privileged access management

85% of top cybersecurity professionals from around the globe say that enterprise users have more privileged access than is necessary to do their jobs according to our global survey. As a result, only 12% are fully confident that they can prevent a credential-based attack. Those 12% are probably taking advantage of the benefits of Privileged Access Management. 

Privileged Access Management (PAM) is an information security mechanism that safeguards identities with special access or capabilities beyond regular users. Essentially, PAM tools help to ensure that users only have access to the resources they need to get their jobs done – nothing more, nothing less.  

Typically, PAM tools work by holding privileged credentials in a vault, and automated control features allow access to be requested or granted based on a user’s role. This provides an additional layer of security to the credentials of an enterprises’ most critical resources and helps protect from both internal and external threats. 

What are the Benefits of Privileged Access Management? 

  1. Keeps Admin Credentials Secure in a Special-Purpose and Highly Secure Password Vault: Enterprise PAM solutions have automated password management features that include a vault, password auto-rotation, auto-generation and an approval workflow.  
  2. Reduced Costs: Breaches cost organizations both reputationally and financially. Avoiding a breach due to poor privileged access management practices reduces the chances of both financial and reputational consequences. 
  3. Streamlined Processes: Manual processes to grant access to privileged systems take time away from other tasks. By utilizing a PAM solution, teams spend less time on manual tasks and leave less room for human mistakes. 
  4. Reduced Frustration: Team members looking to do their jobs quickly and efficiently are often frustrated by access processes that are a barrier to them completing a particular task. PAM solutions can remove those barriers and reduce frustrations for team members. 
  5. Visibility, Control and Monitoring Over Privileged Accounts: Privileged Access Management provides real-time visibility and automated alerting. 
  6. Prove Compliance: One of the jobs of PAM is to audit accounts that have elevated access beyond that of a standard user. When all activities are monitored and logged regularly, proving compliance is no problem. 
  7. Integration with IAM: By integrating PAM and Identity & Access Management (IAM), all accounts, not just those with privileged access, receive password management, multi-factor authentication, single sign-on and user lifecycle management in a combined Privileged Identity Management (PIM). 
  8. Limits Attack Surface from Internal and External Threats: Continuous monitoring and logging of all privileged sessions allows security admins to identify anomalies to quickly respond to both inside and outside cyberattacks. 

What are Some Challenges of Implementing PAM? 

  • Figuring Out Who Needs Access to What, Why and When: That sounds easy, but many organizations often don’t have that figured out. Determining the scope of what users need which type of access is a mandatory first step when considering a PAM solution.  
  • Getting Support from Management: Across the board, security should be an organizational priority. However, without committed support from leadership it can be difficult to get resources allocated to its implementation and ongoing management and upkeep. It’s key to position privileged access management not as a cost center, but as a proactive method to reduce risk and improve an organization’s overall security posture. Ongoing support from leadership is essential to making sure a PAM solution is properly resourced and part of the standard operational processes in the company. 
  • Budget: You need to have a solid estimate of how much implementing Privileged Access Management will cost and know if your company has the budget to do so.  

What are Some Best Practices for Maintaining PAM? 

  • Establish Processes with an Identity Management System to Determine What Identities Should be Allowed Privileged Access: Implementing a privileged access management solution with an identity management system often makes managing the users that get privileged access very easy. Keep this part of your identity management system up to date, and you’ll be able to easily manage the access levels of the identities in your environment.  
  • Stay Up to Date with Privileged Accounts: This is one of the main reasons you have PAM, so that nobody in your company has the credentials of privileged accounts outside of the PAM system. By staying up-to-date with the accounts that require PAM there are no surprises. 
  • Eliminate Orphaned Accounts: To get rid of the security risk of orphaned accounts, you need to figure out if you have any. Every identity should be accounted for in your environment. Unknown accounts with weak passwords or vulnerable credentials are tantalizing targets for bad actors. So, when you find accounts that you’re not responsible for and you can’t figure out who is, remove them. 
  • Establish Strong Accountability for Credentials: No one can stop users from sharing their credentials with someone else. However, establishing strong rules around credential sharing in the employee handbook can help reduce that risk. Team members must be trained to know that they are in charge of their credentials, and accountable for actions associated with their identity. 
  • Monitor Activity on Privileged Accounts: PAM solutions can help you monitor the hundreds or even thousands of privileged session recordings you receive every day. Instead of reviewing thousands of boring recordings of privileged sessions, PAM solutions can establish a security baseline of normal user behavior. From there, alerts are sent when suspicious behavior occurs. That way, you may prioritize your security teams to monitor the fishy occurrences instead of every single recording only. 
  • Use the Principle of Least Privilege for Accounts, Just-in-Time Elevation of Privileged Accounts: Least Privilege limits the privilege of accounts to access only what team members need to do a specific job. Nothing else. PAM can grant users temporary access to resources when necessary, and then remove this access as soon as they’re done. 
  • Train Staff: In order for Privileged Access Management to succeed, you need to make sure your users receive the training they need to understand it. People tend to follow processes that they know the benefits of, as well as the negatives that will follow if processes aren’t followed. Budget for thorough PAM training that includes user guides, videos, screenshots and other resources that are easy to follow and absorb make internal process compliance more accessible to team members. If users don’t understand how to work with PAM, they’ll try to work around it, which can be a huge security risk. So, if your users understand how PAM benefits them, they will understand and take an active role in a process change. 
  • Maintain Documentation of Access Management Practices: Maintaining documentation on your technical and training procedures is critical for proving compliance. Storing practices, policies, and guidelines means that you’ll have all the information an auditor could want on hand, making it much easier to pass the audit. 
  • Have a Management Sponsor for PAM: Having a PAM project sponsor from upper management is essential. Even after initial implementation, you need that sponsor as PAM and your overall security posture will evolve with your company. Having someone in support of any changes helps funds to be allocated, gets people assigned to projects, enables the implementation and use to continue to run smoothly. 
  • Periodic Review of PAM Usage, Improvements and Enhancements: Reviews are necessary because they allow you to discover if PAM is working the way it needs to. Regular reviews help ensure a PAM solution is optimized within company processes, adjustable to better support users, and optimized for efficiency and ease of use. Companies are not static, so your PAM system must be able to follow the dynamics of the company.
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