According to the latest report from Gartner, Privileged Account Management, or PAM, is the number one cyber security priority for CISO’s.

Data is a critical asset for your business. Technology has powered industries to new heights. However, it has created both risks and rewards. The Internet of Things (IoT), mobile technology, and the cloud have now transformed how modern businesses work.

Employees can rapidly access data when and where they need it. The problem, however, is that this immediate access has also created its security risks.

The question for IT leaders is how to provide security management to access data. How can IT teams protect and monitor data assets even as the business grows?

With systems becoming more complicated, and the demand for data continues to increase, how can a business limit the risk of security risks? Privileged Access Management can help.

What Is Privileged Account Management? A Definition

Privileged Account Management (PAM) is also often referred to as “Privileged Session Management” or “Privileged Access Management.”

Privileged security provides the power to protect your data and IT systems.

PAM acts as a secure repository, or vault, that protects your data and networks. With privileged user management, users only access the data required for their work. IT teams set these parameters. It prevents users from accessing other systems and information.

For example, a business might have one or two employees with administrator access to a Microsoft Exchange Server. Setting up email password protocols is achieved through administrator access. Only those users can delete an email account or set up a new one.

A business could assign another employee unauthorized access to company financials. Another employee might have a role in installing software.

With privileged account management guidelines, you reduce organizational security risks.

Gartner quote on Privileged Account Management

What is a Privileged Account?

Privileged account and Acess Management restricts access to privileged users.

It manages administrator access. It logs and monitors all activity.

Manage and Control Access

Using an Access Manager or Dashboard within the PAM system, a user can manage and control privileges for the other users. It is the central location to set account-level privileges. It provides a user with real-time control over system access.

An organization can manage access for each user. A user can control the information they receive. With access control, they can determine if a user can add, modify, or even delete data. In most cases, a system of this nature has it’s own level of privileged management, assigning access to users with specific access. Groups of users with similar privileges and access needs are created and assigned a particular group, often known as administrators.

Monitor and Manage Administrator Access

PAM security gives organizations additional control over the administrators and privileged users. These are the users with access that increases the risk to the business. They don’t directly access your data and systems.

Instead, they first access the privilege manager dashboard.

The log-in information of a user with admin access is stored inside the PAM system. It is kept within a structure known as a Shared Access Password Manager (SAPM). A SAPM will isolate and protect admin account passwords. Added security protocols can then be assigned to these passwords.

Once inside, the admin user will access their credentials. The system then authenticates the users. Access is always monitored and recorded. This is another layer of protection for the business.

Additional Protection for Administrator Access

Other protocols can be used to manage administrator privileges within a network.

The PSM provides additional protection against suspicious users. With PSMs, admin sessions are actively monitored by a superuser. A superuser can stop a session immediately if a problem occurs. If there is a concern that the system may be compromised, multiple levels of threat detection will alert for a rapid response to resolving the issue.

When an administrator has finished work, credentials are logged and the credential system is reset within the PAM system. This provides another layer of securing your data and network ensuring sessions aren’t left open. It removes a potential vulnerability for attackers. No one can gain entry to the system without being authenticated first.

An enterprise password manager or password vault is another way to store credentials. It provides a direct application-to-application connection. Instead of the user, the Application-to-Application Password Manager (AAPM) logs into the app. No user requires direct access to the software. Users may not even have access to a password as they often don’t need them.

chart of Privileged Access security challenges

The Benefits of Privileged Access Security

Many companies are rightfully concerned about data security. Cybercrime last year cost businesses more than $600 billion.

In the past, organizations have had limited success in increasing cybersecurity. To be successful in preventing attacks, a company needs to have a central strategy to protect critical systems. They need real-time network control. They need to secure access to data without creating vulnerabilities.

Privileged Account Management can help.

PAM security provides a single-management solution to many cybersecurity needs. It protects critical systems. It limits access to your data. It gives you a highly-secure solution for storing and accessing credentials. It provides security without frustrating employees.

