Any business that wants to stay afloat in the online world must prioritise digital transformation.

Most organisations have returned to business as usual in the wake of lockdowns, but it is clear that the demand for online services is here to stay. The popularity of online shopping has transformed retail, with 50 million online shoppers in the UK alone. So, businesses must adapt and improve their technological capabilities to keep up — and keep customers happy.

Customer experience and customer data are at the heart of successful digital transformation and, indeed, digital transactions. Whilst companies invest in tech solutions to replicate the benefits of brick-and-mortar stores — like personalisation, easy browsing and fast checkout — they must also effectively manage user access and data to ensure a safe and streamlined shopping experience.

That is why identity context and a zero-trust approach should underpin any digital transaction journey and form the basis of Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM).

How does zero trust and identity context bolster digital transactions?

Zero trust is built on the premise that no user can be granted access privileges without first being authenticated with risk-based measures like multi-factor authentication (MFA). When using MFA, users must pass a few verification tests — for example, by providing a password, one-time passcode and fingerprint or face ID — before being granted privileged access.

Fine-tuning the sign-on process in this way results in a more straightforward, smoother customer experience and a significantly reduced risk of a breach.

But of course, the process of securing user identity and any subsequent transactions does not stop at authentication. We can no longer rely on a single point of verification. Instead, the key is to authorise higher-risk transactions — whether that be a password change or a payment.

Whenever a digital transaction occurs, a range of user data should be assessed as part of a zero-trust approach to information security. For example:

1. Authentication — what do we know about the user?
2. Context — what entitlements does this user have?
3. Risk and fraud intelligence — do we have previous user behaviour or third-party analysis?
4. Application — what user data has the application requested?
5. Authentication level — is the user authorised to access the application and data?
6. Consent — what data does the user consent to share with the application?
7. Access requirements — what data is required in order to invoke the backend service API?

Answering all these questions is key to understanding more about the user and the level of access they’re entitled to. However, some concerns regarding user data need to be addressed to implement a successful CIAM system.

What needs to change in identity and entitlement management?

As organisations reach out to new technology and software partners to achieve modernisation at scale, customer consent to data sharing becomes an issue, along with fine-grained access policies in multi-partner scenarios, multi-tenant delegation and authorisation-centric identity and entitlement management.

Identity standards must no longer be brittle, static and coarse-grained but declarative, dynamic, fine-grained and able to keep up with complex user identities. However, access solutions must also move from a position where trust is implicit to one where context, user consent and zero trust are vital to ensuring safe and secure digital transactions.

Organisations must, therefore, reconfigure identity from multiple, siloed identity providers to open, industry-based standards to ensure a seamless customer experience where data is not compromised.

Data centralisation is another consideration businesses must have in mind when implementing CIAM. Modern identity solutions currently connect users to apps and apps to data, which provide user access based on the least possible privileges. Separate policies are then required to control how users access these apps, what information is released to them and how APIs are accessed.

But with so much information to handle, it makes sense to organise data management and policies centrally, not within the apps and APIs themselves. Doing so will help to maximise efficiency and streamline the distribution of policy changes, rather than following the typical, modern process of connecting users to apps and apps to data where policies are required to control user access to apps and APIs.

Implementing successful CIAM with Cloudentity

A modern identity management structure, which may involve transitioning between or consolidating multiple identity providers, implementing application programming interface (API) access control and more, is a fundamental building block of any digital transformation journey.

However, businesses must ensure they can implement CIAM without compromising user experience. We work with our partner, Cloudentity, to do just this.

Cloudentity helps organisations modernise their information security systems and refine the use of cloud-native architectures through frameworks like Authorisation as a Service (AaaS). AaaS provides authentication services in the cloud, allowing organisations to maintain high levels of information security across various platforms.

This service breaks the dependency between applications and data sources, using permission-based access controls and step-up authentication to put the user in control of their personally identifiable information (PII).

Cloudentity’s services help businesses stay on top of data distribution — making it easier and safer to share information with customers and partners by providing application and security teams with a means to automate and control how information is shared over APIs successfully.

To learn more about our work with Cloudentity and find out how our information security specialists can assist with the execution of your business’ digital transformation, contact our experts at 01252 843014 or email