What is PAM & how can I use it to protect data? 

Digitization in small and medium-sized enterprises is making increasing progress, and more and more German companies are increasingly using home offices or shifting the core of their entire business operations to the Internet. In the same proportion, however, the number of press reports about problems with IT security is also increasing. 

Time and again, data from companies is unintentionally leaked to the public, sometimes causing considerable financial damage and image problems. Data leaks, blackmail and unclear access rights therefore not only burn money, but also slow down digitization.  

PAM (Privileged Access Management) can help contain these threats in your organization. 

In this article we answer the question: What is PAM? We will also show you how you can integrate PAM into your company and why or in which industries it makes sense.

What is a Privileged Account? 

A Privileged Account (PA) describes an account with extended access rights to data in your company that is not freely accessible. For example, you can share customer data only with certain employees by creating a privileged account for them. 

What are possible examples of a privileged account? 

Assume that your company manufactures products or services and relies on software to do so. Depending on the department, your employees need different access rights:

  • Your IT department will usually make changes to the software or website from time to time to adapt it to current conditions - so employees need the appropriate access rights.  
  • Employees in the finance department need access to your company's accounts and must have insight into the financial data. Individual access should be set up for this as well. 

In both cases, these are privileged accounts that have more access rights than other user profiles. For example, you can create a superuser account that has the right to access, edit and modify the software or accounting. 

The easiest way to manage these accounts is with a PAM system, because of course not all of your employees should be able to access these areas. On the one hand, this prevents serious errors, and on the other, it protects you against cybercrime. 

What is meant by PAM? 

Privileged Access Management (PAM for short) is a security solution that controls access rights within your company. Privileged accounts are set up so that only those people who need access to critical data have it. In this way, PAM serves to provide control, security and transparency within your company. 

Which building blocks do I need for PAM? 

You may be asking yourself, "What is the goal with PAM anyway?" Basically, PAM is a software or system that enables you to manage and control access rights. It also empowers you to track activities and operations and review them as needed. 

In simple terms, PAM helps you answer the following questions: Who did what, when, why and where? 

To install a functioning PAM in your company, you need three building blocks: 

  1. Clear division of tasks & access rights: So that you can exclude unauthorized persons from using the data, you should know which persons are authorized. Therefore, you must first determine which people really need the data for their work. You can make this assignment of access rights either departmentally or task-specifically. 
  2. Multi-factor authentication: To ensure that people are excluded, you should set up sufficient safeguards in your PAM software. With multi-factor authentication, you can ensure that your employees' digital identities are not stolen. 
  3. Reporting & control: Finally, your PAM solution should be able to generate detailed reports and ensure control. Finally, you need to know how qualitatively the PAM solutions are working and what optimization potential there is. 

Why PAM? 

In times of digitized infrastructures and business models, new risks arise. To protect your company from accidental or criminal data misuse, you need efficient security solutions. Using Privileged Access Management (PAM), you can prevent data outflows and preventively optimize your IT security. 

What advantages does Privileged Access Management offer me ?

In view of the increasing demands on IT security, more and more customers are opting for PAM. But what is the reason for implementing PAM and what are the decisive advantages? 

  1. Traceability & Error Identification

Work on complex software systems does not always proceed without problems. When editing the software, unintentional changes can occur that limit the functionality of the entire operational process. 

In such a case, PAM allows you to trace the last steps taken, identify the error and correct it quickly. The more digitalized your company and your business concept are, the more important this function is. 

  1. Security & meeting compliance requirements

Blackmail, data and identity theft - the list of security problems is getting longer and longer. More and more companies in the SME sector are having to experience first-hand how serious the consequences can be. 

With PAM, you close a major gateway for cybercriminals and significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access to your data. This not only increases security, but also makes it easier to meet compliance requirements thanks to the increased protection.

  1. Clear access rights & responsibilities

Unclear access rights cost time, money and security. If your employees have too few access rights, you can't perform tasks and have to wait for approval from supervisors or the IT department. 

If, on the other hand, they are given too many access rights, this undermines the functioning of the PAM and the system becomes more vulnerable to external and internal data leaks. 

For this reason, a so-called Active Directory (i.e., an individualized assignment of access rights) is important. In this way, you ensure that your PAM functions optimally and that access rights are assigned precisely. 

What are the challenges with a Privileged Access Management software?

If PAM is a new concept for you, you should know what challenges come with this solution. This way, you will avoid inefficiencies during implementation. To illustrate this, we have created a fictitious case study. 

