10 Privileged Access Management Best Practices

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Calender
June 13, 2024
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Securing your business's sensitive information and critical systems is one of the most important tasks you need to do as a business owner. While considering the security measurements, you must pay close attention to privileged access management.

PAM can safeguard your business from a wide range of threats. Think of it as a robust strategy to protect your organization's most valuable digital assets.

If they fall into the wrong hands, these accounts could be used to steal sensitive data, disrupt critical systems, or even launch attacks on your customers or partners. But with PAM, you control who has access to these privileged accounts, what they can do with that access, and how their activity is monitored.

This article highlights ten privileged access management best practices. You'll learn about the importance of regular checks, centralized user management, RBAC, etc.

Why Privileged Access Management is Important for Your Business

Privileged access management is essential to safeguard your organization's critical systems and sensitive data. It helps mitigate risks associated with elevated access, ensuring that only authorized users can perform specific high-level tasks. Here are four key reasons why PAM is crucial for your business:

1. Mitigation of Insider Threats

Whether malicious or accidental, insider threats are undoubtedly a massive risk to your organization. Employees with elevated access can intentionally or mistakenly cause data breaches, system disruptions, or data theft.

When you implement PAM, you can monitor and control the actions of users with privileged account access. This reduces the risks of insider threats and ensures that only authorized and monitored actions are performed.

2. Protection Against Cyber Attacks

Cyber attackers often target privileged accounts to access critical systems and sensitive data. If the hackers succeed in compromising these accounts, it will lead to compliance violations, resulting in poor brand reputation.

For example, they can use these accounts to move internally within your business, enhancing the scope of brute force attacks. Not to mention, your business can also become vulnerable to DDoS attacks.

With PAM, you can ensure strict access controls and monitor privileged account activities. This makes it harder for attackers to exploit these accounts and limits their ability to cause severe damage.

3. Regulatory Compliance

Depending on your business industry, you may be subject to strict regulatory requirements that mandate the protection of sensitive information. Regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI-DSS require robust access management practices.

PAM helps you meet these compliance requirements by providing detailed audit logs, access controls, and monitoring capabilities. As a result, you can manage privileged access and create documents according to regulatory standards.

4. Enhanced Operational Efficiency

Managing privileged access manually can be time-consuming and error-prone. PAM solutions automate the process of granting, monitoring, and revoking privileged access.

This automation streamlines your operations and ensures that access policies are consistent across your organization. Thus, you can boost your overall security posture and operational efficiency.

10 Privileged Access Management Best Practices

Managing privileged access effectively is undoubtedly one of the most important things you must consider. It can help you strengthen the security and integrity of your organization's critical systems and data.

Following privileged access management best practices can reduce security breaches, ensure compliance with regulatory standards, and improve overall operational efficiency. Here are ten critical best practices to help you manage privileged access effectively.

1. Conduct Regular Audits of Privileged Accounts

Auditing privileged accounts regularly ensures that your organization's access controls remain effective and updated. Start by identifying and documenting all privileged accounts within your system.

These include those with administrative access, service accounts, and any other accounts with elevated permissions. This way, you can maintain an accurate inventory of who has access to critical systems and data.

During these audits, determine the necessity of each privileged account, ensuring that all accounts have a valid business justification. Check for any accounts that may have been overlooked or forgotten, and remove access where it is no longer needed.

Audits should also include a review of privileged activity. Monitoring and analyzing the actions performed by privileged accounts can help you detect unusual or suspicious behavior. This practice strengthens your security practices and supports compliance with regulatory requirements.

2. Centralize All User Accounts and Opt for Centralized User Management

This is one of the best practices for privileged access management. Centralizing all user accounts and implementing centralized user management can help you maintain control over privileged access.

Manual or decentralized user management can lead to inconsistent access controls, making monitoring and enforcing security policies difficult. This increases the risk of unauthorized access, as tracking who has elevated privileges becomes challenging.

