What Is Linux Identity and Access Management?

Written by Kelsey Kinzer on March 12, 2024

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Identity and access management (IAM) provides a consistent, centralized solution to manage user identities and automate access control throughout the organization. This helps security leaders introduce role-based access control and meet governance, risk, and compliance goals.

Your organization may already have centralized management policies in place. For example, requiring employees to use a VPN when accessing company assets remotely shows an IAM solution in action.

However, enforcing that policy in a consistent way across Linux-based cloud systems can be difficult. Now that Linux is well-established as the operating system of choice for public cloud infrastructure, IT leaders need effective solutions for managing those systems and their users securely.

The Challenge of Linux Identity and Access Management

Managing user identities and permissions is a complex task, and it gets harder as the environment grows larger. Deploying Linux-based cloud infrastructure helps improve the scalability and portability of enterprise business processes, but it can also lead to compliance and security roadblocks.

Some of these challenges include:

  • Lack of centralization. Cloud-based organizations can decentralize many of their workflows and business processes. However, decentralized IAM capabilities can lead to expensive misconfigurations and compliance oversights. 
  • User lifecycle management. Organizations that rely on manual provisioning and deprovisioning quickly run into scalability issues when migrating workflows to the cloud. Automation is a must-have feature for handling complex provisioning challenges in a growing cloud-enabled IT environment.
  • Updating application integrations on time. Centralizing single sign-on (SSO) and user management requires multiple application integrations. Your internal team may not have the time or resources necessary to manage those connectors in a timely and efficient way.
  • Gaining visibility into third-party tools and services. Cloud infrastructure is great at supporting connectivity and integration with third-party services. However, that doesn’t automatically mean you have visibility into who accesses those services and what they do with access once it’s granted.

Growing Complexity in Linux Management

Linux servers run more than 90% of public cloud infrastructure. Linux is an increasingly vital part of every cloud computing professionals’ toolset, and its popularity is growing.

Although Linux technically only accounts for a small percentage of desktop operating systems, the official statistics may be misleading. Both ChromeOS and Android are actually customized Linux distributions — which makes Linux by far the most popular operating system architecture for mobile devices.

As organizations adopt mobile-first endpoint processing technology, their share of Linux-based devices is due to increase. But the vast difference between Linux distributions and their capabilities will create additional challenges for IT teams that need to manage and secure user identities across the organization.

For example, every device needs a lock screen policy. Setting up a lock screen policy in Linux is simple, but having IT admins configure them on a one-to-one basis is not efficient. The same goes for multi-factor authentication and other account management priorities that are vital for operational security.

The Need for a Better Approach

Prior to the year 2000, on-premises IT networks mostly ran on Microsoft Windows. IT teams leveraged tools like SCCM and Active Directory to manage users and IT resources. If there were any Linux users at all, they could be managed manually.

In the mid-2000s, macOS and Linux-based systems and servers became popular Windows alternatives. Web applications like Salesforce and Google Apps (now called Google Workspace) began to replace on-premises Windows-based applications.

Soon after that, Samba file servers and NAS appliances gained popularity, alongside cloud storage alternatives such as Dropbox and Google Drive. But one of the biggest changes was the introduction of cloud infrastructure at AWS, which enabled IT organizations to shift their entire data center to the cloud.

Fast-forward to the average enterprise’s modern, cloud-enabled IT environment and all of these tools are routinely used by end users every single day. Now enterprise IT teams need to manage identities across multiple Linux-based public cloud distributions — but still use traditional Microsoft tools as the core of their IT management approach.

Switching from antiquated tools to a modern, cloud-native IT environment is rarely easy, but it offers organizations a strategic advantage in securing increasingly complex IT infrastructure.

cross-platform management

Secure & Manage Linux Systems

Cross-OS device management for the modern organization

Linux IAM With JumpCloud

JumpCloud’s Endpoint Management solution enables enterprises and managed service providers (MSPs) to support the security and accessibility of Linux distros without compromising on central governance and management.

JumpCloud uses an agent-based management protocol to support all of the most popular Linux versions, including:

  • Amazon Linux 2, 2022 | CentOS 7
  • Debian 10, 11, 12 | Fedora 36, 37, 38
  • Linux Mint (Cinnamon) 19, 20, 21
  • Pop!_OS 22.04 | RHEL 7, 8, 9
  • Rocky Linux 8, 9 | Ubuntu 18.04, 20.04, 22.04

As a centralized user management solution, JumpCloud enables integrated endpoint management and security for Linux and non-Linux devices alike. Now you can deploy and enforce mobile device usage policies that improve operational security without compromising the usability of your endpoint devices. Deliver a seamless experience to users with simplified workflows and enhanced security capabilities.

For example, JumpCloud allows you to onboard new endpoints and configure them immediately upon enrollment. Implement tasks in any language supported by the Linux device and establish company-wide security policies that apply to every endpoint and user identity in the organization.

JumpCloud even includes a preset list of Linux policies you can use to centrally manage Linux systems and endpoints. Some of these policies include:

  • Disable USB Storage. Prevent use of USB mass storage devices, such as flash drives and USB hard drives.
  • Forbidden Services. Protect devices against unknown vulnerabilities by disabling services that are not required for normal operation.
  • Lock Screen. You can remotely apply policy settings to lock one inactive system or the entire fleet in your organization using JumpCloud’s policy framework.

Sign up for a free account today and discover how JumpCloud can improve Linux identity and access management for your organization. Discover how to streamline Linux user management without letting obsolete management systems get in the way of your organization’s scalability and efficiency. Future-proof your organization’s approach to IAM solutions with JumpCloud.

Kelsey Kinzer

Kelsey is a passionate storyteller and Content Writer at JumpCloud. She is particularly inspired by the people who drive innovation in B2B tech. When away from her screen, you can find her climbing mountains and (unsuccessfully) trying to quit cold brew coffee.

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