It’s commonly accepted that you need permission to enter someone’s home. Similarly, not every employee of a company should freely enter the server room. In the digital world and the realm of Identity and Access Management (IAM), entitlement is the translation of this principle.

What is an Entitlement in Identity & Access Management (IAM)?

Within IAM, an entitlement can be seen as a right, permission, authorization, or access to digital systems, applications, data, or other resources. After identifying (who is the user) and authenticating (is the user who they claim to be), these define the access, editing, and/or usage rights (what the user is allowed to do). In IAM, entitlements are the basis of authorization management. It’s a crucial part of security, ensuring that only the right users have access to certain data. By limiting entitlements to only necessary users, you minimize the risk of unauthorized access to critical resources.

What are User Rights?

Loosely translated, an entitlement is a user right. User rights, therefore, are the specific rights assigned to an individual user. User rights determine what a user can do within a system, application, or other digital environment. This can range from accessing specific data or functionalities to editing or deleting information. A person’s user rights often depend on the role they play within an organization.

What is the Difference Between Roles and Rights?

Roles and rights are often used interchangeably. Though both are key concepts within IAM, they are not the same. An entitlement or user right is an individual permission that grants a user access to specific systems, applications, functionalities, or data. Roles are collections of user rights assigned to a specific group of users.

How are User Rights Assigned?

The authorization model of an IAM solution is responsible for granting and revoking user rights within connected systems. The advantage of such a structured and automated approach to granting and managing entitlements? It reduces human errors by ensuring the right users have access to the systems, networks, software, applications, and devices they need. An IAM system offers various ways to assign entitlements to users. The three main methods are:

  • Role-based (RBAC): The IAM system determines whether a user is granted permission by assigning them a specific role or placing them in a specific group. Imagine a large company with various departments. By assigning an employee a role, they gain access to all applications and data necessary for their specific role. For example, an accountant would have access to financial applications and data, while an HR employee would have access to HR software and personnel files.
  • Attribute-based (ABAC): In attribute-based rights management, users are granted permission based on specific attributes. These attributes can include job function, department, location, or even a specific client or project they are working for. Within the authorization model of the IAM application, you can determine which applications or data they may view based on these attributes.
  • Workflow-based (Service Automation): In workflow-based rights, rights are granted based on a process or workflow. Some user rights are too risky to be granted automatically. Other user rights lead to the allocation of expensive licenses that are only needed sporadically. For these kinds of user rights, you can initiate a workflow that grants the necessary access rights. This ensures that no access is granted without the required approvals. And you can automatically revoke user rights after a certain period.