What are 5 critical privileged access management use cases for businesses? In other words, what IT environments, business priorities, or cybersecurity infrastructures benefit best from the inclusion of privileged access management?
At this point, most IT decision-makers understand the risks inherent to privileged permissions to some extent. Hackers prioritize targeting privileged user accounts in their cyber-attacks, as compromising such an account bestows powers that lead to greater malicious gains or more outright destruction. In fact, the majority of cyber-attacks begin with privileged attacks, as the recent SolarWinds attack demonstrates.
With that in mind, we present 5 critical privileged access management use cases. Of course, this list is not comprehensive, but it should provoke consideration and discussions with your IT security team to find which solution might fit you best.
5 Critical Privileged Access Management Use Cases
1. Limited User Visibility
One of the most critical use cases we can discuss involves oversight concerning your privileged users. Can you actually see how they operate within your IT environment? Without visibility, cybersecurity, in general, is naught but a paper tiger. Further, can you see the network locations, databases, solutions, and other nodes they interact with?
Privileged Access Management offers unique tools to increase visibility over both your IT environment and your superusers. The first includes its own version of user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) integrated with behavioral analytics, both of which monitor how privileged users operate compared to an established baseline; this can even include typing behaviors, which hackers can’t replicate. If an account begins acting in a manner contrary to its baseline, it sounds the alarm and triggers an investigation.
Additionally, PAM offers session management, which provides oversight into how long a privileged user operates and how even setting time restrictions until an automatic logout. Combined with attack visualization, you can see clearly what happened to an account and how enabling the discovery of potential vulnerabilities.
2. Too Many Privileges
Every privileged user acts as potentially an attack vector. However, the damage a compromised superuser account can wreak in the wrong hands varies. In fact, it varies based on one critical variable: how many privileges that account possesses. For example, if your HR leader has access to your financial information, then that user probably has too many privileges in your network. If your cybersecurity can’t enforce the Principle of Least Privilege, then each account could become a victim of access creep, turning even the most insignificant privileged user into a potential time bomb.
Privileged Access Management helps enforce the Principle of Least Privilege, helping you to find unnecessary privileges in accounts and revoking them if necessary. Additionally, PAM helps prevent self-assigned privilege escalation, so users can’t escalate their privileges without your security team’s approval; hackers often take advantage of the lack of this protection to turn even normal accounts into digital juggernauts.
3. Authentication Issues
Of course, none of this matters if you can’t ensure that hackers can’t just walk into your IT environment. Password-only security on your privileged users remains one of the critical privileged access management use cases; enterprises still rely on it despite its proven and fundamental unreliability. External threat actors can easily purchase a password cracker from the Dark Web, or buy a list of repeated passwords from any number of previous breaches. Otherwise, they could exploit publicly available information on social media to just guess the password.
PAM intervenes here by deploying multifactor authentication (MFA). Each factor between access request and access granted constitutes another barrier between hackers and their targets; many hackers simply give up and look for an easier target. Further, MFA doesn’t need to interfere with the login process, thereby preemptively removing weight from workflows.
4. Third-Party Security Challenges
Unfortunately, the cybersecurity dangers don’t stop with your own IT environment and direct users. You also need to consider your third parties, who might have greater access than you realize and which hackers could exploit as a stepping stone. In fact, their third-party status often results in not receiving the same level of visibility as your other users. Therefore, your third-parties can receive permissions and possibly accumulate more privileges without triggering investigations by your IT security team.
To help with privileged access management use cases like this, providers often offer Vendor Privileged Access Management (VPAM). VPAM helps your business maintain visibility over your third-parties and their superuser accounts to ensure that their access level isn’t being misused or abused; you can limit their permissions and subject them to the same authentication requirements as other users.
5. Login Speeds
Finally, one of the most critical use cases involves the login process, but not in an authentication security manner (at least not as directly). Logins can take time and energy, and often provokes time-wasting password and authentication resets. These drain resources from both employees and IT help desks and often incites the worst password faux pas: password repetition.
With Single Sign-On (SSO), users log onto a single platform that gives them automatic login access to multiple applications for a set period of time. This allows users to only present one set of credentials for multiple applications, rather than continually re-entering passwords or remembering multiple passwords.
You can learn more about privileged access management use cases in our PAM Buyer’s Guide.