architecture, and the encrypted data is only accessible by the user.
  • Private and Permissioned Blockchain: 1Kosmos protects personally identifiable information in a private and permissioned blockchain and encrypts digital identities and is only accessible by the user. The distributed properties ensure no databases to breach or honeypots for hackers to target.
  • Interoperability: BlockID can readily integrate with existing infrastructure through its 50+ out-of-the-box integrations or API/SDK.
  • SIM Binding: The BlockID application uses SMS verification, identity proofing, and SIM card authentication to create solid, robust, and secure device authentication from any employee’s phone.

Sign up for the 1Kosmos newsletter, and watch our webinar on Managing Third-Party Onboarding and Access Governance.

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Meet the Author

Robert MacDonald

Vice President of Product Marketing

Robert is the Vice President of Product Marketing at 1Kosmos. He is a highly influential senior global marketer with more than 15 years of marketing experience in B2B and B2C software in the biometric authentication space. Prior to 1Kosmos, Rob managed product strategy and vision for the Identity and Access Management portfolio at Micro Focus, leading a team of product marketers to drive sales and support the channel. Earlier in his career he set the foundation for content planning, sales enablement and GTM activities for ForgeRock. He has also held senior marketing positions at Entrust, Dell, Quest and Corel Corporation.