What Is Identity Threat Detection & Response (ITDR)?

Javed Shah

Identity Threat Detection and Response (ITDR) is a collection of security tools and practices for monitoring, identifying, and responding to identity-related cybersecurity threats. ITDR solutions can encompass straightforward security measures, risk assessment and management, machine learning algorithms, and comprehensive analytics.

ITDR is often integrated with other identity and access management systems and works within security frameworks such as zero trust to provide a comprehensive approach to managing and protecting access to valuable resources. It’s a key part of a defense-in-depth strategy in cybersecurity, explicitly aimed at one of the most commonly exploited vectors: user identities.

What Are Identity Threats and Why Do They Need Special Consideration?

Identity-based cybersecurity attacks involve unauthorized individuals or entities posing as legitimate users to gain access to systems, networks, or data. They are a significant threat because they exploit one of the most critical security aspects: trust.

Forms of Identity Attacks

Identity attacks are common, perhaps more so today than ever, and encompass almost every possible attack vector related to online site access and cloud computing. Some foundational identity attacks include:

  • Phishing: The attacker sends deceptive messages, often via email, to trick people into divulging sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, or credit card details. A specific form of phishing is called “spear phishing,” or a more targeted attack that uses deep research and knowledge of targets to steal information.
  • Credential Stuffing: In this attack, stolen account credentials (typically from a data breach) are used to gain unauthorized access to user accounts through large-scale automated login requests.
  • Identity Theft: This attack involves someone impersonating someone to commit fraud, gain unauthorized access, or deceive other users or systems.
  • Session Hijacking: The attacker takes over a user’s session after they’ve logged in, gaining unauthorized access to their data or services.

Additionally, identity attacks can be a cornerstone of more complex and dangerous Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs). For example, in a “land and expand” approach, attackers first gain a foothold within an organization’s network or systems through a single compromised identity or weak security point (“land”). This could be accomplished through phishing, exploiting a vulnerability, or several methods.

Once inside, the attacker seeks to expand their access and control by escalating privileges, creating new accounts, or spreading malware (“expand”). The ultimate goal is to access more valuable resources, like sensitive data or control over critical systems. The process is often carried out slowly and subtly to avoid detection.

The Importance of Identity Threat Detection

ITDR relies heavily on threat detection. With the right detection tools, enterprise organizations can effectively identify, mitigate, and eliminate threats as they arise. Easier said than done, indeed, but that level of challenge doesn’t imply it’s improbable, or even prohibitively complex, to have suitable ITDR measures in place.

These measures include:

  • Data Collection: Identity threat detection systems monitor various data sources like network traffic, user behavior, login activities, system logs, etc. These data points help build a comprehensive picture of regular activity, and any deviations can signal a potential threat.
  • Risk Assessment: The system continuously assesses risk by looking for suspicious activities. This could include unusual login times, multiple failed login attempts, login from a new or unique location, etc.
  • Anomaly Detection: Using machine learning algorithms, the system can understand what is “normal” behavior for a given identity. Any deviation from this normal behavior can then be flagged as a potential threat.
  • Threat Intelligence Integration: Modern systems often integrate threat intelligence feeds, which provide up-to-date information on known wrong IP addresses, domains, malware signatures, etc. These feeds enhance the system’s ability to recognize potential threats.

Additionally, ITDR can be more effective when combined with other security measures like solid authentication practices (such as multi-factor authentication), regular user and privilege audits, and effective incident response procedures. It’s a vital part of a defense-in-depth strategy in cybersecurity.

How Does ITDR Relate to Zero-Trust Frameworks?

Zero Trust” is a security concept centered on the belief that organizations should not automatically trust anything inside or outside its perimeters and must verify everything trying to connect to its systems before granting access.

While this approach seems “foolproof” (if you trust no one, then no one untrustworthy may impact your infrastructure), the truth is that all IT systems need to balance security (zero-trust) with accessibility so that people in your organization can use them.

By focusing on usable ITDR, you can maintain secure identity management within a zero-trust framework. Some of the features that support this coexistence include:

  • Verification: With zero trust, every user and device is treated as potentially hostile, even if it’s coming from inside the network. In this context, ITDR systems help verify user identities by looking for anomalies and signs of compromise. If a trusted user’s behavior changes, the system will flag it as a potential threat.
  • Least Privilege Access: Zero trust operates on a “least privilege” principle, granting users only the access they need to perform their jobs. ITDR helps monitor and enforce this by tracking who accessed what, when, and why. If a user attempts to access a resource they don’t usually interact with, the ITDR system can flag it.
  • Micro-Segmentation: Zero trust often involves breaking the network into smaller parts (micro-segmentation) to limit the potential impact of a breach. ITDR can monitor these segments for signs of unauthorized access or lateral movement.
  • Continuous Monitoring: Under a zero-trust model, trust verification is an ongoing process, not a one-time check. ITDR supports this by continuously monitoring user behavior and looking for potential threats.

In this way, ITDR enhances the effectiveness of a zero-trust strategy by providing an additional layer of security focused on one of the most commonly exploited vectors: user identities.

Where Does ITDR Fit Into Different Identity Security Approaches?

