As more enterprises are transforming their business and operations to the Cloud, traditional network perimeter security is no longer sufficient. Attacks can originate from anywhere – inside or outside the traditional network boundaries. To effectively safeguard digital assets, organizations must pivot to an identity-first security approach, making Identity and Access Management (IAM) a cornerstone of their cybersecurity strategy. This shift can be challenging, especially as many organizations are still grappling with basic IAM implementations.

IAM is the pivotal enabler for ensuring appropriate access rights at the required time. With the advent of Web3, Industry 4.0, artificial intelligence and hyperautomation, the scope of IAM must expand to protect an ever-increasing number of identities and systems while mitigating attacks. The only viable option for companies is to adopt robust IAM security measures that offer continuous, real-time, context-aware identity and access control.

This article will delve into the essentials of identity-first security and how to accelerate zero trust adoption through an identity-first zero trust transformation approach.

Adopting identity-first security

In adopting identity-first security, organizations enhance their cybersecurity posture by focusing on securing the identities accessing their systems and data. This approach becomes especially relevant in the context of decentralized computing environments in the Cloud and pervasive data access where traditional perimeter-based security models are less effective in such dynamic cyber threat landscapes.

Identity-first security centralizes the concept of the identity — encompassing individuals, devices, applications and any entities within a system or network. It pivots security measures around verification, authentication and authorization processes to ensure secure access to data and resources. This approach aims to establish a consistent, real-time, continuous, context-aware access control system, integrating IAM tools with other cybersecurity measures to bolster defences and enhance user experience.

The components and requirements for implementing identity-first security are outlined in the table below:

Component Requirements Benefits
Identity verification This thoroughly validates the identity of users, devices, or entities before granting access to resources.

Apply identity proofing for initial linking of an identity to a person, and re-verification where needed.

Strengthened user or machine authentication processes often incorporate multi-factor authentication (MFA) and digital certificates, which reduce the risk of unauthorized access due to compromised credentials.


Access control Implement strict access controls based on user roles, responsibilities, and the principle of least privilege. Only grant the minimum level of access necessary for individuals to perform their tasks. This enables organizations to implement granular access controls, ensuring users have the minimum necessary permissions to perform their tasks (principle of least privilege), thereby reducing the attack surface.


Adaptive authorization This uses adaptive and context-aware authorization mechanisms that consider various situational factors such as identity, device, location, time, behavior and current threats to assess the risk associated with a particular access request before granting prescribed access. Adopting adaptive authorization mechanisms that assess risk factors and recommendations from security monitoring to dynamically adjust granted access and authentication requirements, this enhances security without compromising user experience.


Continuous monitoring and response Monitor and analyze user and entity behavior continuously to detect anomalies or suspicious activities.

Re-evaluate the real-time risk associated with each action and prompt for re-authentication, or a stronger authentication or identity verification.

This provides better visibility into user and entity activities through continuous monitoring and analysis, allowing organizations to detect and respond to suspicious behavior in real-time.
Identity governance and administration Establish policies and procedures to govern the lifecycle of digital identities, including onboarding, management, and de-provisioning. This ensures that identities are managed securely throughout their lifecycle. This establishes robust identity governance practices for managing the entire lifecycle of digital identities, including onboarding, periodic reviews, recertification campaign and de-provisioning, reducing the risk of orphaned or unauthorized accounts.


Privilege access management Manage and control elevated privileges, ensuring users have the necessary permissions for their roles without unnecessary access to sensitive resources. Improve the management and control of elevated privileges and reduce the risk of privilege misuse or abuse by ensuring users only have the necessary access for their specific roles.


Integrate IAM with other security measures Collaborate with other security technologies and measures such as encryption, endpoint security, and threat intelligence, to create a comprehensive and layered security infrastructure. This adapts well to dynamic and complex IT environments, including cloud services, mobile devices, and diverse user communities, providing a flexible and scalable security framework.


