What does Privileged Access mean?
Privileged access provides elevated capabilities beyond those of regular users. This allows organizations to maintain the confidentiality of sensitive data and safeguard critical infrastructure by providing privileged access to their infrastructure and applications.
Privileged access refers to granting an account elevated privileges or capabilities that far exceed those of a regular user. For instance, in both Linux and Windows environments, the root user possesses such privileges, enabling actions like adding or deleting users and accessing restricted resources beyond the reach of regular users. The root user can even install or remove software/applications from the operating system.
What is PAM - Privileged Access Management?
Privileged Access Management (PAM) is a comprehensive cybersecurity approach that consists of various strategies and technologies to exert control over elevated access and permissions for users, accounts, processes, and systems within an IT environment. By optimizing privileged access controls, PAM assists organizations in minimizing their attack surface, effectively countering external threats, insider misconduct, or inadvertent errors. The main objective of privilege management is to enforce the principle of least privileges, which involves restricting access rights and permissions for users, accounts, applications, systems, devices, and computing processes to the absolute minimum required for authorized routine activities.
Privileged Access Management (PAM) safeguards identities with special access or capabilities beyond regular users. Just like all other miniOrange security solutions, the PAM solution is a combination of people, processes, and technology. Privileged accounts need extra protection as they pose a considerable risk to the whole organization’s IT ecosystem. There are various terms associated with PAM such as Privileged Account Management, Privileged Identity Management (PIM), and Privilege Management. Privilege management functions within the wider scope of identity and access management (IAM) and identity security. PAM and IAM together offer granular control over resources, session and audit control, granting privileges and access control, and enhancing overall security.
Privileged accounts should be handled with extra care, as they can put the whole IT ecosystem at risk. When credentials of a privileged account get compromised it can lead to a major data breach or loss of confidential information.
What are Privileges and how are they created?
Privileges are nothing but simply authority given to a few accounts or processes within an organization’s IT ecosystem. A user with Privileges has the authority to overrule or bypass many security restrictions like account configuration, provisioning, network configuration, or rebooting the system.
Privileges are essential for granting users, applications, and system processes special rights to access resources and perform work tasks. However, they also pose a significant security risk, as they can be misused or exploited by insiders or external attackers. These privileges are integrated into operating systems, file systems, applications, databases, and other platforms. Additionally, specific privileged users, like system or network administrators, can assign privileges as well.
Why is Privileged Access Management (PAM) important for your Organization?
Privileged Access Management is vital in any organization as privileged accounts pose a significant risk to the enterprise. For instance, if a threat actor compromises a standard user account, they will only have access to that particular user's information. However, if they manage to compromise a privileged user, they will have far greater access and, depending on the account, may even have the ability to sabotage systems.
Due to their status and profile, cybercriminals target privileged accounts so that they can compromise entire organizations instead of a single user. With Forrester estimating that 80 percent of security breaches involve privileged accounts, securing and monitoring these core enterprise identities is vital. For instance, a PAM solution can solve security weaknesses, such as multiple users accessing and knowing the same administrative password for a particular service. It also mitigates the risk of long-standing static passwords that administrators do not want to change because they fear it could cause an unplanned disruption.
PAM is vital for secure access and streamlines the setup of administrator accounts, elevated access rights, and cloud application settings. In IT security, PAM minimizes an organization's attack risk on networks, servers, and identities, effectively lowering the chances of data breaches from internal or external cyber threats.
Privileged Access Management (PAM) - Best Practices
The effectiveness of a Privileged Access Management solution relies on its implementation. As a result, organizations should take into account the following best practices:
- The Principle of Least Privileges - management of Privileged accounts is not possible without implementing the Principle of least privilege.
- Remove admin rights - To enhance security, it's recommended to remove administrative rights on endpoints. Instead of granting default privileges to all, users should be assigned standard privileges, with elevated access only for specific applications or tasks. If additional access is required, users can submit a help desk request for approval. For most Windows and Mac users, having admin access on their local machines is unnecessary.
- Remove standing privileges - Standing privileges are those that are ‘always on’, and should be eliminated wherever possible. Privileged access for individuals should not be given for an indefinite timeframe and should expire after a limit. In an ideal situation, no user account in an IT ecosystem should have any standing privileges; this is also known as the concept of zero-stand privileges. To overcome these issues the concept of just-in-time privilege management can be implemented where privileges can be elevated for a particular user when required for a specific time and resource. For specific applications and tasks, it elevates privileges only when necessary. As a result, security is maintained while uptime goals are met.
- Limit the number of rights for every privileged account - As long as this rule is implemented, any compromised account will yield a malicious actor with a limited set of privileges, which reduces the scope of security breaches.
- Implement best practices for password security - Use a tamper-proof safe to manage all credentials, including privileged account passwords, SSH keys, and application passwords. Implement a workflow that allows checking out privileged credentials only for authorized activities. Once the task is completed, check the password back in and revoke privileged access. Enforce robust passwords - Ensure passwords can resist common attacks like brute force and dictionary-based methods. Set strong password generation parameters, such as complexity and uniqueness, to enhance password strength.
- Monitor and audit privileged activity: Keep track of privileged actions using user IDs and auditing tools. Use privileged session management and monitoring (PSM) to quickly detect suspicious activities and investigate risky sessions. PSM involves monitoring, recording, and controlling privileged sessions, including capturing keystrokes and screens.
Having privileged session monitoring and management is crucial for meeting regulatory requirements like SOX, HIPAA, GLBA, PCI DSS, FDCC, FISMA, and others. These regulations not only require data protection but also proof of effective security measures.
Privileged Access Management (PAM) is crucial for cybersecurity, granting specialized access while minimizing risks. miniOrange's PAM solution emphasizes granular access control, safeguarding identities with tailored privileges. Implementing best practices, such as the Principle of Least Privilege, removing admin rights, and just-in-time privilege management, enhances security. Strong password enforcement and monitoring of privileged activity through privileged session management strengthen compliance and data protection.
With miniOrange's PAM solution, organizations can fortify their security posture and effectively manage privileged access, meeting regulatory requirements and reducing the likelihood of breaches.
1. PAM vs IAM
PAM (Privileged Access Management) deals with controlling privileged users' access to critical systems and data, focusing on elevated permissions. IAM (Identity and Access Management) oversees digital identities across the organization, ensuring every user has the appropriate access.
2. PAM vs Least Privileges:
PAM manages the access of privileged users, ensuring they have just the access they need. Least Privilege is a principle that all users, processes, or programs should have the minimum necessary privileges. PAM embodies this principle for privileged users.
3. PAM vs Account vs Session Management:
Privileged Access Management (PAM) broadly safeguards all privileged access. Privileged Account Management focuses on handling accounts with elevated permissions, such as password rotations or setting expiration dates. Privileged Session Management monitors active sessions with privileged accounts, including real-time tracking and session audits. These distinctions guide organizations in bolstering their digital security strategies.