Understanding digital identity

As the world grows more digitally inclined by the second, the concept of digital identity increases in relevance.

What is digital identity? How do individuals and businesses use it? What security issues surround it, and how can an organization establish best practices for managing it?

Let’s take a closer look at understanding the basics of digital identity – what it means, common terms associated with the concept, how it is used, and security threats associated with them. We will also look at some more advanced topics surrounding the subject.

Consider this your comprehensive guide to all things digital identity. 

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What is digital identity?

A digital identity is a collection of data that digitally represents a person or entity (though obviously the data used can vary). Common data used to comprise an individual’s digital identity include:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Home address
  • Digital access and user behavior


What digital identity is not 

There are a variety of terms that are related to and often confused with digital identity. Below are distinctions to help you understand how these concepts differ.

There’s a critical distinction between an individual’s personal identity and their digital identity. An individual’s personal identity is the unique set of characteristics that define that person in the physical world. A person’s digital identity refers to an individual’s digital footprint on a network.

Why digital identity matters

Types and examples of digital identity

There are three primary forms of digital identities that can apply across an organization. Each one serves a different purpose within an organization.

Human identity vs. machine identity vs. cloud identity

Human identity refers to the digital identity of an individual or person. A machine identity is the identity of a specific device or system. Finally, cloud identity is an overarching identity solution that manages individuals and groups accessing a system.

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Digital identity of devices

With the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), an increasing number of devices are connected to the internet and require digital identities. This includes everything from smart thermostats and home security systems to industrial equipment and medical devices. Managing and monitoring the digital identities of these devices is crucial for ensuring secure and reliable operation.

Digital identity of organizations

Organizations can also have their own digital identity in the same way an individual can. This includes all the information available about an organization in the digital space. It can encompass the data from a company’s website (both public and private), social media accounts, and any other digital properties the organization may own or operate. Like individuals must be able to protect their digital identities, an organization should take special precautions to secure the data that makes up its digital identity. Failure to do so can lead to a lack of consumer trust and damage to its digital brand.

Digital identity and Zero Trust

A Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) limits the damage a bad actor can do by focusing on securing the identity rather than the perimeter. The purpose of this modern approach is to enable a user to access information only in accordance with policy and permissions.

At the core of Zero Trust lies identity and access management (IAM), which are the policies and technologies to ensure that the right users have access to the right data and applications, for the right reasons.

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Your identity-centric Zero Trust strategy starts here

Implementing Zero Trust requires an identity-centric strategy that can be daunting for organizations with decentralized, mixed ecosystems. Understand the capabilities you need with the Imprivata digital identity framework.

More digital identity resources

Why digital identity matters

Defining the basic concepts of digital identity is only the first step in understanding it. There are many associated issues that raise complicated questions and challenges.

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The digital identity framework

The digital identity framework provides IT and security leaders with a toolkit to drive their IAM strategy.

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Digital identity assessment

Assess the effectiveness of your current digital identity strategy.

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