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Today’s workforce has no boundaries. Organizations are no longer stocked with full-time employees — they have a much larger ecosystem comprising a variety of contractors and partners.

Ultimately, this means that more devices, from more locations, are accessing company resources than ever before. 

“In this boundaryless world, not only do you have to secure access to these resources from outside your own network and your own organizational boundary, but you have to be able to govern access to them,” said Sagnik Nandy, President and CDO for workforce identity at Okta. 

And, traditionally, companies have often invested in disjointed tools — and then quickly and unfortunately discovered that they aren’t able to keep pace with modern business. 

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“It requires too many custom integrations and handoffs, and also results in a poor user experience, which, in turn, hampers user adoption,” said Nandy. “Siloes and low-adoption rates limit visibility, and the security holes persist.”

This is the quandary that Okta aims to solve with Okta Workforce Identity Cloud. The company unveiled the unified identity tool at its annual Oktane22 conference this week. 

Avoiding identity siloes

The Workforce Identity Cloud provides a single control plane giving IT and security teams the ability to manage identity across enterprise resources and users, “which has become more and more challenging in a boundaryless world,” said Nandy.

The tool unifies the “three pillars of modern identity management” into a single control pane: IAM, Identity Governance and Administration (IGA) and Privileged Access Management (PAM). 

It includes Okta Identity Governance, which simplifies the process of requesting and granting access to resources, allowing IT teams to ensure that only the right users have access to the specific resources. It also includes Okta Privileged Access, which secures highly-privileged credentials for admin and root accounts. And, it gives admins the necessary tools to bolster security for privileged resources, monitor and record privileged access, and run detailed compliance reports for auditors, said Nandy. 

The tool provides an orchestration layer that leverages automation and provides visibility and control of enterprise identities, said Nandy, and that can pull in third party signals. 

All told, Workforce Identity Cloud integrates across the security stack and helps IT teams govern access for all use cases, said Nandy. This can help eliminate trade-offs between user experience and security, and IT and workforces can become “more agile and productive.” 

Nandy emphasized the fact that Okta is independent and neutral, making it compatible with thousands of applications, users, devices, OS’ and infrastructure providers. And, the company continues to seek out new use cases for business challenges around identity, he said.

“Given the rise of multi-cloud and the continued adoption of a broad and deep ecosystem of SaaS applications, identity solutions for privileged and non-privileged users really need to span the full landscape of technology choice, or risk creating the kinds of identity siloes that result in security holes,” said Nandy. 

The right access at the right level at the right time

Identity access management (IAM) is a framework to ensure that the right users have the access they should have (or not) to an organization’s technology resources. And, with the average cost of a data breach at an all-time high of $4.35 million, demand for (IAM) tools like Okta’s continue to increase. Fortune Business Insights puts the market on track to reach $34.52 billion in 2028, up from $13.41 billion in 2021 (a CAGR of 14.5%). 

Okta — which competes for market share with Oracle, IBM, SailPoint and Azure, among others — seeks to elevate IAM to a new level, and also converge access management, identity governance, and privileged access.

Okta Workforce Identity Cloud is aimed at a broad swath of identity needs, but Nandy particularly pointed to the many inherent risks posed by standing privileges. That is, when privileged accounts or users have standing access to critical infrastructure and resources. 

Ultimately, these create more security vulnerabilities because they extend access to users who may no longer require it, making their user credentials targeted assets for threat actors. 

“We’ve seen a ton of attacks that have their origins in these kinds of standing privileges,” said Nandy. 

By integrating IGA and PAM with IAM, IT has more power and control over access management without compromising security or user experience, he said. 

Today’s technology environment is heterogenous, so it is critical to integrate well with everything, said Nandy. However, most providers think of IGA, PAM and IAM as distinct, rather than a unified approach. This limits what devices and operating systems they can manage as part of a single platform, rather than one that spans multiple operating systems, applications, devices and user types. 

But, he said, organizations should recognize that they do have the ability to improve experience, keep customers secure and enable app builders to focus on what is most important: Innovating for their customers. It just takes the right mix of tools.

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