PIM vs PAM vs IAM: Understand The Differences

PIM vs PAM vs IAM: Understand The Differences
PIM vs PAM vs IAM: Understand The Differences

In today’s high-risk environment, companies must adopt a multi-layered approach to security, where PIM (Privileged Identity Management), PAM (Privileged Access Management), and IAM (Identity and Access Management) serve as critical components of a strong defence strategy.

By implementing these frameworks, organisations can effectively manage access, monitor user activities, and mitigate the risks associated with privileged accounts – a prime target for malicious actors.

To ensure proper implementation, let us understand the nuances of PIM vs PAM vs IAM.

PIM vs PAM vs IAM – What’s the Difference?

While all three involve privileges, the differences between them lie in how they function.

IAM revolves around how companies define and manage user roles so that regular users have the right permissions to access resources needed for their roles. PIM and PAM are subsets of IAM. PIM decides which resources users can access and secures privileged accounts. PAM refers to the management of privileged accounts.

While IAM, PIM, and PAM work together to enhance an organisation's security posture, it's crucial to understand their distinct roles and differences:

  1. Scope: IAM is the broadest of the three frameworks, encompassing access management for all users and resources within an organisation. PIM and PAM, on the other hand, are focused specifically on managing privileged accounts and access.
  2. Primary Function: IAM governs the overall access management process, including authentication, authorisation, and user lifecycle management.

PIM is primarily concerned with managing the identities of privileged users, while PAM goes a step further by controlling and monitoring how these privileged identities interact with critical systems and data.

3. Access Control: IAM defines access policies and controls for all users based on their roles and responsibilities. PIM enforces strict access controls for privileged accounts, limiting who can access them, when, and what actions can be performed.

PAM takes access control to a granular level, ensuring that privileged users can access only the resources necessary for their specific roles.

4. Monitoring and Auditing: While IAM provides monitoring and auditing capabilities for overall user activities, PIM and PAM focus specifically on monitoring and logging activities associated with privileged accounts and access.

PAM often includes advanced features such as session monitoring, recording, and behaviour analytics.

5. Password Management: IAM typically includes password management capabilities for regular user accounts, while PIM and PAM focus on strong password management practices for privileged accounts, including password vaulting, rotation, and encryption.

By understanding IAM vs PIM vs PAM, organisations can better align their security strategies and implement the appropriate solutions to address their specific needs and risk profiles.

What is Identity and Access Management (IAM)?

At the core of any security strategy lies Identity and Access Management (IAM). This comprehensive framework governs how users – whether employees, contractors, or third-party vendors – are granted access to an organisation's resources, such as applications, data, and systems.

IAM encompasses a range of policies, processes, and technologies that ensure the right users have access to the right resources at the right time and for the right reasons.

Key Components of IAM:

  1. Authentication: Verifying a user's identity through various factors, such as passwords, biometrics, or multi-factor authentication (MFA).
  2. Authorisation: Depending on their roles and responsibilities, authenticated users are granted different levels of access and permissions.
  3. User Provisioning and Deprovisioning: Managing user accounts lifecycles from creating new accounts to modifying or revoking access when necessary.
  4. Single Sign-On (SSO): Accessing multiple apps and services with one credential simplifies and reduces credential misuse.
  5. Identity Governance and Administration (IGA): Ensuring that access policies are in line with business needs and regulatory requirements through audits and reports.

By implementing IAM, organisations can effectively manage user identities, control access to sensitive data, and maintain a secure environment for their digital assets.

What is Privileged Identity Management (PIM)?

While IAM provides a comprehensive approach to access management, Privileged Identity Management (PIM) focuses specifically on safeguarding highly privileged accounts – those with elevated permissions and access to critical systems and data.

Privileged accounts, often used by administrators, developers, and other IT personnel, pose a significant risk if compromised. Malicious actors actively seek to exploit these accounts to gain unauthorised access, potentially leading to data breaches, system disruptions, and other severe consequences.

This highlights the importance of solutions like PIM vs PAM in securing and controlling access to these high-risk privileged accounts. PIM addresses this risk by implementing a set of policies and security measures designed to protect and manage privileged accounts.

Key Features of PIM:

  1. Identifying and cataloguing all privileged accounts in the organisation, including those used by employees, contractors, and third-party vendors.
  2. Limiting access to privileged accounts, when they can be accessed, and what they can do.
  3. Continuously monitoring and logging all activities associated with privileged accounts, enabling real-time detection of safety incidents and providing a comprehensive audit trail for compliance purposes.
  4. Granting privileged access only when needed and for a limited time reduces the attack surface and risk of unauthorised access.
  5. Implementing strong password management practices, including regular password rotation and secure storage of credentials for privileged accounts.

