Why Is Privileged Access Management Important To Your Organization?

Control your privileged accounts

Privileged accounts, a frequent target with real risk of cyber attack

 

Today, organizations must deal with many types of threats (cyber-attacks, fraud, theft and compromised data), which multiply when we add in the digital transformation, working from home and resources hosted in the cloud.

For this reason, privileged accounts remain a popular target for hackers. This is particularly evidenced in the attack on Uber in September 2022. Even if the impact of this attack is still being evaluated, there is no doubt in anyone’s minds that the repercussions will be massive and severe. How did it happen? Simple: the hacker was able to take control of several of the company’s crucial tools.

For cyber-attack specialists, privileged accounts are an excellent way to penetrate a company’s enterprise-wide information systems. A cyber-criminal can take control of the entire network via the hacking of a privileged account in as little as two weeks!

Because your organization’s privileged access provides access to the most critical resources by giving their account holders highly sensitive permissions, it is essential to strengthen the protection of this access. It is crucial to implement an internal policy for managing these privileged accounts.

Privileged Access Management: The Fundamentals

 

Ensuring an optimal level of security of your privileged access is mandatory and considered by most to be a best practice. Before delving into the details, here are some basics to remember.

 

What is the definition of a privileged account?

A privileged account differs from a typical standard account in that it allows its users to have a higher level of permissions on a specific perimeter of data and actions. Therefore, privileged accounts give their users the opportunity to benefit from an increased reach into assets and resources when compared to standard accounts.

The creation and use of privileged accounts is designed to ensure the confidentiality and security of critical data and operations. The resources, applications, and infrastructures protected by privileged access may differ depending on the company’s industry, among other things. However, some departments tend to use privileged accounts because they can perform sensitive operations and manipulate confidential information. This is obviously the case for the IT department, but it can also include, to a certain extent, the engineering, operation or finance groups.

Understandably, the creation of privileged access contributes to the security of data, applications and critical infrastructures present within the information systems (IS). At the same time, these privileged accounts are also considered as sensitive assets of the company, solidifying the need to identify and secure each privileged account within the organization by:

  • declaring the creation of any privileged account, and
  • documenting each access created to be aware of who has access to what, when, why and how.

 

What is Privileged Access Management?

Privileged Access Management (PAM) is a cybersecurity activity and process that aims to control usage and supervise and audit privileged access within the company’s information systems. Identities (human or machine) and activities associated with privileged accounts are scrutinized to ensure that their enhanced security is ensured when compared to standard accounts.

Privileged account management is an integral part of the Identity and Access Management (IAM) strategy. It helps manage and protect the rights of individual users but is also users of shared accounts, administrative accounts, and service accounts, all of which are considered to provide privileged access enterprise-wide.

Implement Privileged Access Management Using a PAM Solution

 

To implement privileged access management, companies often equip themselves with a specialized solution called PAM (Privileged Access Management). There are many options available on the market, including CyberArk‘s Privileged Access Manager, Wallix Bastion, Beyond Trust‘s Universal Privilege Management platform and Delinea‘s Secret Server.

 

The PAM Solution (Privileged Access Management): What are the Challenges?

 

The implementation of a PAM solution can meet a company’s requirements in the following ways.

#1. It facilitates the management of privileged accounts. Rather than relying on manual administrative processes, the updating of credentials is automated to save time and efficiency but also to reduce the risk of human error.

#2. It monitors the activity of privileged accounts. Session tracking makes it possible to detect potential threats and enforce compliance by identifying unusual behavior.

#3. It anticipates cyber threat and reduces the risk of attacks, theft, fraud or compromised data associated with privileged accounts by correcting identified security incidents in a timely manner.

#4. It moves away from the traditional cybersecurity perimeter model and takes a zero-trust approach by controlling the privileged user access to the cloud and On Premise or SaaS (Software as a Service) applications.

 

The PAM Solution (Privileged Access Management): What features does it have?

 

The use of a PAM solution makes it possible to set up an automated privileged account management strategy, based on the following features:

  • The storage of privileged credentials in centralized, encrypted vaults
  • The implementation of reinforced access control to privileged accounts which can be dynamic or based on roles (RBAC)
  • The provisioning and deprovisioning of access
  • The automatic rotation of passwords
  • The identification of abuses related to the use of privileged access (malevolence, negligence, human error) by monitoring user activity and, at times, recording user sessions.

Privileged Access Management and the PAM solution: What are the real advantages?

 

Anticipating Cyberattacks

As mentioned earlier, privileged access is a prime target for anyone wishing to control a company’s information systems. Implementing an effective privileged access management policy reduces the risk of a cyberattack on your organization.

Implementing a PAM solution can be particularly useful in centralizing and automating the management of accounts, credentials, privileged sessions in addition to protecting privileged identities. In this way, critical assets are less exposed to the risk of human error and information systems are more immune to attacks.

 

Adjust Your Cyber Strategy by Adopting the Zero-Trust Approach

The onset of working from home, hosting company resources in the cloud and granting access rights to manage the security of it all encourages companies to rethink their defense strategies with regards to the new risks that these usages generate.

The logic that is applied to privileged access management lends itself to this mindset change from the cybersecurity perimeter model to the zero-trust philosophy. This approach, presented in 2010 by John Kindervag, an analyst at Forrester Research, seeks to eliminate the notion of implicit trust within organizations.

The principle is simple: all data and resources should remain inaccessible by default. The security of assets revolves around identities (machine or human, local or remote) that must be verified and the access assigned to them in compliance with the principle of least privilege. The revocation of higher-level privileges from personal accounts, the requirement to use a PAM solution to access resources, and the implementation of session-monitoring and access-provisioning policies contribute to the implementation of a zero- trust approach.

 

Optimize Team Productivity

Managing the privileged credentials of your organization also means protecting processes and facilitating secured access to company resources for privileged users. The PAM solution allows them to easily and quickly connect to systems and applications without having to share and memorize passwords.

Moreover, team and application leaders can centrally manage access privileges granted to their team members without using different systems or applications. This offers significant time savings, allowing teams to focus on operations and improve productivity.

Privileged Access Management: Is the PAM Solution a Cure-All?

 

Being well-equipped is the first step in managing privileged access. The use of a PAM solution makes it possible to meet several challenges. However, organizations that have implemented a PAM solution sometimes encounter certain difficulties in meeting requirements, including the need to:

  • align the lifecycle of identities and their privileged accounts,
  • secure the scope of the PAM solution, which is constantly evolving,
  • track the movement of teams with access to the PAM solution,
  • avoid drift in Active Directory and in the PAM solution generated by continual changes,
  • give visibility to managers and safe owners,
  • demonstrate to external auditors the ability to correctly manage privileged accounts, and
  • optimize the licensing costs of the PAM solution.

Adopting a policy for managing privileged accounts has many advantages in terms of security, whether in preventive or curative mode. At the same time, targeting the implementation of privileged access governance is a complementary and satisfactory way to address all these needs.

Interested in learning more? More information is available here.

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