Privileged Access Management Tips for the Modern Enterprise

Privileged Access Management Tips for the Modern Enterprise

Which privileged access management tips should your enterprise take to heart? What do businesses typically take for granted concerning their identity security?  

The major branches of identity and access management (IAM) each offers its own crucial enterprise capabilities. For example, identity governance and administration (IGA) helps maintain consistent access across roles and prevents access creep. As another, biometric authentication provides more sophisticated and secure login security.

However, privileged access management (PAM) offers some of the most critical cybersecurity capabilities for the modern enterprise. Without it, internal and external threat actors could exploit the most powerful permissions in your IT environment; through them, they could steal your most valuable digital assets, drain your finances, or even destroy your entire network.

To help your enterprise with this critical identity management branch, we offer our favorite privileged access management tips. While no list can encompass all of the relevant privileged access management tips, we hope they can guide your enterprise’s thinking in identity management.

Privileged Access Management Tips in Context

Without context, the following privileged access management tips won’t convey the necessary meaning. Your enterprise must critically examine the privileged identity threat landscape to recognize the importance of these solutions.

Typically, enterprises grant privileged permissions to their IT department and department administrators. These permissions allow the users to access finances (in some cases), sensitive digital assets, and databases. Additionally, they can manage or reshape network areas or business processes. Each privileged possess extraordinary power.      

Enterprises frequently neglect their privileged accounts, leaving the literal keys to their digital kingdom out in the open. Therefore, they lay out the welcome mat for hackers and insider threats alike; their cybersecurity ends up weak and porous.   

A few identity security statistics emphasize the importance of securing your enterprise’s privileged access:

  • According to PAM solution provider Centrify, 74% of enterprises suffered a breach resulting from a stolen or compromised privileged account.
  • 26% of U.S. enterprises have trouble defining privileged access.
  • 52% lack a password vault.
  • 65% admit to sharing their privileged access credentials.
  • 63% take over a day to remove the privileged access from a former employee’s account.
  • According to privileged access provider Thycotic, 70% of enterprises fail to discover all of the privileged accounts on their network.
  • 40% never bother to look for all of their privileged accounts.

Examining these findings, the truth becomes clear: enterprises allow their privileged access to operate without the right layers of security.       

Our Privileged Access Management Tips

Of all of the following privileged access management tips, one should serve as the foundation of your identity and access management: privileged access is everywhere.

Indeed, privileged identities exist in every kind of environment—on-premises, the cloud, endpoints, and DevOps. Also, non-human users possess their own higher-tier permissions, such as applications, servers, devices, and databases. Gone are the days when only users could possess privileges.

Your privileged access management solution must accommodate all of these possibilities; if it can’t, you may need to consider updating your PAM solution or seeking out necessary upgrades.

The More Powerful the Privilege, The More Security It Needs

Of the privileged access management tips, this must appear too straightforward. Yet it appears to elude many enterprise decision-makers.

In the wrong hands, some powerful credentials can disrupt or destroy your network, causing damaging downtime and reduced customer confidence. Other accounts can reconfigure your network infrastructure, allowing for easier lateral movement, island hopping attacks, or outright thefts.

If you have these kinds of privileged accounts on your network, you need to enforce strong authentication policies on them. Technically, you should enforce strong authentication on all of your digital identities—even traditional access can create serious compromises. Nevertheless, your privileged access accounts should boast multifactor authentication and password rotation.

In fact…

Initiate Both MFA and Password Rotation

Relying only on user passwords to secure your access or privileged accounts is a recipe for disaster. All but the least experienced hackers can easily crack or guess passwords, or find lists of compromised passwords to use in a credential stuffing attack.

Therefore, your enterprise needs to put up as many barriers to access as possible. Multifactor authentication uses biometric authentication, geolocation monitoring, and time of access request analysis to verify the user. Hackers may theoretically crack all of the factors, but it requires far more time and resources, which deters all but the most determined.

Meanwhile, password rotation mandates ensure passwords never become stale; in other words, it ensures that users don’t repeat password which may have already become compromised.

Implementing both may cause some issues with the user experience. However, you must prioritize security over convenience every time if you truly want your privileged accounts to stay privileged.

Beware That Which Moves

Ominous, right? This actually refers to any kind of software with the privileges to automatically perform essential business processes or move throughout your IT environment.

Because they can move about relatively unchallenged, hackers target these programs to exploit their privileges. If they gain root access, they can convert the programs into a kind of bus for their malicious codes.

Again, the above serves as another plug for making sure everything connecting to your IT environment falls under the watchful eye of your identity and access management. Among the privileged access management tips listed here, no one can overstate this.

Don’t Manage Your Identities Manually

Just don’t. As a business, you may feel tempted to avoid investing the time and resources into an identity management solution. Don’t give in to that temptation.  

Too many enterprises try to manage their privileged credentials on an Excel or a Word document. As those IT environments scale, enterprise security teams struggle to ensure they know who has what permissions when. This could—quite easily—result in access creep, privileged accounts going unmonitored, or worse.

In fact, without a proper PAM solution, you could have orphaned accounts lingering in your environment, leaving the door open for hackers to exploit.

Confusion doesn’t beget security. Get a solution and ensure you know your privileged users.

Conduct Session Monitoring (And Watch the Recordings)

Many identity management and privileged identity management solutions offer session monitoring for observing the behaviors of your users. This can help detect abnormal behaviors indicative of a hacker or an insider threat before it causes real damage.

However, session monitoring doesn’t work in a vacuum. You need someone to actually watch the recording to determine whether the behaviors violate baselines or if the user just had an unusual day.

Having a recording isn’t enough. You need human eyes as well.    

Stop All Sharing

This applies to regular identity security management as well as privileged identity management. Users should never share their credentials, with anyone, ever. There really is no reason to do so. If they suffer from a workflow problem, they should communicate it (and be thanked for pointing out the problem) not use another user’s’ account to perform the task.

With these privileged access management tips in hand, you should have a clearer idea of what your enterprise needs to thrive in the modern digital era. You can also check out our 2019 Identity Management Buyer’s Guide for more on the top vendors in the field.

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