What is privileged access?
The concept of privilege access provides specific individuals in the organization with access to the most sensitive data and critical systems in the organization. Privileged accounts in organizations are consistently the target of cyber-security attacks and seen as the best way to disable security systems by cybercriminals. When cybercriminals gain control over privileged accounts, they gain access to IT infrastructure, confidential business, and personal data, negatively exposing the organization data breaches, legal actions by regulators, and loss of business.
Types of Privileged accounts
The forms of privileged accounts vary mainly across the enterprise environment, and the inability to efficiently manage and protect them will pose a significant security risk to organizations. Some types of privileged accounts include:
- Local Administrative Accounts: these non-personal accounts are charged with the responsibility of providing administrative access, concerning the localhost alone. IT staff make use of these accounts to perform workstation and server activities as well as overall maintenance. Across the organization, these accounts will, therefore, have the same password, making it an easy target for cyber attacks.
- Privileged Users Account: these are basically ‘named credentials’ that have been granted multiple access to administrative privileges. These are the most common in organizations identified by their complex and somewhat sophisticated passwords, which give them power across the organizations’ network. These accounts must be closely monitored and managed.
- Domain Administrative Accounts: this particular type of account possesses total control over all domain controllers. These accounts, across all workstations and servers, are given privileged access on a domain. They are also equipped with the authority to alter the membership of every administrative account within the field.
- Emergency Account: unprivileged users are provided with administrative access to secure systems in the event of an emergency. Those accounts are also known as “breaking-glass accounts”.
- Service Accounts: these are accounts used to interact with the OS by an application or service. It can be privileged local or domain accounts. You can find those accounts with leveraged access on every server.
- Application Accounts: as suggested by the name, these accounts are used by applications to run batch jobs or scripts as well as access databases. This type of account appears beside a password as hard-coded inside a script, and it can easily be used by an attacker to gain access to a critical IT system.
Classifying Privileged Access
The diagram below vividly illustrates the classification of privileged access:
Risk of Privileged Access
Some risks that come with allocating privileged access include:
- The misuse of privileged access,
- The increase in cyber attacks of individual privileged accounts,
- Right to bypass established security controls, and
- Using of privileged access in application/service accounts.
What is the Solution?
The implementation of Privileged Access Management (PAM) serves as a solution for the management of people as well as applications and privileged accounts. Privileged access management (PAM) is a mechanism designed to develop cybersecurity plans and technologies for the control of privileged access and permission given to users, systems, and accounts throughout an IT environment.
Two of the essential goals achieved by Privileged Access Management include:
- Separating the utilization of privileged accounts for the goal of risk reduction of those credentials being stolen or misused.
- Securing rotating and managing privileged credentials to reduce risk.
What problems does PAM help solve?
Generally, the implementation of a PAM solution significantly reduces the risk of a security breach in the organization. PAM solution can solve problems and ensure adequate security, the prospect of an audit in the event of a security breach, and securely providing privileged access to those required to have it. Privileged Access Management also solves the problem of:
- Security Vulnerabilities,
- Unauthorized privilege escalations,
- Spear phishing, and
- The misuse of hard-coded users password in the application
Privileged Access Management (PAM) solutions are also assisting in reducing the attack surface by providing the functionality of a one-time password with exclusive use. This functionality will rotate the password after each time it was used or exposed, and will also make ‘pass-the-hash’ attack not useful.
Bottom line: the protection of access to privileged accounts by PAM solution helps the organization in reducing the risk of unauthorized access and likewise reduces their vulnerability to cyber-attacks by outsiders, or internal.