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Identity life cycle

Identity life cycle definition

An identity life cycle is the stages an individual's digital identity goes through in a given system. It includes account setup, access controls, updates, and deleting an account when it’s no longer needed. We can use the term “identity life cycle” for any digital identity — from an employee to a social media platform user.

See also: information security policy

Identity life cycle stages and components

  • Account creation — The user or employee creates a digital account and establishes a digital identity.
  • Authentication and authorization — Users authenticate their identity when logging in, possibly with measures (like biometrics or tokens).
  • Verification — Users may need to verify their identities with government-issued IDs or similar documents.
  • Access management — Users are given access and permissions as needed.
  • Profile updates — User information may need to be updated to remain accurate.
  • Account recovery — Users may forget their password and ask the system to help them regain access to their accounts.
  • Security measures — Part of the life cycle is protecting user accounts with various measures, like MFA.
  • Monitoring and auditing — Systems may monitor user activities to detect and respond to suspicious behavior (e.g., account takeover).
  • Deactivation and deletion — When the user leaves an organization or platform, their account is deleted or deactivated.

Identity life cycle examples

  • Employee onboarding and offboarding. When a new employee joins a company, they get a new digital identity (e.g., create a user account and get various privileges). When the employee leaves, the responsible people in the company deactivate their digital identity to prevent unauthorized access.
  • User account on a social media platform (like Facebook or Instagram). When an individual signs up for a social media platform, they create a digital identity by providing personal information and setting a username and password. They can update their profile, change their password, and may eventually deactivate or delete their account, marking the end of their identity life cycle.