Different departments or teams might manage user accounts independently when your business has a decentralized system. This can lead to discrepancies in access levels and security practices. Moreover, it can lead to privileged accounts being overlooked during audits or access not being revoked promptly when no longer needed.

You can standardize attribute-based access control policies across your organization when you centralize user accounts and opt for a unified user management system. A centralized management system can:

  • Ensure that all user accounts adhere to the same access control policies
  • Help you track and audit user activities, identify anomalies, and take corrective actions
  • Automate provisioning and deprovisioning
  • Support compliance with regulatory requirements

3. Strong Password Policies & Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Strong password policies and multi-factor authentication are the most effective ways to secure privileged accounts. Strong passwords can help you prevent unauthorized access. On the other hand, weak and easy-to-guess passwords are highly penetrable.

To mitigate these risks, focus on password policies that require a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Additionally, a minimum password length, typically 12 characters, should be set, and regular password updates should be mandated.

Besides solid passwords, MFA can boost security requirements as privileged users must provide multiple verification forms.

Even if an attacker obtains a user's password, they still need the second factor to gain access. This will undoubtedly reduce unauthorized access and protect against phishing attacks.

You can implement various MFA methods to enhance security. Hardware tokens, which generate time-based one-time passwords or use cryptographic keys for authentication, provide more robust security.

4. Implement the Principle of Least Privilege

The principle of least privilege is another access management best practice for maintaining a secure access environment. It states that users should only be granted the minimum level of access necessary to perform their job functions.

Keep in mind that providing excessive privileges increases the risk of unauthorized access. Employees with more access than required may unintentionally or maliciously access sensitive information. This can lead to data leaks or system compromise.

When you implement the principle of least privilege, you need to review user permissions and access rights to ensure they align with job roles and responsibilities. This process includes conducting access reviews, updating user access permissions, and RBAC.

Thanks to the principle of least privilege, you can reduce the risk of insider threats, data breaches, and unauthorized access. It also effectively safeguards sensitive information.

5. Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) is essential for managing privileged access effectively. With RBAC, you assign permissions to users based on their roles and responsibilities within your organization's security posture. This helps you ensure they have access only to the resources necessary for their tasks.

Image showing role based access control

Here are a couple of benefits of RBAC you should know:

Enhanced Security

RBAC reduces the risk of data breaches and insider threats by limiting access to sensitive information and critical systems. Thus, you can ensure users have access only to their required job functions.

Simplified Access Management

RBAC can standardize permissions based on predefined roles, streamlining your access management processes. Instead of managing permissions for each user individually, you can assign specific roles.

Improved Compliance

RBAC helps you meet regulatory requirements. You can comply with regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI-DSS by implementing least privilege principles through RBAC.

Remember that attackers often target accounts with excessive permissions to gain unauthorized access to critical systems and data. Thanks to RBAC, you can minimize attack surfaces by reducing the number of users with elevated privileges.

6. Rotate and Manage Passwords Regularly

Hackers often target privileged accounts, so you must pay close attention to robust password management. Make sure you determine the required complexity, length, and frequency of password changes for administrator accounts.

We suggest using uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols in strong passwords to enhance security. Consider a minimum password length of 12 characters to defend against brute-force attacks. Regularly rotate passwords, ideally every 90 days, to limit the window of opportunity for compromised privileged credentials.

However, rotating passwords manually can be time-consuming. This is where password rotation tools come into the picture. These tools can generate and store complex passwords easily.

Last but not least, you also need to consider secure password storage. Use password vaults with encryption to safeguard sensitive credentials and provide additional protection. Don’t forget to use PAM solutions, as most of them offer integrated password vaults and can automate the rotation and management process.

7. Session Monitoring and Logging

Privileged accounts often access critical systems and sensitive data, making them prime targets for attackers. Monitoring these accounts closely will ensure their access is used appropriately.

One key benefit of session monitoring is the ability to record and log user activities, which provides a detailed record of all actions taken by users with elevated access. Maintaining these detailed logs allows you to hold users accountable for their actions.

