5 Common Identity and Access Management Security Risks by@jtruong

5 Common Identity and Access Management Security Risks

Jessica Truong HackerNoon profile picture

Jessica Truong

Interested in security? Follow along for content within Cybersecurity

Whether companies realize it or not, identity and access management systems are extremely important and should be properly secured. Identity and access management tools are what help protect confidential information from being accessed by unauthorized users.

IAM security threats have always existed; however, ever since the global pandemic, security breaches have become more apparent. Therefore, it is crucial for organizations to strengthen the security of their data and their identity and access management system. This article will explain what identity and access management is and what it does before going into further details of the five common identity management security risks. I hope that after reading this article, you have a better understanding of the security risks and how to mitigate these risks.  

Table of Contents:

  1. What is Identity and Access Management?
  2. What does Identity and Access Management do?
  3. Excessive Permissions
  4. Misconfigurations
  5. Sharing Data Externally
  6. Offboarding Employees
  7. Keep Application Up-to-Date
  8. Final Thoughts: Identity and Access Management Security Risks

What is Identity and Access Management (IAM)?

Identity and Access Management (IAM) ensures that employees in an organization have the right to access the resources they need to do their jobs. IAM systems allow an organization to be able to manage a wide variety of identities, including software, people, and hardware like IoT devices. It is a central place where organizations can manage employee apps without needing to log into each app as an admin.

What does Identity and Access Management Do?

IAM systems have the following functionalities:

Manage User Identities

  • Identity access and management systems can be used to create, modify, and delete users; IAM systems can also create specific new identifies for users who need special access to a tool.

Provisioning/Deprovisioning Users

  • Provisioning: Specifying the access level(s) and tool(s) to grant a user; the IT department will typically grant privileges based on the user's role and department; this task can be time-consuming, so typically, IAM will use role-based access control (RBAC) to enable provisioning 
  • Deprovisioning: Remove all of a user’s access once the employee has left the organization to avoid any possible security risks

Authenticating and Authorizing Users

  • Authentication: IAM systems authenticate a user by making sure that a user is who they say they are.
  • Authorization: Access management makes sure that a user is granted the exact level of access that has been assigned to the user. Keep in mind that users may also be placed into specific groups making it possible that many users have the same privileges.

Image reference


  • IAM tools typically generate reports of actions taken on the platform, such as authentication type, login time, and systems accessed.

Single Sign-On (SSO)

  • Identity and access management solutions with SSO allow users to authenticate their identity via one portal. Once authenticated, the user will have access to the other resources without having to log in again

1. Excessive Permissions

Excessive permissions occur when a user is granted more access than needed for their job. Being able to keep up with every user’s permission in an organization can be difficult because of how dynamic and complex it is. Every application and system may have its own permission model, which complicates assigning and removing permissions. 

Excessive Permissions Example:

  • An employee has moved to a different department and still has access to resources from their previous department

How to Mitigate this Risk

The best way to mitigate this risk is by only granting users access to what they need to do their jobs.

2. Misconfigurations

Misconfiguration occurs when a software or application is implemented incorrectly. Many misconfigurations are undetectable by the eye and are quite common. Due to the fact that they are undetectable, it made it an even bigger targets for attackers to exploit their way into the cloud environment. Threat actors can use misconfiguration to access sensitive information.

Misconfigurations Example:

  • Misconfigured Google Group settings - when the Google Group settings are misconfigured, the visibility setting has been set to public. This means that any private emails are now leaked and are searchable on the Internet. Data including passwords, email addresses, financial data, and more are exposed.

How to Mitigate this Risk

Organizations must implement an identity and access management solution that can detect accidental and malicious misconfigurations.  

3. Sharing Data Externally 

It is difficult to control how data is shared via cloud services, and as a result, organizations may be unaware of the types of data being shared, including sensitive data. 

Sharing Data Externally Example: 

  • Sensitive documents are mistakenly saved into a folder that is publicly available for external customers

How to Mitigate this Risk

Organizations should find an identity and access management solution that consistently monitors the data that is sent out of the organization. 

4. Offboarding Employees

One of the biggest challenges the IT department faces in an organization is handling employees' permissions once they leave the company. 

Offboarding Employees Example

  • An employee left the company a year ago, but their account with all of the permissions still exists within the organization.

How to Mitigate this Risk

This is easier said than done, but the best way to mitigate this risk is for IT departments to revoke the user’s access privileges and remove the user from the system once they have left the company. Introducing an end-of-life policy for your devices will prevent any future potential security breaches towards the organization. Make sure that the IT department follows the same set of steps every time an employee leaves an organization. 

5. Keep Application Up-to-Date

It is important for organizations to keep their applications up-to-date. These updates are crucial and help prevent your organization from potential security breaches.  

Final Thoughts: Identity and Access Management Security Risks

As many organizations continue to transfer their data and services to the cloud, it is important that they strengthen their IAM systems. The cyberattacks against vulnerable IAM systems could result in permanent damage. Organizations should focus on what they can do to protect themselves and stay on top of new hacks.