ITDR brings together several different types of authentication and identity security, and in many ways, it can seem like a replacement for, or retread, established security measures. The reality is that many security approaches we typically think of in identity management are distinct from, but part of, effective ITDR solutions.


ITDR, Identity and Access Management (IAM), and Privileged Access Management (PAM) are critical components of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy, particularly around managing user identities and access. They’re closely related and often work together to enhance security. Here’s a brief overview of how they relate:

  • Identity and Access Management (IAM): This involves managing digital identities and controlling their access to resources. IAM systems ensure that only authenticated and authorized users can access specific resources. They also facilitate user provisioning and de-provisioning, single sign-on, multi-factor authentication, and more.
  • Privileged Access Management (PAM): PAM is a subset of IAM focused on managing and auditing accounts with elevated privileges, such as administrators. Because these accounts can access sensitive data or critical systems, they’re attractive targets for attackers. PAM solutions control access to these accounts, monitor their activities, and can isolate their sessions to reduce risk.

ITDR, Endpoint Threat Detection, and Extended Detection and Response

Yes, ITDR systems are different from Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) and Extended Detection and Response (XDR) systems. However, they all contribute to a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. Here’s a brief overview of each:

  • Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR): EDR is a subset of endpoint security technology. It focuses on detecting, investigating, and mitigating suspicious activities on hosts or endpoints (like laptops, mobile devices, or servers). It collects data from endpoint devices to identify threats or malicious activities.
  • Extended Detection and Response (XDR): XDR is a recent approach that extends EDR by collecting and correlating data across multiple security layers – endpoints, networks, email, servers, cloud workloads, and more – not just endpoint devices. Integrating multiple security controls into a unified platform aims to provide more effective threat detection and response.

What Is the Relationship Between ITDR, Identity Fabric, and Identity Orchestration?

ITDR, identity fabric, and identity orchestration are all key components of a comprehensive Identity and Access Management strategy. In essence, identity fabric provides the architectural foundation, identity orchestration automates the management tasks based on that architecture, and ITDR is a specialized function that leverages both to detect and respond to identity-based threats.

Together, they create a more secure and efficient approach to managing identities in an organization.

  • Identity Fabric: As discussed earlier, this refers to a unified and holistic approach to identity services across an organization. It can provide the framework that ITDR systems use to collect and analyze data from across different systems and applications. By ensuring a consistent approach to identity management, an Identity Fabric can also make it easier to spot anomalies and potential security threats.
  • Identity Orchestration: This involves automating and streamlining identity-related tasks, such as user provisioning and password resets. In the context of ITDR, identity orchestration can play a role in the response to a detected threat. For example, if a user’s account is compromised, the identity orchestration system can automatically deprovision or lock the account to prevent further unauthorized access.

What Should I Look For in ITDR Solutions?

To be clear, ITDR solutions are varied and distinct. Some are dedicated ITDR platforms that integrate with systems, while others are part and parcel with an existing identity or security solution.

An effective ITDR solution should include the following features:

  • Real-Time Monitoring: The system should continuously monitor user activity across various systems and applications in real-time. This includes both regular and privileged user accounts.
  • Behavioral Analytics: By employing machine learning and AI, the system should establish a baseline of normal user behavior and then identify anomalies that may suggest a potential threat.
  • Risk Scoring: A good ITDR solution should be able to assign risk scores based on user behavior and other risk indicators. This can help prioritize alerts and responses.
  • Threat Intelligence Integration: It should incorporate threat intelligence feeds to stay current with known threats, vulnerabilities, and malicious entities.
  • Automated Response: The system should be able to respond to detected threats automatically. This could involve forcing a user logout, deactivating an account, or initiating a password reset.
  • Forensic Capabilities: A good solution should have capabilities to store and analyze historical data, which can help in forensic investigations after a security incident.
  • Integration with IAM and PAM: The solution should integrate well with existing Identity and Access Management (IAM) and Privileged Access Management (PAM) solutions to provide a comprehensive view of identity-related risks.
  • Alerting and Reporting: The system should generate alerts based on specific events or conditions and provide comprehensive reporting for audit and compliance purposes.
  • Scalability and Performance: As the organization grows, the solution should scale and perform effectively.
  • Ease of Use: The platform should be user-friendly, with an intuitive interface and easily understandable analytics and reports.

An ITDR solution with these features would provide robust capabilities to detect and respond to identity-related threats, helping protect an organization’s valuable assets and data.

Identity Security Management and 1Kosmos–Your Perfect Solution

ITDR relies on several security measures and best practices, none of which are really negotiable. With 1Kosmos, you can always count on having those technologies on hand such that your enterprise authentication and identity systems are the point of the spear for your ITDR efforts.

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, 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 via 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 our newsletter to learn more about how BlockID can support real security and help mitigate phishing attacks. Also, contact our team of experts to get you started with 1Kosmos BlockID.

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Meet the Author

Javed Shah

Former Senior Vice President Of Product Management

Javed has spent his entire twenty year career designing and building blockchain and identity management solutions. He has led large customer facing pre-sales teams, led product management for identity management platforms like the ForgeRock Identity Platform and the ForgeRock Identity Cloud. Javed has an MBA from UC Berkeley.