Privileged accounts pose a huge risk to your environment if they aren’t secured. For example, if the credentials of an administrator (who has elevated capabilities beyond regular users) were to fall into the wrong hands, it could lead to the compromise of an organization’s systems and confidential data. Privileged Access Management (PAM) provides additional layers of protection enterprises need to keep highly credentialed accounts safe.
What is Privileged Access Management?
Privileged Access Management is a cybersecurity safeguard that aims to ensure that the identities that need higher privileges in organizational systems have access to those systems and credentials only when they’re needed. It also identifies which accounts have privileged access and then automatically manages them based on pre-determined policies, such as enforcing multi-factor authentication before usage is granted and keeping logs of all privileged actions and sessions, all while providing security administrators with a platform to manage and monitor privileged account activity.
What are the Risks Associated with Unmanaged Privileged Accounts?
Think of standard user access (only what you need to do your job) as someone who owns a bicycle. Many people own and can ride bicycles since they only require a little bit of understanding to ride. They’re also inexpensive, so the risk associated with if they get lost or damaged is not very high. So, whatever damage is impacted on standard accounts that have no privileged access is pretty low.
The next level of access (privileged access) is a motorized vehicle, such as a car or a motorbike. Motorized vehicles have different requirements drivers need to fulfill before they are allowed to get access to a vehicle. Not only do they need to be a certain age and have a license, they also have to get insurance because the risk of causing damage with a car is much higher than with a bicycle. And of course, you need to keep the keys safe. That way the only people driving the vehicles are ones you give permission to and who know what they’re doing so that no damage is caused to the vehicle or anything or anyone around it. An organization that doesn’t have their privileged accounts under control is like giving anyone who wants access uncontrolled permissions to use a vehicle that can cause severe and expensive damage. You don’t want that.
Someone stealing an airplane (or, in this case, a CIO or superuser or database administrator’s privileged account information) could be an even more potentially damaging scenario that could completely damage entire enterprise.
All that is to say, without Privileged Access Management, every single one of your users has the potential to easily become a privileged user. Privileged accounts are primary targets for cybercriminals since they offer easy access to your enterprise’s most critical assets and data. If all of your users are privileged users, that makes the likelihood of bad actors accessing your critical resources significantly higher. And when hackers get control of your critical resources, they can do extreme damage to your company, both to your internal operations and your reputation in the eyes of your current and potential customers.
Additionally, without Privileged Access Management’s monitoring capabilities, you probably have limited to no visibility into which environments each of your user identities have access to or what the identities have accessed. So, from the outside you don’t know who needs their access increased or decreased, and have no record of user activity. This means that you have no records to prove compliance. That’s a big risk for any size organization.
Why is Privileged Access Management Important?
Privileged Access Management is vital to organizations because if you do not manage who has access to organizational platforms, data and applications, users have the potential to access whatever they want, not just what is necessary to do their jobs.
PAM also offers monitoring and reporting capabilities. These capabilities provide real-time visibility and automated alerting of suspicious activity. They also allow security admins/teams to monitor privileged sessions and identify malicious activities linked to privileged identity abuse and take swift action to remediate risk.
Privileged Access Management is essential for four reasons
- Monitors and Records Activity in Privileged Environments and Maintains Visibility: PAM gives security teams complete visibility into which users have privileges to various resources through a platform that can be used to manage and monitor privileged accounts, keep detailed logs of all privileged sessions and automates the organization’s access policies.
- Protects Against Internal and External Unauthorized Users and Access: Since PAM gives security teams the ability to manage and monitor privileged accounts, they can keep track of all privileged sessions to identify anomalies and fix them.
- Enhances Compliance: Effectively managing privileged accounts makes it easy to enhance compliance since security teams have detailed logs of all activity and proof that users only have access to the resources they need to get their work done – nothing more, nothing less.
- Balances Productivity with Ease of Use: When enterprises try to enhance security on their own, without the help of Privileged Access Management, they tend to make their solutions difficult to use. They tighten security so much that access and proper use becomes difficult with all the increased security features. PAM keeps enterprises’ most critical assets and data safe without disrupting day-to-day operations.
Privileged Access Management offers system administrators greater control over who has access to privileged data and applications. It ensures that access to confidential data or restricted networks is only given to the users who actively need to use these resources, and that these privileged users have additional security measures taken to protect organizational data.