Privileged Access Management
Secure management of user accounts that have elevated / privileged permissions on critical IT resources.
Privileged Access Management
Privileged Access Management (PAM) protects your business from intentional, but also unconscious abuse of privileged access.
Especially growing organizations or enterprises after a merger or acquisition benefit from such solutions since IT networks and systems become more and more complex as they grow.
Privileged user accounts are being heavily targeted by cybercriminals. This is because these accounts have elevated privileges in systems that allow them to access highly confidential data or make administrator-level changes to mission-critical systems and applications.
Privileged Access Management securely manages user accounts that have elevated / privileged permissions on critical IT resources. These can be human administrators, operating systems, applications, systems, and any other (digital) users. Privileged Access Management is sometimes also referred to as Privileged Account Management.
What is the difference between Privileged Access Management and Identity and Access Management?
Privileged Access Management is often mistaken with Identity and Access Management (IAM). However, the terms refer to fundamentally different areas: Privileged Access Management refers to Privileged User Access, i.e., the access of privileged users. Identity and Access Management refers to the identification and authorization of all users in a company.
Identity and Access Management solutions address the management of all identities with all roles and rights; Privileged Access Management solutions aim to restrict access as much as possible – the purpose is therefore different. The OAuth standard or „security assertions“ such as SAML in IAM solutions, serve to integrate third-party apps and data. These functions are not wanted and not used in the Privileged Access Management environment.
Privileged Access Management addresses Privileged User Access
A privileged user is a user with significantly increased access possibilities, for example, an “administrator” in Windows or “root” in Unix/Linux environments. Such privileged user accounts are used to manage and control central IT services, such as Microsoft Exchange Server, Finance, HR systems, and database or file servers used throughout the company.
Since these accounts allow access to critical information, they are privileged and should be managed separately.
Why do you need Privileged Access Management?
Some administrators overwrite existing security settings and thus create security vulnerabilities. If such privileged users can change the IT environment or copy data without control, this poses a potential threat to any organization. On the one hand, there is the danger of “insider jobs”, i.e., that an employee or service provider deliberately steals information or sabotages the network. On the other hand, cybercriminals can also steal access data and enter company networks disguised as employees.
Privileged Access Management addresses and solves this issue
Privileged Access Management solutions offer you the possibility to manage all privileged users in different systems without much effort:
Limit access for specific users to selected systems and data
Restrict access to certain areas of the IT environment and withdraw it again
Avoid unnecessary password management and password entries
Ensure central management of access rights across heterogeneous networks
Create accurate audit trails for every action taken by a privileged user, enabling compliance reporting
The Elements of a Privileged Access Management Architecture
A Privileged Access Management architecture consists of these basic modules:
Passwords to critical systems have to be protected, even from the privileged users with increased security clearance. This way, passwords cannot be changed or overwritten without prior agreement. The access data is stored in a secure “digital safe” (= Password Vault), and access to this safe is only released after a privileged user has requested it from the Access Manager.
This module controls and limits the access of privileged accounts. Policies for Privileged Access Management are defined, monitored, and logged at this central system. The privileged users request access rights, and the access manager recognizes which systems are released and accessible for a user. A dedicated Super Administrator for the Access Manager can add or delete accounts or manage existing users. This eliminates the threat of unauthorized access by former employees – a much greater threat and more real than many IT managers are willing to admit.
Access control is essential but not sufficient. The Session Manager provides the ability to manage and analyze the actions of the user.
Privileged Access Management is important to your business
Privileged accounts with increased rights are just everywhere. There are multiple types of privileged accounts: They can be “local” in your enterprise and/or used to access cloud services. They differ from standard accounts in that they have elevated privileges, such as the power of changing settings for large user groups.
For example, the root account on Unix/Linux systems is privileged. The account owner for the Google Cloud Platform or Microsoft Azure is another example of privileged accounts. An account holder for the official LinkedIn company profile is another one.
Unmanaged privileged accounts are a severe risk to your business. Cybercriminals are far more interested in stealing privileged account credentials than any other type of accounts. They, therefore, pose a significant threat to IT departments.
