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Difference Between IAM, IGA, and PAM - An Introduction

Updated: Jan 29

Identity and Access Management (IAM), Identity Governance and Administration (IGA), and Privileged Access Management (PAM) are three interrelated areas that have become increasingly important in the identity security landscape. IAM is a critical security function that manages digital identities and user access to data, systems, and resources within an organization. IGA automates the creation, management, and certification of user accounts, roles, and access rights for individual users in an organization. PAM primarily defines and controls access for privileged users.

IAM is a critical security function that manages digital identities and user access to data, systems, and resources within an organization. It is a comprehensive approach to managing digital identities, access rights, and authentication across an organization’s IT infrastructure. IAM solutions enable companies to become more proactive in anticipating identity-related access risks that result from the dynamic business environment.

IGA automates the creation, management, and certification of user accounts, roles, and access rights for individual users in an organization. This means companies can streamline user provisioning, password management, policy management, access governance, and access reviews within their business. While IGA (and IAM for that matter) encompass all types of identities throughout your organization, PAM solutions focus on privileged identities – those identities that have elevated access to systems and sensitive data, such as domain administrators, root accounts, and other superusers.

PAM solutions work together with IGA solutions to ensure that privileged accounts are managed effectively. The focus on managing the access of people, digital identities, and privileged accounts has increased significantly to address these risks. By leveraging these three areas appropriately in your organization’s identity strategies and programs, you can mitigate identity-related access risks within your business.

 What's the Difference Between IAM, IGA, and PAM
Security Blog by CredenceIA

Capability Differences of IAM, IGA and PAM

1. IAM - Identity and Access Management

Identity and Access Management (IAM) is the foundational concept that forms the basis of many security systems. At its core, IAM is concerned with managing digital identities and controlling access to various resources within an organization. The primary objective of IAM is to ensure that the right people have access to the right resources at the right time.

Key Features of IAM:

  • User provisioning and deprovisioning.

  • Role-based access control (RBAC).

  • Single Sign-On (SSO) capabilities.

  • Multifactor authentication (MFA) for enhanced security.

  • Password management and self-service password resets.

IAM is primarily focused on ensuring that users (employees, contractors, partners, etc.) can access the systems and data they need to perform their roles efficiently and securely.

2. IGA - Identity Governance and Administration

Identity Governance and Administration (IGA) builds upon the foundation of IAM but extends its scope to include a more robust governance and compliance framework. IGA is about establishing policies, processes, and procedures to manage and oversee identities and access within an organization. It focuses on ensuring that access is not only appropriate but also compliant with industry regulations and organizational policies.

Key Features of IGA:

  • Access request and approval workflows.

  • Periodic access reviews and certifications.

  • Compliance and audit reporting.

  • Segregation of duties (SoD) enforcement.

  • Lifecycle management of identities and access.

IGA is essential for organizations that need to maintain a high level of control and accountability over their identity and access management practices. It's particularly crucial in industries with stringent compliance requirements, such as finance and healthcare.

3. PAM - Privileged Access Management

Privileged Access Management (PAM) is a specialized subset of IAM that specifically deals with managing and securing privileged accounts and access. Privileged accounts are those with elevated privileges, often held by IT administrators or other trusted personnel. Protecting these accounts is vital because they have the potential to cause significant harm if misused.

Key Features of PAM:

  • Just-in-time (JIT) access.

  • Session recording and monitoring.

  • Password rotation and vaulting.

  • Role-based access control for privileged users.

  • Threat detection and response.

PAM focuses on minimizing the risk associated with privileged access to administrative accounts by providing tight control and monitoring mechanisms, reducing the likelihood of unauthorized access or misuse. The type of privilege administrative account could include one or more of the following:

1. Root and Domain Administrator Accounts:

  • These accounts have superuser privileges on servers and systems, providing full access and control. Domain administrators have control over the entire network domain, including user accounts, security policies, and resources

  • Compromising these accounts can have severe consequences.

2. Database Administrator (DBA) Accounts:

  • DBA accounts have privileged access to databases, allowing them to modify, update, or delete data.

  • Critical for managing and maintaining databases efficiently.

3. Service Accounts:

  • Service accounts are used to run various applications and services within an organization.

  • These accounts may have access to critical resources and need to be protected.

4. Application Accounts:

  • Accounts associated with specific applications often have privileges to access databases or perform certain actions.

  • Controlling these accounts is essential for application security.

5. SSH Keys and Certificates:

  • Secure Shell (SSH) keys and certificates are used for remote access to servers and devices.

  • Managing and securing these cryptographic keys is crucial to prevent unauthorized access.

6. Cloud Management Console, IoT Device Management Accounts:

  • In cloud environments, management console accounts grant access to cloud resources and configurations.

  • IoT accounts responsible for managing Internet of Things (IoT) devices may have privileged access to network resources.

  • Securing these accounts is essential for cloud security.

7. Backup and Recovery Accounts:

  • Backup and recovery accounts are used to manage data backup and restoration processes.

  • They can have access to sensitive data and need protection.

8. Security Devices Accounts:

  • Accounts used to manage security devices like firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and anti-virus solutions.

  • These accounts control the security posture of the organization.

9. Local Administrator Accounts:

  • Local administrator accounts on individual devices or servers can pose security risks if not properly managed.

  • PAM can enforce strong controls on these accounts.

10. Emergency Access Accounts:

  • These accounts are used in critical situations for emergency access to systems.

  • PAM should provide tight controls and audit capabilities for emergency access.


IAM, IGA, and PAM are integral components of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. While they share some common ground, there are difference Between IAM, IGA, and PAM and each serves a distinct purpose. Understanding the differences between them is vital for organizations to implement the right combination of these solutions to protect their digital assets and meet compliance requirements. IAM provides access, IGA adds governance, and PAM secures privileged access, all working together to create a robust security framework.

How CredenceIA Can Help Organizations with effective IAM, IGA, and PAM Projects?

CredenceIA offers comprehensive cybersecurity planning, assessment, implementation, and managed services solutions to help organizations balance efficiency and effectiveness in managing their existing security initiatives. Our team have helped numerous clients with planning and execution of IAM, IGA and PAM initiatives.

CredenceIA Consulting’s team is dedicated to helping organizations reduce their risk of attack, streamline regulatory certification and compliance, improve operational efficiencies , improve access governance and increase end user engagement. Ensuring appropriate access is a crucial step in mitigating risk and improving the overall security posture of your organization. Don’t wait until you are reacting to a security incident. CredenceIA Consulting’s Identity Governance and Administration (IGA) and Privileged Access Management (PAM) solutions can help lay the foundation for a solid Identity and Access Management program in your organization. Our experienced team helps CISOs with making business case for modern IAM, IGA programs, stay compliant, provide foundation for effective program planning from requirements to organizational change management.

By partnering with CredenceIA, our clients get personalized attention, agility, cost-effective solutions, and deep expertise. Your organization's security is not a one-size-fits-all matter, and neither should your service provider be. Contact us today to experience the CredenceIA difference and to discuss how our expert advisors can help your organizations to make the business case for transitioning from legacy IGA systems.

Note: This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as professional advice. For specific cybersecurity guidance and implementation, consult with a qualified cybersecurity consultant at CredenceIA Consulting.

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