In my previous posting on Cloud Computing, I discussed some of the identity and access management (IAM) issues that arise from moving enterprise applications, particularly those containing sensitive data, to a cloud-based platform.

Now, I’d like to turn my attention to some of the same issues that come out of the emerging identity as a service (IaaS) trend, which entails delivering IAM services (user account provisioning, password management, single sign-on, access certification, etc.) using a cloud architecture.

Just as with any other application containing sensitive data, managing user identities via IaaS raises important risk and trust issues. By allowing an external service provider to manage your user’s identities, you’re essentially handing them the keys to the kingdom. You need to ensure that those keys will be kept safe and secure and that you will have complete and transparent control over the management of identities, in a way that is consistent with your acceptable level of risk.

You should also consider the ramifications if the service provider requires in-bound access to your data center in order to provision user accounts and access rights for internal applications. How will you monitor this activity and protect your internal systems from unauthorized external access?

And, just as with any other sensitive application, you need to know who at the service provider (i.e., system and database administrators) will have access to your user’s identities, and what will they be able to do with them. Will user IDs and passwords be stored securely and encrypted? How will backup and recovery be handled? Are all identity transactions captured in a secure audit database? Who is responsible making sure only authorized users can obtain or change identities?

As part of your contractual negotiations, you need to define processes and procedures to protect you legally and financially. If there is a breach of your user’s identities, who will be responsible and how will the costs be covered? Will you have access to the environment to perform the necessary forensics to determine the cause of the breach or will you have to rely solely on the service provider?

These are some of the questions that should be addressed as part of using IaaS to deliver your Access Assurance solution and we recommend you work with your service provider to make sure you clearly define how the processes of managing your user’s identities will work.