What is Privileged Account Management?
Privileged Account Management (PAM) is a process that focuses on managing and securing privileged accounts that get access to sensitive servers within an organization's IT environment. It consists of various roles such as granting permissions, making modifications to sensitive data, in simple words who can unlock a system, get access to the system and also take a look at what is inside the IT ecosystem.
Privileged accounts are accounts that have elevated access rights, allowing users to perform critical and sensitive tasks, such as system administration, configuration changes, and access to sensitive data. The privileged account management solution aims to control, monitor, and audit these privileged accounts to ensure that access is granted only to authorized users and for approved activities. Through Privileged Account Management, organizations can reduce the risk of unauthorized access, insider threats, and potential data breaches, while also meeting compliance requirements and enhancing overall cybersecurity.
Privileged Account Management is essential for organizations to protect against cyberattacks that target privileged accounts. If these accounts are compromised, attackers can freely move within the network, conducting harmful actions like downloading malicious files, taking control of servers, and causing financial loss and damage to the organization's reputation. PAM helps prevent such risks and ensures the security of the privileged account.
What is a Privileged Account?
A Privileged Account, also known as an elevated account, is a powerful and essential type of account in an IT environment. It serves as the foundation for managing organizational resources, including hardware and software. Privileged accounts encompass various types, such as Linux/Unix root accounts, Windows Administrator, Database Administrator (DBA), and various application accounts. These accounts hold significant permissions, allowing IT teams to perform critical tasks like setting up architecture, running essential applications and services, installing software, and overseeing software maintenance tasks. Essentially, privileged accounts act as master keys, providing access to critical IT assets and sensitive information within an organization. Due to their elevated privileges, privileged accounts are high-value targets for cyber attackers, emphasizing the importance of robust security and management practices to protect the organization's IT environment.
How to manage Privileged Accounts?
Usually, organizations use various password management software to help employees maintain their credentials for their applications. This approach requires a bit of attention while employees choose and manage their passwords effectively. In today’s times, companies are moving forward with their password management and security practices. To accomplish this, robust privileged account and access management solutions must be deployed efficiently. Therefore, privileged account management tools enable your company to improve password protection and strengthen privileged account security overall.
To effectively manage privileged accounts, follow these steps:
- Use a privileged account discovery tool to identify and locate all privileged accounts in your IT environment. This will give you a comprehensive understanding of how many privileged accounts you have and where they are located.
- After discovering all the privileged accounts, conduct a thorough audit to properly identify their locations and assess their usage and permissions.
- Implement the PAM Lifecycle approach, which includes various stages like - discovery, protection, monitoring, and response, to ensure your PAM solution covers all your needs in safeguarding privileged accounts.
By following these steps and embracing the PAM Lifecycle approach, you can strengthen the security of your privileged accounts and ensure effective management of these critical assets.
Privileged Account Management vs Privileged Access Management
The difference between Privileged Account Management (PAM) and Privileged Access Management (PAM) lies in their scope and focus:
1. Privileged Account Management (PAM):
Privileged Account Management specifically deals with the management and security of privileged accounts within an organization's IT environment. It focuses on managing and controlling the access rights and permissions of accounts that have elevated privileges, such as administrative accounts, root Linux/Unix accounts, and database administrator accounts. The main objective of it is to ensure that privileged accounts are properly protected, monitored, and audited to prevent unauthorized access and reduce the risk of security breaches.
2. Privileged Access Management (PAM):
Privileged Access Management, on the other hand, encompasses a broader approach that goes beyond just managing privileged accounts. It involves managing and securing all aspects of privileged access within an organization, including not only privileged accounts but also privileged access to applications, systems, databases, and other critical resources. PAM focuses on implementing comprehensive strategies and technologies to control and monitor elevated access and permissions, minimizing the attack surface and enhancing overall security.
While Privileged Account Management (PAM) focuses specifically on managing privileged accounts, Privileged Access Management (PAM) takes a more comprehensive approach, addressing all aspects of privileged access within an organization's IT environment.
Why is Privileged Account Management important?
The Importance of Privileged Access Management:
Privileged Account Management (PAM) is essential for several reasons:
- Protection from cyberattacks : Privileged accounts are prime targets for hackers seeking to gain full access to sensitive data and systems. PAM helps secure these accounts and prevents unauthorized access.
- Mitigating insider threats : Internal users with elevated privileges can pose significant risks. PAM helps detect and prevent misuse of privileged accounts by insiders, reducing the potential for data breaches.
- Safeguarding against negligence : Careless employees may unknowingly expose critical credentials, creating security vulnerabilities. PAM ensures proper controls and minimizes the risk of accidental data exposure.
- Managing third-party access : Vendors and ex-employees with privileged access can also pose threats. PAM ensures proper oversight of third-party access to internal infrastructure.
- Enforcing least privilege : Many users have more privileges than necessary for their job roles. PAM enforces the principle of least privilege, granting only essential permissions for specific tasks.
- Proper privilege management : Over time, unused privileges may be forgotten, leading to security gaps. PAM helps track and revoke privileges when they are no longer needed, reducing the risk of unauthorized actions.
Overall, PAM plays a crucial role in enhancing cybersecurity, protecting sensitive data, and ensuring the overall integrity of an organization's IT environment.