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You probably already know it by now – the ultimate purpose of cybercriminals is to gain access to your organization’s sensitive data and systems, and your goal is to impede their malicious actions. Stuck in what may feel like a never-ending cat and mouse game, you find yourself faced with the challenge of constantly trying to secure your business from different attack scenarios. Nonetheless, this is becoming an increasingly complicated task, as cyber intruders are leveraging multiple entry points nowadays, with privileged user accounts being one of them.

So, managing and securing these accounts falls on your sysadmins’ shoulders and besides implementing Privileged Access Management (PAM) best practices, also finding a proper PAM solution becomes a necessity.

On the dangers of privileged accounts

It’s a fair assumption that privileged accounts are both powerful and dangerous, so privileged account management is indeed required. Sometimes, it only takes one hacked privileged user account for ill-intentioned actors to start sweeping through your business, this is why PAM must become an important part of your IT security endeavors.

Privileged accounts can provide attackers with unrestricted access to an organization’s network, as well as the ability to create additional users or view, delete, and modify sensitive data. These types of accounts are usually classified under seven different categories (which we’ve covered here and here) and are generally employed by system administrators to manage networks, deploy software, access confidential information, etc. Essentially, their purpose is to keep the digital operations of any business up and running.

Privileged account attack vectors may take many forms and unfold under different scenarios:

  • a cyber attacker breaking into a privileged account and wreaking havoc into your company,
  • a discontent employee who may intentionally do harm,
  • an employee who may unintentionally conduct unauthorized tasks or fall prey to phishing attacks, where malicious hackers harvest his/her credentials,
  • a malevolent ex-employee who may still have access to your organization’s systems, etc.

In any case, users with elevated rights must be protected, regardless of the nature of the admin rights abuse.

How to secure your privileged accounts

You can always consider securing your privileged accounts manually. However, this will turn out to be a time-consuming and exhausting process – if not impossible. Besides the fact that manual operations can lead to decreased productivity and human-caused error, in the event of failure, the disaster recovery costs will outweigh the money spent investing a PAM solution. What’s more, should you conduct the process manually, you will not be able to demonstrate ROI on your privileged accounts management efforts.

This brings us to the second option you have to handle privileged accounts in your organization – through a Privileged Access Management solution. Doing so, your PAM activities will become efficient, and this way you will get the best value out of it. Even though it will not generate any sales by itself, a PAM solution will save you time and money by preventing costly cyber incidents.

Defining PAM solutions

What exactly is a PAM solution and what does it do?

Here is a short and pretty straightforward definition provided by Gartner:

“PAM tools help organizations provide secure privileged access to critical assets and meet compliance requirements by managing and monitoring privileged accounts and access.”

In essence, PAM solutions aim to address the risks of users with elevated privileges and enable administrators to safely manage these accounts.

Finding the right PAM solution for your business

A PAM solution needs to be an integral part of your IT security and successfully allow you to prevent cybercriminals from compromising your security.

The main benefits of a PAM solution are the following:

  • Enhanced overall cybersecurity – perhaps the most apparent advantage of a PAM solution is benefiting from increased security.
  • Protection against insider and outsider threats. Attacks can come from inside and outside sources and thus, it’s critical to be able to safeguard your business from both of them. Following the Principle of Least Privilege (every person in an organization must be provisioned with the bare minimum access in order to be able to perform his/her job function) and the Zero Trust model (one should never trust everything by default, but always verify in the first place), a PAM solution will prove to be effective against all types of malicious actors. Security breaches (be them accidental or intentional) caused by insiders will always be more difficult to detect without a PAM solution in place, which offers a centralized view of each endpoint’s activity and permissions use.
  • Increased productivity. PAM tools will save huge amounts of time for system administrators and provide them with a complete overview and control over the entire network.
  • Full compliance. There are many regulations that demand logging activities and a granular approach over the IT environment (restricting access for certain users, requiring approvals for users with elevated rights, etc.) which is where a PAM solution comes in useful.

What to look for in a PAM solution

Now that you’ve understood the importance of a PAM solution, to assist you in your search, below I’ve included five essential features a top-notch Privileged Access Management tool must have.

#1. Access control for privileged accounts

 A PAM solution should allow sysadmins to provide users with elevated privileges for a limited time only for specific tasks or software runs and with full visibility on the actions conducted during the elevation period.

#2. Monitor and record privileged access sessions

A great PAM tool should provide you with a full audit trail for system admins to be able to log what users are doing with their limited period of privilege escalation.

#3. Filter and control privileged operations:

PAM solutions should enable users to indicate exactly what they want to do with the elevated rights when applying for a privileged access session and administrators to be able to approve or deny requests. Furthermore, the IT staff should have the ability to check whether the privileges were used as specified.

#4. Remote control

Remote employees should have the option to use the same applications they would be able to use while in the workplace, with privileged access being centralized both on-premises and in the cloud. A great PAM solution will provide your staff with special access without requiring domain credentials.

#5. Complete visibility and alerts in real-time

Last but not least, a first-rate PAM solution will provide you with alerts so that any potential threats can be addressed as quickly as possible. For instance, Thor AdminPrivilegeTM goes beyond that, since it is the only PAM solution on the market that de-escalates your users’ rights upon threat detection (when used in tandem with the enterprise version of Thor Foresight, Thor Vigilance, or Thor Premium).

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Thor AdminPrivilegeTM raises the bar in the Privileged Access Management, being a modular PAM software that helps your organization increase its cybersecurity and ensuring full compliance and greater productivity. It’s the most innovative PAM solution, as it does not only allow you to efficiently manage user rights, but it also lets your users install software themselves while keeping your organization completely safe and providing logs and audit trails for data protection and compliance.

Conclusion

Don’t turn a blind eye to Privileged Access Management tools, as all businesses are prone to the risk of having their privileged accounts exploited. At the end of the day, insider and outsider threats remain a serious danger, that must neither be underestimated nor ignored.

Is your organization using a PAM solution? Share with us your experience in the comments section below!

The post 5 Essential Features to Look for in a PAM Solution appeared first on Heimdal Security Blog.

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