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CIAM: Manage the Access and the Identity of your Customers

If done well, consumers will not realize they are using Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) several times a day. From making payments on their smartphone and using their social media credentials to log into a news site through to accessing services (utility bills, social media, bank accounts…): CIAM is a mechanism that is working in the background to combine online security with customer experience.

What is Customer Identity and Access Management?

Customer Identity and Access Management is a framework for businesses to manage, authenticate, and secure customers’ digital identities across various channels. It helps companies digitize their services by integrating registration, login, profile management, and data privacy services. CIAM’s importance is growing due to the increasing need to protect customer data, enhance personalized experiences, and comply with evolving data privacy laws. Businesses need CIAM to build trust with customers by ensuring their information is secure while providing seamless online interactions. Furthermore, CIAM’s ability to generate customer insights based on preferred login mechanisms and preferred devices, provides an organization with useful information to deliver a better customer experience.

How does CIAM differ from IAM?

The basis of Identity and Access Management lies in ensuring that the right people (roles) get the correct access to internal applications and services. That’s why IAM is sometimes also referred to as Employee Identity and Access Management. Customer Identity and Access Management for its part focuses on managing and securing customer identities in digital interactions. The main difference between CIAM and IAM is that you know who is accessing which applications upfront in the case of IAM.  With CIAM you don’t know the users or their behavior. Over the years, CIAM has grown in importance and will continue to be a strong growth market, as digital transformation progresses and ever more products are turning into services that consumers can access online. Customers of these services expect seamless onboarding for these services and a great user experience throughout their digital journey. That’s why CIAM, more than IAM, needs to excel in customer-centricity and user experience. CIAM also places more focus on security, starting from zero trust

What are the core components of CIAM?

The Customer Identity and Access Management framework consists of various components that work together to ensure the proper management of customer identities and their access to digital resources.

Onboarding is the first step in the CIAM process, allowing customers to create accounts and provide necessary information for identification. This data is securely stored in a customer database or CRM and forms the foundation for their digital identity within the system. To make digital onboarding as easy as possible to users, businesses ask as little effort as possible from their customers, for instance by allowing them to create accounts with a simple username password, or using their social identities (Facebook, AppleID, LinkedInID) to register, and only asking for extra information when necessary. As identity fraud is on the rise and compliance regulations (for instance when it comes to money laundering and Know Your Customer) are becoming more stringent, identity management and identity verification (for instance through document verification) have become cornerstones to any CIAM system.

Authentication is a critical feature that verifies the customer’s identity before granting access to specific resources. CIAM systems use various authentication methods, such as passwords, biometrics, and one-time pass codes, to ensure that only legitimate users can access their accounts. Bring your own authentication allows users to authenticate using their choice of Authenticator, like Google or Microsoft Authenticator, and if Verified Identity has been used in the onboarding, they usually prefer this Identity Provider (IdP) for authentication as well, making it important for organizations to support as many as possible of these IdPs.

Multifactor Authentication (MFA) is a critical security layer in CIAM systems. MFA requires customers to provide multiple forms of identification before accessing their accounts, significantly reducing the risk of unauthorized access to the customers’ data. By combining something the user knows (like a password) with something they have (such as a smartphone) or something they are (like a fingerprint), MFA enhances security and protects against various cyber threats. To further enhance customer experience, passwordless and deviceless MFA are gaining in importance. If the company doesn’t want to invest too much in MFA but wants to offer it as an optional choice by the user, FIDO is a solution that allows the user to choose his preferred authenticator as well.

Single Sign-On (SSO) simplifies the authentication process for customers by enabling them to access multiple applications and services with a single set of login credentials. SSO not only improves user convenience but also enhances security by reducing the need for customers to remember multiple passwords for different accounts, or implementing MFA without the need of authenticating for each application. Centralized authentication reduces the risk of password-related vulnerabilities and streamlines the customer experience, resulting in increased user satisfaction.

Authorization follows authentication and determines the level of access a customer has to various services and information. It involves defining user roles and permissions, which are typically based on customer preferences and consent. This feature allows businesses to tailor the customer experience according to individual needs and helps prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data.

