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The Evolution Of Privileged Access Management

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Irrespective of companies’ size and operation, protecting a high-level admin account is an important element of an effective security strategy against cyber-threats. In most data breach cases, the attacker has targeted admin-based credentials to extract data, make changes to configurations, or set-up ransomware. Moreover, PAM is also imperative to ensure that your organization gets maximum protection from insider threats.

If you are not monitoring who is accessing the different accounts, you do not know what is actually happening across the enterprise. Without effective privileged access management, your company is at greater risk of sensitive information being compromised. Additionally, if the passwords are not managed and changed regularly, even workers who have left the company may be able to access vital data.

What exactly is Privileged Access Management, and how it works? Read on to find out more about this vital phenomenon.

 

What Is Privileged Access Management?

Every company has certain employees accessing important information and applications of the business. The credentials for accessing this application have to be protected strongly. Generally, these applications store sensitive data, and even single unauthorized access can prove costly for the business. The scope of privileged access can be different from one business to another. For instance, in an IT sector, an admin who created, managed, and deleted the accounts of the employees will need privileged access.

 

So anyone who has access to an application, tool, or software that contains information comes under the category of ‘Privileged User’

Examples of privileged human access include:

  • Superuser accounts which are accessed by IT system administrators.
  • The local administrator account is located on the workstation or an endpoint.
  • The emergency account offers access to a secure system in an emergency situation
  • Secure socket shell key that offers root access to the vital system.

 

Examples of non-human privileged access –

  • SSH Key, which is used by automated processes
  • Application account specific to an application software
  • Service account, which service or application leverages to communicate with operating systems.

 

Once you have determined the privileged access, they must be effectively managed. Generally, the credentials of this access are centralized inside a secure repository known as the ‘Password Vault.’ This mitigates the risk of them being stolen. Additionally, the users sign in their access through the Privileged Access Management system in which the credentials are verified, and the users can then successfully access the application. The whole process is followed each time users or the admin have to log in.

 


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What Was an Old PAM?

Privileged Accounts Management is an extensive practice encompassing controlling, monitoring, and managing privileged users, shared users, shared groups, services, and service groups that access important systems for administrative tasks.

In a broader sense, the PAM can be understood as Individual Accounts Management. IAM centers on managing accounts that centers on particular users. The function encompasses users as well as group management, the definition of password policies and their implementation, verification, and authorization to access specific resources.

 

What are the features of old PAM?

 

Following are the features of old PAM –

  • Create and rest passwords automatically based on the policies.
  • Remember, share, and access account passwords, certificates, or keys depending on permissions granted to scripts or users.
  • Offer access to devices without revealing the passwords by extending interactive sessions to a computer.
  • Set-up, record, and share sessions via remote console
  • Identify unmanaged privileged accounts. It can be done either by scanning the network periodically or one time
  • Save logs of events related to access as well as activities of managed privileged accounts.

 

How Privileged Access Management Became The New PAM?

PAM has become more than just securing and vaulting credentials. The concept focuses more on securing usage of privileged accounts as well as access to privileged data. With more companies adopting privileged account management solutions, the new PAM has become a vital facilitator of holistic security solutions that paved the way for the growth of PAM. With the course of time, more advanced integration surfaced such as integration with  MFA tools, IGA tools, and SIEMs. Additionally, there is also support for DevOps toolchains, API workloads, and RPA tools.

The modern cybersecurity priorities are that there is a need to implement incident response strategies and adhere to the latest compliance requirements. This has encouraged organizations to conduct business and data impact assessments.

Furthermore, when they assessed the results, it showed that there is more need for Privileged Access management. So the modern PAM solutions protect access to critical data and accounts. Compliance security control is implemented to protect as well as mitigate the risks of being exploited. This has made unauthorized access to privileged accounts and data like financial info, identifiable information, etc., more secure.

 

How Privileged Access Management Benefits Organizations?

There are different areas where new PAM benefits organizations –

Managing The Privileges

For systems to work efficiently, they must be able to access and interact with each other. With companies adopting cloud, robotic process automation, DevOps, etc., the number of applications and machines requiring privileged access has increased. This surge has increased the risk of a cyber attack. The non-human units outnumber the people of the organization and are more challenging to track and manage. Robust privileged access management will monitor all the privileges irrespective of where they are located on the premises. They are capable of detecting anomalous activities in real-time, thereby making the monitoring process more efficient.

 

Managing Human Privileges

Humans are considered the weakest link of the cyber security series. Whether users abuse their internal privilege access or attackers targeting humans and stealing access from them, humans are always at the risk of exploitation. PAM can assist companies in making sure that the people only have a certain level of access so that they can do their job effectively. It also allows the security team to determine malicious activities by privileged users and take immediate action to eliminate the risks.

 

PAM Helps With Compliance

The capability of monitoring and detecting suspicious activities in an organization is important; however, without knowing the area that has greater risks, the organization will continue to be vulnerable. Leveraging PAM as a through security as well as risk management strategy allows companies to record and log activities that are related to sensitive information and important infrastructure. This helps the internal team to streamline audit as well as compliance requirements.

 

Protection Of The Workstations And Endpoints

Every endpoint of an organization, including desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablets, etc., has privilege. Integrated administrator accounts allow the IT team to resolve issues locally, but there is a certain risk associated with it. Attackers can exploit this account and get access to workstations, access credentials, increase the privileges, and move further to their main target. An effective PAM solution is capable of removing local administrative rights comprehensively on workstations, thereby reducing risks to a great extent.

 

Final Thoughts

Privileged Access Management is the new benchmark that determines the effectiveness of modern cybersecurity. It plays a significant role in reducing the risks of cyber attacks as well as internal abuse. With the evolving cybersecurity realm, the scope of PAM is also constantly evolving. Different deployment models are being extended with more advanced features such as PAM being used as SaaS, managed security solutions, etc. Such developments will give companies the option to choose from various PAM solutions that best cater to their objectives.

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