Unfortunately, access to these privileged accounts is typically not adequately organized, even though there is a high risk of significant damage if such accounts are compromised. Frequent problems include many people using the same account without clear history or accountability and not regularly changed passwords.
Privileged access management solutions help to control these risks and thus meet compliance requirements.
How are Privileged Access Management solutions working?
The Privileged Access Management administrator defines methods for accessing privileged accounts across various applications, and IT resources in the Privileged Access Management system dashboard. The login information of privileged accounts is stored in a special and highly secure digital password vault. The administrator of the Privileged Access Management system also uses the PAM dashboard to specify policies, on who can get access to these privileged accounts and under what circumstances.
The privileged users log in to the Access Manager of the Privileged Access Management solution and requests or receives immediate access to the privileged user account. These accesses are protocolled and remain temporarily exclusive for the execution of specific tasks. For security reasons, Privileged Access Management users are usually prompted to provide a business justification for using the account. In addition, authorization from a supervisor or manager is sometimes required. Instead of being given access to the actual passwords used to log on to applications, users are often granted access to target systems through the Privileged Access Management System. Privileged Access Management also ensures that passwords are regularly changed, often automatically, either at regular intervals or after each use.
Privileged Access Management enables compliance audits and reports
The Privileged Access Management Administrator can monitor user activity through the PAM dashboard on demand, and monitor and manage sessions in real time. Modern PAM solutions also rely on AI-based algorithms and machine learning to identify anomalies and use risk assessment to inform the PAM administrator in real time about risky operations.
Advantages of a Privileged Access Management Solution
A significantly higher level of security is the obvious advantage of implementing a PAM system. However, this is not the only advantage.
A Privileged Access Management solution offers:
Protection against attacks from „inside“
A large number of the attacks come from within the company. Or from employees who have left the company but have not (yet) been completely deactivated to prevent them from gaining access after leaving the company.
Protection against cyber criminals
Privileged users are facing the same issues as other users when it comes to memorizing multiple passwords. They also tend to use the same password for multiple accounts again and again. However, these privileged users are the primary target of cybercriminals. A Privileged Access Management system reduces the need to remember many passwords and prevent privileged users from creating direct system passwords. Session management, triggers, and alerts help the super admin identify potential threats and attacks in real-time.
A PAM system significantly increases the productivity of privileged users. It enables them to log on to the required systems more quickly. Also, it is no longer necessary to remember many passwords. It also allows the superuser to easily manage privileged user access from a central dashboard instead of using various tools, systems, and applications.
Securely comply with compliance requirements
Most compliance regulations require granular, specific control of privileged user accounts and the ability to log and audit the access. You may restrict access to critical systems, ask for additional permissions, or use multifactor authentication for privileged accounts. Auditing tools in PAM systems record the activity and allow you to provide a clear audit trail. Privileged Access Management helps enterprises and organizations to comply with compliance regulations such as FINMA, FISMA, ICS CERT, PCI DSS, ISO 27002, …
Optimal benefit by combining Privileged Access Management with Identity and Access Management
The combination of a PAM and an IAM solution offers numerous advantages. Many of our customers choose this integrated approach, because it reduces security risks, meets audit and compliance requirements, and improves the productivity of the chronically overburdened IT department.
Identity and Access Management offers you the following possibilities:
Ensure that privileged access is automatically terminated when employees leave the company. This is also a compliance requirement, e.g. for PCI DSS. Not all PAM tools ensure this and far too often IT departments are not deactivating former employees quickly enough.
Add multifactor authentication (MFA) to your Privileged Access Management solution. Many compliance regulations require a highly secure administrator access with tools such as multifactor authentication.
Ensuring that administrators are productive from day one. By deploying your IAM with PAM, you can automatically provision administrators in the PAM system and give them the appropriate access on their first day.
Provide a single GUI. By using your Identity and Access Management system as an interface to the Privileged Access Management solution, you clearly improve the user experience and productivity of privileged users by allowing them to use and access the PAM system from the same place as other corporate resources.
Privileged Access Management plays a crucial role in securing your company’s IT resources and data in the best possible way. The best Identity and Access Management solutions include the integrated use of an IAM and a PAM system to ensure security and ease of use.
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