How Hackers Can Challenge Your IAM Policies (You May Not Expect)

How Hackers Can Challenge Your IAM Policies (You May Not Expect)

How can hackers challenge your IAM (identity and access management) policies? Can they do so in ways you may not expect? Moreover, can you prepare your identity and access management solution to mitigate these malicious actions? 

These aren’t idle questions. The new business-level digital perimeter primarily consists of identity and access management, prominently demonstrated by login security. Hackers continually assail this perimeter by compromising credentials and subverting authentication practices. 

Of course, the most normal means by which hackers circumvent authentication protocols is through compromised credentials. They can achieve this through a variety of different tactics and tools; phishing attacks convince users to willingly give up their credentials, password cracking tools can keep trying combinations, and just simple guesswork using publicly available information can all bypass password protections. 

However, hackers can challenge your IAM policies in different ways than the expected credentials compromise. Here’s a few to investigate. 

How Hackers Can Challenge Your IAM Policies (You May Not Expect)

1. Exploiting Unpatched Vulnerabilities

For one thing, hackers may find a way to gain the access they want without even going through a login portal. The number of branches involving unpatched vulnerabilities or misconfigured databases would stagger any IT decision makers. Often, some of the most sensitive data or critical personally identifying information only needs hackers to find it. 

Additionally, a simple vulnerability could allow hackers into the network with no need to input any credentials at all. For example, a hacker could enter through a network device like an IoT and simply jump into the network from there. 

You need the security awareness and the monitoring to find and close these openings before hackers find them. Also, you need to enforce logins at all possible openings and configure databases to demand them as well. 

2. Privilege Escalation

We actually discussed privilege escalation in detail in a previous article; check it out if you would like a more detailed exploration.

Here’s the summation. Hackers always want the most they can get. Thus, privileged accounts are prized above all in nefarious circles; these accounts can disrupt finances, destroy workflows, shut down the entire network, and more. Threat actors want this kind of power, if only because it makes their goals so much easier. 

Worse, hackers don’t even need actual privileged accounts to gain these kinds of power in your IT infrastructure. Instead, they could compromise a regular account and escalate its permissions until it has the power they need. 

Only through privileged access management and identity governance can your enterprise prevent these kinds of malicious actions.

3. Lackluster Authentication

We stress continually, and prominently, the inferiority of the single-factor authentication (i.e. password-only). Instead, we advocate multifactor authentication (MFA); the more factors you put between requester and data, the more secure the latter. 

However, where enterprises fail is not just in authentication but in limiting that authentication to the login portal. While MFA can prove difficult for hackers to crack, with enough time and effort they can do it. Without continuous authentication, hackers that do penetrate into the network can move about unchallenged. It’s just one more way hackers can challenge your IAM policies. 

So you need to deploy continuous authentication through your IT infrastructure. This can take the form of behavioral biometrics and user and entity behavioral analysis. These tools identify the baseline behaviors of users and monitor them to ensure they follow those baselines. Hackers in these systems have nowhere to hide. 

You can learn more in our Identity Management Buyer’s Guide.  

Ben Canner

Ben Canner is an enterprise technology writer and analyst covering Identity Management, SIEM, Endpoint Protection, and Cybersecurity writ large. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from Clark University in Worcester, MA. He previously worked as a corporate blogger and ghost writer. You can reach him via Twitter and LinkedIn.
Ben Canner