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According to the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, the ability to identify, detect, prevent, respond, and recover are important control capabilities for organizations to maintain in the constant battle to effectively manage access management policies, risks, and compliance requirements. In the past, one of the most effective ways to achieve this was by deploying Identity and Access Management solutions (IAM).  

However, modern security threats and regulatory compliance requirements have compelled organizations to not just manage access but also govern users after they have been granted access to applications. This need has led to the creation of Identity Governance and Administration (IGA), a capability that enhances existing IAM benefits by extending controls well beyond the point of access.

Difference Between IAM And IGA

The goal of IAM solutions is to assist organizations with managing all user access to systems and data, with the emphasis on maintaining the confidentiality and integrity of the data. IAM also incorporates features to effectively achieve risk and compliance objectives. Unfortunately, IAM solutions typically do not effectively monitor user activity within the application to detect anomalies and threats. Identity Governance & Administration fulfilled this lack of internal control.

IGA is defined by Gartner as an “activity within the identity and access management function that concerns the governance and administration of a unique digital representation of a user, including all associated attributes and entitlements.”

Simply stated, IAM capabilities help organizations manage user access to applications and data, while IGA capabilities help organizations monitor and govern user activities within the application, to detect and respond to user anomalies or policy exceptions. Together, IAM and IGA can enable a more holistic solution to enable identification, detection, prevention, response, and recovery.

5 Capabilities That Enable Identity Access & Governance

1. Dynamic Multi-Factor Authentication

Authentication is your first line of identity and access management defense intended to verify the user’s identity. The old authentication method of using only a unique ID and password is no longer enough to effectively manage the inherent risks associated with access management.

Look for a solution with more advanced authentication features that add additional control measures such as Zero Trust and multi-factor authentication (MFA). Furthermore, IAM solutions that can be configured to enforce MFA during the initial login, when the user attempts to access critical transactions, and again when the user attempts to access critical data fields offer more effective layers of security controls than a single MFA requirement during the initial login.  

(The NIST 800-207 provides valuable guidance on implementing the zero-trust security model.)

2. Authorization Based on Attributes

Authorization is your second line of identity and access management defense because it always takes place after authentication. The authorization process determines what resources and level of access the user is allowed based on pre-configured roles.

Older and less effective authentication methods are based on the Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) security model. Look for an IGA solution based on the Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC) security model because it allows access controls to be configured based on specific policy requirements. An added benefit would be if the solution could enable automated policy enforcement across your organization.  

Furthermore, ABAC allows access controls to be configured based on selecting multiple combinations of attributes (e.g., user, action, resource, or environmental attributes) to create highly effective preventative and detective controls at the SoD, transaction, and data field level.

Also, ABAC can enable the configuration of access controls with reactive and adaptive security capabilities that can respond to anomalies and incidents by restricting or shutting down access. Therefore, using the ABAC security model enables organizations to leverage the desirable IGA capabilities for better monitoring, detection, and response to policy exceptions.   

3. Automated User Management

User management typically involves user provisioning, de-provisioning, access recertification, password management, privilege access management (PAM), and elevated access management (EAM) processes.  

Look for a solution that can automate the user management process and offers artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) empowered continuous access risk analysis at the SoD, transaction, and data field levels. And a recommendation engine to help you detect and avoid critical access risks such as segregation of duty security violations or transaction risks such as fraud.

The EAM feature should include detailed, auditable reports of all activity performed and automatic access time-out features. In addition, PAM features should enable effective control – such as MFA – across multiple platforms and the use of ABAC to enable dynamic security controls based on contextual attributes.

Additionally, consider an IGA solution that allows continuous control monitoring (CCM) at the SoD, transaction, and data field levels to improve your detection and reporting of user anomalies and threats.   

4. Real-Time Monitoring and Detection

Security governance is a set of responsibilities and practices exercised by senior executives with the goal of:

  • Defining expectations
  • Providing strategic direction
  • Monitoring performance to ensure that objectives are achieved
  • Ascertaining that risks and compliance goals are managed appropriately
  • Verifying that the enterprise’s resources are used responsibly

Basically, the expectations of your company’s senior executives are communicated through policies. Look for a solution that enables effective monitoring, detection, and response capabilities to user anomalies and policy exceptions. Pay close attention to the response capability because it can vary dramatically across solutions. For example, some IGA solutions merely record the user anomalies and/or policy exceptions in a report to be read by someone at a later time.

Look for real-time reporting capability from an analytics tool that sends a notification to the appropriate persons who can immediately solve the problem. This analytics portion of the IGA solution should provide a detailed analysis of user behavior at the transaction and data field level to support more effective monitoring – another feature that varies dramatically between different solutions. 

5. Automated and Centralized Policy Enforcement

The traditional method of manually creating and communicating thousands of policies requirements followed by periodic manual assessments to validate the effectiveness of the organization’s policy program is time-consuming, costly, reactive, difficult to update, and error-prone. It is just not effective enough to provide the level of policy assurance required by senior management for their risk and compliance objectives.

An IGA solution that leverages the ABAC security model is vital because it configures access controls based on specific policy requirements. This ability also allows you to automate policy enforcement across your organization. Before you zero in on the solution, pay close attention to how the policy-based access controls are configured within the solution.  

Some IGA solutions require a one-to-one configuration effort, while others allow the more desirable one-to-many configuration. For example, suppose you wish to create a policy-based access control for a PII data field such as social security number (SSN). In that case, the one-to-one configuration effort means every instance of the SSN data field on every page of the solution will require the access control to be configured.

That’s a tremendous amount of time to configure and make future configuration changes. Alternatively, the one-to-many configuration effort means you configure one policy-based access control that is automatically applied to all instances of that SSN data field through the entire solution. 


As compliance regulations tighten their grip on both private and public organizations, it is becoming imperative for security and compliance teams to deploy identity and governance solutions that enable dynamic and layered controls within their applications. IAM solutions that possess the governance capabilities mentioned above allow you to mitigate your overall risk by restricting access at multiple levels and achieve compliance goals by continuously monitoring control efficiency and user activity. Additionally, these multi-layer controls and continuous monitoring also create a framework for proactive detection and prevention of threats, thereby improving your organization’s security posture. 

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