Businesses use PAM to reduce the risk of a data breach. It increases security, and limits access to core systems.

Companies see other benefits:

  • Streamlined Access: Manage and control access to the network. Don’t use a piecemeal solution that leaves holes in your security. Stop adding IT workarounds when something doesn’t work. Create access protocols. You can then enforce the protocols with the same solution. PAM Solutions allows for the management of your entire network with a single platform.
  • Real-time Monitoring and Control: Grant access to data and systems when and where they are needed. Remove access just as quickly when the need is required. It’s easy to add and remove privileges and users, but it is much more difficult once a threat is detected. Monitor activity in real-time. Quickly remove access at first sight of suspicious activity. Take control of critical systems.
  • Create an Access Record: As you monitor accounts, you create an audit trail of activity. You can review how and when users accessed the system. Review the audit logs for problems. Don’t be the last to know when issues happen. Stay ahead of the game.

Many highly-regulated industries that deal with sensitive data rely on PAM. Financial records or protected customer information can better be secured using privileged accounts. Patient records and health information are protected by access management. Many healthcare providers use PAM as part of their HIPPA Compliance plan.

Reduce Risk with Privileged Account Best Practices

PAM not only limits access through privileged credentials, but it also monitors your systems and network. The system creates a record of each privileged user. It provides a history of administrator activity. You can see the actions they took. You know when they accessed the system.

This allows you to monitor suspicious activity. You’ll know when there is a potential cyber security threat.

Don’t think of PAM as a punishment for employees; it keeps employees and your data safe.

It also helps prevent misuse of administrative access. By limiting user privileges, there are fewer avenues for criminals. Exploiting user access to a system has led to many of the worst cybersecurity data breaches over the last year.

Limiting privileges reduces the risk an attacker will steal admin credentials. With credentials, the attacker can change security protocols. They can take data, install viruses, and even hide, so you don’t know they attacked. PAM security helps prevent these attacks.

The Differences Between PAM Systems and Privileged Identity Management

Privileged Account Management and Privileged Identity Management (PIM) are similar. There are also significant differences between them.

PAM manages privileged user access. It allows exclusive access to core data and systems. The PAM will block and isolate users in the network. They can only access the areas they have the privilege to use.

PIM, or Identity management (IdM), focuses on authorized users. PIM creates an identity for a user in the system. Users authenticate the identity before access is granted. Think of it as the door into your network. It opens the network but provides limited control over privileges inside. Most of the control is on authenticating the identity.

Within that identity, you can set privileges. You can limit access during the creation of the identity. This is the connection between PAM and PIM. The focus of PIM is opening the systems, and not restricting them. It doesn’t monitor access; it adds more protection by creating layers of security for core systems and data. The focus is on protection and reducing risk, especially for critical root access.

Getting Started with a PAM Security Solution

The first step in your security process is at the very least started: understanding your organization needs a process.

As a beginning stage, start by reviewing how you currently manage user access. Many companies are surprised to find many users have unlimited levels of access.

With an open network, users can access unnecessary data or have system privileges outside the scope of their job needs.

Begin tracking administrator access with a privilege management program. You may find habits and behaviors are also increasing risk.

Start to focus on what employees require on a permission scale and establish a hierarchy system for monitoring and access. This system will be particularly relevant as your organization grows. The larger your company becomes, the more privileges users you will have. Some companies have 2-3x as many privileged users as employees due to factors such as remote contractors, automated users, etc.

Next, reach out to data security experts. Have them review your current practices. The expertise and experience they bring to project are critical. This insight can provide additional server security without sacrificing efficiency.

By centralizing credentials, Privileged Account Management will improve your security.

However, remember that PAM is only one stage in the full-scale spectrum of security management. Nevertheless, you have to start somewhere, and Privileged Account Management is an excellent place to begin.