How to Secure Your Enterprise’s Privileged Access User Accounts

How to Secure Your Enterprise's Privileged Access User Accounts

How can you better secure your enterprise’s privileged access user accounts? Why does this matter to your overall cybersecurity and identity security? Further, how can privileged access management help? 

Recently, technology research giant Gartner named privileged access management one of their Top Security Project for multiple years. This shouldn’t surprise any observer with an interest in enterprise identity security and cybersecurity. Unsecured privileged access user accounts attract both external hackers and insider threats. 

Indeed, according to PAM solution provider Centrify, over 70% of business data breaches begin with compromised or stolen privileged credentials. Conversely, securing those accounts can truly supplement and strengthen your overall digital security posture.  

Therefore, Privileged Access Management (PAM) solutions work to secure those privileged access user accounts in ways legacy solutions can’t. This proves vital to fulfilling both cybersecurity and industry compliance mandates. 

Here’s how your enterprise can work with your PAM solution to secure your privileged access user accounts.    

To Secure Privileged Access User Accounts, Start with Provisioning

Indeed, how can you secure your privileged access user accounts if you don’t know the permissions they possess? 

Every time you add a privileged account to your network, you need to carefully provision it with the right permissions. For context, provisioning refers to giving initial permissions to an employee when they first enter your workforce.

With this in mind, your enterprise needs identity governance over your privileged accounts. 

Here’s why: the more permissions a single user possesses, the more damage it can do in the wrong hands. For example, if one user can access both your employee records and your financial data, hackers can use those credentials to devastating effect.

Therefore, your provisioning of privileged user accounts must incorporate hard limits on their access. Yet, according to privileged access solution provider, 62% of enterprises fail to provision for privileged access accounts. This neglect can only hurt your cybersecurity in the long-term.   

However, what might matter more is the opposite process: deprovisioning. Deprovisioning refers to removing all of the permissions from an employee’s account when they leave their employ. Failing to secure this process leads to a dangerous kind of identity security hole: orphaned accounts.

Find All Of Your Privileged Access User Accounts

Often, enterprises labor under the delusion they can handle the deprovisioning process manually, even as their network scales. This often leads to IT teams losing track of deprovisioning processes or even entire privileged access user accounts! 

Indeed, according to Thycotic, 55% of businesses fail to revoke permissions after a privileged employee is removed. Meanwhile, fellow PAM provider Identity Automation found 40% of enterprises never bother to look for all of the privileged accounts on their network. 

Trying to rely on your IT security team to manually remove accounts at the end of their life-cycles leads to danger in the long term. Poor offboarding can leave accounts without users lingering on the network for months if not years. Additionally, the size of your network can actually conceal accounts from view. As such, those accounts become orphaned accounts. 

If your privileged access user accounts become orphaned, they become blatant cybersecurity holes in your network. Hackers can use orphaned accounts to leap-frog to even more powerful accounts or to plant dwelling threats.

Therefore, to secure your privileged access user accounts, you need to work with your solution to improve visibility. You need the capabilities which can uncover any lost identities on your network. Further, a next-generation PAM solution can help you automate and provisioning and deprovisioning processes. That way, you can alleviate the burden on your team and ensure deprovisioning occurs promptly when needed. 

Next, Secure Logins for Privileged Access User Accounts 

If your enterprise still relies on passwords to secure your privileged access accounts, stop as quickly as possible. In fact, trying to rely on passwords to secure any credentials proves a laughable security exercise. 

Here’s why: users change their passwords far too infrequently and often repeat them; each time they do this, they increase the risk of hackers’ exploiting them. Moreover, even original passwords can prove easily guessed or cracked thanks to social media social engineering. Adding to this, if your users share their passwords, that’s another layer of security danger. 

Instead of relying on single-factor authentication like passwords, your enterprise needs to embrace multifactor authentication. The more factors that stand between hackers and your users’ identities, the more secure they remain. Usually, hackers won’t bother with strong identity perimeters; they prefer the low-hanging fruit (i.e. easy target).

Strong enterprise multifactor authentication can comprise of any number of factors, but often include:  

  • Biometric authentication.
  • SMS text messages.
  • Hard tokens.
  • Typing biometrics.
  • Email verification.
  • TOTP.
  • PUSH mobile device notification.

However, to secure your enterprise’s privileged access user accounts, deploy multifactor authentication judiciously. Indeed, trying to employ MFA across all identities can prove challenging and damaging to your user experience.     

Instead, enterprises should look to deploying granular MFA, which can include protocols as diverse as adaptive authentication, risk-based policy-adaptive authentication, and step-up authentication. Regardless, you can choose when MFA activates to protect your most valuable identities and databases. 

Manage and Vault Passwords

In other words, to secure your enterprise’s privileged access user accounts, you need to deploy a password manager. Its password vaulting capability functions like a literal safe: a storage location wherein passwords remain encrypted. One master password—the key to the safe—can be used to access passwords for different websites, which are entered automatically while maintaining the encryption as the user calls on them.

The fewer credentials your users must keep track of means fewer chances for hackers to interfere. So long as you keep your single sign-on, password vaulting, or identity federation—which all operate on the same principle—secure, you should see strong results.     

Enact Session Management and Monitoring

If the password manager serves as the safe, then session management forms the security cameras. Session management monitors and records the actions and behaviors of your privileged users as they move throughout the network and make access requests. Next-generation session management tools will also lock down access based on the geographic location and time of the access requests. Additionally, session management can even record keystrokes and mouse movements to look for behavioral discrepancies.   

How to Secure Your Enterprise’s Privileged Access User Accounts

Ultimately, to enact all of these policies and steps, your enterprise needs to work with a next-generation privileged access management solution. To find the right one for your enterprise, why not check out our 2019 Buyer’s Guide? In it, we cover the top solution providers and their key capabilities in detail! 

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