Privileged Access Management, or PAM, is a policy-based management system that provides total control over the use of privileged credentials. These types of credentials are key entry points for digital attackers and the majority of security breaches according to the 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report. According to the report, certain credentials are the most sought-after data in breaches due to how successfully hackers are able to obtain them. PAM allows organizations to control and monitor all activity among their privileged or least privileged users and just-in-time access.
What Risks Arise without Privilege Access Management?
Experts estimate that as many as half of all security breaches occur as the result of insider activity. Insider threats are especially serious when associated with employees who have higher access privileges than needed.
Whether the privilege misuse occurs due to employee error or is the work of a cybercriminal who has leveraged the credentials of an insider to gain access to your IT network, you can best manage this risk by closely controlling and monitoring what privileged users, such as superusers and database administrators, are doing with their access.
Trends such as hybrid cloud, mobility, big data, CIAM, IoT, and digital transformation all introduce complexity, new threats, and levels of risk around privilege. Identities are now much more than people—they can also be devices or things—and all identities have some form of privilege
Who are the Threats?
Sophisticated hackers direct phishing and spear-phishing attacks at those who would have elevated access—executives, system admins, network managers, engineers, and security workers who have access to finances, intellectual property, customer data, formulas, manufacturing processes, etc. Many of these users are sophisticated themselves, but they are still human and can be deceived. Hackers might not know which identity has access to what, but they consider the privileged ones to be the holy grail. Attackers who gain access to privileged users’ credentials can lurk undetected for months while they learn a company’s systems and decide what to steal. Experienced hackers also have the potential to hack into orphaned or privileged devices/things to gain administrative access. They can steal the contents of entire databases and easily delete the logs to hide their activity.
Organizations must also protect against insider threats, both malicious and accidental. Whether they mean to or not, users who have been given or steal credentials with elevated access could easily take down a network, expose confidential information, and much more—potentially costing the organization millions of dollars in lost productivity, lost revenue, and compliance fines. There are known cases of employees or contractors performing malicious acts, but most circumstances are the result of human error or carelessness. If the company doesn’t provide a good user experience and the right access at the right time, even highly technical and trusted privileged users will find ways to get their job done—sometimes at the expense of security. Organizations must know who or what has privileges and control what they can do to minimize impact.
There are many existing compliance regulations around data access such as GDPR, HIPPA, and PCI—and it is expected that more will be introduced in the coming years. Most of these regulations are descriptive, not prescriptive, causing the implementation of policies to be open for interpretation. When policy is open for interpretation, it inherently opens you up to risk. The normalization of policy ensures that the security and identity management parts of a compliance strategy are met. As compliance and internal governance requirements continue to become more stringent and audits more grueling, organizations are also being pressured to strike a balance between keeping people productive and enforcing security controls based on identity. Many are looking for quick wins to mitigate the amount of risk their organization is facing, with the ability to prove to auditors that they have implemented the necessary standards.
Privileged Access Management Solutions from NetIQ
The use of PAM is essential in protecting your business from a potential data breach and for strengthening your cyber resilience. NetIQ Privileged Access Management provides highly secure and flexible control over privileged credentials in ways that fit into your existing environment, without compromising security.
To learn more about Privileged Access Management, take a look at our What Is Privileged Access Management webpage. We’d love to hear your feed back in the comments below.
NetIQ provides security solutions that help organizations with workforce and consumer identity and access management at enterprise-scale. By providing secure access, effective governance, scalable automation, and actionable insight, NetIQ customers can achieve greater confidence in their IT security posture across cloud, mobile, and data platforms.