Every company has them. Many do not know about them, often unnoticed but never to be neglected. Privileged accounts. These are mostly hidden, but always link between the functioning of IT and day-to-day operations. Any organization can draw a line from its overall operations to privileged accounts and systems.
In every system an organization uses, there is a privileged account that accesses everything from employee email to sensitive databases and data containing personal information. No matter what risk you identify in an organization, you can pull a threat vector from that risk to a privileged account. Given that 70 percent of security breaches involve the misuse of access rights, organizations need a streamlined approach to protecting identities and privileged access. Because these accounts pose an increased risk, it's important to get them under control as quickly as possible. Speed is key. Accelerating the implementation process for the Privileged Access Management (PAM) offers significant benefits.
So what are the most common reasons why a company would want to implement PAM quickly, and what are the challenges involved?
1. before an audit or to close audit gaps
Auditors review how privileged accounts are managed and look for gaps in coverage, such as conformance to the internationally recognized ISO 27001 standard or the NIST framework. In addition, increasingly stringent cyber insurance requirements require that a PAM solution be implemented to qualify for coverage.
Often, companies don't realize that their lack of PAM controls is a problem until it becomes an issue.
For example, if a group of administrators share a set of root accounts for a sensitive database and there are no problems, the organization will not realize that the lack of accountability is a problem.
However, auditors will look for such gaps and point them out so they can be closed. Depending on the type of compliance requirements a company must meet, fines can be imposed for non-compliance or, in the operationally worse case, companies can be dropped from supply chains as a result of poor cybersecurity.
The faster the gaps can be closed by managing privileged access, the less likely your organization is to be hit with fines or sanctions, which in turn accelerates compliance.
2. reduced personal responsibility and control over who has access to certain areas.
It often happens that companies do not know exactly who actually needs privileged access to certain data. However, especially when it comes to sensitive information, it is extremely important that the users who need this access act transparently and responsibly. Companies should therefore always make sure that they maintain an overview and fulfill their responsibilities.
When IT teams have an overview of who is accessing what data, they can identify and respond to unusual activity and misconduct more quickly. Some PAM solutions offer the option of taking automatic action when deviations are detected.
With increased visibility and accountability, security teams have the ability to take targeted action to improve security. This involves removing orphaned accounts and excluding individuals with static or excessive privileges.
3. improved safety without compromising productivity
Organizations that need to quickly implement a PAM solution due to audits or compliance reviews often fear that the implementation will be costly, time-consuming, and have a negative impact on other business initiatives. Often, security expenditures are viewed as a cost rather than an investment in the operation of the business.
However, a PAM implementation doesn't have to mean compromising before you see the benefits.
Basic functionality rollout is greatly facilitated when an organization has an identity management system in place, as it can further accelerate the PAM implementation process. When integrated with an identity management system, a PAM solution can quickly get just-in-time (JIT) access use cases up and running.
Applications themselves are granted privileges and these are assigned to users individually or on a group basis as required via known user repositories. In other words: A user - whether internal or external - has access at any time only to the applications he needs for his work. If necessary, it is possible to give a user Just In Time access to specific applications. And the whole thing:
- centralized via an always accessible portal
- Without installing agents on servers or clients
- Protocol independent for RDP, SSH, VNC, Telnet, etc.
- Can be installed in cloud-native, hybrid or on premise infrastructures
User behavior data collected during an initial implementation of privileged access management can be stored to establish a baseline and analyze future user actions for privileged accounts. From there, additional guardrails - such as analyzing user behavior in conjunction with a set of security measures - can further protect these accounts.
With a smooth PAM implementation, organizations can accelerate their return on investment, reduce project costs, and minimize the impact on privileged user productivity.
Steps to accelerate the implementation process of a Privileged Access Management solution
Companies often have reasons and challenges that drive them to implement PAM. But a fast and smooth implementation depends not only on the vendor, but also on the company's preparation. There are steps that can be taken internally to accelerate implementation and succeed regardless of the PAM vendor.
1. Analyze the threat vectors for privileged access management.
One of the most effective things an organization can do to prepare for a PAM implementation is to analyze and inventory the accounts that pose the greatest risk. Teams should ask themselves a number of questions as they undertake this task:
Which processes pose the greatest risks?
How would these be classified according to risk?
Which processes are linked to which accounts, and on which accounts do these processes rely?
Go beyond the usual corporate privileged accounts and consider other scenarios. For example, imagine how a hacked social media account could drive up the stock price. High-risk accounts aren't always just those owned by the IT department. Think more broadly and act proactively to close potential security gaps.
By capturing all privileged accounts, sorting them by importance, and making them accessible, organizations have a clear idea of their potential risks and weaknesses and a strategy for which accounts should be subjected to privileged management actions first.
2. involvement of users and stakeholders
PAM projects do not only require the involvement of the IT or cyber security team. Application and process owners should also be involved in the implementation. Successful implementation of PAM projects and ongoing maintenance also require the support of change management and senior management.
3. create a short list of the use cases with the highest priority
After completing the challenging task of assigning and evaluating privileged accounts, the next step is to create priority PAM applications.
It is essential that vendors are able to meet the specific needs of the business before a decision is made on which vendor to use. Even though workflows are customized for each company, the higher priority use cases should be considered. At the same time, however, the functions that need to be adapted for lower-priority use cases should also be kept in mind. It is therefore essential to carefully examine the company's requirements before making a decision.
The speed of PAM implementation can vary greatly depending on whether the key use cases have been clearly defined and prioritized, and whether these have been communicated with potential vendors. So a fast and efficient process depends on smart and careful planning.
4. work together with potential partners or providers
Adding an additional solution to your infrastructure will not miraculously eliminate all of your company's difficulties. Furthermore, integrating features from multiple vendors can be a difficult task if the new option doesn't fit smoothly into your existing workflow.
When choosing useful services for your business, you should think about how to minimize the number of different components that need to be integrated from different vendors. This will allow you to maximize the efficiency and usefulness of these services.
When an organization uses multiple service providers for individual services such as user identity management, MFA, and access management, there is a need to combine technologies, pay vendors, and manage multiple resources. By combining multiple PAM providers, less work is required, the cost of operations is reduced, and integration issues with diverse technologies are reduced.
5. when you replace your PAM solution, look at your attack surfaces with new eyes
Organizations that need a new PAM solution to replace their existing one are far more numerous than those that have no privileged access management at all. However, when an organization finds its existing PAM solution inadequate, it is obvious that it wants to address the lack of functionality as quickly as possible.
Instead of simply replacing PAM processes 1:1, take the opportunity to rethink the company's PAM approach. Don't get into an isolated mindset or get stuck with the current processes that a PAM solution handles. It's important to consider the business problems you're trying to solve, rather than just focusing on the current technology.
6. develop the bases for normal behavior and best practices.
It is critical that organizations formalize and implement best practices for Privileged Access Management to better scale PAM workflows. Avoiding orphaned accounts, setting access rights for identities, elevating privileges in a timely manner, segregating duties, using MFA, and documenting and regularly reviewing PAM processes are just a few of the best practices that help protect an organization's most sensitive accounts and applications. Regardless of the cause, whether it's an audit, cyber insurance or an increased risk of attack, securing the most sensitive data, identities and applications quickly and efficiently is a top priority. By working with an experienced Unified Identity security solutions provider and preparing for a rapid implementation process for the Privileged Access Management , your organization can be better protected against internal and external threats.
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