User profile management is an integral part of CIAM, enabling customers to update and manage their personal information. It empowers users to have control over their data and ensures compliance with privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA.

What elements are important in choosing a CIAM vendor?

As CIAM is a growing market, it attracts many vendors and choosing one that fits your organization and strategy is not always easy. Here are some elements to consider:

  • Security: Prioritize a CIAM vendor that employs robust security measures, starting with zero trust policies, a Policy Based access engine including multifactor authentication, encryption, and compliance with industry standards like GDPR and CCPA, safeguarding customer data and privacy.
  • Scalability: Opt for a solution that can effortlessly accommodate your organization’s growth, capable of handling an increasing number of users and data without compromising performance.
  • Customization and integration: Look for a vendor that offers flexibility in tailoring the CIAM solution to your business’s branding, workflow, and user experience. Additionally, seamless integration with existing systems (e.g., CRM, marketing tools) is vital to ensure a smooth user journey. It’s important to choose a vendor that allows you to integrate your business workflows, rather than adapting your business flows to the solution. This gives your company the unique competitive edge towards your customers.
  • User Experience: A user-friendly interface is essential for boosting customer engagement and retention. An intuitive self-service portal, easy registration, and password recovery processes contribute to a positive experience.
  • Compliance and regulation: Verify that the vendor complies with relevant data protection regulations, industry standards, and certifications to avoid potential legal issues and enhance trustworthiness.
  • Performance and reliability: A CIAM system must be highly available, with minimal downtime and quick response times, ensuring uninterrupted access for users.
  • Analytics and insights: Consider vendors that provide comprehensive analytics and reporting capabilities. These insights can help you understand customer behavior, detect potential security threats, and optimize marketing efforts.

Why is TrustBuilder your best choice when implementing CIAM?

As CIAM is a growth area in the software industry, there are many players in the market vying for your business. This can make it hard to pick the right one that best suits your needs and requirements. TrustBuilder compiles a list of questions that will help you in your decision process. TrustBuilder is well positioned to serve companies large and small who want to protect their customers throughout their digital journey, without compromising customer experience. Let’s take a look at some of the unique features that TrustBuilder’s CIAM comes with and how TrustBuilder supports different customer use cases.

  • End-to-end solution: TrustBuilder.io offers airtight security throughout a customer’s entire digital journey, from onboarding to authentication and authorization through to step-up authentication and consent management, supporting multiple capabilities such as Single Sign-on, Federated Identification, Self-service management and Know Your Customer (KYC).
  • Passwordless and deviceless Multifactor authentication is one of the key features in TrustBuilder.io. As the number of threats increases, MFA has become a must for any organization. By offering passwordless and deviceless MFA, TrustBuilder combines ultimate security with a frictionless customer experience.
  • Thanks to our Policy-Based Access Control (PBAC), organizations can centrally manage policies, make them more fine-grained and change them dynamically. Our unique PBAC engine does away with the traditional disadvantages of Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) and makes management easier than with Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC).
  • Zero Trust Access: TrustBuilder will check each time at the source if the data is still correct, rather than relying on stored or synchronized attributes.
  • TrustBuilder’s principle that one profile equals one person is both an advantage for the user and the system administrators. Each person can take up different personas and can use the same credentials across these different capacities they take on. This does away with role explosion and enhances customer experience as users do not need to remember different sets of credentials when they move from one role to another.
  • To further improve user experience, TrustBuilder ensures connectivity to a broad range of Identity Providers (IdPs). This way, customers can connect to your services using their authentication of choice. Adaptive authentication allows them to start simple by onboarding with their social media accounts and stepping up security when they want to make transactions or payments.
  • TrustBuilder was founded in the heart of Europe, but serves customers globally. Our European origin provides us with a keen interest in following compliance rules such as GDPR, NIS2… By working with TrustBuilder and our consent management and consent enforcement capabilities, you are assured to be on the right side of compliance.

For any organization delivering services through digital channels, Customer Identity and Access Management has become a key ingredient in their strategy of increasing security and enhancing customer experience. Contact TrustBuilder to see how we can ensure your customers get the best, frictionless, protection.