Identity and access management threats have been growing rapidly in the last few years as digital transformation has revolutionized almost every area of business and daily life. Modern businesses are spending more money than ever before on automation and digital technologies, and this shift is increasing incentives for hacking and the theft of intellectual property.

Identity and Access Management Threat Predictions for 2021

Businesses have, therefore, significantly expanded their IAM investments. Nevertheless, IAM spending is projected to continue growing in the years ahead. As a result, 2021 will be a monumental year in the IAM space. To stay ahead of the market, both businesses and IAM professionals need to understand the changes that will occur in 2021.

New Identity and Access Management Threats in 2021

Historically, nefarious actors have always been able to adapt to technological changes in ways that have introduced significant security challenges for cybersecurity specialists. For instance, security was initially seen as one of the main benefits of transitioning to the cloud. To obtain access to sensitive data in the cloud environment, nefarious actors were able to shift to phishing attacks and man-in-the-middle strategies to steal accounts. Likewise, new technologies will be introduced in 2021 that will help to improve security but also offer a new dynamic range of challenges that IAM organizations will need to respond to adequately. Some of the main challenges that are expected to characterize 2021 include:

More Sophisticated Social Engineering

Modern technologies are enabling people to interact directly without having to leave their homes. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic that became widespread in 2020, an unprecedented number of workers began working from home. Recent research has shown that 99 percent of remote workers would prefer to continue working from home for at least some portion of their workweek. This trend will lead to a surge of spending on devices that enable close communications in a remote setting.

In response to the need for working from home, many employers have asked their personnel to install cameras that allow for easy collaboration. Some employers have even chosen to use always-on teleconferencing to encourage employees to stay engaged while working alone.

The problem, however, is that adversaries can gain access to these communications in ways that can introduce significant security threats. Always-on teleconferencing is particularly problematic because cameras are generally mounted in a fixed position, so adversaries can easily use recorded footage to create fraudulent communications. Adversaries could also potentially spy on members of an organization to acquire proprietary information. Since 87 percent of smartphones are exposed to at least one vulnerability, IAM professionals will need to adapt to these new threats quickly to protect their organizations.

5G Identity and Access Management Threats

5G will transform the fundamentals of the digital space by providing very fast connection speeds without tethering users to a wall or a Wi-Fi network. It will take a few years to fully roll out 5G, but 2021 is expected to be the year when 5G first becomes common for both businesses and consumers.

One of the most significant security challenges associated with 5G is that many 5G connections will be provided by a third party. Some very large corporations may have their own 5G connections on their campuses, but the vast majority of users will have to rely on public connections. Highly motivated and sophisticated adversaries could attempt to intercept 5G communications. The ordinary range of threats on the hardware and software levels could also present a significant challenge.

Finally, 5G disrupts some of the long-standing assumptions in networking. If all users on a network have access to 5G connections, they could all theoretically send gigabytes worth of requests at the same time. Therefore, adversaries may find new ways to overwhelm a network or server by taking advantage of the more substantial bandwidth that 5G networks provide.

Internet of Things Creates New Weak Points

Digital devices continue to get smaller as hardware technology advances. With more devices connected to a network, attackers enjoy more points from which to gain unauthorized access.

Unfortunately, many IoT devices will have limited processing capabilities. Some devices may be produced by engineers with a limited background in cybersecurity. It is even possible for some devices to be intentionally compromised by manufacturers or adversaries in the supply chain. IoT professionals will, therefore, need to effectively control the growing range of new devices connecting to networks.

Satellite-Based Identity and Access Management Threats

In 2020, Elon Musk’s SpaceX succeeded at launching a sophisticated constellation of almost 900 satellites that promise to provide almost universal access to internet speeds of up to 150 megabits per second. SpaceX plans to grow aggressively, and it already expects to expand initial access to its technology as early as January 2021. Additionally, competing providers plan to launch their own satellite constellations that could help to widen access even further.

With the growth of satellite internet, new security threats will emerge. In theory, all devices capable of picking up a Starlink internet signal could be vulnerable to attacks. As this new technology is rolled out, attackers are expected to find many ways to exploit it to gain unauthorized network access.

New Types of Ransomware Attacks

2018 and 2019 were years when ransomware attacks grew precipitously in the wake of the growing acceptance of cryptocurrencies. These types of ransomware attacks are still evolving and becoming more sophisticated.

Businesses are also increasingly using operational technology platforms that are improving a broad range of business processes. However, critical infrastructure is becoming more dependent on using these platforms. When adversaries gain control over operational technology platforms, they can often shut down critical infrastructure or threaten to do so. In 2021, IAM professionals will need to find new ways to defend these systems while providing alternative modes of access in the event of an attack.

Specialized Computing

Specialized computing has been around since the early days of digital technology, but it has grown in importance in recent years as resource-intensive processes become more common. Quantum computing is particularly powerful because it holds the potential to compute in novel ways that could have serious implications in IAM. For instance, some experts believe that 256-bit encryption may soon become crackable by adversaries with access to advanced quantum computing systems.

Additionally, specialized computing has the potential to enable threats to emerge in novel ways that even IAM specialists may not be able to plan for. Artificial intelligence, for instance, could be used to develop complex hacking tools that could easily break into a network. Large networks of leading-edge ASIC servers designed for cryptocurrency mining or other specialized applications could also be misused in ways that could have unforeseen security implications. The bottom line is that IAM professionals need to remain vigilant to discover and defend against threats that emerge in today’s evolving landscape.

Expanding Regulations Among Identity and Access Management Threats

Of course, regulations are constantly changing as the digital space increasingly finds itself in the crosshairs of regulators. In particular, new versions of the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 and its addendum California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) are expected to be passed into law across the country. Therefore, IAM strategies will increasingly need to be tailored to local markets.

Budget Priorities in the IAM Space

As the digital space matures, businesses will need to improve how they allocate their technology budgets. In this environment, the technology stack that businesses utilize will need to be highly focused on achieving specific objectives. The days when businesses could invest in a wide range of platforms are over because competitors are increasingly improving how they make use of technology. To remain competitive, businesses will need to use comprehensive research and assessment processes to determine what products are the best match for their needs.

Budgeting will become increasingly important in IAM. The necessity of staying ahead of security threats will need to be balanced against financial constraints. Failing to budget properly could lead to catastrophic mistakes that have the possibility of leading to business failure.

Dominant IAM Product Categories

All of the key IAM product categories that have long been used by businesses will continue to remain relevant in 2021. Some of these categories include:

  • multi-factor authentication,
  • identity governance,
  • user activity compliance, and
  • user provisioning.

The area of risk analytics is projected to grow rapidly as AI becomes more advanced in 2021. Centralized access management will also expand since demand for data continues to grow exponentially.

IAM Employment Demand

As with all industries, demand for employment in IAM will grow in alignment with growth in demand for IAM services. Researchers project that the IAM industry will account for $29.79 billion in revenue by 2027. Overall, the industry will grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 13.2 percent. As a result, it is inevitable that demand for IAM professionals will surge in 2021.

Demand for Identity Management Institute Certifications

The field of IAM continues to grow, but it is arguably beginning to mature. As a result, employers will increasingly demand that employees have credentials to verify their qualifications to act as IAM professionals. After all, IAM professionals are tasked with securing systems that businesses depend on for their survival.

Identity Management Institute is the leading provider of certifications for IAM professionals. Certifications are available for a wide range of IAM professionals, including analysts, managers, technologists, and advisors. Getting certified is strongly recommended for candidates who wish to compete in the challenging job market that 2021 will offer.

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