The required components for identity-first security implementation can be realized by Eviden’s identity-first security framework illustrated below. This framework provides a structured view of how different IAM and security products are integrated together using the Identity Integration and Orchestration Platform as the central control layer. This platform manages the communication between access requests and prescribed least privilege access to protected data and resources. It enables a flexible architecture to extend IAM capabilities to other security controls and systems supporting a holistic Zero Trust implementation.

A successful identity-first implementation requires a holistic transformation across people, process and technology and not just a focus on the technology implementation alone. This framework model helps assess the implementation and integration maturity across all of your identity and security ecosystems.


  1. Evaluate how identity-first security can enhance your cybersecurity posture.
  2. Evolve your IAM Ecosystems into an interoperable identity framework.
  3. Plan the expansion of IAM services across people, process and technology to meet the needs of growing user communities and environments.

Identity-first zero trust transformation

“86% organization have begun embracing zero-trust security, but only 2% have achieved maturity across zero trust pillars.”

As cybersecurity challenges continue to escalate, zero trust security offers a comprehensive and adaptive framework that aligns seamlessly with the needs of modern and dynamic business environments. Its focus on continuous verification, strict access controls and distrust assumptions positions it as a strategic choice for organizations aiming to bolster their security posture. The key challenge for organizations implementing zero trust security is strategically planning their sustainable transformation and delivering anticipated values to their business.

The critical success factors are given below:

Define clear objectives Clearly outline the goals and objectives of your zero trust implementation to provide a roadmap for the process.
Assessment of current state Evaluate your existing security infrastructure, identify weaknesses, and understand the current state of access controls and user permissions.
Adopt identity-first security Prioritize identity as the foundation of your security strategy, focusing on strong authentication, access controls, and continuous security monitoring and response.
Collaboration with business stakeholders Work with business stakeholders to ensure a comprehensive and effective zero trust strategy is tailored to your organization’s business needs and delivering value.
Compliance integration Align your zero trust implementation with industry regulations and compliance standards to ensure a robust security framework.
Executive support Obtain support from executive leadership to ensure adequate resources and commitment for the successful implementation of zero trust.
Employee collaboration Foster collaboration and communication among different departments, including IT, security, and operations, to ensure a holistic and coordinated approach.

The zero trust transformation involves a series of continuous activities as illustrated in the diagram below.

No. Stage Steps
1 Protecting asset a. Create an inventory of all assets, devices, and applications within your network to have a comprehensive understanding of your digital environment.

b. Identify and classify your critical data, mapping their data flow and apply encryption to protect them.

2 Managing identity


a. Automate the management of identity and access lifecycle with Identity Governance and Administration (IGA) and Access Management (AM) tools to ensure which identity has the appropriate access to what asset at the right time.
3 Strengthening authentication and authorization a. Implement strong authentication mechanisms such as multifactor authentication (MFA), or passwordless authentication. Optimize your access control with continuous risk assessments, user behavior analytics and threat intelligence.
4 Impact reduction


a. Reduce impact when your IAM infrastructure is in breach – Implement network segmentation to limit lateral movement within the network and isolate critical assets.

b. Apply micro-segmentation to enhance security by dividing the network into smaller, isolated segments based on specific protocols.

5 Refine enforcement


a. Enforce the principle of least privilege, ensuring users and systems only have the minimum access necessary to perform their tasks. Review your granularity of your access level including how to control your privileged access.
6 Monitoring and response a. Establish continuous monitoring mechanisms to promptly detect and respond to deviated granted access in real-time.
7 Testing and deploying


a. Keep security measures updated with the latest standards and conduct regular testing to identify vulnerabilities and areas for improvement.

b. Educate users about the principles of zero trust and the importance of secure behaviors to enhance the human element of security.

8 Review a. Embrace a culture of continuous improvement, regularly assessing and refining your zero trust maturity and strategy based on evolving threats and organizational changes.

Here are my top 3 recommendations as you set out on this journey:

  1. Acknowledge the importance of zero trust to your organization and prioritize the implementation tasks, based on business drivers.
  2. Align the transformation program across the business organization and maintain the balance between technology implementation and business alignment.
  3. Secure executive support and funding across business lines to ensure a continuous and sustainable transformation to deliver successful zero trust outcomes.