By implementing PIM, organisations can reduce the risk of privileged account misuse, mitigate a breach, and enhance control over their most sensitive assets.

What is Privileged Access Management (PAM)?

While PIM focuses on managing privileged identities, Privileged Access Management (PAM) encompasses privileged identities and access.

PAM solutions secure privileged employee accounts and define the level of access for privileged users for systems, applications, and data. PAM builds upon the foundation laid by PIM and introduces additional layers of security and control.

Key Features of PAM:

  1. Granular Access Control: Implementing granular access controls to ensure that privileged users can access only the resources necessary for their roles, reducing the risk of unauthorised access and data exposure.
  2. Session Monitoring and Recording: Continuously monitoring and recording privileged user activities, enabling detection of suspicious behaviour and providing valuable forensic data for incident response and investigation.
  3. Password Vaulting: Secure encryption, storage and rotation of account credentials in a centralised vault. This reduces the risk of credential theft or misuse.
  4. Approval Workflows: Requiring approvals from designated personnel before granting access to critical resources, ensuring accountability and oversight.
  5. Behavior Analytics: Incorporating advanced analytics capabilities to detect discrepancies in privileged account behaviour and patterns, enabling proactive identification of potential threats.

By implementing PAM (Privileged Access Management), organisations can establish a comprehensive security framework that not only manages privileged identities but also controls and monitors how those identities interact with critical systems and data, distinguishing PAM vs PIM, which focuses solely on managing privileged identities.

IAM vs PAM vs PIM – The Synergistic Power of IAM, PIM, and PAM

While IAM, PIM, and PAM serve distinct purposes, their true power lies in their collective implementation and synergistic approach to security. When integrated effectively, these frameworks work in harmony to provide a multi-layered defence against cyber threats.

Here's how IAM, PIM, and PAM work together to enhance an organisation's security posture:

  1. IAM sets the foundation by controlling access based on user identities and roles. PIM and PAM further refine access control to critical data, particularly for privileged users, reducing the risk of unauthorised access and data manipulation.
  2. PAM and IAM offer comprehensive monitoring capabilities, enabling organisations to detect and respond to suspicious incidents in real-time. Suspicious events or deviations from normal behaviour can be quickly identified and addressed.
  3. IAM's Identity Governance and Administration (IGA) component ensures that access management policies are in line with regulatory standards. PIM and PAM also contribute to compliance by implementing strict controls, auditing practices, and providing detailed audit trails.
  4. All three frameworks – IAM, PIM, and PAM – emphasise strong password management and secure access control, reducing the risk of credential-related security breaches.
  5. By implementing just-in-time access policies and granular access controls, PIM and PAM reduce the attack surface, making it more difficult to exploit vulnerabilities and gain unauthorised access.

By leveraging the collective strengths of IAM, PIM, and PAM, organisations can establish a strong security posture, mitigate the risks associated with privileged accounts, and maintain a high level of control over their digital assets.


These were some key differences between IAM vs PAM vs PIM. By using the collective strengths of IAM, PIM, and PAM, organisations can establish a strong security posture, mitigate risks associated with privileged accounts, and maintain control over critical systems and data.

Understanding the differences between these frameworks is key to implementing an effective, comprehensive security strategy.

Solutions like InstaSafe's Multi-Factor authentication further bolster these security frameworks, providing an additional layer of protection against cyber threats.

Organisations can strengthen their defence against cyber threats by adopting InstaSafe's cutting-edge multi-factor authentication and privileged access management capabilities, seamlessly integrating with IAM, PIM, and PAM frameworks.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

  1. What is the difference between Microsoft PIM and PAM?

The difference between Microsoft PIM and PAM is that Microsoft PIM focuses on managing privileged identities and accounts, while Microsoft PAM provides additional capabilities for controlling and monitoring privileged access to systems and data.

2. Which IAM tool is best?

There is no single "best" IAM tool, as the choice depends on an organisation's specific requirements, existing infrastructure, and budget.

3. Is Active Directory an IAM?

Microsoft Active Directory (AD) can manage user identities, authentication, and access in a Windows domain environment as an IAM solution. However, standalone AD may not provide the full range of IAM capabilities needed for modern, hybrid environments.