Moreover, in the event of a security incident, recorded sessions and logs enable forensic analysis to understand the breach and take corrective measurements.

Session monitoring is also crucial in detecting suspicious activity and potential security threats. By monitoring user sessions continuously, you can identify anomalies and unusual behavior.

For example, monitoring tools can automatically flag abnormal patterns, such as access attempts from unusual locations or times, or actions not typical for a specific user role.

8. Implement Just-In-Time (JIT) Privileged Access

Before we discuss the implementation of Just-in-time privileged access, let’s understand what JIT is. It’s a method of granting elevated access only when needed and for a limited time. This helps you minimize the risk of misuse or unauthorized access.

But how JIT access reduces the attack surface? Simple – by supporting the principle of least privilege. Thus, it will be harder for attackers to exploit admin accounts.

One of the key benefits of JIT-privileged access is the reduction of security vulnerabilities. While hackers can exploit permanent access rights, JIT access minimizes these risks by ensuring elevated privileges are only available for a short span.

To manage JIT access effectively, make sure you consider automated solutions. They can grant and revoke access while seamlessly integrating with your existing IAM systems.

9. Employee Training and Education

Employee training and education are key parts of a robust privileged access management strategy. Educating your employees on cybersecurity strategies and best practices ensures they understand and follow security protocols.

Training employees to recognize phishing attacks and social engineering tactics is essential. Cybercriminals often use these methods to gain unauthorized access by deceiving individuals. When you teach employees, you can help them stay aware of such threats.

Furthermore, promoting a culture of security awareness within your organization further strengthens security. Regular training sessions, security drills, and communication about the latest threats and best practices help you embed security awareness into your company culture.

You also need to encourage employees to take ownership of their role in maintaining security. Remember, educated employees are less likely to make mistakes that could lead to breaches.

10. Automation for Efficiency

Being aware of privileged access management best practices will not protect your business from hackers. You must ensure you’re automating different aspects, as manual procedures are more time-consuming and error-prone.

This is where CloudEagle comes into the picture. CloudEagle can help you automate the PAM processes and manage these emergency accounts effectively.

For example, the identity and access management features will ensure that people get access to the right apps.

CloudEagle will let you build an intuitive app catalog where users can easily browse and request access to the necessary software. The system will allow assigned app admins to review and grant access as appropriate.

Image of CloudEagle's app catalog

But that’s not all. One of the strongest points of CloudEagle is to provide you with the application logs during security audits. As you can export the logs directly from the ClodEagle portal, you don’t need to worry about facing any technical difficulties.

Image of CloudEagle's access logs

CloudEagle will provide complete user visibility and also help you automate user provisioning and deprovisioning. Thanks to its robust automation capabilities, you can save significant time and effort.

Automated Provisioning

With automated user provisioning, you don’t need to worry about any spreadsheets or manual processes. As CloudEagle comes with auto-provisioning workflows, you can automatically provision users based on their departments and roles.

Automated Deprovisioning

Automated deprovisioning allows you to revoke access and delete accounts once a user leaves your organization. The process requires minimal time and effort.

When you use CloudEagle, you can revoke access in time. This way, you don’t need to worry about departed users accessing your business’s sensitive information.

Still not convinced? Let us give you a real-life example. Look at what Alice Park from Remediant says about CloudEagle’s onboarding and offboarding process.

Remember that managing user access is extremely important. With CloudEagle, you can ensure your business’s privileged access management is at its peak.

Conclusion

Remember that privileged access management is one of the most effective ways to prevent cyber threats. By carefully controlling access to sensitive systems and data, you can boost security measurements and mitigate the risks of insider and external attacks.

Thanks to education, vigilance, and privileged identity management tools like CloudEagle, you can protect your valuable assets and ensure regulatory compliance.

Book a demo with CloudEagle to secure your user access and streamline Identity and access management in your organization.

Written by
Nidhi Jain
CEO and Founder, CloudEagle
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