The Role of Identity and Access Management in Zero Trust Network Access

IAM is a security and business discipline combining multiple technologies, policies, and processes to grant enterprise asset access securely.

Authentication and authorization play critical roles in IAM. These processes protect organizations from cyber attacks by verifying that an identity is who it claims to be and validating the specific applications, files, and data an individual can access.


Authentication is the process of determining who a user or device is. It may be done manually or automatically using an identity-based system, such as a multi-factor authentication (MFA) solution. It can also be done by embedding chips in devices or using behavior analytics to verify their activities.

The role of authentication in zero trust network access is critical to ensuring that only authorized users or machines can access corporate applications and data. It helps identify unauthorized users and prevents attackers from gaining entry into the network.

Zero trust networks should also use least-privilege access, which means giving approved users only the specific privileges they need to do their job. This prevents unapproved users from accessing sensitive information and makes it easier to quickly onboard new employees.

Security policy enforcement is also crucial to zero trust. Set user requirements, such as only corporate-managed devices, encryption, or step-up authentication based on user behavior. Define micro perimeters around each protected application, and start monitoring privileged access traffic accessing application boundaries.

Managing security is an ongoing process requiring constant attention to risk. This can include encrypting data, securing email, verifying the hygiene of assets and endpoints, and identifying vulnerabilities before they connect to applications.

Getting to a zero-trust network takes time and effort. It also requires expertise and a clear strategy to ensure a return on investment. Every organization has unique challenges, and a zero trust strategy should be tailored to meet them.


Security leaders can use a robust authorization process to prevent unauthorized users from accessing sensitive data. This helps to reduce the risk of insider threats, credential theft, and malware infections.

Identity and access management are critical in a zero-trust network access architecture. It ensures that the right people can access their needed resources without compromising the user experience.

Authorization is a complex process that ensures a properly authenticated user can only access the information and applications they need. It can be done through a centralized or decentralized system.

There are two critical components of authorization: the “who” and “what.” The “who” refers to the actor trying to access the resource. This could be a user, a service, or a database.

The “what” is the resource* – the data the actor is accessing. This could be a database, a document, or a file.

This is where RBAC can be a game-changer, as it allows security managers to grant permissions to users based on their role within an organization. This provides a consistent approach to managing access and makes it easier for IT administrators to implement policy.

Zero trust network access also allows for granular, adaptive, and context-aware policies to ensure access is only granted when allowed. This context can include the time of day, device type, user identity, and device security posture. This provides access to only those apps and services that need it, reducing the attack surface and preventing lateral movement from compromised accounts and devices.

Access Control

Using access control technology, you can ensure that people have the correct permissions to access company information or areas. This helps reduce the risk of data theft, cyberattacks, and breach of privacy and data protection laws.

The zero-trust security framework requires users to be authenticated, authorized, and continuously validated for their security configuration and posture before being granted or keeping access to applications and data. This requires micro-segmentation of user types and locations and identifying data to determine when to trust, what to give access to, and for how long.

Forrester’s CARTA model, continuous adaptive risk, and trust assessment enable context-aware access decisions that give users enough trust, even after authentication, to complete their requests. This allows security to be continuously verified, limiting the “blast radius” that can impact users and their productivity if an external or insider breach occurs.

This also eliminates the time and resource challenges of implementing security policies on-premises or in the cloud when moving apps, data, or IT services. This time-consuming process often led to errors that allowed attackers to exploit the vulnerability.

In addition, access control technology can help prevent employees from wasting valuable work time by denying them the ability to perform work-related tasks when they are away from their desks. This helps increase productivity and improves overall workplace efficiency.


As network infrastructure continues to evolve and become more complex, more perimeter-based security solutions are required. Instead, organizations need to extend access control to their entire ecosystem—this is where the zero-trust model comes into play.

With zero trust, identity, and access management work to ensure remote workers’ devices are authenticated and connected securely. They continuously monitor and verify users’ connections to enterprise applications and resources.

This continuous access management framework can use contextual and behavioral data to determine if each connection is safe. All access is then evaluated against a risk and trust assessment so that only access is granted necessary for the task at hand.

This can help reduce the impact of a breach, as it limits the scope of credentials or access paths, allowing systems and people to respond quickly. It also allows for continuous monitoring and granular privilege reduction, so attackers can’t use stolen credentials or malware to gain access.

With a zero-trust architecture, the privileged access management (PAM) system automatically assesses each request based on low-risk identifiers. It enables only the highest level of trust to be granted. This means less time is spent manually reviewing proposals, which can be particularly helpful when dealing with many endpoints or users who require access to sensitive resources.

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