The company Frachtgut GmbH wants to integrate a PAM Privileged Access Management solution. This poses several challenges for the managing director Hannah: 

  1. Challenge: What is the best way to distribute access rights in PAM? 

First, individual access rights are to be assigned. However, since access rights have never been clearly delineated and assigned before, this entails an increased time commitment for Hannah. 

In such a case we recommend the "Principle of least Privilege". Following this principle, Hannah distributes only those access rights that are absolutely necessary for the work of the persons concerned. Finally, the introduction of PAM serves to close the gateway for unauthorized access.  

Therefore, the question arises, what is a PAM worth if you distribute the access rights too generously? Not much! For this reason, it makes more sense to play it safe first and better to give your employees too few access rights than too many.

If it turns out later that individual employees need additional access rights, you can quickly assign them. If, on the other hand, you have distributed too many access rights, this often only becomes apparent in the event of an incident (e.g. a data leak). 

Hannah therefore speaks directly with the department heads about the exact tasks of the respective employees and has the IT department distribute the access rights accordingly. 

  1. Challenge: What should be considered when assigning passwords to the PAM? 

After Hannah has been able to clearly distribute responsibilities and access rights, she faces the next problem: What is a good password at the PAM? After all, all users need their own password to protect the associated access rights from unauthorized access. 

Depending on the size of the company, various solutions can be selected for this purpose. The larger the company, the more expensive and complex the password system usually is. Regular password rotations are often used to protect the identities. 

However, this can also be accompanied by various challenges. With frequent updating and rotation, the risk of employees forgetting the current password is high. This leads to extra work and wastes resources that you can better use elsewhere. 

For this reason, we usually recommend two-factor authentication (e.g., using a password and an SMS code). This provides an appropriate level of security without tying up too many resources and causing too many problems. 

We use the same approach for our PAM Security solutions and Hannah also chooses this solution. 

For which industries is PAM particularly suitable? 

In recent years, we have continued to optimize our solutions. We asked our customers: What is particularly important to you in a PAM software and where do you see potential for improvement? 

In this way, we were able to increasingly tailor our three VISULOX solutions to the needs of our customers. In the meantime, VISULOX has been in use for almost 20 years and is used by many leading companies. 

PAM is particularly useful within critical infrastructure and for companies that collect sensitive data. However, in recent years, digitalization has increasingly brought medium-sized companies to our customers, who want to act as pioneers in the German market. 

Therefore, VISULOX is used in many different industries and not only in the IT sector and critical infrastructure. Instead, we also count logistics companies, financial service providers and automotive suppliers among our customers. The customizability means that our software can be tailored precisely to your company. 

How long does the implementation take? 

Since we continuously develop our solutions, we have been able to make the establishment of our software in companies significantly faster, easier and, above all, more cost-effective in recent years. We are often able to provide proof of concept within three days and deployment within one day.

Our VISULOX solutions are divided into three sub-areas: 

  • VISULOX PAMWith our PAM software, you can control and monitor all access by internal and external users from a central location. According to the motto: Who did what, when and where?
  • VISULOX REMOTE SUPPORT: Our Remote Support solution provides you with a central portal through which you can assign applications without requiring a VPN connection. In addition, you can set two-factor authentications and time windows, for example, to build in secure remote access.n
  • VISULOX Data Transfer Control: The exchange of data in your company always brings with it a certain security risk. With our Data Transfer Control software you have the possibility to control this exchange via rules and requirements and to control it independently. 

With amitego you can implement a PAM software quickly & inexpensively

A good PAM solution can help you close security gaps and secure your business. On the other hand, if you do not have a PAM solution, you not only neglect potential security issues, but also risk inefficiency and loss of time. 

What is important in a PAM solution, or when is a solution worth your money? You can recognize a high-quality PAM solution by the following criteria: 

  1. The software must fit your company & not the other way around: If you have to change and adapt all server infrastructures or clients first to implement the solution, the problem is not your company, but the lack of flexibility of the PAM system. 
  2. Centralized access makes management easier: Even though the PAM solution helps you securely decentralize structures, the solution should still provide centralized access. This way, you have the ability to control and manage all access rights in one place. 
  3. Documentation & reporting are mandatory: The best software for controlling access rights is of no use to you if it does not deliver results. A quality PAM solution should document and report on accesses. 
  4. The software must not cost more than the data leaks to be prevented: Especially for medium-sized companies, immense investments in the IT infrastructure are not affordable, even though they serve security. However, you don't have to spend huge amounts to protect yourself and your company either. 

If you are looking for a high quality PAM solution at a reasonable price, amitego is the right place to go. In recent years, we have continued to adapt our VISULOX software to the current circumstances and requirements of our customers. 

Convince yourself and book a demo! We look forward to your feedback and a non-binding initial meeting with you.

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