Privileged Access Management: Protecting Organizations from Insider Threats
12 April, 2023, by Stephen Swann
Insider threats are one of the most serious security risks facing organizations today. According to a recent study by the Ponemon Institute, insider threats were responsible for 67% of all data breaches in 2021.
There are many different types of insider threats, including:
- Malicious insiders: These are employees who intentionally misuse their access to sensitive data or systems to harm the organization.
- Negligent insiders: These are employees who accidentally or unintentionally expose sensitive data or systems to unauthorized access. This is usually caused by complacency or disregard for safety rules.
- Accidental insiders: These are employees who are not malicious or negligent, but who make mistakes that expose sensitive data or systems to unauthorized access. This insider threat is caused by lack of training, confusing policies, or misunderstood instructions.
Privileged access management (PAM) is a security solution that can help organizations to protect themselves from insider threats. PAM solutions provide a number of features that can help to mitigate the risks posed by insider threats, including:
- Privileged account identification & vaulting: PAM solutions can help organizations to identify and manage all of their privileged accounts, including administrator accounts, root accounts, and service accounts.
- Access control: PAM solutions can help organizations to control access to sensitive data and systems.
- Auditing and logging: PAM solutions can help organizations to track and audit access to sensitive data and systems.
Privileged account identification & vaulting
Privileged accounts are accounts that have elevated privileges, such as administrator accounts and root accounts. These accounts are often used by employees to perform critical tasks, such as managing systems and accessing sensitive data. However, privileged accounts are also a high-value target for attackers. If an attacker can gain access to a privileged account, they can gain access to sensitive data and systems. PAM can help to identify and manage privileged accounts by centralizing account management, enforcing strong password policies, and even enforcing password rotation policies.
NOTE: Privileged entitlements should never be assigned to standard end user accounts - particularly those end user accounts that are email enabled! Users should never have a day-to-day account that has privileged entitlements attached to it. Doing so is strongly discouraged by both Cyber Essentials & ISO 27001 certifications.
PAM can help to control access to sensitive data and systems by using role-based access control (RBAC) to define who has access to what data and systems. Using RBAC allows organizations to define access permissions based on job roles and responsibilities. This ensures that only authorized employees have access to the necessary secrets that will grant them access to sensitive data and systems.
Audit and logging
PAM can help to track and audit access to sensitive data and systems. PAM can do this by logging all access attempts, restricting what a user can do once granted access, and also record sessions for forensic analysis either DURING the session or at a later date. PAM systems can also be integrated with a SIEM platform for further analysis and correlation of activity across other systems and platforms.
PAM is a critical security solution that can help organizations to protect themselves from insider threats. By implementing a PAM solution, organizations can help to identify and manage privileged accounts, control access to sensitive data and systems, track and audit access, and integrate with SIEM solutions. These steps are a core foundation of the Zero Trust architecture.
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